MONITORING talk outside the beltway concerning voluntary...


MONITORING talk outside the beltway concerning voluntary action by citizens provokes the following questions, ruminations and observations:

Howard County Councilman Paul R. Farragut, D-4th, got a lot omedia coverage by asking for a $7,125 pay cut in his $27,500-a-year council salary -- back to what it was before last year's council voted this year's a pay raise. Financially comfortable himself, the councilman says, he feels odd about receiving a raise when county government workers' pay has been frozen this year.

Mr. Farragut announced he will donate the money already paid him since the new fiscal year began July 1 to the United Way of Central Maryland and forgo the rest.

But isn't the political motivation for this unimaginative give-back a bit transparent? This leader's falling on a sword that saves .003 of 1 percent of the county's $207 million budget might benefit his image, but alters nothing that matters.

Better the good councilman earn the money by advocating a creative solution or two for maintaining government service for less.

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PERIPATETIC Louis L. Goldstein, who has lived through economies good, bad and indifferent during his 33 years as Maryland's glib comptroller, spoke before the Greater Odenton Improvement Association. Asked what he'd talk about besides the state's sagging budget and limping economy, his answer was volunteerism.

"We have to get people who go out into the community," he said.

Remember the old wheeze, "When God gives you lemons, make lemonade"?

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TEACHERS throughout the Howard County school system are making a show of not participating in unpaid after-school and evening activities this year. It's their way of protesting the county's freezing of their pay, despite a contract that called for 6 percent raises.

"It won't harm the kids," is the popular cry.

One of the early side-effects is an indication that more parents are willing to volunteer to fill in at those activities. What a revolutionary thought: more parental involvement in their children's schools.

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R SARGENT Shriver spoke at a fund-raising dinner for the Carroll County Children's Fund, which helps pay local children's medical bills. The 76-year-old Westminster native, former Peace Corps head, Special Olympics chairman and part-Orioles owner, talked up changing American priorities.

His opinion, which is well worth repeating: "Our children are more important than outer space, stealth bombers or aid to the Soviet Union. Changing our national priorities will strengthen the nation morally."

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