League slate is blank

March 23, 1995|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

An article in yesterday's Howard County section of The Sun incorrectly described the slate of candidates in the Wilde Lake village elections. The article should have stated that Norma L. Rose, the incumbent, is running unopposed for village representative to the Columbia Council and that John F. Baker, Janet Blumenthal, Michael Deets, Howard S. Feldmesser, David E. Gardner, George C. Nacht and Verna Lawes are vying for five seats on the village board.

The Sun regrets the errors.

The group seeking to incorporate Columbia has been unable to field a slate of candidates in the coming Columbia Association (CA) elections

The group -- the Columbia Municipal League, Inc. -- had hoped that the debate on turning the planned community into a city would spark interest from incorporation advocates in running for open seats on the 10 village boards and the Columbia Council, CA's governing body.


"The apathy is just phenomenal," James V. Clark, league president, said yesterday. Among the candidates seeking office in the April 22 are a few who support the league's position, Mr. Clark said, but he refused to identify them.

"It may be the kiss of political death to be identified with us," he said.

Yesterday was the deadline for filing for offices in nine of Columbia's 10 villages. Candidates who wish to run in Hickory Ridge village have until March 30 to file.

Fran Wishnick, a former Columbia Council vice chairwoman and member of a new group opposed to incorporation, says the fact that the league was unable to produce candidates may mean that most residents don't want incorporation.

"Apparently, there is not enough interest for people to get involved in making the kinds of changes they advocate," Ms. Wishnick said.

But one of the league's goals in launching its incorporation drive last fall was "to increase involvement in the government process," said Rabbi Martin Siegel, the league vice-president.

"I would have hoped that [the well-publicized debate about incorporation] would have increased participation, but that turned out not to be the case," Rabbi Siegel said. "It reinforces my strong belief that only a profound change will lead to more participation."

Alex Hekemian -- president of the Alliance for a Better Columbia, a watchdog group not directly affiliated with the league -- said he's also disappointed by the apparent lack of citizen interest in local elections, but not surprised.

"There is very little connection between the people of Columbia and the Columbia Council," Mr. Hekemian said.

"We did a survey a while back about who has the most clout in Columbia. The results were very disturbing. A great majority of people say the Rouse Company really calls the shots. The Columbia Council was very near the bottom of the list -- and below them, the residents," he said.

Mr. Hekemian said he's still weighing the issue of incorporation, but believes that it should be discussed and that Columbians should have an opportunity to vote on it. "Opponents of incorporation don't want the debate to occur," much less put it on the ballot, he said.

The lack of candidates will not deter league members from continuing their quest for incorporation, Mr. Clark said. "It's going to be a tough ordeal, but we're in this for the long haul."

The league now will concentrate on its petition drive to put incorporation on the ballot, Mr. Clark said. In order to do that, it must obtain signatures of 25 percent of Columbia's registered ,, voters -- about 9,000 people -- and then get approval for a referendum from the County Council. So far, the league has collected about 3,000 signatures.

There is no time limit for collecting signatures. Proponents of incorporation on Kent Island in Queen Anne's County have been trying to get the requisite number of signatures for four years, and have only collected about 85 percent of the signatures they need to force a vote on the issue there.

"Hopefully, we can do it sooner than that," Mr. Clark said.

There are no incorporated communities in Howard County. Columbia, with more than 80,000 residents, would be the state's second largest city after Baltimore.

CA is a huge homeowners' association that manages Columbia's parklands, enforces property covenants and builds and

maintains recreational facilities owned by the association. It charges homeowners an annual fee based on the assessed value of their homes.

Columbia residents also pay taxes to Howard County's government in Ellicott City for municipal services: schools, roads, trash collection, public water and sewer service, and police and fire protection.

The dearth of candidates filing for elected positions within the homeowners' association was not limited to pro-incorporation candidates.

There are only two races for the seven vacancies on the 10-seat Columbia Council so far. Only three villages -- Oakland Mills, Owen Brown and Wilde Lake -- have contested village board elections. And in Dorsey's Search, there are more vacancies than candidates.

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