Letters to the Editor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Board member questions CA vote

On December 21, 2004, CA Board members Joshua Feldmark, Barbara Russell, Phillip Marcus, Jud Malone, Miles Coff- man and Cabell Greenwood voted to award a $20,000 contract to an architect/planner/ without any open competitive bidding. Tom O'Connor and I voted against the award. David Hlass abstained.

I voted no for a number of reasons:

I did not believe adequate notice of this agenda item, [expenditure] was provided to the public. This did not, in my opinion, provide sufficient time for residents and the Village Boards to be informed prior to the vote.

The Agenda Item stated, "Allocate $20,000 for Strategic Initiative #5 (Maintaining Columbia's Original Vision) to hire consulting firm Seth Harry & Associates Inc." I do not recall any Council/Board agenda to discuss Strategic Initiative #5 prior to this meeting. Thus, the customary consideration of a Strategic Initiative of having at least two public meetings and/or public work session, prior to actual expenditures, was not followed. Why?

I saw no compelling reason why there was such a rush on this item. I was provided conflicting information as to the purpose of the $20,000 expenditure. I was told that it was for the consultant to write a Request for Proposal (RFP). I was also told that it was for the consultant to write a plan for a process that could cost $100,000 or more. The only background information provided to the Board to make a decision upon was e-mail from the consultant stating that he required $1,500 a day plus expenses (with no cap specified). There was no scope of work, financial or other disclosures on the consultant's firm, a statement of qualifications, or other pertinent routine information that I would expect to see in writing.

It is unclear why CA would engage a consultant without open competitive bidding. This should send up a red flag for any board of directors.

I believe this action subverted CA's purchasing policy that the Board adopted. As a matter of policy, CA advertises bids over $3,000 to elicit competition as a means to contain costs and to encourage the greatest possible participation. Selection is based on pre-determined criteria.

CA's Purchasing Manager, as well as the President of CA, indicated to the entire CA Board that a bidder's list of other architects/planners and facilitators already exists, so that this was not a sole source contract. In ignoring the open bid process, the CA Board did not afford other qualified firms equal opportunity, including women and minority firms, and perhaps could have obtained the services, whatever they may be for, at a better price.

If the CA Board can override its purchasing policies and its open discussions policy on expenditures of $20,000 for some ill-defined piece of work, then it can do the same for $100,000 or $1 million!!

Where will the CA Board stop?

In my opinion, when the CA Board of Directors ignores its own policies and procedures the community should seek immediate accountability.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart

Columbia

The writer represents Owen Brown village on the Columbia Association board.

Refusal to hear bills neglects seniors

The chairman of the Howard County state delegation has refused to hold public hearings on items critical to the seniors of the county. ("Officials divided over bills filed late," Dec. 31). This action was taken regardless of the fact that the three state senators want a hearing on the measures, one stating that "everybody is entitled to have the bills heard."

Legislation concerning property tax and its confiscatory effect on seniors was shelved in favor of such innocuous issues as leghold traps prohibition.

Legislator malpractice and the leadership vacuum of the Howard County delegation is a serious concern of the senior retirees of the county.

Don Dunn

Ellicott City

Covenants are part of life in Columbia

Regarding "Compromise reached in effort to fix Columbia rule" (Dec. 29), Joel Pearlman of the group Association for a Better Columbia says, "The people of Columbia have never had an opportunity to weigh in on the covenants that govern them."

This has never been true. Every resident of Columbia voted to endorse the covenants when they purchased property or signed a lease agreement. Any suggestion otherwise would be disingenuous. I have personally heard many say they are not aware of the limitations imposed by the covenants.

However, failure to read the paperwork that comes with a home purchase should not preclude it from applying. No bank would allow anyone to default on a mortgage because they did not read the loan contract first.

Anyone against the terms of the covenants should choose to live elsewhere. Those who claim the standards of living elsewhere are too low for their comfort should remember how Columbia became so great.

An attack on the covenants is an attack on everything Columbia is.

Rouse simply did know better than the rest of us.

James Howard

Columbia

Voter turnout rooted in registration push

According to the Board of Elections, 81.6 percent of those registered to vote in Howard County voted in the November General election. There has been a lot of speculation about why there was such a wonderful response, but we feel the many groups who worked so hard on registration drives deserve most of the credit. This includes the League of Women Voters of Howard County.

Congratulations to those who exercised their voting rights for the first time, those who perhaps had not voted recently, and all of the regular voters who still believe.

Betsy Grater

Ellicott City

The writer is co-president of the League of Women Voters of Howard County.

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