County Council President Jeffrey D. Wilson extended the olive branchto County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann Tuesday, acknowledging for the first time publicly that personal differences may have affected their ability to work together.
"For a year, the executive and council have been struggling at times together, and unfortunately, at timesagainst each other. Perhaps it has been the council's fault, and mine especially as president, that we have not made sufficiently clear how strong our commitment is to cooperation and participation in the total process of addressing the county's needs," said Wilson in his response to Rehrmann's state-of-the-county address Tuesday.
The council and Rehrmann have disagreed over issues including recycling and the adequate public facilities legislation aimed at preventing overcrowding in schools that passed last month. It took the better part of a year for the two sides to come to a satisfactory compromise on those two issues.
Councilwoman Joanne S. Parrott, R-District B, the only incumbent besides Wilson returned to a council seat in the last election, said Wednesday that she hopes Wilson's offer to bury the hatchet with Rehrmann is genuine.
"I hope that is a true and sincere statement. I think there have been too many conflicts this past year," Parrott said. "Conflicts don't have to part of the normalmodus operandi. It's fine to have opposing views as long as you respect one another while you're talking."
Yet in his speech, Wilson warned Rehrmann the council will take a hard look at proposals for newtaxes as a way to boost county revenues during the recession.
In her state-of-the-county address, delivered Tuesday night, Rehrmann promised county residents she would look for new revenue sources to help the county weather cuts in state aid.
Along those lines, Harford's five state delegates decided Friday they would introduce a bill, at Rehrmann's request, seeking state authority for Harford to charge a1 percent property transfer tax that would be used to pay for new schools and preserve agricultural land. The measure would still have tobe approved by voters before it would take effect.
Rehrmann and other county executives also are seeking General Assembly permission to charge other local taxes.
"I believe it is the prevailing sentiment of the council that we need to consider fundamental restructuringof government before we take additional money from our people, especially at a time when most people seem to have less," said Wilson in reply. "We cannot tax and spend ourselves back to prosperity, but we can tax and spend ourselves into paralysis."
But Parrott reminded after the Tuesday night meeting that it was Wilson who sponsored legislation that raised the property tax assessment cap from 6 percent to 10 percent last year.
"Did we forget that?" asked Parrott. "Why are we proposing any new taxes before we know what the General Assemblyis going to do? We really need to see what cuts the state is proposing."
Wilson said the council would announce its legislative agendafor its second year later this month, but noted in his speech that three of the council's major achievements in its first term related toenvironmental issues.
The council president referred specificallyto the passage of a tree and forest preservation law, the adoption of the recycling program slated to begin this summer and reforming thestandards for landfills in the county.
"We have also signaled theend of private rubble landfills," said Wilson. "By deleting any reference to future private rubble fills, the council has made a clear declaration that the era of private landfills should be forever at an end."
Wilson also acknowledged in his speech that governing in timeof recession sometimes leaves elected officials "confused as to whatwe should do next."
"We need to stand together at such a time," he said.