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Columbia's challenge after McCarty; New day: With its hamstrung leader gone, Columbia needs strong successor, new structure.


THE VOTER-DRIVEN departure of Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty and the installment of a new Columbia Council merge now to pose great challenges.

Once again, Columbia gets to start over. It needs new leadership just as it did 20 months ago when Ms. McCarty took charge.

More important, it needs a new or revised government structure.

Marylanders have watched with bemused concern as Ms. McCarty and the old council tried to find a way toward a more professional and responsive system.

Instead, they made a series of curious decisions -- requesting the resignations of the association's vice presidents en masse was the critical one. Then they would not or could not explain why.

Ms. McCarty said the council was unable to reconcile its responsibility to the voters with its responsibilities to the Columbia Association. Matters that should have been discussed openly -- the requested resignations, for example -- could not be, without fear of jeopardizing the association's financial interests in the event one of the vice presidents sued.

A new association president -- Columbia's version of a mayor -- must now be found, of course. That chore could be difficult given the troubles that befell Ms. McCarty.

Some will say good riddance to her as she departs with the solace of a $200,000 severance package.

An experienced political player who served for more than a decade on the Atlanta City Council, Ms. McCarty should have known that perception truly is reality in politics: If she didn't own a home in Columbia, didn't have a driver's license or a voter's card -- maybe she still had one foot in Atlanta.

Others will argue she never had a chance, and they will have strong arguments to make: She couldn't hire and fire. Lingering loyalties to her predecessor and resistance to change led to her downfall.

But her departure may be toeveryone's advantage. One way or another, she had lost the confidence of many.

The new council members promised a proverbial new broom. They have more than sweeping cut out for them.

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