VOTERS in Columbia came to the polls in a heavier trickle this year, but the impact of their balloting could exceed their numbers.
They turned out incumbents in Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge and Oakland Mills -- and in Long Reach provided for the recall of a fourth by altering the village charter.
Rightly seen as a reaction to the missteps of the current county government, these results could be regarded as ominous by Deborah O. McCarty, the Columbia Association's president. Some say the 2000 election was a referendum on her 20-month tenure as government's chief executive in Columbia. Two of the defeated incumbents were McCarty supporters.
A third, Earl Jones of Oakland Mills, might well have profited from the climate of unhappiness with Ms. McCarty. But, defeated by seven votes, he lost to a well-organized, experienced opponent. Mr. Jones may head off the council with some satisfaction because he was perhaps the most outspoken critic of Ms. McCarty's regime.
Another member of the council, Cecelia Januszkiewicz, became vulnerable to losing her seat by dint of this election, though she was not a candidate: Her term has another year, but voters in her village approved an ill-advised charter amendment that allows for recalling council members. That provision, added to the charter by the five percent of voters who cast ballots, was quite specifically aimed at her and her support of Ms. McCarty.
Long Reach would be better advised to allow Ms. Januszkiewicz to finish her term -- and retire then.
The newly constituted council, meanwhile, faces at least two immediate concerns. It must decide whether a majority wants to support Ms. McCarty. It might also decide that she deserves a further opportunity to show her abilities.
More importantly, the council should begin a thorough re-examination of the entire government structure in Columbia.