Coalition supports tower construction
The African American Coalition of Howard County is an organization dedicated to fostering equal rights and opportunities for all individuals. If we, as a community, truly want affordable housing to be a part of the future of Columbia, then it is imperative that we support the construction of The Plaza Residences. Yes, the Plaza is a luxury condominium, but we need to look at the issue more broadly and recognize the direct connection between the Plaza and our overall crisis in affordable housing for our work force.
We all know how expensive land and housing is in Howard County. We also know that restricting development drives costs higher. Simply put, height restrictions limit density, and drive up housing costs. Without increased density, affordable and work force housing will not be economically feasible in the downtown area. We will end up with far fewer housing choices and continue to lose the original vision of economic and racial inclusiveness that embodies Columbia.
Increasing the density of Town Center and allowing some high rises to be built will be necessary in order to help our community with its affordable and work force housing crisis. If the Plaza Residences is blocked, this will undoubtedly signal similar fates for any future projects. Nimbyism [from Not In My Back Yard] is not what is needed to ensure the future vitality of Columbia. Protecting Columbia's future will require understanding that progress requires change and the courage to remain vigilant about diversity, inclusiveness and opportunity for all.
For these reasons, the African American Coalition endorses the Plaza Residences, and encourages Columbia residents to look at all the issues in making a decision.
Rev. Robert A. F. Turner
The writer is president of the African American Coalition of Howard County.
CA needn't pay annual bonuses
Not many workers in nonprofit civic organizations in Columbia can expect thousands of dollars in bonuses each year, but people will be appalled to learn that's exactly what happens routinely at the Columbia Association.
Based on information recently released by CA President Maggie Brown, $400,817 was handed out to CA managers as bonuses on top of their regular salaries in 2006, $339,651 in 2005, and additional amounts in previous years. In 2006, the average for bonuses given to 69 employees was about $6,000, which suggests that some of the bonuses may have been over $10,000.
One could argue that large bonuses can be justified in typical corporations with revenue streams that depend entirely on the creativity, ingenuity and performance of its employees. But, CA is not a typical corporation. CA is a homeowners' association that receives about half of its revenues automatically from a tax-like annual charge on Columbia's property owners.
CA's managers don't have to lift a finger to obtain that revenue, and much of the remainder comes from user fees.
People who send their hard-earned money to CA are certainly justified in questioning not only the amount but also the practice of giving bonuses at CA. This is particularly so when one also considers that many CA officers and managers already earn huge salaries that are greater than those of their counterparts in Howard County government. CA's president, for example, has a much higher salary than the chief administrative officer of Howard County government. That is a striking disparity given the fact that the county is responsible for a budget that is about 22 times larger than that of CA.
In light of these circumstances and given CA's spending habits that are resulting in negative cash flows and mounting long-term debt, CA's board of directors should start tackling the problem in the FY 2008 budget by reining in the runaway salaries and eliminating bonuses.
Alex Hekimian Columbia
The writer is the president of the Alliance for a Better Columbia.