Fees for recreation, storm water? Readers doubt they're a 0) good idea
Norris West's Jan. 19 column, "Fees at county parks -- what a terrible idea," criticized an idea which few people would be in disagreement. However, I feel the basic problem was not addressed.
Clearly from any viewpoint, facilities, budget, personnel, etc., the Columbia Association is the dominant recreational provider in Howard County. The problems of county Recreation and Parks is but the first sign of the dichotomy between Columbia and Howard County.
The mandate to Rec and Parks to provide recreation on a pay-for-service basis places the department squarely in competition with the CA. On a comparison basis, the Department of Rec and Parks is expected to service triple the number of residents on one-quarter the budget dollars of CA.
CA is proposing the construction of two major recreational facilities, the Sports Park in Harpers Choice and the Westside Recreational Facility in River Hill.
If a recreational activity has the potential for profit, the CA has it or will build it. This leaves the county with no means to raise revenue to supplement any revenue-producing facilities.
Columbia is peaking at 37 percent of the county population. In the next decade, Columbia will cease to grow and the remainder of the county will accelerate its growth. The relatively densely populated areas of Columbia, as its infrastructure ages, will develop problems typical of a city. This will result in pressure for solutions requiring county funds.
Since the CA has historically supplied social and recreational programs (at a price) for its residents, the anticipated county response will be underwhelming.
I think it is important to develop a vision of the future. Any actions which will develop and encourage partnerships between the county and CA will be helpful.
Re: The Howard County storm water fee proposal (Jan. 22). A tax by any other name is still a tax. You can't hide from this one, Chuck Ecker.
At least have the decency to call it a tax and allow us the deduction on our federal return. Believe it or not, we have not forgotten the "trash fee," which took the place of responsible management.
The present administration of Howard County has a record of depending on semantics to keep voters off balance and confused on the issues.
We are certain that the proposed $50 fee will grow and prosper if we taxpayers allow this course to prevail.
I don't feel that it is by mere coincidence that two members of the Rouse Co. sit on this storm water committee. After all, development by the Rouse Co. may be impacted by the outcome of decisions made by this committee.
The council should be the leader in seeking solutions on these kinds of problems. Perhaps giving up part of the "understood" $6,000 personal expense accounts they each enjoy (in addition to their salaries) would set a good example to the rest of the bureaucracy. I urge the voters of Howard County to let our elected officials know that our pockets are closed.
State's attorney responds on diversion plan
I am compelled to respond to serious misimpressions left by your article of Jan. 26, regarding District Court prosecutions.
During the several hours of interviews with your reporter, we thoroughly explained how the state's attorney's office District Court Diversion Program is available only to first-time offenders charged with simple possession of alcohol or marijuana.
The article discusses our program but then, as an apparent comparison, quotes a Harford County deputy state's attorney about drunken driving and the fact that their office does not divert such cases from full prosecution. Neither do we. And that fact was made clear to the reporter.
Let's be clear: Our diversion program is not available to drunken or drugged drivers or for any other serious offense.
These offenders are always vigorously prosecuted. The article seems deliberately written to obscure this fact, however. In fact, as discussed with your reporter, state records show that our prosecution/conviction rate on DWI cases is very high. In 1996, we prosecuted 86 percent of those cases and obtained convictions 96 percent of the time.
Our Diversion Program is considered a model of progressive prosecution in the state. It conserves limited resources by waiving prosecution of relatively minor, first-time offenses in favor of more focused prosecution of serious offenders, including drunken drivers, domestic abuse and repeat offenders. Diversion does not mean the offender is let off scot-free.
Howard County has much reason to be proud of the accomplishments of our District Court attorneys. They certainly deserve a far better shake than was afforded in your article.
The writer is state's attorney for Howard County.
Watching a deer suffer a slow death
For more than a week, I watched a handsome eight-point buck come in and out of my backyard doing his best to maneuver with a broken leg (hip).
I did not know how to help him. My veterinarian suggested I call the wildlife preserve in Bowie. They agreed to try to help, but it would be a few days before they could come out.
In the meantime, I was to watch and advise them if he continued to appear. For three days he did not. I feared he might be down and unable to get up, so I went looking for him in the woods behind my house. Sadly, I found him dead from obvious gunshot wounds.
My granddad taught me that hunting carried the responsibility of always being sure you killed "whatever."
Somewhere out there is a hunter who shot this buck for nothing more than "bragging rights." This same hunter is ignorant in other ways. The area he was hunting in is surrounded too closely by homes to be safe.
The letter printed in The Sun on Jan. 5 from a lady in Woodstock was right on. As long as there are irresponsible hunters who wound and leave deer to die and rot, there will never be an accurate count of deer killed.
So, I too say "no" to extending the deer hunt season. It is a shameful waste.
Runaways are looking for respect
"Runaways on rise in Howard County," headlined the article in The Sun on Jan. 12. The article by Erin Texeira was just one of many that Sunday pertaining to growing problems affecting youth.
This suburban county, with a relatively high socio-economic status and "long-standing reputation as a family-oriented place" now boasts Maryland's highest runaway rate.
The police have limited resources, personnel and time, yet are expected to handle all aspects of this problem. This police department has a grand total of "one full-time detective who investigates runaways and one youth social worker, whose time is spent among a half-dozen other major duties." Since 1992, the county runaway rate has more than doubled. There were 395 runaways in 1992; 859 in 1996.
Forget finding out why these kids run, the police are happy just to find them. When they do find them, it is usually just coincidence. They get picked up for a crime or fit a description. The police believe many of these kids run because they feel they can't live up to high parental expectations. Those unable to fulfill such expectations, feel inadequate and to compensate act out in other ways.
The teens in Howard County, like teens around the world, are at a time in their lives of self-discovery. They are trying to figure out who they are, what they believe in, what they are good at doing and establish a foundation for their adult lives. Such a task cannot be accomplished without validation of one's own feelings and self-worth. Maybe each time the police bring home a runaway, they should bring along a copy of Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish's book, "How to Talk So Kids Can Learn."
Children need adults who are consistent, genuine and who listen, empathize and acknowledge their feelings. The article ended quite abruptly, "Teens say they want more freedom, counselors and police say, but beneath their complaints are family and social problems." When an individual says they want "freedom," what they are saying is they want to escape from an undesirable, restrictive situation or environment.
If you feel your opinions are not being considered, not worth another's time, not worth even your parents' time, then you have only two choices: Give up hope and render yourself helpless or remove yourself from the situation. Children will listen to adults, respect their values, enjoy their company but only so long as we do the same.
Ashley V. Alexander
Pub Date: 2/09/97