Election Reforms Needed

Readers write

April 08, 1992

From: James M. Holway

Ellicott City

Recently, I have perhaps learned more than I anticipated about the election process for judges in Maryland. I received a widely distributed letter at the time of the primaries from the clerk of the court, Marge Rappaport.

I found the letter very disturbing, inappropriate, unprofessional, and reflecting a serious conflict of interest. Itwas a letter endorsing a judge for the Circuit Court, a sitting judge, one of the clerk's bosses.

The clerk also spent Election Day campaigning at all the polls with the same judge. We do not pay the clerk to perform these duties.

I found it even more astounding and unprofessional to read the endorsement of the sitting judge by the Howard County Bar Association in the local press.

I did some checking and determined that it is a part of the Howard County Bar Associationbylaws procedure to send out the following questionnaire to the membership: "Is the record of incumbent, Judge John Doe, for integrity, temperament, and professional competence such that Judge John Doe is entitled to immediate endorsement for re-election?"

Now think a minute. How would you answer this if you knew you were going to appear before this same judge before the election, and perhaps after the election for the next 15 years? This procedure used by the Howard County Bar Association will never meet the test of putting the public interest first.

How does an incumbent become an incumbent? It turns out that a sitting judge who is nearing retirement or planning to leave office is expected to retire one year early so that the governor may make an appointment to the bench.

This purposefully circumvents thevoters' right to participate in an open and free election and permits a new judge to run as an incumbent. It fails all the criteria we used when writing the charter for Howard County.

I had reasonable expectations of more professional behavior. What should be done?

* The clerk of the court should be dismissed or receive a minimum of a four-month furlough without pay.

* The Howard County (and each county) Bar Association should immediately reform its endorsement procedure to be a more professional system of public recommendations based on a candidate's ability, with a required minimum years of professional service time.

* The newspaper should revise its long-standing policies and support journalistic investigative reporting on the mannerin which all aspects of the government process works, and institute a policy that denounces the current philosophy of "go along and get along."

* The League of Women Voters should give rebirth to its former public service role of being a real watchdog for the democratic process and for citizens rights.


From: Ed Moore

Ellicott City

Franc Miller's description of the county road project connecting two parts of Chatham Road as a "boondoggle" can be directly laid at the feet of him and other opponents who opposed thisconnection over 25 years ago when it was planned to be completed.

Where else in Howard County do motorists drive on both sides of streets that were built to be one way?

Where else do motorists leavinga neighborhood street such as Greenway Drive to enter Route 40 have to turn right (west), make a U-turn, and then turn left to drive easton Route 40?

Where else is there a neighborhood quadrant from St.John's Lane, Route 40, Bethany Lane and Route 99 with no additional access out of these neighborhoods, which have increased tremendously in population in the last five years?

Typically, Miller believes his street and home deserves more consideration than those on St. John's Lane, Greenway Drive, Paulskirk Drive, Longview Drive and Cypressmede Drive.

As far as Councilman Paul Farragut is concerned, why isit that he does not want to spend money in Ellicott City to make roads adequate for our population but lobbies successfully for capital improvements in his district in Columbia?

Thankfully, the Public Works Department, County Executive Ecker and the four other council members recognize a need to help Ellicott City neighborhoods.


From: Elizabeth Fixsen


An open letterto Shane Pendergrass:

I am writing this letter about the proposedtrash collection fee. I am totally in favor of the idea. We citizensneed to realize what it really costs to get rid of all the trash we produce.

Some complain that the fee wouldn't be deductible from income taxes.

I found that if a $70 fee had not been included in my property tax deduction, my federal, state and local income tax would have increased by $35. That would make the effective annual cost of my trash collection $105 -- less than $9 a month -- a bargain even if/when trash collection goes to only once a week.

I am not concernedthat I will pay the same as others who put out more trash than me --there are others who put out less than I. It benefits me to have trash collected in the community where I live, whether it is my trash orothers'.

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