No one should be surprised that the Howard County Chamber of Commerce has turned thumbs down on the idea of incorporating Columbia. One thing a business community does not like is instability. And no matter how it would be accomplished, incorporation would bring just that.
Chief among the chamber's concerns is that under incorporation, Columbia would assume planning and zoning powers and upset the current economic development system. Add to the criticism the almost certain siphoning of state resources from Howard as a whole, and the absence of a guarantee that incorporation would deliver more efficient government to Columbia.
Those are things that all residents need to be concerned about, but the chamber made no pretense about who it was watching out for. To its credit, the group spelled this out, saying NTC incorporation would not produce "any positive impact from a business perspective."
Proponents of incorporation are calling the chamber's conclusions premature. Rabbi Martin Siegel, speaking for the Columbia Municipal League, says the chamber report makes assumptions about things that haven't been decided.
Chief among those is what would happen to the Columbia Association, the closest thing the city has to a government. While the chamber feels it would continue to exist, the Municipal League feels it might be absorbed into a new city government. We say might because even though the league has been spearheading the incorporation drive for months, it has been woefully short on details about what a new government for Columbia might look like. This seems to us a pathetic game of cat and mouse, in which the Municipal League avoids presenting a specific plan, then criticizes others for commenting before specifics are on the table.
Meanwhile, groups such as Columbians for Howard County are forging ahead with ideas to bring modest reform but that stop short of incorporation. The group convened with members of the Columbia Council last night to begin a dialogue on some of its ideas, which include expanding into areas such as public safety and having some Columbia Council members elected at large. Such discussions seem more productive than just firing pot shots at the opposition.