Letters to the editor


Smoke-free dining, packed restaurant

As a Howard County resident, patron of Clyde's restaurant in Columbia and an American Cancer Society volunteer, I feel compelled to respond to comments made by a restaurant representative at a recent legislative hearing on the proposed Clean Indoor Air bill and repeated in the Sun's story "Panel hears proposal to extend ban on smoking," Feb. 28.

The Clyde's restaurant representative claims the chain's Howard County location has "lost customers" following the county's 1997 law requiring enclosed smoking areas. Nearly every time I've attempted to dine at Clyde's -- weekday or weekend, happy hour or later, the restaurant is packed with customers enjoying a smoke-free experience.

In addition, independent studies across the country comparing bar and restaurant sales tax receipts have proven beyond a doubt that smoke-free ordinances quite often increase revenue as asthmatics and others who are troubled by secondhand smoke dine out more frequently, free from the harmful effects of the toxins.

The issue here is one of public health. Secondhand smoke kills more than 1,000 Marylanders every year -- and 78 percent of Marylanders don't smoke. It's time protection is extended to both workers and patrons of bars and restaurants across the state from the hazards of secondhand smoke.

Neil Dorsey

Ellicott City

American Cancer Society Volunteer

Only the Realtors gained a victory

In response to Howard County Association of Realtors Board Member Melvina Brown's statement that opposition to Jim Robey's transfer tax increase was a "victory for the homeowners"("Delegation tables transfer tax proposal," Feb. 27), I take exception to her remark, as I am sure other Howard County homeowners must feel. If people want to move to Howard County, then let them pay the price. Maybe it might help to alleviate some of the over-development we are experiencing. I would much rather split the cost of the increased transfer tax when, and if, I choose to sell, than to have my property taxes increase again. Our children were grown when we moved to this county 16 years ago, hoping to retire here, but our taxes have increased every year since then. Howard County is becoming less affordable for the middle class and the elderly, unless you are fortunate enough to be able to afford one of the many $500,000 to $1 million homes being built here. Who is Ms. Brown kidding? No, this is not a victory for the homeowners; rather, this one is for the Realtors.

Kay Schultz

Ellicott City

Vaughan commended on minimum rent

I would like to commend Howard County Housing Commission Executive Director Leonard Vaughan for having the courage to publicly support setting a minimum rent for public housing tenants ("HUD proposal to set minimum rent denounced," Feb. 26). His honesty stands in stark contrast to the dire proclamations of "public housing advocates" like Lauren Young of the Maryland Disability Law Center and Amey Epstein, director of the Harford County Housing Agency, who consider setting a minimum rent of $50 per month to be "a horrible plan" and "a significant burden." Significant? At $50 per month, tenants would pay less per year than most people pay in a single month for an efficiency apartment. The new proposal specifically exempts those individuals who cannot work due to disabilities while setting a minimum rent level so low that able-bodied tenants should have little difficulty earning the necessary funds. There is also an appeals process available to families who feel that they cannot meet the minimum requirement. This proposal will encourage work and a sense of self-sufficiency and should be applauded, not condemned, by those who claim to be concerned for low-income and poor families.

Todd Eberly


A clarification of group's position

In a letter ("Columbia elections are next month," March 2), Pearl Atkinson-Stewart stated, "In the past, there has been an issue with individual candidates pledging their support to an organization in exchange for promises of financial and campaign assistance."

To my knowledge, in recent years there have been only two organizations working for candidates for Columbia Council. I believe the only one still in existence is Vote Smart Columbia, a voluntary group of concerned Columbia residents who believe citizens have the right to become involved in elections. Meetings are open to everyone, and we are happy to share our mission statement with any interested person.

As one of the founding members of Vote Smart Columbia, I would like to assure the residents of Columbia that Ms. Atkinson-Stewart's remarks do not apply to it.

First, Vote Smart Columbia has never required any commitment from the candidates we have chosen to endorse. We have never had a litmus test for selecting them. Nor have we ever asked for a pledge of any kind from them, not so much as one vote. Vote Smart Columbia simply seeks out like-minded candidates to endorse, people we believe will do the best job representing residents on the Columbia Council and serving as members of the Columbia Association's board of directors.

Second, Vote Smart Columbia has never given any financial assistance to any candidate. We have supported the candidates we have endorsed by individuals giving time and labor. Mostly, it's through what I call "donating shoe leather" by distributing candidates' literature (a great springtime exercise). Indeed, until recently we have never had financial resources of any kind. Just last month, we began for the first time collecting modest annual dues. We may at some point in the future decide to raise monies for candidates -- the topic has been under discussion -- but if we were to do so, based on our group's history it would constitute a significant change. In my opinion, a more likely scenario is that Vote Smart Columbia might spend money to publicize the group's own positions, activities and endorsements.

As a member of CA's most recent governance committee (no longer in existence), I also wish to clarify a few points. Under our current governance system, the Columbia Association does not hold a centralized, public election. Columbia Council members are chosen through elections held by each of Columbia's ten villages, which each have unique election rules. Then, after the village elections, the new Columbia Council votes to appoint itself as CA's board of directors.

Some villages hold elections every year, some every other year. This year, the following villages are midway through two-year election terms and will not have Columbia Council Representative elections: Owen Brown, Town Center and Harper's Choice. If you live in any of the other seven villages and are considering running, contact your village office for a candidate packet.

Ruth Cargo


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