Council's work should be focus of Sun's reporting
I was disappointed by both the tone and content of The Sun's article "Council spars over proposal for committee" (Aug. 21).
The six Columbia Council members present at the Sunday work session the article described spent five hours trying to set the council's goals for the year, discussing the Columbia Association's (CA) long-range planning tools and other matters.
Yet The Sun's reporter chose instead to focus on a brief disagreement between Vince Marando and me. This dispute was not newsworthy and was taken entirely out of context.
Even the subject of the disagreement -- the Columbia Association Governance Structure Study Committee -- was taken out of context.
The article more than implied that I do not support such a study when, in fact, I was one of eight council members who voted July 13 to create such a committee.
Mr. Marando and I differ on some of the details of the committee's charter as well as on the type or degree of structure change that might be warranted.
Even with our differences, this council is attempting to work together to address some of the issues left over from the prior council, such as hiring a new president and improving the relationships between CA and the villages, while striving to move forward constructively for the good of CA and the community.
I believe The Sun's readers would be more interested in our actual work than our minor disagreements.
The writer chairs the Columbia Council .
County school board devalues teachers . . .
As a taxpayer and a teacher, I am disheartened and appalled by the double standard applied by the Howard County Board of Education.
If the board sees a raise as the way to recognize hard work, then it obviously feels that the associate superintendents work much harder than teachers.
In fiscal year 1999-2000, the board offered teachers a 2 percent raise, but the teachers fought vigorously for 3 percent. Associate superintendent were given a 10 percent raise.
This year the board and the teachers bargained for a 5 percent raise; the board again gave the same associates 10 percent.
This total increase of 20 percent for associate superintendents has been justified because of the increased work load the associates will have as they act as mentors to the new superintendent.
The county's most experienced teachers are continuously requested to act as mentors to new teachers. However, their total raise over the last two years has been 8 percent.
The board also defends these raises to a few individuals by stating that they do not cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, neither would a $200 a-year increase to a team leader's stipend and yet such a raise has been denied for eight years because of lack of funds.
A stated goal of state Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and Gov. Parris N. Glendening is to retain teachers.
If Howard County is trying to retain teachers, why does it pay them $5,000-$10,000 less than teachers in Montgomery County receive, while paying associate superintendents almost $10,000 more than Montgomery County does?
Are the board's actions designed to retain teachers or associate superintendents?
Outgoing school superintendent Michael E. Hickey's last two years have become quite an expense: a $48,500 portrait, a $16,000 bonus, a 10 percent raise for associate superintendents in preparation for his departure and another 10 percent to help shoulder the responsibilities after his departure.
The board of education has supported all these expenditures, at the same time as it has consistently claimed to be without funds for expenditures needed by teachers, administrators and students.
There are two seats open on the board this November. Please keep the actions and comments of the current board in mind as you vote to fill those vacancies.
. . and its spending needs closer review
How could school board chairman Sandra H. French be so insensitive to her constituents as to refer to the 10 percent pay increase to the county's three associate school superintendents' six -figure salaries as "the best money ever spent" ("Top schools staff given 10% raises," Aug. 13).
That raise comes in addition to their increased car allowances and 10 percent raise last year.
Ms. French's further statement that this raise is only equivalent to one teacher's annual salary is particularly painful to us, in view of the fact that she is well aware of our urgent need for exactly one teacher to teach Hammond High's large number of students who cannot read beyond the sixth-grade level.
It's time someone steps in and provides some balance on behalf of taxpayers and students of this county. Our county council has tried, but without much success.
Perhaps that someone will be new schools superintendent John O'Rourke. We'll see.
A long-overdue independent performance audit will also help put school spending into perspective.
I'm happy that the council is moving ahead on that in spite of the school board's protests. In districts that have ordered such audits, they've proven to pay for themselves many times over.
In the Nov. 7 school board elections, let's hope people pay attention to the issues and candidates and not just let name recognition win out again.
The writer is president of the Hammond High School PTSA.
Most of Ellicott City was unscathed by fire
Why, oh why, must we again be subjected to misinformation and exaggeration regarding Ellicott City in The Sun?
I was astounded to see in the caption under a picture on the front page of the Aug. 21 edition, the statement that November's fire "burned much of Ellicott City's Main Street."
The fire was a tragedy that affected six businesses and nine apartment dwellers in the Historic District. A small pocket on Main Street was destroyed and is in the process of being rebuilt.
More than 100 other businesses were not affected by the fire, except through loss of business-related stories such as this one.
But to a reader unfamiliar with the Historic District of Ellicott City, there would seem to be no point in making a visit to the town, unless to view the destruction.
Also the writer states that "Bill Sachs has transcended the tragedy . . . to become one of the area's most renowned artists." Mr. Sachs' reputation as an outstandingly gifted artist was well established long before last fall's fire.
And, while I'm at it, even the most CASUAL student of Ellicott City history knows the town was founded in 1772 by Ellicott brothers John, Andrew and Joseph.
Andrew's son George was born in 1760, so he would have been 12 years old at the time of the town's founding.
He didn't build Mt. Ida; his nephew William did.
The writer is president of Historic Ellicott City Inc.
Licensing guns helps us enforce the laws
After finally giving up on "Guns don't kill people" the newest National Rifle Association mantra (NRA) is "Just enforce the existing laws." Letter after letter repeats this refrain.
It sounds easy, doesn't it? When someone commits a crime involving a gun, just catch 'em, convict 'em, throw 'em in jail and throw away the key.
If the NRA has some brilliant new technique for doing this, I'm sure police officers everywhere would love to hear about it.
Instead of enlightenment, however, gun rights advocates choose to deluge us with letters which imply that those who advocate sensible gun controls such as licensing are the bad guys who don't want the criminals to be caught.
At the same time, the NRA works to stymie any suggestion for making it easier to catch the murderers, hijackers and drug dealers.
A recent letter also noted cars are licensed but that this doesn't prevent kids from stealing cars ("Licensing, registering cars doesn't prevent their misuse," Aug. 24). That's true, but it does enable us to locate the owner of the car.
If a car is involved in a hit-and-run incident, the license makes it much easier to find the culprit and convict him or her in court.
Licensing guns would not prevent kids from stealing them, to use the writer's analogy, but if a murder is committed with a gun the license would in most cases make it much easier to track down the killer -- catch 'em, convict' em, and throw 'em in jail.
And to enforce the existing laws.
Some natural ways to ward off mosquitoes
We have lived in Columbia for eight years. There are moist woods behind our house, numerous ponds in the area, and the occasional water-filled flowerpot in our yard.
We are outside during both daytime and evening. And we almost never encounter mosquitoes ("Tiger mosquito now breeding in your back yard," Aug. 23).
I'm not sure why we are so fortunate, but my guess is this: We feed birds and provide bird-friendly landscaping (including nestboxes, trees and shrubs for cover and berries that appeal to birds).
Many birds are voracious insect eaters.
I have friends with ponds and rain barrels (both prime mosquito breeding grounds). When they noticed mosquito larvae, they simply went out and bought a few goldfish.
They put the fish in their outdoor water and, in only a couple of days, no larvae.
My friends don't even have to feed the fish -- mosquitoes and other insects obligingly provide a continuous food supply.
Ma Nature can be pretty smart.