Revolution or evolution for Columbia? HOWARD COUNTY

April 26, 1993

As sloganeering goes, Alex Hekimian makes all the right noises.

When Charles Ahalt of Hickory Ridge defeated long-time Columbia Councilman James Loesch last spring, the Alliance for a Better Columbia president called it "the beginning of a revolution." This year, with six Alliance candidates running for seats on the council, Mr. Hekimian is practically giddy over the prospects. While he concedes that the revolution still has a "long, long way to go," he comes nonetheless well armed with such phrases as transforming Columbia from a "company town" and creating a "more responsive, democratic government."

It all sounds so simple and good: As easy as ABC -- which happens to be the group's acronym.

And in fact, the Columbia Association, and the elected council that directs it, is due for some change. When the city was in its infancy, it seemed just fine to have an association and council guided largely by business principles. Now, with a population of well over 75,000 residents, Columbia needs a system that better represents those who live there.

Something is intrinsically wrong with a quasi-governmental agency that seems to be served by residents as opposed to the other way around.

Having said that, the type of "government" Columbia should have is best left to on going debate and resolution. Mr. Hekimian seems to think that there should be three top priorities guiding the process toward change. They include a reduction in spending, debt and the annual property lien; a decrease in fees, and a government that responds to residents.

But getting there from here may not be so simple. Already, we are aware that Mr. Hekimian's priorities are not shared by all. Paul Amico, an ABC co-founder and council candidate, rejected ABC's call for a referendum on the recently approved $5.2 million Fairway Hills Golf Course, which Mr. Amico supported.

And Councilwoman Norma L. Rose, generally considered an ABC sympathizer, rejects the idea of incorporating Columbia, even though incorporation is supported by some ABC members.

Undoubtedly, the painstaking process required to change Columbia's governance will require more than nifty slogans. In the end, it may be more a matter of evolution than revolution.

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