Chanting "These Cuts Won't Heal" and "Where's Roger?" a boisterous crowd of about 1,000 Baltimore County workers, parents and children rallied in Towson late yesterday to protest the latest round of local budget cuts.
Most of the demonstrators who gathered in the plaza between the old and new county courthouses were teachers and PTA members, although a large contingent of firefighters and smaller groups of police and other county workers also attended.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden was in Annapolis for the day and not within earshot of the taunts aimed at him, but other top county administration officials watched the rally from office windows overlooking the plaza.
Ed Veit, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, joined others in urging Mr. Hayden to abandon his policy of staying in the background of the budget debate.
"We want a county executive who's not afraid to take a forceful position and to work with other elected officials for the good of our county," Mr. Veit said. "We want to feel confident that Baltimore County will not have to share a bigger burden because we are too politically fearful to speak for what is necessary."
Mr. Hayden has refused so far to be drawn into debate on how the state should solve its deficit problem, and relieve pressure on the counties. So far, the county has had to cut the budget by $53 million to make up for loss of state aid and a decline in revenues caused by the recession.
A large group of parents and children from the county's private schools came to protest a decision to cut money for health department nurses in their schools.
"We pay the same taxes as everybody else in Baltimore County," said Patricia Slater, whose four children attend Our Lady of Hope School in Dundalk. "[Mr. Hayden] is discriminating against us," she said.
Others were present because of recently announced cuts to police and fire budgets.
Harold W. Thompson, a retired tugboat captain who is vice president of the Yorkshire Community Association, said he would rather see a tax increase than watch the slow dismantling of the county's fire and police protection.
"They're tearing the fire and police down that has taken years to build," he said.
Tim Caslin, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 4, told the crowd that 91 officers have already accepted the county's offer of early retirement. And that comes on top of 47 vacancies.
"Crime is going up," he said, noting that detectives are being reassigned to patrol duties.