Dutch goes for the goal

Condemnation: Baltimore County executive invites opponents to take him on in a series of debates.

May 16, 2000

BALTIMORE COUNTY Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger has moxie. Instead of running for cover and avoiding the challenges to his East Side condemnation authority, Mr. Ruppersberger yesterday invited opponents to take him on in a series of seven debates.

Opponents had hoped to defeat the measure through a county-wide referendum.

Instead of trying to discourage this effort, Mr. Ruppersberger -- with television cameras rolling -- signed a petition to bring the measure to the voters.

Mr. Ruppersberger has always maintained that condemnation authority is a small, but necessary, tool in his plans to revitalize the communities of Essex-Middle River, Yorkway and the Liberty Road commercial corridor. He said the county authority would be used only when negotiations to purchase properties failed. The condemnation powers are limited to 39 parcels of property, only two of which are owner-occupied residences.

Opponents have employed scare tactics to mobilize their support. They accuse Mr. Ruppersberger of using government powers to confiscate private property. In reality, a number of local governments -- including Baltimore City and Prince George's County -- have much broader powers to condemn property for redevelopment purposes.

Mr. Ruppersberger's bold step is guaranteed to refocus the debate on his renewal plans. He has challenged opponents to meet him in the style of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Each side will have 30 minutes to present its arguments and 15 minutes to rebut its opponent.

So far, no one -- including Del. Diane DeCarlo, his most vocal opponent -- has volunteered to step up. Mr. Ruppersberger, a former lacrosse player, knows how to go on the offensive and attack the goal. Now that he has taken on the mission of convincing county voters to approve of this plan, pity anyone who prevents him from making this score.

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