Baltimore County

Maryland Votes 2006

October 19, 2006

This populous county benefits from having mature, experienced leadership. But those leaders should pay more urgent attention to residents' concerns about development and its impact on schools and traffic.

County executive: In 2002, James T. Smith Jr. was elected to run the county after 16 years as an associate judge on the Baltimore County Circuit Court. Although he had served two terms on the County Council prior to going on the bench, his term as executive had a rocky start with the seven-member council. Relations with the council are now much improved, Mr. Smith, a Democrat, has smartly put up county funding to build at least three new schools without waiting for money from the state, and he and the council have at least held the line on taxes. Mr. Smith has also spearheaded a countywide effort that has helped revitalize many older communities and given residents more opportunities at earlier stages of the development process to have significant input.

His opponent, Republican Clarence W. Bell Jr., a veteran state police officer, is an impressive political newcomer who shows considerable promise, but he should seek an office more suited to his talents and experience. Mr. Smith has earned our endorsement.

Five of the seven County Council districts have competitive races. The Sun endorses the following candidates:

Council District 1: In this western area that includes Catonsville, S. G. Samuel Moxley, a Democrat who has been on the council since 1994, has generally struck the right balance between development and preservation of open spaces. But resident worries about schools and an anomalous spike in crime should be addressed.

Council District 2: This affluent area that includes Owings Mills and Ruxton has been ably represented by Democrat Kevin B. Kamenetz, who has also served since 1994. Among other things, he has offered some thoughtful ways to make the development design process more responsive to community tastes.

Council District 5: School overcrowding is a major issue in this most contentious council race in a stretch of the county that includes Towson and Perry Hall. Though he could be more consultative, Democrat Vince Gardina, an environmental engineer who has been on the council since 1990, still has creative energy and is willing to consider controversial solutions such as redistricting to balance school capacity.

Council District 6: Democrat Joseph Bartenfelder, who represents an eastern area that includes Middle River, has brought the valued perspective of a major family farmer and a former state legislator to the council since 1994.

Council District 7: John "Johnny O" Olszewski Sr., a Democrat running for a third term representing the area that includes Dundalk, has helped rebuild older communities that are attracting newcomers to the county.

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