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The Baltimore Sun

Housing stirs some ire

Regarding "Doughoregan senior housing stirring no ire," (Sept. 28), well it certainly should. Anger should be openly displayed, for this is government corruption in the making. Moreover, those impaled on the horns of a dilemma are not senior citizens, but work force families needing affordable housing.

For years affordable housing advocates have sought to get water and sewer extended to western Howard County for housing for working families and to help offset the pressure of putting all affordable housing in Columbia and eastern Howard County.

No success though for affordable housing advocates. Not true, however, for the family of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence; the Carroll family gets its way. It's getting water and sewer outside the planned service area for its mansion developments - which will not include urgently needed housing for "working" families. These would be families resembling those who, during slavery, built or serviced Doughoregan Manor for Charles Carroll.

Moreover, there is the cost of the construction of running water and sewer to the Carroll property which, if the development is defined as a capital project of "public need," will be borne by taxpayers. Add to that possibly additional Farm Land Preservation Program costs to the county.

One does not object to the Carroll Manor being preserved as a "historic landmark." Quite the contrary, for all motivations or benefits cited for preserving the Manor are reasonable. But achieving these objectives should be done in a fashion that removes visible traces of the memories of slavery, especially as to the memories of those who are descendants of those local slaves who built the Mansion.

One way of doing this is to provide affordable "work force" housing on Doughoregan for the off-spring of those held in servitude there and for those working families who today will be responsible for servicing the people of the manor's developments.

In summary, we are not asking here for more than Pat Conroy, author of The Water is Wide, 1969, regarding Yamacraw Island, S.C. - a place where he described as one in which the 20th century has basically ignored the presence of the impoverished there.

"For them," Conroy said, "I leave a single prayer: that the river is good to them in the crossing."

Sherman Howell

African American Coalition of Howard County

Imagine the possibilities

Bring Back the Vision, a group formed two years ago to support the urbanized redevelopment of Columbia's downtown, congratulates General Growth Properties for completion and submission to the county of a plan that begins the process leading to the final approval of an amazing opportunity for our city and our county.

From a financial standpoint, the plan will mean millions, even billions of dollars of revenue to the Columbia Association and Howard County Government over its 30-year implementation.

Far and above the dollars, we can begin to dream and imagine the ways our lives can be changed. Yes, we will study the plan and no doubt find some small changes to be made. Yes, traffic will forever be the primary concern of some; however, we can now know what is promised and begin to imagine what is possible. We can think in terms of destinations instead of only traffic lights. We can anticipate individually owned restaurants, boutiques, art galleries, "gathering spaces" to meet and share coffee or whatever with our friends, a downtown that invites more people to walk and connects them in the process.

Imagine the path around Kittamaqundi completed, a renovated Merriweather donated to the community. Imagine a Symphony Woods that is a destination, an interesting place where you can walk, enjoy the preserved and restored woods, your children can enjoy nature, you can attend a concert or drop in at a state of the art Library surpassing the excellence of the present one. Downtown could become an area where there are spaces for artists to work, even live. Imagine the downtown redesigned and connected so we can walk or hop on a shuttle.

There are many things that could have happened to Columbia's downtown. It could have been sold in pieces to various developers doing more of what is there now. We see General Growth and the plan presented as more than we could have hoped.

Emily Lincoln

Bring Back the Vision

Violence happens here, too

The horrific stories of domestic abuse and violence reported in the papers are much too common nowadays and, sadly, it seems there is no end to the ways people can injure the ones they supposedly love.

Here in Howard County we like to say, "Oh, no, that doesn't happen here." But the truth is, domestic violence does happen here - in numbers greater than we realize to women, and men, within all walks of county life.

Just how prevalent is domestic violence in the county? The Domestic Violence Center (DVC) of Howard County, now in its 30th year, has helped some 4,000 women, children and men who fell victim to emotional and physical violence so far this year. And that's only the individuals who have had the courage to seek help.

So physical and psychological domestic violence and abuse are much more pervasive than we might think, and though the telltale signs are there, we don't seem to notice them.

We don't see the fear in children's eyes or feel the knots in their stomachs from witnessing and, in some cases, being the recipients of family violence.

We don't penetrate the wall a woman - a friend, co-worker, sometimes even a relative - builds around herself. We don't feel or acknowledge the pain of her bruises, cuts or broken bones and we look beyond or around any emotional and spiritual damage she may have because, well, it's a family thing.

But the damage caused by domestic violence does not just dwell within the confines of the home.

Employees are absent due to injury and stress, and that affects company productivity and office harmony. Or a friend suddenly stops calling and won't say why.

Children act out, and this can affect their school work and how they play with our children. Living in homes with domestic abuse and violence, they have difficulty concentrating and succeeding in school.

Unfortunately, many children develop behavioral problems and when they grow up, they often enter abusive relationships or become abusers themselves.

Domestic violence and abuse is also one of the leading causes of homelessness. In their efforts to control their wives or spouses, abusers cut off bank accounts and funds, isolate their spouses from family and friends and destroy their self confidence.

Abusers create fear and then lay the blame back on their victims, saying, "You made me do this. You brought it on."

It is tough road to overcome and takes a tremendous amount of courage to create a safe and secure home with fear looming so close. Walking away is never as simple as it sounds.

To leave, to find safety and begin rebuilding a damaged life or family is fraught with emotional, legal and physical challenges. Overcoming domestic violence often involves counseling and negotiating legal and community service networks.

Fortunately, the DVC provides emergency shelter and counseling and helps families find needed legal services, long-term housing, employment, transportation and, when necessary, assists if someone has to leave the county when it is too dangerous to stay.

The DVC works closely with the Howard County Police Department and Howard County General Hospital to ensure that victims are believed, treated respectfully, offered safety and given guidance about their options.

Broken families hurt us all - in the workplace, in our schools and in our places of worship. Help support the DVC in its efforts to reduce the impact of domestic violence in our county.

Barbara K. Lawson

The writer is the former president and CEO of the Columbia Foundation. She will be honored by the DVC for her contributions to the community at the center's annual Hope Gala on Oct. 11.

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