History Behind 'Columbia's Flaw'The March 2 edition of The...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 26, 1995

History Behind 'Columbia's Flaw'

The March 2 edition of The Sun for Howard County contained an editorial, "Columbia's Flaw," which critiques the Columbia Association.

As a consultant to the Rouse Company on public administration and finance for the new "city," I can shed some light on the subject. The new city was to be located in Howard County, a jurisdiction which, like Baltimore County, had no incorporated places. It was the desire of the officers of the Howard Research and Development Company to maintain control of the nature of the community, so that its uniqueness would not be diluted. . . . Legal counsel learned of the use of a device in California called the "municipal estero act," under which the power to govern and tax was granted to the developer by action of the state legislature and the governor. I spoke with then-California Gov. Edmund (Pat) Brown, who was a client of mine. He assured me that he would never again sign such an act if it were presented to him. The concept was anathema to me as it represented taxation without representation. I expressed my view to both my client, Howard Research, and then-Attorney General Thomas Finan.

Unfortunately, the idea of a special legislative act which would create a special taxing district for recreational purposes, limited to a tax rate of 45 cents per $100, emerged.

In reality, it turned out to be inadequate and the residents had to pay not only the tax but service charges for recreational programs.

John A. Donaho

Reisterstown

Budget Wounds

At a recent meeting of the Longfellow Elementary PTA executive board, I was informed that current budget projections imply the following for Longfellow next year:

* Reduction of classroom teaching staff from 13 to 12 (which would increase class size).

* Reduction of our guidance counselor position from 4/5 time to half-time (the guidance program is heavily used and effective, and we were hoping for an increase to full-time).

* Reduction of art and music staff from full-time to half-time.

* No new textbook money (we had none this year, either).

* Loss of promised Phase II equity funds to replace our obsolete and oft-malfunctioning computers.

I assume that other schools are facing similar cuts, and I am deeply disturbed by the implications of this. While I am far from suggesting that a perfect correlation exists between money and educational quality, I do believe that we have gotten to the point in Howard County where budget cuts are taking the "flesh" out of our educational system, since most "frills" were removed long ago in earlier rounds of budget cuts. . . .

Our excellent educational system has arguably been the brightest "jewel" in the Howard County "crown," one of the most important factors in making Howard an attractive place to live and keeping it economically viable. One has only to look at Baltimore City to see what happens to population and quality of life when schools are allowed to decline. Not only for the sake of the children, but for the present and future quality of life for all of us, maintaining -- and improving -- our schools must be a top priority.

I, for one, would be willing to pay more taxes to support quality educational programs. I have talked to many others who feel the same way, and I hope they will speak up before the final budget is enacted.

Rebecca L. Johnson

Columbia

Switching Parties

The Republicans stepped up to the plate with 52 of 53 senators to vote on the balanced budget amendment. Democrats provided only 14 of 47 and punctuated the vote with the current glue of their party: fear. The Democratic Party, of which I was formerly a member, has reduced itself to a permanent minority party. It will again hear from the voters in 1996 with more Republicans in Congress and a new president.

The day after the vote, Colorado Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell switched to the Republican Party. . . . How can one blame anybody for switching from a party that relies on scaring little old ladies about their Social Security? It was not true.

The balanced budget amendment would not have spent one penny of Social Security trust funds. The minority party simply wanted to change the accounting rules in midstream.

President Clinton will not make real substantive cuts, yet he asks the other party to do so. Just watch, the Republicans will make serious tough choices. The voters will remember it.

@Russell B. Miller Jr.

Jessup

Howard High's Honor

As a member of the Howard High School faculty, I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation for the editorial, "Howard High's Last Laugh," which appeared in The Sun for Howard County on March 10.

Unlike the article by Sherry Joe, which appeared the day before, you chose to accentuate the positive by focusing on the outcomes rather than the problems that have been identified and are presently being solved in our school community.

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