Time has come to replace Columbia's CPRAWhen...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Time has come to replace Columbia's CPRA

When I worked for James Rouse planning Columbia in the early 1960s, we practiced what is now called "out of the box" thinking.

So let's explore this "out of the box" idea: Eliminate the Columbia Park and Recreation Association (CPRA) and the Columbia Council and board. Designate Columbia a special tax district in Howard County so CPRA assessments are paid to the county and therefore are tax deductible.

The county would then take responsibility for all CPRA functions, folding those into an expanded county parks and recreation department with a mandated budget line item for Columbia.

The county would assume the CPRA's debt along with CPRA revenues. Elected village boards would retain their architectural review functions.

CPRA was created to fund and operate park and recreation facilities, above and beyond those which would ordinarily result from the development process -- ones the county's rural commissioner form of government could not provide in the 1960s.

But 33 years have passed, Columbia has matured and so has county government.

Meanwhile the CPRA has grown to a size that is now unmanageable by what are, in some villages, undemocratically elected community volunteers who wear conflicting hats.

Incorporation of Columbia to provide parks and recreation functions makes no sense when we already have county government providing Columbia all the other local government services.

I don't know if this idea is workable, but it is worth serious consideration.

Robert Tennenbaum

Columbia

Robey plays politics with kids' education

I read with interest The Sun's article concerning Howard County Executive James N. Robey's decision to share budget information with Democratic members of the County Council but not with the two Republican members, Allan H. Kittleman and Christopher J. Merdon ("GOP, Robey trade barbs," May 28).

It is my understanding that Mr. Kittleman and Mr. Merdon approached the county executive with thoughts about restoring funds to the school budget.

The county executive responded that he would produce a list of public works budget cuts that could potentially be used to offset an increase in the school budget.

Apparently, Mr. Kittleman and Mr. Merdon relied on the county executive's word when completing their plan on how to restore needed funds to the school budget.

Unfortunately, Mr. Robey chose to share the possible deferrals only with Democratic members of the council.

While I understand that partisan politics comes into play on some issues, I do not believe the county executive should play politics with our children's education.

If he was sincerely willing to consider possible deferrals in his budget, Mr. Robey should have shared his thoughts with all council members, regardless of party.

His actions have demonstrated to me that he is a typical politician, who places his political party before what is best for the county.

I commend Mr. Kittleman and Mr. Merdon for their desire to work with the county executive and to cross party lines in to enhance the county's education system.

I hope in the future the county executive will realize that he represents all the citizens of Howard County and not just the Democrats.

Edward P. Wilson

Ellicott City

Deborah McCarty isn't fleeing to Atlanta

After I read yet another article in The Sun about Deborah O. McCarty, I decided that I had to write ("Ex-Columbia Association head moves out of River Hill home," June 8).

Did anyone ask Ms. McCarty about her plans before assuming that she is running back to Atlanta?

Ms. McCarty and her family rented the River Hill townhouse from friends of mine who are moving to Columbia.

Ms. McCarty only rented it for six months because it was only available for six months.

Her home in Atlanta has not yet sold, so she didn't want to purchase another home here yet.

So she moved to River Hill for the summer with her husband and children while her son has an operation and she searches for another job.

Her belongings are stored here in Columbia.

I am not an investigative reporter and I do not claim to know Ms. McCarty that well, but the woman I have worked with over the past six months is a very professional, intelligent woman and a concerned mom.

She has made a few errors that cost her not only her job, but unending criticism from The Sun and from much of Columbia.

Judi Stull

Columbia

Court's prayer ruling defies God's commands

While our officials struggle to find ways to avoid another disaster like the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, the Supreme Court's justices by a 6-3 vote outlawed prayer by students in our education systems.

Our forefathers founded this nation on godly principles, and this nation became an object of God's love and blessing.

However, the headline "Justices bar prayers led by students," (June 13), sends a message to our youth that we are smart enough and strong enough to get along without God.

This Supreme Court decision defiantly stands in opposition and contradiction to the instruction given by the supreme judge of the universe (God), that we are to "pray always."

The Rev. Stewart Deal

Ellicott City

SUV owners: sheep headed over a cliff?

Sport utility vehicle buyers seem to be like sheep herded by barking dogs, dashing en masse over a dangerous cliff and carrying some of the rest of us with them.

SUVs, with small but high, heavy bodies, heavy wheels, heavy tires, four-wheel drive, tipsy narrow frames and high menacing bumpers, burn more non-renewable fuel and belch more noxious fumes per mile than other midsize cars.

Urban SUVs will almost never be driven on rough dirt roads, across rocky streams, open fields or steep mountainsides.

Rarely will their four-wheel drive be required.

Why, then, are SUVs being bought in ever greater numbers?

Is it because unprincipled automakers are "barking" flocks of us "sheep" toward cliffs costly for us all?

Who's to blame -- us well-heeled sheep or the barking dogs?

How about all of us -- private citizens and automakers -- exercising social responsibility?

Richard E. Rodes

Columbia

Columbia's covenant leaves little recourse

Eight years ago, we were happy to settle in the idyllic city of Columbia.

We admired the landscaping, enjoyed the culture feasts and appreciated the diversity of the residents.

At closing on our home we received a copy of the town's covenants and casualty put it in a drawer.

But during the recent explosions involving the council and Deborah O. McCarty, we began to awaken from our peaceful dream and follow Columbia government more closely.

Just attending council meetings has been an eye-opener.

And the other day, my wife and I looked at the covenants.

We learned that while as lien payers we can vote in village elections, we are not "members" of the corporation that governs Columbia and assesses and spends our liens.

Only the president (non-voting ) and the 10 "directors," i.e. members of the Columbia Association Council, are members of the corporation.

In Columbia, one can "speak out" at a council meeting before any action is taken.

The chairman's usual response is, "Thank you. Next speaker."

In the rest of corporate America, if you own one share of stock you are a member (owner) of that corporation and can not only vote on any matter brought before the annual meeting, but put an item on the agenda for a full discussion and a vote.

And at a time when all government agencies on the national, state and municipal level and the vast majority of public corporations are striving mightily to exclude even the appearance of "conflict of interest" -- a time when officials and judges recuse themselves at the faintest hint of such impropriety -- note the following quotation from the covenant of the Columbia Association:

"Subject to the restrictions and limitations contained herein, the corporation may enter into contracts and transactions with any director or with any corporation, partnership, trust or association of which any director is a stockholder, director, officer, partner, member, trustee, beneficiary, employee or in which any director is otherwise interested: and such contract or transaction shall not be invalidated or in any way affected by the fact that such director has or may have an interest therein which is or might be adverse to the interest of the Corporation."

In other words, any director can do things that would be forbidden other public officials or corporate officers, including something detrimental to the Columbia Association and its lien payers.

Henry D. Shapiro

Wilde Lake

Route 32 needs to be larger, safer

I have to comment on the dangers of Route 32. The state has done everything in its power to make this roadway safer by adding no-passing lines and rumble strips.

But this is a Band-Aid. The volume of traffic is exceeding the road's limits and the number of fatalities is mounting.

It is up to us to drive to survive, by obeying the traffic laws. But reckless driving on this road is becoming commonplace.

We need county and state assistance to keep these drivers in line. Although we could use more traffic cops, there's no safe place to catch and ticket these individuals.

Ideally, we need to get moving on making it a four-lane highway.

Let's stop using the excuse, "If you build it, they will come." The traffic is here. Let's get moving to make the road safer for us all.

Mary Jo Neil

West Friendship

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