A YEAR AGO, conventional wisdom was that C. Vernon Gray would not run for a fifth term on the Howard County Council. However, rather than aim at becoming Howard's first African-American county executive, Mr. Gray has resorted to the relative safety of yet another campaign for his 2nd District council seat. He deserves re-election.
Mr. Gray, a Democrat, is opposed by Republican Susan J. Cook, whom many countians will recall from her successful tenure on the school board from 1990 to 1996. Education remains Mrs. Cook's central focus, but she also promises to work to revitalize older neighborhoods and to address neighborhood concerns about encroaching development.
Tackling such issues, however, is the best reason to re-elect Mr. Gray. During 16 years on the council, he has been on top of the public's sentiment about development. It was Mr. Gray who two years ago represented the interests of western Howard residents who sought a decrease in development on farmland.
Mr. Gray's voice has been the most consistent in seeking guarantees of affordable housing in new developments. His support of the controversial Rouse Co. plan to build a mixed-use development in North Laurel was linked to the company's promises to build more moderately priced housing units than current law would require.
If re-elected, he should press the council to address deficiencies in the law that allow developers to circumvent affordable housing requirements.
Mr. Gray, whose district includes some of the more urban settings of the planned city of Columbia, has long championed effective law enforcement through community policing. His reputation for constituent service is unsurpassed on the council.
As president-elect of the National Association of Counties, Mr. Gray will ascend to the presidency of that organization if he retains his position on the County Council. In that high-profile post, Mr. Gray will lobby Congress and the president on issues important to all county governments but, in particular, the types of concerns he deals with here. That's a bonus that would benefit Howard and the Baltimore region if he is re-elected.
Tomorrow: 3rd Council District
Pub Date: 10/27/98