Stormwater issue remains unresolved, Woodstock embalmed

Editorial, The Capital, June 06, 2008

It was an offbeat occasion: A community association honored three local politicians not just for a failure, but for a failure to pass a new tax.

But the Severn River Association was right in honoring County Councilmen Jamie Benoit, Josh Cohen and Ron Dillon last week with its Green Heron Award. And, as it turned out, it had excellent timing. Last week's ceremony in Arnold came less than a week before a day of huge downpours. Given this county's backlog of unfunded stormwater management projects, we can only imagine how much more sediment wound up in the creeks, the rivers and the bay on Wednesday.

The three councilmen pushed legislation that would have attacked the backlog, estimated at $1.3 billion, by charging every homeowner $30 a year, and imposing a graduated fee on businesses, based on the amount of impervious surface.

Considering the customary hostility to new taxes, this proposal had a surprising amount of support: At a council hearing in December, proponents outnumbered opponents by about 5-to-1.

But the three councilmen couldn't get any of their colleagues to join them, and the measure was defeated, 4-3. Later the council did approve a tax credit for those who try to reduce runoff from their property. While this will be helpful, no one imagines that it's enough.

"I'm disappointed there's not a fourth person standing up here - or a fifth, sixth and seventh," Mr. Benoit told the Severn River Association. "We'll be back next year to award our fourth vote." We hope he's right.

YOU CAN'T be sure that you're old until the great rebellious incident of your youth is embalmed in a museum. Speaking of which, on June 2 the town of Bethel, N.Y., sent a message to America's baby boomers: You're old, guys. Live with it.

Bethel is now the site of a museum commemorating something that happened there from Aug. 15 to 18, 1969. The "Woodstock Music and Art Fair" - one of the best-attended, worst-organized and most rain-drenched events in American cultural history - was attended by some legendary rock musicians and roughly 400,000 hippies and would-be hippies.

Of course, this was hardly the great historic event of the 1960s - that would be Apollo 11's landing on the moon. But it is generally considered the zenith of the 1960s "counterculture."

Actually, there's no such thing as a counterculture. The youthful rebels of one generation - whether Elizabethan dramatists, Romantic composers, Impressionist painters or rock musicians - are invariably the cultural icons of the next.

So there's irony in the messy, self-conscious rebellion of the 1960s now being enshrined in what, according to news accounts, is a neat and well-organized museum that makes full use of films, interactive displays and all the latest curatorial flourishes. There's further irony that it was all financed by a foundation set up by a 78-year-old cable television executive and venture capitalist.

Graying members of the Woodstock generation may be comforted to know that, after they're all gone, kids can quietly file through a museum to find out about this one-of-a-kind event. Or maybe they won't be comforted by that idea.

(Revised June 2008)