It's no hype when Baltimore County Executive C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger assesses the recent General Assembly performance of the county's elected officials by declaring, "We're back, we're players again." His appraisal is mostly correct, even if his repetition of those exact five words in various interviews might cause the more skeptical observer to wonder about their accuracy. But that's just Dutch. An excess of enthusiasm on the part of the jurisdiction's top pol is preferable to the alternative.
Why is Mr. Ruppersberger so charged up? Baltimore County's state senators, delegates, county councilmen and other local government officials displayed a level of effective teamwork that hasn't been associated with the county's politicians for years. The executive helped set the collegial tone with a pre-session pep talk to the delegation, taking pains to make those members based outside the county feel that they, too, were valued players.
And at the close of the Annapolis session, the scoreboard showed modest but praiseworthy victories for the county. They include state funding of $2 million for infrastructure improvements in the Owings Mills area (which has freed up county dollars for the repair of alleys and roads in older communities) and $250,000 to remove chromium and other toxins from Stansbury Park on the Eastside.
More state dollars are expected to flow the county's way next month when school construction funding is officially announced. County officials anticipate aid for Perry Hall middle and high schools and for Towson High.
In addition, two key pieces of legislation on the Ruppersberger agenda won passage. One would reduce closing costs for first-time homebuyers, on top of reductions provided by a recently approved statewide measure. The other successful bill would stiffen the penalties for the increasingly common crime of auto theft, setting a maximum punishment of 10 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Baltimore County also benefited from the appointment of two delegation members to important chairmanships: Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell of the Finance Committee and Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman of the Budget and Taxation Committee.
The new term got off to a bad start when county-based House members decided to give partial votes at delegation meetings to city-based members. This was an unusual foul, though, during a General Assembly session that saw some good scores by the county team. Go ahead, Dutch. Say it again: You're back and you're players.