A 'home rule' contest and selected short subjects

April 02, 1997

The Washington County Commissioners' suggestion that it's time to consider home rule again is fodder for a column that would almost write itself. But just as some hunters might shy away from taking a shot at a three-legged whitetail deer on the grounds that it wouldn't really be sporting to do so, I'll hold my fire.

Instead, let's make it a contest. By 4 p.m. on Friday, April 11, write me a letter in 100 words or less, on why home rule is or isn't a good idea. The writers of the best letters, pro and con, will receive $10 apiece.

For those who got here late, the issue arose after the commissioners voted to effectively decertify the union representing roads department workers. The county's delegation to the General Assembly then decided that it would amend the 1992 law that says the commissioners "may" negotiate with this union to "shall negotiate."


The commissioners, with the exception of union man Ron Bowers, who was the lone holdout against decertification, were hot. The hottest was Jim Wade, who ripped the commissioners in The Herald-Mail and The Baltimore Sun, calling them "a bunch of cowards," and saying that if delegation chairman John Donoghue wanted to run the county, he should run for county commissioner.

Figuring out what Wade will do from month to month is tough. Last year he ripped Donoghue in a letter copied to the entire delegation for their support of a provision requiring that they not cut charitable donations just because there was now gaming commission money available for charitable purposes.

That was last spring. By fall, Wade was cordial again, sending Donoghue a letter asking him to examine the state law governing liquor licenses. According to Wade's letter, licenses are distributed based on the number of citizens in the area - one allowed per very 1,000 residents- but the law allows the county liquor board to approve additional licenses if a "public need" exists.

Wade said he felt that allowed the board to exceed the ratio without restriction, and he asked Donoghue to look into tightening it up.

Now Wade is back to ripping Donoghue again, this time for the labor bill. Is anybody surprised that with an election year looming, the delegation did something that will win approval from organized labor?

As noted by Robert "Rocky" Worcester, of Maryland Business for Responsive Goivernment and no friend of labor, if the county board really wanted to get away with this, they should have waited a week or two until the legislature adjourned.

Even if this were a home-rule county, there are some things that only the delegation can do, a fact Wade realized last fall. His remarks now just make it that much easier for the delegation to say "no" when the county needs help.

And speaking of Annapolis action, the bill to amend the law to give both Fred Rohrer and gaming commission chair Sue Tuckwell another year to serve seems mired in the state senate. I've heard that everyone is afraid to advance this bill for fear Prince Georges County would amend it to stave off the demise of casino gambling there.

I don't believe it. If state Sen. Don Munson wants this bill to pass, it will. If 20-plus years in Annapolis don't give him the clout to force it through, then his job isn't worth having.

Passing the bill would give Tuckwell, wife of departing Maryland Symphony Orchesta Maesto Barry Tuckwell, a reason to stay in the area. The Tuckwells recently put their home, located on the fringe of Fountain Head Country Club's golf course, on the market for $695,000.

Sue Tuckwell's handling of the commission has been fair and her dedication to (and success with helping) public causes ranging from the United Way to the Maryland Theatre are well-known. It would be a shame if we let some other community steal these folks away

Mayor Steve Sager said yesterday his "slam" at local ice-rink promoter Walter Dill was not a slam as he understands the word, since most of his remarks were directed at the rink's board, of which Dill is not a member.

At issue is a plan which listed the rink director's salary at $80,000 and publicity over the fact that while Dill has completed required courses for a master's degree, he hasn't actually been awarded the degree yet.

Whether Sager criticized Dill or the board, his advice that the board get its public-relations operation in gear was sound. If the public suspects this project is about creating a high-paid job for someone, instead of providing recreational opportunities, those who might donate will keep their wallets shut.

As a child I studied the Baltimore Catechism, but I can't remember the penalty for breaking a nun's heart.

On Monday, we published a letter from Sister Constance Baker, who recently resigned as Vice Principal of St. Maria Goretti High School, citing excessive interference by the board in the day-to-day affairs of the school. She was there for 14-and-one-half years.

Because this is a personnel matter in a private school, I can't say much, but I'm glad that when they call the roll up yonder, I won't have to explain this one.

Speaking of the afterlife, wouldn't you agree that there's a special place reserved in hell for those supermarket tabloid people now making money selling tidbits about JonBenet Ramsey, the little beauty queen who was murdered? Fry 'em `til they're crisp, I say.

Bob Maginnis is the editor of the Herald-Mail's opinion page.

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