An avalanche of publicity

Private road: Lieutenant governor's husband gets more than his street cleared.

February 05, 2000

DAVID Townsend suffers the fortune and misfortune of having the state's second highest elected official as his spouse.

Had his wife been anyone other than Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the driver of the Baltimore County snow plow would never have let Mr. Townsend use his radio last week to speak to a supervisor about plowing Crosmorr Lane. Because his wife is lieutenant governor, a disproportionate amount of attention has been focused on whether the county should plow that dead-end street in Ruxton.

The record is clear. The road is private. If residents had dedicated the road to the county, as they attest, there is no record of that action. Without a recorded deed, the county has no obligation to plow.

Other issues remain in dispute.

The county released a copy of a letter that Robert J. Barrett, Count Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger's special assistant, sent to Mr. and Mrs. Townsend two years ago informing them that their road was private. Mr. Townsend said he never received it.

The county alleges that Mr. Towsend threatened to wake up Mr. Ruppersberger if his street wasn't cleared. Mr. Townsend denies it.

In its two-page chronology of this dispute, the Department of Public Works said Mr. Townsend called to have his street plowed earlier in the week. Mr. Townsend said he didn't.

There is even a dispute over whether the county actually plowed Crosmorr Lane after Mr. Towsend's request. The county said it sent a truck and made one pass. The neighbors swear they saw no evidence of any plowing.

Is this a preview of things to come in the 2002 Democratic primary, in which Ms. Townsend and Mr. Ruppersberger are both expected to run for the party's gubernatorial nomination? If so, there will be enough heat to melt the most snowbound Maryland roads.

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