Courage and the Columbia Council HOWARD COUNTY


Give it to John Hansen. By stepping down as chairman of the Columbia Council, he showed integrity and guts. Too bad councilwoman Gail Bailey doesn't follow Mr. Hansen's lead.

In elections held recently in the Long Reach village of Columbia, Mrs. Bailey lost to Roy T. Lyons when the popular vote was tallied.

Only after two apartment owners -- voting based on how many tenants they have -- cast ballots did Mrs. Bailey overtake Mr. Lyons' total to capture re-election.

While the Long Reach village covenants may allow such voting, it strikes us and many other Columbians as patently undemocratic. Undoubtedly, Mr. Hansen agreed. As he said, he "couldn't in good conscience serve on the council if Gail Bailey was seated."

As if to underscore the preposterous nature of this affair, one of the apartment owners, David Tufaro, a principal in the Ashton Meadows apartments, has waded into the fray with his own definition of the Columbia Association.

"The Columbia Association is an oversized homeowners association, no more, no less," he told Sun staff writer Adam Sachs recently.

He went on to say that as an apartment owner he believes he can fairly represent the interests of his tenants.

Mr. Tufaro has it only part right. The Columbia Association is a homeowners' group. But it is also one of the most unique we have ever come across.

Built into its structure have been certain democratic ideals. The idea that Mr. Tufaro would feel comfortable casting votes for his tenants, like something out of the antebellum South, only underscores the problem that exists.

This could not have been the outcome that executives of the Rouse Co. anticipated when they created this system of governance, along with the planned city, 20-plus years ago. In fact, James W. Rouse, Columbia's founder, commented that he was "surprised" by the Long Reach controversy.

What the current situation underscores is that the association requires serious revision. It needs to change to meet the expectations of the community it serves.

Certainly one of those expectations is that there be one-man, one-vote.

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