Council rebukes hateful speech

Racist video aired on public access channel


Reaffirming recent denouncements of racist literature and the airing of a hate video, the Anne Arundel County Council unanimously approved this week a resolution condemning such messages.

County Executive Janet S. Owens and other county leaders emphatically rebuked such speech in a joint statement released last week, on the heels of a hate video that aired for three consecutive nights on the county's public access cable TV channel.

Racist, anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant fliers were distributed to neighborhoods in Severna Park and Arnold, in part to promote the video produced by the National Alliance, a West Virginia-based neo-Nazi group.

Council members joined Owens, a Democrat, in condemning the hate messages. Some were apprehensive that the resolution would stir up attention for racists, but they hoped their resolve in demonstrating the county's support for tolerance and diversity would make up for that risk. The measure passed 7-0 Monday night.

"We don't want to give them more than their due, but we don't want them to go unchallenged," said County Council Chairman Edward R. Reilly, a Crofton Republican.

County Councilman Bill D. Burlison, an Odenton Democrat, said, "It is absolutely appropriate that we speak out against this."

The resolution "supports tolerance and diversity in Anne Arundel County and urges its citizens to support and work toward these ideals so that Anne Arundel County may be a community where all of its citizens can live in harmony."

County Sheriff George F. Johnson IV offered his support for the resolution before the council. He said the resolution, along with the actions of numerous community leaders to promote inclusiveness, "sends a clear message to those who seek to drive a wedge in our county: You have failed."

The National Alliance has been linked to the dissemination of such material within the county for years.

Johnson said too much progress has been made to let such speech go unchallenged.

"Hatred anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, and we must stand together to protect the quality of life we have worked so hard to build," he said.

In other news at Monday's council session:

The council finalized a series of revisions to zoning, subdivision and development laws meant to tweak an overhaul of zoning regulations that was approved in the spring. One change will allow county inspectors to immediately remove portable advertising, known as "bandit signs," from county rights of way. Under previous rules, business owners could keep their signs intact by appealing the citation.

One unintended change sparked outrage from horse owners - and a promise from council leaders that an amendment banning horse and boat trailers from residential property would be cut. The council passed a flurry of amendments two weeks ago, including one to prohibit certain storage trailers from the front of residential property. The vagueness of the amendment left horse and boat owners vulnerable.

Council members said the bill's impending deadline forced them to pass the revisions as they stood. The law doesn't take effect until July, enough time for the council and Owens to address the issue, they said.

"I'm trusting you to fix it, and we don't trust very easily," said Gail Varnedoe of Pasadena, speaking for some 700 horse owners.

"We will take care of this sooner than you think," said County Councilwoman Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, who sponsored the amendment.

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