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PlanMaryland debate rallies the troops, but will it effect any change?

On these cool, quiet nights, I can hear the drums echoing throughout western Maryland in the same rhythmic beat, from as far away as Garrett, Allegany and Washington's reservations.

But these days, the loudest sounds come from the drums in Carroll and Frederick reservations, whose respective chiefs view Gov. Martin O'Malley and his minions as trespassers in what, heretofore, has been sacred ground: land-use planning.

The drums are beating against PlanMaryland, the governor's proposal to monitor, and set guidelines for, growth through the state.

The state's website for PlanMaryland states its objective as creating a more effective and efficient process for coordinating statewide planning and development.

Carroll's Board of County Commissioners has not been shy in expressing its distrust — to put it kindly — of the provisions and motives of PlanMaryand.

And the big chief in Frederick County — also known as Blaine Young, president of Frederick's Board of County Commissioners — said in a recent opinion piece in The Baltimore Sun that, "We need to let the governor and the rest of the state government in Annapolis know that we will not stand for being steam rolled once again in the interest of another regulatory scheme. ..."

I'll bet that sent chills up the spines of legislators in Annapolis.

In a state capital controlled by one party, it's not surprising if dissident counties sometimes feel like surplus baggage.

The question I have is whether the hostility felt by the five western tribes toward those in Annapolis reservation could ever work itself into to such a fever pitch as to actually represent a political warpath?

If so, would it do any good?

It would be a tough fight against warriors known for their brutal treatment of Republican captives.

In Annapolis, Republicans have been the underdog for so long that their bark has been reduced to a whimper, and they show their teeth only to vote against the governor's budget and Democratic-sponsored bills.

Will the fervor over PlanMaryland become a rallying point for the minority party?

Here in Carroll, the commissioners quickened their drum beat with the decision to hold a "summit" on environmental and planning issues — aimed at debunking PlanMaryland.

The leader of the summit movement is Commissioner Richard Rothschild, who has been equally vocal in his mistrust of the United Nations and its Agenda 21 initiative, another growth movement that he sees as a threat to local autonomy.

For the conservative board, though, the summit creates a dilemma — it'll cost about $20,000 to stage, and at least one commissioner, Haven Shoemaker, has wondered aloud what good it'll do in changing anyone's mind.

In the end, the commissioners at least capped county expense for the summit at $10,000. The question is whether any of the other tribes, or other sources, will chip in to make the summit happen.

Even in fiscally tight times, they might.

Why? Well, the summit might be viewed by some as a successful blow against the tyrannical state government — even if it's truly just a collection of hand-picked voices crying in the wilderness.

David Grand writes from Westminster. For more, go to

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