Letters to the editor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Rakes disappoints anti-war group

[Regarding] County Councilman David Rakes' plan to introduce the anti-war resolution that the Howard County Coalition Against War is proposing ... I was very happy ... because I felt that Councilman Rakes was voting for what he believed in. I thought that he was willing to provide the type of leadership that is based on principles and not only on needs.

Other leaders in our state have taken a stand on similar resolutions. Baltimore City and Takoma Park are an example. We wanted an opportunity to express our worries as mothers and caring human beings who reside in Howard County.

By the councilman's refusal to introduce our proposed resolution, we have been denied access to a public hearing on this vital issue.

In spite of the above, we plan to continue with our efforts to make opposition to war in Iraq more visible. Maybe then our leaders will decide to wake up from "sleepwalking through history" as U.S. Senator Robert Byrd said recently during a Senate speech.

Leslie Salgado

Columbia

The writer is chairwoman of Howard County Friends of Latin America

Council should hear citizens on Iraq war

The Sun reports that "Rakes decides against anti-war resolution" (Feb. 19). Councilman David Rakes is willing to present an honorary proclamation opposing potential military action during a county public hearing, but will not introduce a resolution on which council members would vote.

This is a big disappointment for the Howard County Coalition Against War, who see an honorary resolution as not providing for a full public hearing, which is necessary in order to provide an opportunity for citizens to speak out.

In the article, "Rakes said he is very much opposed to military action because of the negative effects it could have on Howard County. But he explained that the council faces many issues this year, including the budget crunch."

But the budget crunch is one of the factors addressed in this anti-war resolution. I wonder if Mr. Rakes has taken into consideration that a war with Iraq is projected to cost Howard County taxpayers an estimated $112.4 million, according to a National Priorities Project Web site.

In addition, other municipalities are experiencing shortages of emergency personnel due to the demands of the proposed war, and Howard County may suffer the same.

More than 90 U.S. cities and municipalities have signed on to an anti-war resolution. The citizens of Howard County should have a voice in whether they would like to the same.

Doris Rausch

Ellicott City

'Honorary' resolution deemed insufficient

Last week, I was heartened to read that a new county council member would introduce a resolution allowing Howard Countians an opportunity to discuss and express their view on the most important political, human rights, and even economic issue facing county residents - U.S. policy toward the UN and Iraq. Such local resolutions are nothing new and have been introduced and passed in cities and counties across the U.S.

My feeling was short-lived as I learned that the resolution Councilman Rakes would introduce was an "honorary" resolution that would not allow public discussion. I appreciate Mr. Rakes' desire to enhance peace on the council, and recognize that other council members may have reservations about both the substance and appropriateness of such a resolution. Still, substance and appropriateness can, and should, be discussed in a public forum - not tabled due to perception or behind-the-scenes expressions of concern.

In fact, basic to the introduction of resolutions and other council agenda items is the opportunity to enhance knowledge and promote dialogue. It appears that some people are forgetting that.

Peter Oswald

Fulton

Columbia strays far from the dream

A little over ten years ago, my wife and I were introduced to Columbia. We were delighted by both the communal vision of multiculturalism and mutual respect and by the physical mixture of villages and open space with lovely natural vistas in between.

We knew our search was over and we would live in Columbia. We moved in with dreams of equality for all and a democratic way of life.

Unfortunately, we have learned that there is limited equality. Only the well-off can enjoy the touted "amenities" of Columbia, nor is there democracy. While the Rouse Company is no longer officially determining the course of our lives, they have left us, in effect, with a company town.

The Columbia Association rules our roost. While all residents pay the annual assessments either directly or through their rents, there are only ten "members" of the corporation (CA), the ten council people, one from each village, who appoint themselves as "directors" of the corporation.

While these ten members are elected from their respective villages, they are elected by small vote-tallies on local issues or in popularity contests.

Rarely is the village contest decided on city-wide issues. While stockholders of any other corporation in the U.S. can vote on major issues, assessment-payers in Columbia are effectively prevented from affecting significant issues.

At a meeting earlier this year, Miles Coffman, this year's chair stated the position clearly. He said that he is responsible to his constituents in his village and he has a "fiduciary" responsibility to "the corporation," but has no direct accountability to the rest of Columbia.

Who, then, will speak for Columbia? When the "Strategic Planning" survey reported that residents were interested in governance issues and the updating of the "vision," the present council presented in-house legal advice that the major changes the governance committee recommended could not be allowed.

The charades of public hearings on issues already decided by the council, the ignoring of the recommendations of council-appointed citizens' committees and the "strategic planning" sessions which have replaced half of the regular council meetings further demonstrate the contempt the organization has for the assessment-paying residents.

These gambits clearly are employed for the maintenance of the status quo: i.e., control by the autocrats of the senior staff and their council allies.

In the most recent attack on the pleasant Columbia many of us love, the Rouse Company is ready to kill the Columbia dream further by moving to rezone Columbia to allow a greater density of buildings and more money for builders and developers. According to our charter, only The Rouse Company can ask for such a change.

While Oakland Mills wishes to build senior citizen housing, they cannot get the zoning change unless the Rouse Company acts.

As the construction in Town Center has destroyed trees and approached our home, they are proposing to go forward with a zoning request covering all of Columbia to the probable extent of 2,100 housing units. Although senior housing is the goal in Oakland Mills there is no such plan for the rest of Columbia.

Fortunately, the Rouse Company has stated that they will not go forward unless all the villages support their move. That gives us an opportunity. Let's all oppose this move in our villages and then let's elect people from our villages who will think in terms of all of Columbia and all of Columbia's residents.

It's time to fight to keep Columbia green and to change governance so that the "People Tree" will really mean something other than a false symbol for the council's public relations.

Henry D. Shapiro

Wilde Lake

Every county home needs metered water

At a time when there has been so much ado about water bills for nonmetered service, I find it surprising that Howard County is allowing The Enclave at Ellicott Hills (a gated community for active adults) to build new townhouses, which will be individually owned, without individual water meters.

The bill being offered by Ms. Bobo should have a companion requirement that mandates every home, in addition to apartments, to have a meter.

Lynn Stiegler

Columbia

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