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Carroll's transit phobia

Outsiders might be shocked to learn that Carroll County promotes itself as a tourism destination. From wineries to Civil War sights, walking tours and recreational opportunities, the county touts all sorts of things to come see and do. The official visitors guide beckons with a "Welcome to Carroll County" on its front page and observes how it's "convenient" to Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Gettysburg, Pa.

What's odd about this is that the very same brochure has the endorsement of Doug Howard and others on the Carroll County Board of Commissioners. Mr. Howard is the author of a resolution — scheduled to be considered by the full board tomorrow — that opposes any mass transit project that might connect the county with the outside world.

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Wait, you read that right. The so-called "Mass Transit Protection Resolution" would allow rides on buses or other forms of public transit inside the county but not beyond its borders, with one exception — an existing free shuttle that takes veterans to VA medical facilities elsewhere. Otherwise, forget about public transportation to places like — insert shudder here — Charm City.

It would be easy to excoriate such a piece of legislation as thinly veiled racist provocation. Neither the county nor the state has any transit project planned for any part of the county. Not even on the drawing board. Not even in the next 20 years of master plans. All this resolution amounts to is a clear statement of concern that undesirables be kept out. Given the history of Baltimore's suburbs, the racial overtones are undeniable.

But we prefer to think of it as a cry for help. We have heard quite a few of those cries from the current occupants of the board from their insistence that opening prayers be more sectarian to their efforts to disprove climate change. At least they are consistent in that they also passed a resolution last year calling on the county not to enforce Maryland's latest gun control law.

More guns, fewer buses. It's a vision of Carroll as an armed encampment holding off the barbarians from beyond their borders. The only thing missing is a moat and some lookout towers along the Baltimore County line, and you might have the fortified northern wall from "Game of Thrones." Presumably, they wouldn't have to extend the Great Wall of Eldersburg along the border with Frederick County, as the two share a common political nuttiness on many such matters.

Perhaps opposing "beyond our borders" mass transit is meant to simply reflect on the commissioners' preference for public spending on roads. But that's not how the resolution reads. It doesn't disparage transit spending and actually supports the free shuttle. Clearly what the commissioners are concerned about is that poor people from elsewhere (Glyndon? Probably not. White Hall? Uh, no.) might make their way to Westminster and its environs. The Carroll commissioners aren't sending a message of fiscal prudence, they're broadcasting their plans to make possession of an automobile the price of admission.

Our modest suggestion is to go one step further. Mr. Howard may be unaware but African-Americans from Baltimore and elsewhere have also been known to drive and own cars. Apparently, this is perfectly legal. Thus, the only prudent thing to do would be to stop spending tax dollars on all forms of transportation in the county. According to the Maryland Department of Transportation, that would save the taxpayers of this state (many of whom apparently aren't welcome in the county anyway) $57.9 million over the next six years.

That's a nice chunk of change and maybe enough to get started on that moat and a nice drawbridge to boot. Otherwise, the commissioners ought to seriously consider rejecting the mass transit "protection" resolution that is not only incompatible with tourism, economic development and civility but with those basic Christian values they claim to hold so dearly.

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