Recognizing role of government

In Sunday's Political Notebook column ("Democrats plan to be aggressive in western Howard," June 5), the chairman of the local Republican Party trots out that old, worn-out political party line, "Government is not the solution but the problem."

In my world, government educates my grandchildren, provides a walker for my mom when she needs one, provides fire and police protection for all of us and on and on. We have a fabulous library system, great public parks, public transportation and a superior military force to defend our country.

Who but government can do all this?

If I don't like the way government spends my money, I can vote them out. We are the government. Is our system perfect? Of course not, but it's my country and I love it.

Carole Fisher

Ellicott City

Social isolation affects communities

I read with interest the article on the isolation within families, as parents and children lead parallel lives. ("Home alone, but entertained," The Sun, June 5). Of course, social isolation has been a recurring theme of the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries, but increasingly people like Robert Putnam, author of Bowling Alone, who was cited in your article, are discussing its consequences for families, our communities and ultimately our democracy.

Those of us who are concerned with civic and community engagement are seeing a similar, disturbing decline as families are increasingly squeezed by hyper-busy lives, limiting their involvement in community and encouraging a kind of attitude of consumerism, as opposed to participation.

We pay taxes, therefore government needs to teach our children, solve social issues, take care of the elderly, etc. The list is very long. It is also wrong. Community has always required participation.

Vision Howard County held a day-long forum June 7 with one of the objectives being how to find new ways to involve people in their community. We will present the recommendations at our Annual Town Meeting Thursday at the Banneker Building in Ellicott City.

Richard Harwood, who with Robert Putnam, is one of the leading thinkers of the day on this issue of social isolation in our communities discussed this issue with Peter DiMuro, artistic director of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, a dance company that has done historic and groundbreaking work in using the arts to build community.

Vision Howard County's strategy has been to use volunteers with specialized expertise economically and strategically in an area where they have deep experience for a specific period of time. They are relieved of the normal burdens of serving on a committee. The issues we are currently working on are aging in place, substance abuse among school-age children and after-school programs - issues of children and elders - the heart of any community, and areas that our research tells us we can make a positive difference.

We are convinced that the quality of our lives and that of our children and our communities depend on finding new, more economical ways to involve people in the increasingly complex issues of community.

We are very happy to see your paper shine a light on this issue of how to reinvent community. It is long overdue.

Sandra Trice Gray

The writer is president of Vision Howard County.

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