Council expected to extend cable pact

March 07, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

The County Council is expected to vote unanimously tonight to extend the franchise agreement with Howard County Television Associates Inc. for 15 years.

The cable company, now owned by Comcast Corp., has been serving eastern Howard County under various owners since 1974. The franchise agreement was last renewed in 1986.

Renewal does not mean renegotiation. Council members were told in a work session last week that their only function is to approve or reject the franchise agreement and set a time for the next renewal.

Members said they would approve a renewal of 15 years rather than seven as a previous council had done.

Cable advisory committee member Nellie W. Arrington told the council there is little risk in approving a 15-year renewal. Granting the 15-year renewal does not give the cable company exclusive rights to its territory, she said. To deny the extension, council members would have to show that the cable company was in violation of its agreement. It is not. Council members praised the company, saying they had received very few complaints.

The cable franchise resolution is one of 20 pieces of legislation on tonight's 8 o'clock agenda.

Also included is a resolution calling on the General Assembly to enact gun control legislation and a resolution urging owners of local businesses to get rid of cigarette vending machines -- especially those accessible to minors.

Although neither measure has the force of law, amendments are expected tonight that might make the resolutions more palatable for opponents.

Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray, D-3rd, plans to introduce an amendment to the vending machine resolution that would exempt taverns from the voluntary ban.

Shane Pendergrass, D-1st, wants to amend her gun control resolution to say that "crime is a complex and serious issue, and we must explore many different approaches to making our communities safer environments for all of our citizens. Reasonable gun control measures are one piece of the solution to help reduce violent crime."

The original resolution called on the General Assembly to enact "reasonable and appropriate" gun control legislation during the current session.

Gun owners opposed the resolution at a Feb. 22 hearing. Larry LaGuardia, president of the Howard County Rifle and Pistol Club, testified against the legislation, saying, "It is about time the legislature woke up and stopped trying to blame an inanimate object."

Mr. LaGuardia told the council to "put the blame where it belongs -- a failed criminal justice system. It is crime that is the problem."

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