Extolling regionalism to a Carroll County audience is much like praising the glories of the fermented grape to the Temperance League. Daily Record publisher Edwin Warfield IV discovered this a few weeks ago when he told members of the county's Chamber of Commerce that regional management of municipal services -- education, fire and police -- is a sure way to reduce local government costs and promote prosperity.
Delivering his message at the chamber's annual business fair, Mr. Warfield was fortunate to receive some tepid applause. A less polite crowd might have resorted to a bombardment of rotten fruit and eggs. Residents of Carroll County like to think of themselves as a self-sufficient populace that doesn't need or want to share services with Baltimore or its surrounding counties.
While Carroll countians may dislike the concept of regionalism, they certainly believe in the practice. More than half of the county's population leaves Carroll County each morning for jobs located outside the county. Carroll residents regularly shop outside the county. If they want to see live theater, attend a concert or watch a professional sports team, they have to leave Carroll.
Even though the majority of Carroll residents are interested in having a streamlined county government, there has been little enthusiasm for looking at regional solutions for county problems. During the past year, county commissioners have participated in a number of regional programs and have carefully listened to presentations at the Baltimore Metropolitan Council on regional transportation, planning and waste disposal.
As Mr. Warfield and others have pointed out, sharing certain local government services could result in substantial savings for all political jurisdictions. The problem is not one of economics but of politics. No one wants to give up his or her patronage and power.
Complicating matters is the perception among Carroll County residents that regionalism involving Baltimore City and its suburbs is a "you win, I lose" proposition. Unless regional government services are clearly outlined and understood, future presentations on this subject will continue to be dismissed as were Mr. Warfield's thoughtful and provocative comments.