During the days of vaudeville, the expression was, "Will it play in Peoria?" The question meant: Will this be accepted by Middle America?
The expression may well be changed to, "Will it play in Carroll County?"
The decade of the '80s brought many changes to the greater Baltimore region and to Carroll County in particular.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently released figures for the Baltimore region, which includes the six jurisdictions of Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard and Carroll counties.
Figures reveal that over the decade of 1980-1990, Carroll County saw a 29.4 percent increase in the number of families headed by married couples, the traditional family unit. These families account for almost 70 percent of the Carroll County population. In Baltimore County, less than one-third of households are headed by married couples.
The number of families headed by single women has increased by 47 percent in Carroll County, thesecond-highest increase in the six jurisdictions of our region. OnlyHoward County had a greater increase in households headed by single women.
Carroll County also has shown an increase in the number of single-member households, to 67.8 percent. Again, only Howard County has a greater increase in the area.
The median household income inCarroll County is $45,642, somewhat above the regional average of $40,836.
The median value of owner-occupied homes in Carroll County is $126,700, the third lowest in the region, and up from $63,000 10 years ago. Monthly rental payments, however, are $397, the fifth lowest in the region.
These figures reflect only what we are, how much we spend for housing and how much we earn. They don't tell us how we think and feel about the important issues facing us as citizens of this county and the Baltimore region.
To address these questions, the Baltimore Regional Council of Governments recently conducted a "Quality of Life" study. Based on the responses of 2,562 residents selected at random, Carroll countians surveyed reflected the Middle-American, traditional views.
More than 20 questions were asked, ranging from whether "more money should be spent for schools" to "the importance of the number of restaurants needed in the area."
Carroll countians' responses came within 3 percentage points of the regional average 75 percent of the time. Again, we represented the traditional values of middle America.
One of the most important issues facing our region, county and nation is the education of our young people. When the question on public schools was asked, 78.3 percent of the CarrollCounty respondents replied that "more money should be spent for public schools." This figure is slightly below the regional average of 79.5 percent.
Yet only 67.8 percent responded positively to the question, "Are schools extremely important to your quality of life?", as compared with the regional average of 71.6 percent.
Another important issue is public parks and recreational facilities. Of the Carrollcountians surveyed, 28.9 percent felt "more money should be spent for parks and open spaces." The regional average was 33.4 percent.
In a related question, 29.8 percent of the Carroll countians surveyed responded that "parks and recreational facilities were extremely important" to the quality of their lives. The regional average was 27.7 percent for this question.
Among Carroll County respondents, 74.8 percent said "more money should be spent on recycling and disposal of solid wastes," down slightly from the regional average of 76 percent.However, only 57.3 percent responded that a clean environment was extremely important to their quality of life, as compared with the regional average of 57.9 percent.
I hope our County Commissioners and their newly reorganized staff carefully review these "Quality of Life" survey responses and keep their constituents' opinions in mind.
So as I see it, the next time someone calls you John or Jane Average Citizen, don't be offended.
Rather, hold your head high and say, "You bet, I'm a Carroll countian, and my county represents the traditional views of Middle Americans. We value education, and we're willingto spend more tax dollars to get it.
"Parks and recreational facilities do improve our quality of life, but we realize that tax dollars could be better-spent in other areas at this time. We acknowledge that more dollars should be spent to clean up our environment, but we are not yet convinced that it is important to our quality of life."
Average Middle America, you bet -- and proud of it.