175 interchange killed after shops OK'ed?
For more than six months, the issue of what to do to solve the traffic problems at Route 175 and Snowden River Parkway has been a favorite topic of discussion. Overlooked in all the discussion is the fact that Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker had submitted at least three capital budgets that included funds for a grade separated interchange at that location. It was not until last April that Mr. Ecker publicly changed course by deleting funding for the interchange from his 1996 capital budget.
More disturbing is the fact that Mr. Ecker had instructed his staff to find a cheaper solution in September 1995 at the very same time that his public works director, James Irvin, unequivocally advised the planning board that the interchange was the county's highest priority.
Both Messrs. Ecker and Irvin knew that the proposed interchange was critical to the approval of the Rouse Co.'s plans to construct the Columbia Crossing power center. Absent Mr. Irvin's representations of the county's continued commitment to the interchange, it is doubtful that there would have been a sufficient record to sustain the planning board's approval of the planned power center.
It is bewildering that Mr. Ecker made public the change in his position on the interchange only after the planning board approved the plans for Columbia Crossing and construction had begun. In light of these circumstances, is it any wonder that the community feels betrayed?
The writer is chairwoman of the Long Reach Community Association, Inc.
Students helped Patapsco institute
On behalf of the Patapsco Female Institute Historic Park, I would like to publicly thank the 100-plus students from River Hill, Howard, Glenelg and Oakland Mills high schools for volunteering to be part of our second annual Ghosts of the Patapsco Female Institute.
Under the direction of Lee Preston of River Hill High School, these students wrote the scripts, dressed in costume, set up and took down the scenery each night, and came out for four nights in the cold to entertain the hundreds of families and Girl Scouts who wanted to experience Halloween in one of Ellicott City's famous historic sites.
These visitors praised the professionalism of the students and the quality of the production. I do not know of one instance where a student acted inappropriately. All too often we only hear of teens who are recognized for their bad deeds. These young adults must be recognized for their good deeds.
Thank you, students, for helping us out and making a good impression on our visitors.
ally S. Bright
The writer is president of the Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute, Inc.
Extending teachers' probationary period
Susan Cook, Howard County's Board of Education chairwoman, is quoted in the Nov. 21 Howard County Times as having said that the board does not have the power to extend the length of the non-tenured probationary period for teachers. Therefore, according to Ms. Cook, the recommendation to seek the extension of the current two-year probationary period made in the citizens' middle school report cannot be given consideration.
While it is true that an individual local school board is not empowered to write regulations controlling the length of the probationary period, it is also true that the State Board of Education, which is responsible for regulatory oversight, has a procedure in place to solicit local boards' input and to respond to it.
Local school boards are members of the Maryland Association of Boards of Education. MABE meets annually. Prior to the annual conference, local boards seek support from fellow boards for various resolutions, which are then addressed to the state board.
This year, the Washington County school board sought to present a resolution asking that the state board change the probationary requirement for tenure from two years to three years. The Howard County Board of Education discussed this resolution at its regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 24. Those members present at this meeting (Ms. Cook was absent) did not support it.
The point is that the board is not impotent in this matter. Positive action could have been taken and serious discussion of tenure and related issues regarding staff accountability and assessment of performance could and certainly should take place.
Regulations for home builders
Regarding the Nov. 17 article entitled, "Panel studies builder license," most people assume that the state of Maryland regulates home builders as it does every other profession.
I think people should be aware that there is very little regulation of home builders and very few safeguards to protect home buyers from unethical builders. For the past 10 years, the legislature has thought it important that builders be licensed and yet every House bill recommending licensing of home builders has failed to pass.
The attorney general, after holding hearings recently, recommended the licensing of builders. It is very disturbing that the home building industry is so powerful that it has been able to fight against being regulated and licensed.
It uses the argument that it wants to police itself. I am sure that there are many other professions that would prefer not to be licensed and regulated by the state (e.g., doctors, real estate agents, stockbrokers, home improvement contractors). There are good reasons why the state is involved in regulating these professions. Why does not the same argument hold true for the home building industry where so much potential for abuse exists?
CA not 'open' enough? Don't you believe it
The Sun's Nov. 26 editorial in Howard County about the demise of the Columbia Municipal League repeated one of the latter's most specious claims -- that the Columbia Association's quasi-governance structure is not "open" enough.
I guess the lesson here is that if one says it loud enough and often enough, some people will believe it despite plenty of information to the contrary.
To wit: I don't know how any form of government could be more open and available to its constituency. The Columbia Council meets at least twice monthly and a "resident speakout" is always on the agenda. Almost all council and council committee meetings are open (95 percent-plus), except for a very few that deal mostly with personnel matters.
The council sponsors a variety of meetings throughout the year so that residents can air their concerns and visions for the city. Moreover, the 10 Columbia villages and their elected boards provide an even more decentralized grass-roots base for the Columbia Association. Furthermore, every elected CA official (and all CA senior staff) are available by telephone, at work, at home or both.
Columbia Council members, along with village board members, architectural committee members and myriad other CA and non-CA volunteers contribute their time to make Columbia a much better place than it would be otherwise. The CA staff is as motivated and concerned a group as exists. All share the goal of re-making an aging Columbia into the "Address of Choice in the Mid-Atlantic."
The Columbia Council and CA are not perfect, but neither is any other organization. In recent years, the council has grown more aggressive in defining and addressing issues that are larger than pools, athletic clubs, day care and such.
This is as it should be, and I am proud that I have helped expand the council's scope of interest in recent years. If I have my way, this will continue.
CML received numerous fair hearings from the council and community. During CML's life, the council scheduled a number of well-attended community forums on incorporation and heard hours of testimony and read many documents addressing the issue.
The problem the CML failed to overcome was not the apathy so often alleged by CML apologists, but rather its inability to make and/or support convincing arguments in favor of incorporation.
Indeed, when queried by dispassionate residents (including me at one time) about details, CML's typical response was to tangentially and recklessly allege that CA is unduly influenced by the Rouse Co., which is simply not true.
As all who work in public policy know, those who seek change are typically charged with the "burden of proof." CML failed to make its case. Why? I believe this was not due to lack of energy on CML's part, but rather because incorporation really does not make much sense for Columbia.
P.S., to all concerned Columbians: See you at council meetings at 8 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursdays of each month in the CA building (above Clyde's).
The writer is chairman of the Columbia Council.
Pub Date: 12/08/96