Allies over the line

Regionalism: Counties' elected officials recognize that their fates are linked to Baltimore's.

February 22, 2000

BALTIMORE COUNTY Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is convinced that assisting Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's campaign to reform the city criminal justice system is an effective way to reduce county crime. "The crisis in Baltimore is affecting the whole region," Mr. Ruppersberger said last week.

That's a welcome new attitude. While Mr. Ruppersberger and former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke met regularly, they joined forces on only a few endeavors such as regional car theft. The tragic death of Baltimore County Police Sgt. Bruce Prothero has provided Mr. Ruppersberger with an opportunity to expand cooperation.

Mr. Ruppersberger has jumped onboard Mr. O'Malley's bandwagon to reform the Baltimore criminal justice system. Mr. Ruppersberger held his own press conference last week to emphasize that if the city's judicial system were functioning properly, Richard Antonio Moore and Wesley John Moore, who allegedly participated in Sgt. Prothero's shooting, would have been behind bars.

This newfound city-county cooperation is not limited to just criminal justice issues. Mr. Ruppersberger is throwing his weight behind a city effort to reform statewide housing codes by making the appeals process rational. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Baltimore's mayor carries much less political risk than it used to. An increasing number of suburbanites understand that Baltimore's problems aren't all that different from their own.

The other reality is that county leaders recognize the legitimate political risk in not aligning themselves with Mr. O'Malley. Should he succeed in reducing city crime and improving Baltimore, they will also bask in his triumphs.

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