Apathy In AbundanceI have been an elected member of the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 20, 1994

Apathy In Abundance

I have been an elected member of the Oakland Mills Community Association board of directors for the past three years and am currently the chairman of this board. I ran for the position primarily because I saw problems relating to traffic issues, specifically at the ice rink, that I thought needed to be addressed by our local government.

Each year that I have run and been elected has been a rewarding experience. I find serving my community both a civic and moral obligation. The lack of interest in these local elections baffles me.

As the second oldest community in Columbia, Oakland Mills has faced many problems that newer communities are just beginning to experience. Primary of these problems is the disjointed traffic planning by the Department of Public Works, which has manifested itself in the lack of a comprehensive plan for the opening of the new Broken Land Parkway-Stevens Forest Road intersection; crime issues, which are growing at an exponential rate; and other issues associated with a community whose face has changed over the years and needs to be kept fresh-looking.

Our board has served the community well for more than 20 years. Although overseeing the $230,000-plus village budget, administering the covenants and providing direction to the village staff are our major responsibilities, we have been active in the forming of an East Columbia Traffic Council, assuring that Oakland Mills would be part of the then-pilot and now comprehensive recycling effort by Howard County, and a multitude of other endeavors which affect the lives of all those who reside, work in, and pass through our community on a daily basis.

Oakland Mills is not alone when election time draws near and not enough candidates or voters appear. I am embarrassed by the apathy shown by my neighbors. . . . I urge all residents of Columbia to consider how they may affect their community's quality of life by volunteering to serve on their village board. I have found it to be intrinsically rewarding and know you will too.

James J. Oremland

Oakland Mills

Columbia Council

Addressing your March 3 editorial, "Dereliction of Duty in Columbia," I must commend The Sun for exposing the major problem in the town of Columbia, the lack of awareness of how the town is governed. Many of us know about the covenants but we don't take enough interest to learn that we are governed by a staff of managers who control what is exposed to the public and make sure they keep a majority of rubber stamps on the council.

Until this past year, when the daily papers realized there was a void in this county of honest news coverage, the only information the people of Columbia learned of their town government was that published by the weekly . . . The Sun has a great opportunity to enlighten all of us.

Property owners of Columbia, under the state "Home Owners Association Act of 1987," can request a copy of any records in the association files. A few things that should be of great interest to everyone:

* The Columbia Association billed the property owners 20 to 25 percent more tax on their lien last year than that specified by the resolution passed by the board. The resolution specified that it use the assessed valuation used by the county and state. It used a different figure.

* CA tampers with elections to get the desired people on the council, such as changing the rules and having another election. (Last year, those who openly defied the staff were designated by the editors of the weekly as malcontents and accused of trying to wreck the organization.)

* CA's debt is $90 million and increases each year. The deficit reduction it publicizes is phony. It arrives at its figures by placing operating expenses in the capital budget instead of the operating budget, inflating the value of assets.

* CA is way overstaffed. It spends millions for advertising and sales. Also, many of the recreation facilities are overstaffed. The golf course loses large amounts of money each year. All golf courses run properly today make money. . . .

Charles W. Ahalt

Columbia

Social Security

According to The Sun article of March 11, Congress gave the Social Security Administration an extra $200 million last year to .. cope with the growing disability program problem. However, the agency used much of this money to finance pay raises for its employees. A spokesman for the agency said that the alternative would have been some layoffs.

Recently, President Clinton has exempted the Social Security Administration from reducing its work force and has allowed the agency to hire about 200 new employees to cope with the same disability program problem. Guess what? Now, the agency is about to pay a $25,000 buyout bonus to employees who retire in order to prevent layoffs. This is absurd, but true.

William J. Ziegler

Ellicott City

Reynolds' Run

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