Callers made the "County Connection" with Baltimore County Executive Roger B. Hayden yesterday, as he made his debut in WBAL's stable of radio talk show regulars, which also includes the city mayor and the governor.
"It was nice healthy discussion," the executive said as he emerged from the WBAL-Radio studio on Television Hill. "In the first two calls, one was worried about spending and the other was requesting more spending [on county services]."
Mr. Hayden, who called the show "a good opportunity to find out what people are feeling," took seven calls from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. during the Ron Smith Show.
The show was another step in Mr. Hayden's campaign to raise his public profile. In addition to the regular Face-to-Face sessions he has held with citizens since his inauguration, his public appearances have become more frequent.
Last month, he replaced press secretary Carol Hirschburg with former Maryland State Police spokesman Chuck Jackson. Mr. Jackson, who revived previously abandoned plans for the radio call-in show.
Mr. Hayden said he has taken this new course because "the message hasn't been getting across" to the public.
Yesterday, the studio's six telephone lines, including one for car phones and one for long-distance, were lit up with waiting callers throughout the segment, said news director Mark Miller.
Callers asked about the impact of Mr. Hayden's decision to increase the piggyback income tax from 50 per cent to 55 per cent of the state income tax, and why the opening of a special drunk drivers jail was again being delayed, this time until March.
One caller demanded to know why the law banning smoking in retail establishments goes unenforced, while another complained about the condition of the Diamond Ridge Golf Course in Woodlawn. Mr. Hayden promised to check both complaints and report back to the callers.
Mr. Hayden has appeared on several radio programs before, including the Ron Smith Show. The difference now, said WBAL-Radio general manager Jeff Beauchamp, "is that we're developing a fixed time when people know they can call in and talk to the county executive, as they do with the mayor and the governor."
Mr. Smith said the program is a logical progression for the station, which now has Mr. Hayden, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. William Donald Schaefer in its lineup.
"Baltimore City and County are the core of our broadcast area," he said. "City problems resonate beyond city borders . . . The governor, that's the state, and he's a character."
Current plans are for Mr. Hayden to appear on the second Wednesday of each month. If the segment succeeds, it could become weekly, with WBAL installing a remote line so Mr. Hayden can field calls from his office as the mayor and the governor do.