Columbia Council's Conflict VoteIn your Howard County...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 17, 1993

Columbia Council's Conflict Vote

In your Howard County editorial of Dec. 7, the writer begins: "When public representatives abuse for personal gain the power that we vest in them, we get as disgusted as anyone." Later, as an example, you cite ". . . a member of the Columbia Council ignoring conflicts of interest to vote on a proposed golf course next to his home."

As the councilman in question, I am infuriated that you would intimate any impropriety during my years of service. I did not vote on the proposed golf course. During my four years on the Columbia Council, two votes were taken in the respect to the course. I abstained both times.

I did, however, vote on my own motion, which attempted to clarify how the council's "conflict of interest" policy applied to my personal situation. The council vote on this motion did not clarify the situation. Therefore, I resigned, not because my actions warranted shame, but because the citizens of Town Center and Columbia deserve a full nine votes on all issues.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time your paper has made this error of fact. . . . I expect this to be the last time the paper refers to this situation other than when the . . . corrections and apologies are printed.

Joseph P. Merke

Columbia

Mixed-Use Zoning

I've enjoyed reading The Sun's new Howard County section. In fact, Erik Nelson's reports on county zoning issues have filled a major information void, providing accurate and timely information on this topic. . . .

Unfortunately . . . special care is needed in assessing the merits of editorial comment, which are often no more than sales-oriented opinion. But the need for reader caution does not excuse the editorial staff from at least providing informed commentary. The Dec. 20 column by Kevin Thomas . . . presented uninformed opinion in a manner that I believe was misleading and failed any measure of journalistic ethics. He represented opinion as factual, supportable and indisputable when it was none of the above. . . .

Mr. Thomas describes mixed-use as the "cornerstone . . . for controlling growth," remarking that County Executive Charles Ecker should not yield to "no-growth advocates who are hell bent on bringing all development to a halt."

As reported in The Sun, the proposers of mixed-use designations in Howard County -- the Department of Planning and Zoning -- recognized that the growth permitted in its proposal was not warranted and was a mistake. It submitted an amendment to mollify previously proposed allowances . . . Of the several hundred citizens who signed to testify at recent Planning Board and Zoning Board hearings, none advocated no-growth. In fact, most endorsed retention of current zoning density designations, which have permitted growth from 118,600 people and 40,000 households in 1980 to 164,000 persons and 59,000 households by 1988.

Howard County is currently a beautiful, relatively uncongested environment. Its school system is often cited as one of the best in the country and perhaps Maryland's best. It provides a great deal of diversified housing and employment opportunities. These are reasons why the county's recent growth has been rapid and why many immigrants come from adjoining counties where out-of-control development had destroyed what, at one time, were also quality environments.

Mr. Thomas' characterization of the "vocal minority" as elitists living in mini-mansions is also not warranted. Three-acre residences are a consequence of dependence on wells and septic systems, not elitism. . . .

Peter J. Oswald

Fulton

Sex Ed

While I agree with The Sun's advocacy of sex education (Dec. 10), I believe that most sex ed curricula may be improved.

Sex ed teaches birth control methods, as it should, but sex ed is often not taught in context. Teens don't study how sex without long-term commitment may impact their personal growth. Nor do they study how sex without commitment may impact the social and economic well-being of families and society.

These omissions can come back to haunt us. Those who don't link sex to long-term commitment when they are teens are less likely to honor that linkage as adults. Schools need to lay the groundwork for life-long learning of relationship skills, respect, responsibility and commitment. Too many adults lack this perspective and abuse their mates' love and trust -- abuse them -- for the sake of sex with another.

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