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Incorporation isn't the way to solve problemsMany...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Incorporation isn't the way to solve problems

Many letters about the the Columbia Association have proposed many answers for its woes. But the worst suggestion is to incorporate Columbia.

Why do this? To create another layer of government? To increase taxes? To get better, more responsive leadership?

But why do people think that if Columbia becomes a city, its lack of leadership, infighting between elected officials and poor planning will get better?

Take a look at some local cities and see if they operate any better.

Columbia is a homeowners' association, concerned about recreation, open space and maintenance. Nothing more, nothing less.

We do not need paid elected officials to make Sound decisions.

To remove or change leadership in a city could take four years. But we can do it every year through our elections.

The people can control CA if they get out and vote and voice their opinions.

What we need is less government, not more. Columbia should decentralize and give power and funds to the villages.

It the members of the villages who pay the liens and have a voice.

It is the top-heavy CA Council that does not listen to the people. It's members have their own agendas, not the agendas of the community.

Let CA handle the open space and recreation facilities. There is no need for CA to do anything else. Since the money is raised in the community, let the community control it.

Incorporation will do nothing to assist Columbia or Howard County.

Sound leadership based upon the will of the people is what we need, not more paid elected officials.

Neil E. Dorsey

Columbia

Concerned Columbians need calmer discussions

Like many Columbians, we have been distressed by the up-heaval at the Columbia Association and the possible long-term implications for our community if we do not find a wise and positive resolution for the situation.

First, we think all of us who espouse concern for Columbia need to lower our voices and move from blaming and finger-pointing to constructive planning and problem-solving.

Finding our way through the leadership quagmire can be a community-building experience, if we treat each other with respect and put hostility and accusation aside.

Second, we think our local newspapers can make a major contribution, if they shift from incendiary headlines to focusing on a more balanced picture of all the players, based on verifiable facts.

Each resident will need to reach her or his own conclusion about Columbia's leadership, now and in the future.

In the meantime, we all need to take responsibility for what we say and how we say it - our local press included.

Chaya Kaplan

Gerson Kaplan

Columbia

'Neotraditionalism' has its charms

As a resident of the Terra Maria development in Ellicott City, I take great exception to the negative tone of The Sun's article on neo-traditonal communities ("Residents say no to 'neo'," April 4).

The many desirable features of Terra Maria, such as regular community parties and functions, large, grassy common areas and houses built closely together on small lots, give our neighborhoood its character and uniqueness.

Exclusively single-family homes and the lack of commercial buildings only serve to enhance the appeal of this residential community - not detract from it, as the article implied.

Deborah Blair

Ellicott City

'Maple Lawn' project should go forward

I have great sympathy for everyone involved in the long-running hearings on Maple Lawn Farm.

Based on the results of the last election, the Zoning Board is obliged to show extra attention to the neighboring community's concerns.

But the board is bound to comply with the law and the owners of Maple Lawn Farm are entitled to their constitutionally guaranteed private property rights and due process.

The hearings have been a remarkable spectacle. The Zoning Board permitted the opponents to directly cross-examine the property owner's witnesses.

This has resulted in 110 hours of important questions such as: "Do you own a car?" and "How many dogs do you have?" All asked with as much righteous indignation as the questioner could muster.

I applaud the Zoning Board for going beyond the call of duty by allowing unlimited public input into this preliminary plan.

Unfortunately, in the end this approach will probably only serve to intensify opponents' frustration and disappointment.

As far as I can judge, the opponents of this project have not made their case.

The owner's plan complies with the zoning and transportation rules; there's no reason not to approve it.

Moreover, this plan is the very definition of Smart Growth: It is a medium-density development with an integrated employment center located in an area already served by infrastructure improvements.

But based on what I have seen, it appears that the mantra of Smart Growth is just another adjustable slogan.

The parcels that should be developed are being preserved (the Smith Farm) and the parcels that should be preserved are being developed (the Trinity School site on Landing Road).

Howard County is a wonderful community blessed with effective and sincere elected representatives on both sides of the aisle. For this reason, I am confident we will find an appropriate balance to guide us in making future development policies.

A positive step in this direction would be imposing a time limit on the speeches applicants and opponents. This would make the hearings more concise and allow the Zoning Board to make better use of their precious time.

Christopher J. Alleva

Columbia

Wilde Lake High School deserves acclaim, too

It was disconcerting to read yet another article about the quality of Centennial High School in The Sun ("Top schools, top house prices," March31).

It appears that this one was written for the benefit of the already-wealthy real estate agents in Howard County.

When we moved to Dorsey Hall ten years ago, our son was slated to go to Centennial. Then the boundary lines changed causing our neighborhood to feed into Wilde Lake High School.

Because of all the publicity surrounding the two high schools we contemplated moving.

The publicity surrounding Centennial was always positive; that involving Wilde Lake invariably negative.

Nonetheless, we decided to stay put and send our son to Wilde Lake. He is a freshman there this year and we have been enormously pleased with the result.

I think this would be a good time for The Sun to write a more newsworthy article on Wilde Lake's academic success over the past few years.

It is one of the few truly diversified high schools in the county and, at last count, it had the second highest combined SAT scores in the county school system - only points behind Centennial.

Michael Hughes

Ellicott City

County hasn't gone into GOP's column

A recent column by Maryland GOP counsel Christopher West noted that Howard County has "a growing Republican registration and a recent record of electing Republicans" ("Partisan politicking and the Maryland judiciary," Opinion Commentary, ApriI4).

A check of the voter registration records shows that in December 1992, the county's voter registration percentages were 49.4 percent Democrat, 36.2 percent for the GOP and 14.4 percent Independent.

The December 1999 roles showed Democrats with 47.56 percent of registrations, the GOP with 36.15 percent and 16.3 percent of the voters Independent.

So the truth is that the total numbers are rising for all groups, as the county grows and grows, but the GOP percentage, like the Democrats' percentage, did not increase, but in fact decreased over the last eight years.

And in the last 38 months, Democrats have registered more voters than the GOP or the Independents each and every month.

In high school voting registration drives, Democrats and Independents both outnumber the GOP's registrations in those same years.

Mr. West's other remark, about electing Republicans, suggest he must have missed the 1998 elections, when Howard County elected a Democratic executive, a Democratic majority to the County Council, added another Democrat to the Annapolis delegation and put Gov. Parris N. Glendening in the win column.

Carole Fisher

Ellicott City

Software legislation threatens consumers

The Sun's article "General Assembly passes bill on software regulation," April 11, proudly proclaims Maryland stepping "bravely into the digital age" with its "pioneering legislation."

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The article's claim that customers now have a right to ask for a refund if software does not work as advertised is quite false. In fact, small businesses are still completely unprotected: The warranties that claim the product will work as advertised can be disclaimed, leaving them no recourse.

In addition, the bill prohibits transferring a software product. In other words, if you install a game, and then remove it from your computer, you cannot give it to a friend or relative.

Does this sound pro-consumer?

This bill, more commonly referred to as UCITA. was designed from the start to work purely for the interests of large software corporations, at the expense of their customers.

Despite the soothing words offered by corporate executives and legislators, this is still a dangerous act which will harm everyone who uses a computer.

Nate Perkins

Laurel

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