Republican Adler criticizes Robey on budget, crime

Executive's challenger levels attack at fund-raiser

Howard County

April 24, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Elections are still months away, but the rhetorical gloves are already off for Steven H. Adler, the Republican candidate for Howard County executive.

Speaking at his second fund-raiser in as many weeks, Adler blasted Democratic incumbent James N. Robey on everything from county finances to crime rates Monday night. Adler is trying to energize the roughly 100 supporters who paid $25 a ticket to hear him at a restaurant in Savage Mill, the historic antiques complex he manages, and encourage them to help "get the message out in the neighborhoods and the streets."

"I am outraged that the seventh-wealthiest county in the United States cannot have a balanced budget," he began, criticizing Robey for having to use up to half of the county's Rainy Day Fund to balance this year's budget after lower-than-expected revenues caused a shortfall.

"Is the county better off than it was four years ago? We need a change, and we need a change now. I'm all in favor of the county spending money," Adler said. "We need services."

But he said that despite the Robey administration's efforts, county schools are crowded, crime is increasing, a shortage of affordable housing exists and "older neighborhoods are deteriorating. That's not effective leadership," he told the crowd.

Adler said he has raised about $20,000 from his past two events, April 12 and 22 - both at Savage Mill. He has another event planned for the western county Sunday.

Robey, he said, offers explanations for the budget shortfall, but needs to take full responsibility. "It happened because they made mistakes," he charged.

Yesterday, Robey disputed Adler's views, calling his comments "words from a desperate person who has no issues to hang his hat on and is just grasping at straws."

The former Howard police chief said the county has and will have a balanced budget, adding that at 7 percent of the total budget, Howard's Rainy Day Fund is roughly double the percentage of funds maintained by larger neighboring counties.

"We had a situation much more severe than anyone had predicted," Robey said. "We foresaw a down-turning economy. No one foresaw a recession," he added, noting that the Rainy Day Fund is being used exactly as it was intended - to flatten sharp budget gyrations.

Robey also disputed Adler's charge that the county is in worse shape now than it was when he was elected.

"We had 39 vacancies in the Police Department when I was hired," he said. "Teachers were underpaid and were leaving in droves." Robey said his pay increases to both groups stopped that flow, while surplus cash was plowed into new schools, school additions, a renovated central library and senior centers.

"Every new [classroom] seat requested during the last four years has been met," he said.

Although crime statistics show a slight increase over his term, Robey said, crime is down when Howard's population growth is taken into account.

"It is lower today than it was 20 years ago. We still have the lowest crime rate of any jurisdiction in the metropolitan Baltimore area," Robey said.

That is not completely true, however, based on statistics in the "Maryland 2000 Uniform Crime Report," recently published by Maryland State Police.

According to the report, Howard's rate of serious crime per 100,000 population is lower than those in Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties, and is less than half Baltimore City's rate.

But Howard's rate is higher than those in Harford, Carroll and Montgomery counties. Howard had 3,160.9 crimes, compared with 3,153.9 in Montgomery County, 2,322.8 in Carroll County, 4,835.5 in Baltimore County, 4,356.3 in Anne Arundel, and 2,511.6 in Harford.

Crimes included were murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, theft and motor vehicle theft.

Robey later said he was referring to counties located on a line between Baltimore and Washington, though he acknowledged that Montgomery County would be included.

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