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Volume 15, Issue 19 ~ May 10 - May 16, 2007


On Target, Leopold Delivers Change

It hasn’t taken long to size up Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold.

Yet some people are surprised at what they see.

Wise development decisions shooing away Big Box stores, combined with his parsimonious budget, paint Leopold as a conservative in the traditional sense of the word.

The deal announced last week to purchase 30 acres of southwestern Anne Arundel marks an enormous victory for the environment.

The land, adjacent to the fragile Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary and Preserve, was destined to become a Target store. You could almost smell diesel from the dozers.

As Big Boxes go, Target has a reputation for working with communities, unlike some of its rivals.

But no amount of cooperation could have prevented a fateful transformation of a rich (and paddleable) treasure of wetlands and rare species. The county council should applaud Leopold’s initiative to buy the land from a developer and his commitment to protecting the rural tracts of the county that remain.

In another land-use victory, Leopold’s fledgling administration succeeded in preventing another layer of congestion to fast-developing Rt. 3 in Crofton, by changing Wal-Mart’s mind about building there.

In Odenton, meanwhile, negotiations are underway with the U.S. Naval Academy to bring its former dairy farm under county control, and keeping it agricultural.

Leopold’s preservation efforts may seem a bit odd for a member of the Grand Old Party. But he fashions himself as a Republican in the spirit of Teddy Roosevelt, who pioneered conservation at the turn of the 20th century.

Meanwhile, Leopold’s new budget harkened back to the days of fiscal conservatism, a departure from the red ink Republicanism that held sway in Washington in recent years.

The new county executive intends to whittle down popular and valuable programs supporting disadvantages citizens and the arts. And he is unwilling to provide everything schools desire.

The cuts should come as no shock to voters in a revenue-constrained county who listened to Leopold last fall.

His message was one of change, in party and policy, and that’s what is unfolding in every corner of the county.

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