Columnist Doesn't Shrink From Issues


May 15, 1994|By KEVIN THOMAS

Some people go to a therapist every week.

I get to write this column.

Can you imagine? While others shell out big dough so they can share their inner-most thoughts, I get paid to share mine.

For those who have been targets of my criticism, the wisdom of this arrangement may not be readily apparent. I've heard from you, and I know what you're thinking.

All I ask is that you be sympathetic. After all, you're the doctor.

And I do have burdens. What others perceive as a cushy job carries with it some heavy responsibilities. I have to deal with some pretty heavy topics here.

Take, for instance, the case of the Oella outhouse.

It seems that Charles L. Wagandt, president of the Oella Co., has decided that a refurbished outhouse is just the right symbol for his real estate firm, which sells homes in the old mill village.

The 4-foot by 4-foot structure was unveiled last week, and will be staffed by some hapless person equipped with a mobile phone and a handful of brochures. They're calling it "the world's smallest real estate office."

Given that Oella sits just across the Patuxent River from Ellicott City, Mr. Wagandt's idea has ramifications for Howard County that are, dare we say it, not pretty.

While Howard is busy turning several old buildings into historic landmarks to draw tourists, a toilet serving as the calling card for the community across the river just doesn't seem right.

This is not exactly an act of neighborliness. Comparisons will be made. Resentments will arise.

Already, other Realtors are taking aim at the outhouse, calling it just another "gimmick," or nothing more than a "booth," not an office.

Things can get petty.

Things can also get tacky.

Speaking of which, I hate to put a damper on a holiday event -- particularly a fund-raiser -- but the light show planned for Symphony Woods later this year has my alarms going off.

The Columbia Council has given its approval to the event, which is being planned by Howard County General Hospital. It is to include a series of animated light displays depicting winter scenes.

The displays will be placed throughout the downtown Columbia park and are expected to attract 10,000 cars during a six-week run beginning in November.

How well I remember the drubbing I received some months ago when I criticized the Columbia Association's stewardship of Symphony Woods, suggesting that their interest in looking at new uses for the woods was a prelude to turning it into an amusement park.

Boy, are they proving me wrong.

But seriously, officials insist that the light show will be park-friendly.

The carbon monoxide from all those cars won't damage the trees because they'll be dormant in the winter. Or knocked out by the fumes. But I digress.

Also, the displays will be hung from metal frames, not nature's flora.

Thank goodness for small favors. A less caring organization would sacrifice a few trees. It is for art's sake, after all.

It is also a fund-raiser, except, of course, for the cut of the proceeds the Columbia Association will get, which could total $15,000. Never let it be said that philanthropy obscured the common sense of a CA official.

Despite all this, you will not see me comparing this event to Disney World's Parade of Lights. That would be too obvious.

It's just one more step in a continuum.

Wake me when we get to the monorail.

And speaking of light shows, I'm predicting fireworks in the VTC expected rematch between Republican County Councilman Charles C. Feaga and growth-control advocate John W. Taylor.

Mr. Taylor has switched to the Democratic Party, hoping to unseat the two-term Republican.

Mr. Feaga is a western county farmer who displays a certain gentility even in the rough-and-tumble world of public affairs.

Mr. Taylor is feisty and prone to hyperbole. He has relentlessly criticized the councilman's positions on growth control.

But in a retort aimed clearly at his challenger, Mr. Feaga said recently, "I will never use campaigning or the council office as a tool to frighten or alarm citizens needlessly."

Take that!

Ah, I feel better already.

Kevin Thomas is The Baltimore Sun's editorial writer in Howard County.

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