Vol. 9, No. 17
April 26-May 2, 2001
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By Bill Papian

Erik Jorgensen, our most recently arrived grandchild, passed his first birthday a few weeks ago. He is, of course, quite precocious, so I thought I'd better brush up on how to handle all the questions he'll soon be asking. It's been several years since the last grandchild was born, and I'm getting no smarter.

Of all the questions he'll be asking, most, I think, will start with "Grandpa, why ?" So I'm starting my research by looking up the definition of the word "why". Here's how one of my dictionaries handles it:


1. for what reason, cause, or purpose; with what motive;

2. because of which; on account of which; used relatively;

3. the reason for which;

4. the reason, cause, purpose, motive, etc.

Well, speaking relatively (Erik is awfully cute), but I really did have a serious reason, cause, purpose and motive in mind when I started this short essay titled "Why?" That serious motive comes out in the next question (starting with that word again).

Why is it that colleagues and I, who have been trying for many years to understand the whys and wherefores of some of the loopholes we decry in the language of Anne Arundel County's zoning regulations, have rarely, if ever, received comprehensive answers from the authorities? Need I mention examples like the "developer's interest" fiasco in the grandfathering section of Article 26, or the "48-inch pipe rule"?

What we have received are circumlocutions, circumbentibuses (I like this one; Microsoft Word doesn't even have a suggestion), circumclusions (here Word suggests circumcisions!), circumdictions, circumflexions, circumfusions (circumcisions again!), circumgyrations, circumplications, circumventions (Word understood this one) and circumvolutions. But nary an answer to why, that is, to exactly what is the underlying public policy.

Perhaps we've been rather mean, pushing those hard-working people for a serious public dialogue, or debate, on basic issues. But we're not getting that from our council or, for that matter, from our executive. So I guess we'll just have to remain frustrated.

Little Erik will, too. When he asks: "Grandpa, why is the sky blue?" I'll answer: "Well, the sun's light has all the colors of the rainbow in it, and the blue part gets scattered all over the sky by the particles in our atmosphere."

"But, Grandpa, why just the blue?" Etc., etc., etc. Did I say that he was the one who would get frustrated by our dialogue?

Bill Papian, of Shady Side, is an occasional contributor to this department.

Copyright 2001
Bay Weekly