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Referendum activist runs for Howard County Council

As an attorney for several different airlines over the course of his career, Alan Schneider says he's always thought about what measures can be taken to prevent damage and legal issues.

"Litigation is really not as effective as it could be or should be" when it comes to solving problems, he said. "And it takes a long time."

Schneider, 67, said he sees too much litigation at the county level as a result of citizens feeling that they are being left out of the democratic process.

The Clarksville Democrat said he wants to join county government to tackle the problem at its source. Schneider has filed to challenge incumbent County Council member Greg Fox, a Republican who has represented District 5 for two terms.

"What I found out is that in Howard County, the citizens are being damaged," Schneider said. "They're not being given information in a timely manner so that they can actually respond. Howard County is a county full of highly professional people, very intelligent people … and they're detail-oriented. They all would like to be able to participate but they do not have the time."

Recently, Schneider has been involved in an appeal of a Howard County Board of Elections decision that's made its way to circuit court.

In November, Howard County Board of Elections Director Guy Mickley declined to certify a petition, signed by more than 6,000 Howard County residents, seeking to bring more than a dozen comprehensive zoning decisions to referendum.

The group running the petition drive, Citizens Working to Fix Howard County, of which Schneider is a member, filed an appeal.

"What is really important is that the voters of Howard County are given the right by charter for referendum," Schneider said of the case. "Now if there are lawyers who want to argue about it, and lawyers always like to argue about everything, should they be allowed to frustrate approximately 7,000 voters in Howard County so they do not get the right to vote? That's disenfranchisement."

As a council member, Schneider said, he could help citizens concerned with zoning issues find more of a voice.

"As an attorney, I know that the officials, the people in charge … it only takes a word from them to get things straightened out," he said.

Schneider became involved in land-use issues after hearing about plans for a mortuary in Clarksville. He aligned himself with neighbors of that project that have been fighting the conditional use allowing the project, on the grounds that it will cause environmental damage and traffic issues.

"I started in a small way," Schneider said. "And it empowers me and enriches me to be able to help people."

Schneider's goals include updating the Adequate Public Facilities Act, a set of guidelines last passed in 1992 that ensure new infrastructure keeps pace with growth; "enhancing livability" for senior citizens through livable homes property tax credits; supporting "interrelated enterprises" and small business throughout the county; and holding developers to the standards set forth in the county's regulations, which he feels are not being enforced.

"The laws, codes and regulations are being broken and nobody's standing up and saying this is not right, we've got to do the right thing," he said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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