The Baltimore Sun

Leave land choices to local officials

The editorial "The case against sprawl" (Sept. 30) alludes to a need for increased state involvement in local land-use decision-making and suggests that counties will object to the loss of power that this change implies. But the issue here is not about a loss of power but about sensible policy.

It is county elected officials who are most accessible to citizens and most knowledgeable about land conditions in their communities.

Vesting increased land-use authority in unelected state officials in distant offices denies citizens the accountability they deserve and demand.

Simply stated, Smart Growth means more densely developed communities with people living closer to one another. While this idea has merit, this lifestyle does not have universal appeal.

To enhance its appeal, and make Smart Growth a reality, meaningful investments in infrastructure are required - not just in basic services such as water and sewer but in amenities such as parks, libraries and attractive streetscapes.

County governments have spent and are spending considerable money on such infrastructure improvements.

Gov. Martin O'Malley has recently joined the National Center for Smart Growth in acknowledging that greater investment in needed infrastructure is the forgotten promise of Smart Growth.

Without such investments, local officials should not be vilified for any failures of the Smart Growth program.

Jan Gardner, Frederick

The writer is president of the Frederick County Board of County Commissioners and a former president of the Maryland Association of Counties.

Personal attacks put winning first

Sen. John McCain's shrill personal attacks on Sen. Barack Obama belie his promise to conduct an honorable campaign and put "country first" ("Personal attacks lead in to debate," Oct. 7). They evince a desperation to win at any cost to the nation.

Given the enormous economic challenges that should be at the center of the presidential debate, it is clear that for Mr. McCain and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, "change" means nothing more than changing the subject.

Gerard J. Gaeng, Timonium

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