Letters to the Editor

The Baltimore Sun

Build a nature park on the Smith farm

Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Howard County Chapter, formed a partnership with the Thunder Hill Park Alliance when we heard of and reviewed that organization's proposal to have a nature park built on the old Smith family farm.

Representing my fraternity, I testified at the county executive's budget hearing on Dec. 12. Among other things, I said that Alpha Phi Alpha "congratulates the new administration and the new County Council and welcomes your openness to new ideas and approaches to issues in Howard County. We are particularly heartened by your encouragement of an environmentally sustainable county."

We also asked [the] administration to abandon the current plan of creating an active recreation center on the Smith farm and to place a nature park there instead.

We support the Park Alliance in its quest to see that the property be developed as a nature park and natural environment.

The Alpha's involvement in the development and recognition of academic excellence of Howard County African-American students is well known; in particular, the Alpha Achievers, Project Alpha, our scholarship and awards program and more recently, our grant program to encourage African-American males to take the AP exam.

We see the nature park as complement to our efforts and an excellent vehicle to broaden the education of the county's young people, for not only will it be a giant laboratory, but it will also provide their science teachers and parents a venue to teach them the importance of protecting our environment.

That is why we formed a partnership with the alliance. We share common interests in the area of education.

The 300-acre Smith farm rests squarely in the middle of Columbia and borders two neighborhoods where we have Alpha Achiever schools: Oakland Mills and Long Reach. There is no other property that matches its potential in terms of natural assets and location. It is uniquely positioned to impact the lives of nature-starved children.

Our school system is currently without a place for us to take our children for an extended environmental experience. They must leave the county to meet their environmental education requirements.

Children, of course, are not the only ones who benefit from contact with nature. A park is for all ages.

In addition, there are economic benefits to developing a park. The adjacent communities of Oakland Mills, Long Reach and Glenmont will be enriched through their proximity to a nature park. Indeed, all of Howard County will gain from such a community amenity.

We are fortunate to be living in a place of promise and hope, where greatness is within reach when we are committed to working together to achieve excellence, as County Executive Ken Ulman said at his installation.

Speaking of greatness, Martin Luther King Jr. in his "Drum Major" sermon, tells us of a new definition of greatness. He says we can all achieve greatness to the degree we are willing to serve. He goes on to say that using this definition of greatness, we can all be great, and the greatest of all shall be he who provides the greatest service to his community.

To borrow from a speech Barak Obama made in New Hampshire, your elections have opened a new chapter for Howard County. We are ready to turn the page. This is our time.

We call upon the new government to begin an informed and reflective walk into greatness by scrapping the current plans for the Smith farm in favor of a higher ideal -- one of greater service to the community -- a nature park.

One hundred years from today, we do not think any of us will want to be remembered as the county that had the greatest number of ball fields in the nation. That would be an achievement of dubious distinction.

We have a new county executive and a new council. Let us hope that they will support a new vision for Howard County, and let that vision begin to come into fruition with the building of the nature park.

David H. Barrett

Columbia

Columbia needs height limitations

Although I publicly supported one of County Executive Ken Ulman's opponents in the recent election, I am writing now to state that I am truly excited about Mr. Ulman's visionary proposals for Columbia's downtown, unveiled Nov. 3 and available on his Web site at http:--www.kenulman. com.

I was further delighted to read last week's Flier article announcing that Mr. Ulman has already taken a major step toward implementing his commitments by seeking County Council support for legislation that would enact height limitations in downtown [Columbia], including preventing the construction of the widely opposed 275-foot Plaza Towers condominiums.

Downtown Columbia lies within Mary Kay Sigaty's County Council district. A signature feature of Ms. Sigaty's campaign was her steadfast commitment to height limits in downtown.

I urge the other County Council members to follow Mr. Ulman's and Ms. Sigaty's lead in immediately enacting such legislation.

To paraphrase Vernon Swaback's eloquent presentation at General Growth Properties' "Voices of Vision" forum, we humans don't really have a choice about how we do development. We must make our communities human in scale and environmentally sustainable or we simply will not survive.

Thanks to Mr. Ulman and Ms. Sigaty for progress toward this imperative goal. Our elected officials will need to hear frequently, firmly and supportively that we will back them up when they have the courage to do the right thing.

Please let them know that they can count on us and that we are counting on them.

Rebecca Johnson

Columbia

Political hypocrisy on seniors tax cut

Our new Howard County executive is committing the ultimate political hypocrisy.

Prior to the November election, as a council member, he was a leading supporter of the seniors property tax bill. Now, after being elected, he is appointing a study committee to review it. I am sure the recommendations will include reductions to -- if not elimination of -- the benefits to Howard County's seniors.

By supporting the bill prior to election, he claimed the full benefits of getting the bill passed. Now, with a study committee, he hopes to absolve himself of any blame for the reductions or eliminations.

I am sure he also hopes the voters have short memories.

Even at 70-plus years, my memory is not that short.

J. Edward Head

Elkridge

Irresponsible journalism

For the second time this year, the Howard section of The Sun has chosen to publish a featured article that promotes smoking.

The first was not even a Howard County business, but a "Water Pipe Bar" in the Frederick area. Today, I see an article promoting a cigar store in the Columbia Mall.

According to the Howard County Office of Economic Development, there are over 7,000 small businesses in our county. I can't understand why The Sun, would choose to promote a business that advances such a deadly habit.

I consider this irresponsible journalism and a complete breakdown in your decision-making and oversight process.

Alan Jefferson

Ellicott City

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