Continuing the Incorporation Debate

April 28, 1995

One of the arguments made by the Columbia Municipal League in its bid to turn Howard County's planned community into an incorporated municipality has been that the details of incorporation were not as important as the general concept.

Alas, this was an argument doomed to fail.

Columbia residents knew instinctively that the details were precisely what was needed before a decision as critical as incorporation could be made. Their decision to turn thumbs down on the only candidate running in last week's Columbia Council elections who supported incorporation was evidence enough that they will not be swayed by simple slogans about democracy and more responsive government.

Incorporation, if ever it comes to Columbia, will undoubtedly produce radical changes to service delivery, as well as a dramatic shift in the relationship between the city and county. The upheaval would be enormous, with the greatest potential impact on the pocketbooks of residents.

But even as we point all of this out, we remain convinced that the debate over incorporating Columbia is a healthy one that could produce some long-term benefits for the community. There is a need to consider changes in the city's current governance system, which appears to discourage citizen participation.

We are pleased to see that, in the spirit of keeping the dialogue alive, the Howard County League of Women Voters has decided to study incorporation and its possible effects. The league joins the county Chamber of Commerce in sponsoring research into this issue. It is a welcome public service.

While the chamber's participation is worthwhile in exploring the ramifications of incorporation where private enterprise is concerned, the league's role is crucial in exploring the broader implications of such a move. Because it is non-partisan, the league is ideally suited to explore the political and social changes that would come with incorporation. Moreover, the league can do the job without the bias that has permeated the debate so far.

Those who have been fighting for incorporation, rather than trying to downplay the need for more information, should be applauding these two groups for taking up this challenge. At the very least, it could keep the issue alive while residents sort out what they really want to do.

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