A voice in the wilderness [Editorial]

The Aegis

When he voted against legislation to significantly raise the salaries of future Harford County Council members, Councilman Mike Perrone was a lone voice of reason, speaking eloquently about the meaning of public service and how it can’t be labeled with a price tag.

He paid dearly for it not long after, when a series of amendments that he proposed for yet another piece of special interest legislation – to essentially bail out two developers who own land in his council district – never even received the courtesy of a seconding motion from any of the other six council members.

The action, though not unprecedented in the 45 years the council has existed, sent a clear message to Perrone: Don’t rock the boat. Fortunately, he ignored it.

But the incident, which none of the other council members have had the fortitude to admit that they ganged up on a colleague like a bunch of schoolyard bullies, had to bother Perrone, as it would any of us working in what we thought was a collegial situation where differences of opinion are welcome to be shared and debated.

Elected to the council in late 2014, Perrone confirmed to Aegis reporter David Anderson earlier this week that he won’t be seeking a second term next year. He said he wants to focus on his fledgling career in the accounting profession and his personal life. He also said he ran for the council three years ago with the idea he would only serve a single term.

Before his election, Perrone, a Republican, was pretty much an unknown politically. He beat three-term councilman Dion Guthrie, a Democrat, in a year when Republicans ruled up and down the ballot in Harford. He ran as a conservative, farther to the right than anyone sitting to his left on the council dais. (Because he represents District A, Perrone’s seat is on the far right of the dais.)

In three years, Perrone has been true to his values, asking how and why money is being spent, attacking the myriad government giveaway programs for businesses that frequently are brought before the council and unmasking the true intent behind several seemingly innocuous bills proffered by the county administration.

He’s been a questioner and a talker and, on more than one occasion, a pontificator, which hasn’t endeared him at all to the other six council members.

Critics might say it’s easy to stand up and speak out when you are a minority of one because no matter what you say or do, you’re unlikely to accomplish much, if anything. While there’s merit to such arguments, if the Harford County Council had been the silent seven instead of the silent six and Mike Perrone, would we as county citizens be any better off today than three years ago?

If nothing else, Mike Perrone brought a conscience to a legislative body that has shown very little initiative (unless you want to count the council raises legislation) and even less fortitude.

He’s been a voice in the wilderness and, frankly, he’ll be missed.

This editorial has been updated from a previous version to reflect a correction: The failure to second a motion by a county council member is not unprecedented, according to records of council meeting minutes.

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