The debate over wind farms in Howard County has been a hot one, at least for those who fill county government’s meeting hall every other week or so. These people, who stand to be directly affected by the installation of windmills in their neighborhood, have complained, shouted, begged, and bargained with the Howard County Commissioners and Howard County Council for more than a year to stop the wind farms, to no avail.
So, they searched for a government that would listen to their concerns. Last week, the town of Converse approached the Howard County Council and asked that the county relinquish control over the planning and development of an area within two miles of the town’s border. Like the very vocal residents on the east side of the county, Converse has no desire to live alongside a wind farm.
It doesn’t matter that giving up this control wouldn’t stop the wind farm. What matters to the 41 people who petitioned Converse to intervene is that they no longer feel that the Howard County officials will work in their best interests. That is a disturbing lack of faith.
The county is to be congratulated for being among the most efficient and effective governments in the state. Other counties look to Howard County as a model when it comes to handling the taxation process. The county jail is among the safest and best run in the state. Howard County is perhaps the only county in the state that has paved every road. These are, arguably, commendable accomplishments.
But when it comes to listening to the citizens and taxpayers, Howard County obviously isn’t doing the job. And the officials don’t have to do so. They have little to fear on Election Day because the Republicans enjoy an overwhelming advantage. There is no penalty at the ballot box for doing what meets their personal needs, regardless of what the people want. Therefore, when given a choice, a growing group of residents would prefer to be governed by someone other than our commissioners and councilmen – even if doing so doesn’t solve their current problem.
One might say the political leaders’ hands are tied. They entered a contract that cannot be broken without inviting a lawsuit and possible financial penalties, and even then, a loss in the courtroom might still allow the wind farms to be built. But it was these commissioners and councilmen who signed such a restrictive accord – without exercising due diligence or providing sufficient opportunity for public input before taking action. Following the letter of the law and nothing more doesn’t cut it when you’re talking about significantly changing someone’s life.
And for those who might still think the commissioners and councilmen are getting a bad rap for failing to listen or respond to their constituents, consider this: the same Converse town councilman who made his request last week originally approached the commissioners a year earlier, but was completely ignored. They have no intent to give the residents anything they desire, regardless of how often they ask.
But wait until the windmills arrive. They’ll wish they had listened, as there likely won’t be an incumbent left standing.
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