Mishap refuted myth that people don't care
I am writing this letter in regards to an article in The Sun for Howard County (Sept. 6) in reference to the car accident in which a former Centennial student, Kevin Smith, was involved.
The article was a fairly short one which primarily focused on the facts around the accident itself. I think attention should be drawn to the effect made on the people of this school after Kevin Smith's accident.
Practically every student at Centennial High knows Kevin or knows of Kevin through his father, Bruce Smith, a highly respected and liked teacher at Centennial. After news of Kevin's accident was brought to everyone's attention by our principal, Edgar Markley, there was an air of sadness around our school. The majority of students here went out of their way, in some way, to wish Kevin the best and show him that they were hoping for him.
The main thing that touched me was the amount of help people were willing to lend to the Smith family during their troubled time. Throughout this whole ordeal, there is a definite sense of love and compassion going out to the Smith family.
This sort of reaction to a human being hurt deserves to have
attention called to it; it displays something in the human spirit which many believe doesn't exist anymore. There was no "these things happen," no "oh, well." People didn't just feel bad for a second, and then turn back to doing whatever they were doing before.
I have the pleasure of being fairly close to Mr. Smith, although not to Kevin. But just by knowing Mr. Smith and Kevin a little, I know that there's not a nicer person something so terrible could happen to. I'd like to suggest a follow-up article on Kevin's accident, which made not only an impression on me, but on the rest of Centennial High School.
Casino gambling? See Atlantic City
There is only one true direction to the pending gambling issue in Maryland. Vote no.
Although the various regions of the state may decrease their rates of unemployment if commercial casinos are permitted, what happens if the gaming interests and their friends in public relations "promise the moon" of jobs and revenue, and do not deliver? Who will then be held accountable?
If any resident of this state wants to see first-hand the total picture of the gaming world, take a four-hour drive to Atlantic City. There you will see two cities in one: The "glitter" of the boardwalk and the decaying boarded-up housing, just across the street.
Some words of advice to those in the gaming arena: Your advertisements and money will not influence the elected officials of this state, and the voters who will either re-elect or reject them in 1998.
Some words of advice to state legislators who will be voting on allowing legalize gambling in Maryland during the 1996 General Assembly session: Do not for a moment let yourself believe their promises for your community. They have no ties to your district. We do. You will need to remember that when seeking to be in Annapolis come January 1999.
What happened to parenting?
While watching a program on television, I recently came across the advisory warning to parents suggesting that the program may be too violent for younger viewers. I am perfectly aware of censorship of television and how television has been under attack lately due to the nature of material a television show contains. I have heard the criticism of parents. I have heard the complaints from other individuals who strongly support family values and how the media should be ashamed of what they are making, especially with all the young viewers.
However, I fail to grasp the concept of the advisory label. Sure, I believe in family values. That's why I don't understand why a parent needs someone to tell them how to parent their children. I would think that a parent would be wise enough to know what shows are appropriate for their children and which shows are not. I would think if parents were really concerned about their kids and the types of things they are exposed to, they would pre-screen the material before they let their kids see it.
If people really care about family values and spending time doing things as a family, then they would find the time to watch appropriate programs as a family instead of devoting their time to supporting an advisory label for the shows they know they're not going to let their kids watch anyway.
To me, this just says that the parents and supporters of this action don't have enough faith in themselves to raise their kids and bring them up with a sense of morals and values.
What's wrong with Harper's Choice
Adam Sachs' piece on Harper's Choice businesses caught my attention in the Aug. 23 Sun for Howard County. As a longtime visitor to the center, I feel the article lacked depth. Although this village center has been around for years, I would never have referred to it as a "hub of activity."
So, has the village center lost its place in Columbia or did it ever amount to more than a source of groceries and gas to a citizenry too busy to stop and pause more than a moment?
The problems plaguing Harper's Choice center start with the poorly laid-out traffic patterns around the center. This is not an isolated case. Traffic patterns at other centers such as Hickory Ridge are also poorly conceived.
The center was designed around a bank in the location which is occupied currently by McDonald's and now the small parking area bordering Harper's Farm Road adds to the traffic congestion. With more new residences located nearby, as well as the considerable though traffic, the situation will undoubtedly worsen.
Another reason for the problems at all center is competition. Apparently, the Rouse Co. doesn't care who rents the facilities, only that it receives its rather stiff fees. Thus, in a happier day Colombos was an outstanding pizzeria at Joseph Square, the original name of the Harper's Choice center before its "new look." Unfortunately, greed got the best of people and eventually Colombos left.
From then on, instead of bringing in a Taco Bell or Long John Silver's, we got pizza places in Wilde Lake, Harper's Choice, Hickory Plaza and Hickory Ridge, all trying to cut each other's throat. Needless to say service and product quality suffered as well as earnings. Along with competition from the Mall, this is one reason why many businesses fail at the regional centers. Too much of the same thing. The exception are the Chinese eateries found at all four of these locations. Apparently, they are able to survive, perhaps based on lower overhead.
The problem in Columbia is that it cannot retain and foster locally owned businesses. In addition, it is the internecine warfare among larger chains with a similar product that also hurts the area, just as at the Mall where too many shoe and clothing stores cut each other's earnings.
How many businesses still survive at Joseph Square from 12 years ago? Of the more than a dozen businesses then, only the Amoco station, originally a BP facility, and the liquor store (the big winner in all regional shopping centers) remain today. And this is the result mainly of a captive audience, not personal preference. But besides those dozen, innumerable other shops have come and gone in the meantime.
Mr. Sachs reports that some residents claim Valu Food is "small, untidy and offers poor service." Well, the Giant at Wilde Lake, in my estimation, is just as poorly operated and has outgrown its ability to stock enough goods to please the populace. The clerks are slow, sale items are frequently missing, meat is packaged to hide the fat, etc. The only "advantage" is that you feel more important because you pay more for products than at Valu Food!
Just as putting too many pizza shops in a relatively small area, each hurting the other, the reverse is found in the larger chains. Giant should never have been given the location in Hickory Ridge, simply because as it acquires more of a lock on shoppers, it, together with the Wilde Lake store, becomes a cash cow for the chain without any benefit for the consumer. I have shopped at Giant for more than 20 years and haven't received any more recognition for it than a person who is a first-time customer. This is no way to operate a store which has such a captive audience.
Instead of developing goodwill among the small business operators, these chain stores compete with small businesses which have basically one product. Examples are the bagel shop and fish market at Wilde Lake. Why does the WL Giant have to sell fish and bagels when it provides a lower quality product and means so little to its bottom line?
Columbia residents don't spend all their money on booze and movies. There must be other services and products which can be marketed through village centers; simply changing the names and maintaining the same old money-grubbing policies won't cut it.
The appearance of ice-covered pansies in March and monochromatic tulips in May doesn't suffice. Currently, everything is too artificial to ever achieve a goal of a friendly joining of people and shops. We seem to have moved into the Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Borders concept of bigger is better. I doubt that we will ever return to the fountains and local events which earlier made the centers attractive. It is too bad.
R. D. Bush