Seeking Answers to Incorporating Columbia


November 13, 1994

The musical "1776" was on TV recently. It doesn't take much imagination to see the analogy between our independence from an excessive England and our own Columbia Association. Those malcontents believed that what they were trying to achieve was just and right. Those revolutionaries chose to question the existing regime. King George III also had the money, power and wherewithal to put down any uprising amongst his subjects.

He was introduced to democracy. There was no kinder, gentler way of imposing the will of the people then. Those anti-establishment gentlemen spoke of the merits and demerits of a government that sought to maintain control over its subjects. It viciously attacked the credibility of those who raised their voices against those empowered to rule. Even then, absolute power corrupted absolutely.

The Columbia Association would say: What is so wrong with what is?

Haven't we provided you with every convenience we think you need or want?

Haven't we even gone so far as to allow you a rudimentary form of self-rule with your village boards? We are here to take the burden of government off your shoulders.

Don't worry about the problems of balancing $32 million of income against $82 million of debt. Don't lose any sleep over a golf course that doesn't make a profit. We'll build you another one that probably will. Sit back and relax. Make your yards pretty. We will run the rest of your life for you. You have chosen well to move into Eden. Pay no attention to the minor flaws. Keep paying us to maintain the status quo and we will keep you mesmerized. . . .

James Rouse and others feel that incorporation is ill-considered, if not ill-timed. That's not what we are about. Our coalition for home rule is simply democracy in action. . . . At one point in the musical, John Adams sings a song while debating the language of The Declaration of Independence. The entire Southern delegation has just walked out of Congress. Adams sings, "Is anyone out there? Does anyone care?"

It's irrelevant what you think or any of us in the coalition. What's important is that this issue must be aired for all to see, hear and discuss both fully and freely. The time is again right to do this. We need 10,000 to 12,000 signatures on our petition just to have the question placed on a future ballot. Apathy is morally wrong.

Whether or not you agree with incorporation is also irrelevant, at this time. We need the petition signed first; before there is a referendum ballot; before there can be any discussion on incorporation; before everyone in Columbia can decide on our future. The greatest good for the greatest number must persevere.

Neil M. Noble

Oakland Mills

I am a Columbia resident, a volunteer community activist and a former Columbia Council member interested in the position to conduct an election to determine whether voters wish to make Columbia a municipality. This issue is not new, but has never been brought to a vote.

As a resident, in order to be able to make such a decision, I would need the following information:

* What will my taxes be under a municipality? I know they will be deductible (as opposed to the lien). That is certainly desirable. However, while the current Columbia lien has a maximum of 75 cents per $100 valuation, I don't have any idea what will happen under the municipality of Columbia. My neighbors and I are curious about our proposed tax obligation.

* What services will the municipality of Columbia provide? I have seen very vague responses. If the county will continue to provide all its current services, how could Columbia siphon off some of the county's piggyback taxes?

* The process of transferring Columbia's debt to a municipality is extremely unclear. This debt cannot simply be abandoned under a new entity. It is far from certain that the debt can be refinanced.

There are many other questions about the proposed municipality including the voting structure, party politics, role of "outparcels," etc.

Proponents of this effort may have some of these answers, but residents don't. If I was asked to sign such a petition now, I couldn't, simply because I have too many questions.

Fran Wishnick

Oakland Mills

Trading Bullets for Rocks?

I am writing in response to the article in the Oct. 25 issue titled, "Man 'sorry' in the death of teen-ager in Baltimore," by Norris P. West. Nathaniel Hurt shot his .357 Magnum into a group of children, killing Vernon Holmes.

Apparently, the children had been throwing rocks at Nathaniel Hurt's car, but Mr. Hurt should have handled the incident in a more orderly manner than he did. He should have never used his weapon, especially around children. A more mature way to handle the situation would have been to talk to the children and if they didn't respond, then discuss it with their parents or call the police and let them act as the disciplinarian.

This is the type of behavior that makes the government question the idea of owning guns. . . .

Natalie Hoover

Ellicott City

Simpson Trial

I am writing concerning the talk about how the courts can get rid of all the publicity out of the O. J. Simpson court hearing. Someone suggested to postpone the trial one year. What is this going to do? Yes, O. J. talk will die down, but as soon as that year passes and the trial begins, so will the publicity and talk.

There is no way to get around the publicity. A famous football player who a lot of people grew up hearing about is put on trial for the murder of his ex-wife and her friend. What are the chances of people just forgetting about the incident? . . .

Betsy Pryor

Ellicott City

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