In his first public comments after what is surely among the most tragic events in Harford County history, Harford County Council President Richard Slutzky, climbed down into the mean spirited muck and excoriated some media outlets, including this one, for reporting that four people were shot dead and two others injured at the Rite Aid Distribution facility on Perryman Road “in Aberdeen” on Sept. 28.
This was the worst mass shooting incident ever in Harford County, which admittedly has seen too much of this kind of violence since Feb. 10, 2016. Not only were people killed and injured, but scores, if not hundreds, of others, were traumatized beyond what no doubt the majority of us, Slutzky included, have experienced in our lifetimes.
Yet, instead of expressing sympathy for the victims and their families and the other workers affected – or his horror at what happened or his concerns about gun violence and the whole issue of mental illness — Slutzky took to his microphone at the council dais on Tuesday, Oct. 2, to nitpick the media reports that referred to the Rite Aid facility as being located in Aberdeen when, to Slutzky’s reasoning, if it isn’t inside the Aberdeen city limits, it isn’t in Aberdeen.
“The industrial park and the Rite Aid facility is not in the municipality of Aberdeen,” Slutzky said. “It’s in an unincorporated area of Harford County known as the Perryman peninsula.”
This supposedly mistaken identification “was not fake news, it was just incompetent news,” said the council president, who later in his screed admitted that the Rite Aid facility is in fact located within the 21001 postal ZIP Code as is the nearby City of Aberdeen.
“The reason that that was distressing for me, not only as a member of this council but as a citizen of Aberdeen, is that this kind of shadow over the city of Aberdeen was going out nationally about an event that did not happen in Aberdeen,” said Slutzky, a longtime Aberdeen resident and former teacher and coach at Aberdeen High School.
Well, “Coach,” it’s pretty distressing to us that the second highest elected official in Harford County continues to think he’s a clone of another well-known national political figure (remember his climate change denial speech earlier this year) who is prone to shooting off his mouth, making grossly insensitive remarks and blaming the media for everything that doesn’t go his way.
“We have many contractors that want to come to Aberdeen to work on government projects with APG [Aberdeen Proving Ground],” Slutzky said. “We have other businesses that we’re trying to attract to the area.”
And, we have no doubt that these contractors and businesses will be rushing to identify themselves with a community where a supposed government leader acts like a troglodyte in the face of a local tragedy.
We’re not going to engage in the “is it really Aberdeen” debate in this particular forum, because it’s as senseless as asking, why do they call it Aberdeen Proving Ground when that place is not within the city limits of Aberdeen, either? (The APG area was in fact originally known as Boothby Hill, granted long before Slutzky moved upon the scene).
What we’d rather remember is how Councilman Mike Perrone jumped right in after Slutzky that evening and expressed “deepest condolences” for the victims of the Rite Aid center shooting and “sincerest appreciation” for the first responders.
“But there’s another group of people who are worthy of our sincere appreciation as well,” Perrone said, singling out members of the clergy and other faith leaders, mental health professionals, social workers, case workers and “everyone else who plays a role in helping to heal some of the emotional damage that takes place when tragedy rips through someone’s life.”
These “first responders for the soul” are not often acknowledged for their efforts, he said.
“Just as it takes a special kind of person to run into an environment that is under attack by an active shooter, it also takes a special kind of person to pour out the compassion that is needed to help someone else deal with the effect of trauma in their life,” Perrone said. “To everyone who was there during, after and long after, may God bless you and keep you in his care.”
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Both Slutzky and Perrone will be stepping down from the County Council in a few weeks, Slutzky after 16 years, Perrone after four. Here’s an instance when the senior of the two could take a lesson from the junior in acting with a little more class and a lot less vitriol.