The developers' friends Ecker's parting words correctly take issue with making developers scapegoats.

December 08, 1998

BETTER LATE than never. That's our assessment of Charles I. Ecker's parting shot last week at campaign rhetoric that demonizes developers. The outgoing Howard County executive, whose eight-year tenure ended yesterday, should have held a similar press conference to make that observation during the recent political campaign.

It might have helped his buddy, former county Councilman Charles C. Feaga, who lost the Republican nomination to succeed Mr. Ecker in part because he was tarred by his opponent as "the developers' friend."

Belated though his comments were, Mr. Ecker correctly observed that development -- and specific developers -- have been mighty good to Howard County. Just because the county must remain vigilant against overdevelopment in specific locations doesn't mean that officials or residents should paint all development and developers as bad. That seemed to happen in campaigns for executive and County Council.

Some candidates vowed not to accept campaign money from developers, as if to do so would be a sin. These dramatic promises focused the media on contributions from developers. It remained a dominant campaign issue.

Voters who listened closely to the candidates, however, probably discovered little difference in what most said about development. Nearly every candidate agreed that caution must be taken in approving development, that citizens need more input and that the county's development laws need to be reviewed. News reports on the sources of campaign contributions help voters figure out what candidates might do if elected. But the money trail doesn't tell the whole story.

Developers shouldn't be treated like a pariah class. The county should work with them to ensure that future development occurs where it wants it, and when.

Pub Date: 12/08/98

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