County's growth issues are campaign focus of commissioner hopeful First candidate to run as independent since 1982

October 22, 1998|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

After more than 20 years as the citizens' voice for sensible growth, Carolyn Fairbank wants to be heard as a county #F commissioner.

Fairbank, who filed as an independent candidate in July, is encouraging voters to "think independently" and look at her background on growth issues, before they go to the polls on Election Day, Nov. 3.

"My views on common-sense growth and citizens' input have not wavered, but I cannot do it any longer from the outside," she said. "I am running because I have a genuine concern for the quality of life here."

Fairbank is well-known in South Carroll, where she has made her home for 23 years and where she has championed reasoned development. She frequently addressed the county Planning and Zoning Commission and the Board of Zoning Appeals and was instrumental in creating an opportunity for citizen input during the development review process.

"I do my homework on growth issues, and those issues are countywide," she said.

She has served as chairwoman of the Freedom Area Citizens Council, an unofficial advisory board from whose leadership she resigned last month to devote her energies to the campaign.

Nimrod Davis, who succeeded Fairbank on the council and has worked with her in several organizations, said, "Carolyn can work people. She is headstrong and smart, but she is willing to compromise. She has a good handle on what has happened, what is happening and what should happen."

While the commissioners have been criticized for deferring action on the new master plan until the new board takes office in December, Fairbank applauds their decision.

"The new board will be held accountable for the plan," she said. "There is too much in it that the public really needs to understand."

Of particular concern in the proposed guide for growth through the next two decades is a provision to raise taxes to finance agricultural preservation and rezoning for residential and industrial development land that buffers the Liberty watershed.

"I am the only one in this group of seven [candidates] who can put a monkey wrench into the development agenda," she said.

Given her watchdog stance on growth, her platform is predictable: common-sense growth served by adequate schools, roads and emergency services, and an increase in the industrial tax base.

"Everything in Carroll is tied to growth," she said. "It all boils down to growth and whether we can afford 200,000 residents by 2020 as set forth in the proposed master plan.

"Rampant growth affects everybody," she said. "Inadequate facilities and infrastructure affect everybody, not just growth areas."

Fairbank, the first independent candidate in Carroll since 1982, is at a disadvantage in a party-dominated election, said Donald R. Jansiewicz, professor of political science at Carroll Community College.

"We are not at a stage in American or local politics that an independent can do well," Jansiewicz said. "The parties are not weak. The voters can't translate independent candidates. It's not a natural fit."

Del. Joseph M. Getty, a Manchester Republican, said Fairbank could have a Ross Perot effect on the election, "but to the disadvantage of the Democrats rather than the Republicans."

Fairbank's decision to run as an independent meant abandoning affiliation with the Democratic Party, which she said is expending much of its energy on getting Del. Ellen Willis Miller re-elected to the General Assembly.

She would prefer a debate to the numerous candidate forums, which she calls beauty contests.

"I want to discuss issues openly, which you cannot do in 10 minutes," she said. "I am really worried about the path this county is taking.

If Republican Commissioner Donald I. Dell, who is seeking re-election, and Robin Bartlett Frazier, his former campaign treasurer who is running for the board for the first time, win, "We will get a rerun of what we have had for years," Fairbank said. "We need new people who think about the future and what will make this county work better."

Carolyn L. Fairbank

Age: 45

Residence: Eldersburg

Family: Married to C. Michael Fairbank

Education: Attended Carroll Community College

Occupation: Self-employed owner of information technology consulting and training business

Political background: Former chairwoman of the Freedom Area Citizens Planning Council and member of the Maryland Citizens Planners Association and South Carroll Business Association; president of the Carroll Highlands Community Association

Pub Date: 10/22/98

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