DALE ANDERSON, who died over the weekend at 79, was Baltimore County's last old-time Democratic boss.
When the county executive felt four planning officials were aiding and abetting community organizations protesting zoning changes, he simply abolished their positions. Similarly, he opted to lose millions of dollars in federal grants rather than to bow to housing policies that might have caused a sudden influx of low-income -- and black -- families into the county.
"Basically all human beings want to be left alone," he once said in explaining his political philosophy. "They don't want too much interference from government. They want to live in peace, in comfort. They want government to provide the services it is legally responsible to supply and otherwise leave them alone. . . "
Although often controversial, Mr. Anderson successfully practiced that philosophy until he was sentenced to a federal prison on charges of extortion and tax evasion. After his release, he sought vindication by running for a House of Delegates seat and won. Four years later, though, he lost a bid for re-election. Times had changed; Dale Anderson had not.
Mr. Anderson's political career coincided with a time when Baltimore County was growing rapidly and seemed so wealthy it was sometimes referred to as "Maryland's Golden Horseshoe." Much of that effect was achieved through governmental actions that tried to isolate the county from social change. A U.S. civil rights commission, after studying housing and racial policies, described the county as a "white noose" strangling the neighboring city.
Such policies made Mr. Anderson popular among voters in the county, which in 1970 had a black population of only 3 percent. Adding to that popularity was the executive's conservative fiscal policy, which meant low taxes and a sterling bond rating. Critics argued, though, that such county problems as transportation and sewer inadequacies were caused by the Anderson administration's parsimonious policies.
In its attitudes, problems and leadership, today's Baltimore County is light years removed from the time of Dale Anderson. He personified a period that seems like ancient history.
Pub Date: 7/31/96