Robey for Howard executive Sun endorsement: Former police chief has right attitude to steer county's future.

October 21, 1998

THE CANDIDATES for Howard County executive offer the primary skills required for the job: administrative backgrounds and a grasp of local issues.

Democrat James Robey spent 32 years in the Howard County Police Department, including the past seven as chief. But it has been clear these past few months that he has paid close attention to issues beyond law enforcement.

Republican Dennis R. Schrader is finishing his first term on the Howard County Council. He's a vice president for facilities management and development at the University of Maryland Medical System. He has organized one of the more impressive political organizations in recent memory in Howard; that alone is commentary on his organizational skills.

Mr. Schrader, however, has had a rockier time on the campaign trail. He was prodded to return nearly $20,000 in contributions from medical center contractors that raised ethical questions. He also has resorted to more negative advertising than his opponent.

That leads us to endorse Mr. Robey, but it is not the sole reason for that conclusion.

Mr. Robey has worked cooperatively with police departments in neighboring jurisdictions. He wants Howard to have a more influential voice when the "Big Seven" jurisdictions devise regional solutions to economic development, trash, crime and other mutual concerns.

Growth is a huge issue in Howard County, as in other Maryland suburbs. Mr. Schrader has gotten a lot of political mileage out of his vote to oppose a huge, mixed-use development in North Laurel proposed by the Rouse Co. But other aspects of Mr. Schrader's record on that issue are less stellar.

In last month's Republican primary, he called fellow council member Charles C. Feaga the "developers' friend" while raising more money from developers than any county candidate. Now he calls Mr. Robey the "unions' friend" because employee unions support the former chief. The unnecessary name-calling has caused resentment among county employees that would mar the beginning of a Schrader administration. The positive approach that Mr. Robey has chosen in his first run for elected office is a more encouraging sign.

Howard faces two enormous tasks: rewriting its general development plan and its Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance to accommodate mushrooming population.

The next executive must have the skill and demeanor to guide diverse factions through that process toward a common goal -- preserving Howard's quality of life. It is why The Sun favors Mr. Robey for Howard County executive.

Tomorrow: Anne Arundel County executive

Pub Date: 10/21/98

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