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Letters: Howard County school board election is supposed to be nonpartisan; more from readers | READER COMMENTARY

Partisan school board elections erode trust

The Howard County Board of Education handbook states, “The school board race is nonpartisan. Candidates are expected to run nonpartisan campaigns and, when serving as a member of the Board of Education, must work in a nonpartisan manner with all elected officials in the best interests of the public school students.” Yet, this directive was clearly not followed by some candidates, politicians, political clubs, central committees and supporters.

When party officials support candidates by canvassing, distributing literature, publicly endorsing or providing financial assistance, the candidates could feel that they owe something to these officials. This could potentially cause integrity issues and perception problems; both would impede a sense of public trust.

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Additionally, our school system does not fund itself; its financial resources come primarily from the county and state. If a Board of Education member supported the opponent of a county executive or County Council member (offices responsible for funding the school system), not only could it lead to a potential integrity problem, perception problem and reduction of public trust, but it could also lead to improper funding of our students’ educations.

It would be a great service to the county if party leaders could come together and draft guidelines that would prevent the negative consequences of partisan Board of Education elections, while respecting free speech and cultivating informed voters. Examples of guidelines of how this delicate balance can be achieved could include the following stipulations:

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  • Political entities would not endorse or donate to board candidates, though individual politicians could communicate their opinions to their private personal contacts, or make donations, as private citizens.
  • Canvassing and distribution of board candidate literature, signs, etc., could only be done by political entities if all board candidates are given the same invitations and opportunities to be represented.
  • Board candidates may disclose their political party if they choose but are not to campaign with a specific party by canvassing, distributing party literature, seeking endorsements, or accepting campaign funds from political entities.

In order to bring about positive change, our political leaders are needed to step up, consider the short- and long-term consequences involved, and draft, publicize and adhere to guidelines that will enable Board of Education candidates to run campaigns that will allow those who are chosen to school board to have the best chances of serving with integrity and the public trust.

Robert W. Miller

Columbia

County shouldn’t be cooperating with ICE

I’m writing in support of County Bill 63 in Howard County. These past four years have reinforced the need to protect all our community members. It’s a great evil to target family members based on their immigration status. They are our brothers and sisters, and it only enhances our community when all of us feel safe and can work together for our common good.

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The news over the past few years should have clarified for more of us that ICE is a rogue agency, and our local governments and police should not be cooperating with it. I also take great umbrage at Howard County’s cooperation and money-making off of detaining immigrants for ICE. County Bill 51 was vetoed by County Executive Calvin Ball, but CB63 would be a much better bill if it also stopped the detention center from holding immigrants for ICE.

Robin Vestal

Savage

Editor’s note: CB63, also known as the Liberty Act, which prohibits Howard County agencies from cooperating with ICE, passed the County Council on Dec. 7. Ball signed it into law on Dec. 10.

Stop the fight over Symphony of Lights

I am a proud resident of Columbia — or at least I was. But the Columbia Association must stop this nonsense with Symphony of Lights. Just let it be!

The latest is that the CA is now continuing with shutting this cherished event down and are now the Mr. Scrooge of Maryland.

The Columbia Association is continuing its legal pursuit of an injunction that, if granted, would put an immediate stop to this year’s event. After being denied its request for injunction by the Howard County Circuit Court on Nov. 25, the CA filed a second motion for injunction pending appeal with Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals on Dec. 8, requesting that the higher court overturn the decision of the Circuit Court and put an immediate stop to this year’s event.

And County Executive Calvin Ball’s statement weeks ago means nothing to you or the Inner Arbor Trust: “If there was ever a year where our community needs a COVID safe activity that evokes holiday cheer and raised much-needed funding for our hospital, it is 2020. This season, we have had to miss out on some of our most cherished traditions and with the Symphony of Lights, we can provide a safe way to lift spirits through these difficult times. As we continue to encourage our residents to stay COVID safe, we also must be cognizant of the mental health needs of our residents, and the positive impact that a safe, joyous, community event like Symphony of Lights can provide to their holiday season.”

This egotistical use of lien payers funds is inappropriate. Get serious about the well-being of the people of Columbia. Put your egos on the shelf. And your continued support of the Inner Arbor Trust should stop now; it’s stirring up trouble and unhappiness in what was our ray of brightness in this awful time.

Sharonlee J. Vogel

Columbia

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