Vote proves need for probing of councilThe Columbia...

Letters

March 17, 1996

Vote proves need for probing of council

The Columbia Council has done it again. An overwhelming majority of the council has adopted, without offering any substantive changes, the Columbia Association's $38 million operating budget for fiscal year 1997. It also approved the first phase of the West-Side Recreation Facility and the Ice Rink/Family Fun Center (combined $9 million in future expenditures).

It seems rather peculiar that the CA management can put forward a perfect budget. Eight of the 10 representatives believe the CA has done just that.

Norma Rose (Wilde Lake) and Roy Lyons (Long Reach) were the sole dissenters. A 6-4 or even a 7-3 vote would have given me a much better feeling about the budgetary process and the effectiveness of our democratically elected council. The commanding majority that finds no fault with anything CA proposes makes me wonder if we are stuck with a lazy or incompetent board of directors.

The Columbia Council is the elected body chartered to serve the interests of Columbia residents. CA serves its old master, the Rouse Co. The local paper is beholden to its advertisers (CA, the Rouse Company and the real estate interests). And the village boards serve the interests of their respective villages, content to remain silent on Columbia-wide issues as long as CA allocates all the funds they request.

The approval for the West-Side Recreation Facility and the Ice Rink/Family Fun Center are only the tip of the iceberg. The CA budget contains a number of unnecessary, questionable and plain giveaway projects, in addition to a bloated administrative budget that accounts for 13.6 percent of total expenditures (excluding costs for interest and depreciation).

The only reason that CA facilities have been "affordable" (under-priced to exclude private businesses from competing) is the heavy subsidies that we, the Columbia residents and businesses, deliver to CA in the form of "taxes" (47.5 percent of total CA revenues), which, I might add, are levied on an inflated tax base (50 percent of assessed valuation as opposed to 40 percent for state and county taxes).

The Columbia Council has the future of Columbia in its hands. We need independent, responsible, knowledgeable and competent representatives, willing to question and challenge rather than rubber-stamp proposals.

The opportunity to make changes is only a few weeks away. Six villages Owen Brown, Oakland Mills, Town Center, Harpers Choice, Hickory Ridge and Wilde Lake will elect council representatives on April 20. It is not too late to challenge incumbents.

I personally would vote against all but one incumbent, Norma Rose of Wilde Lake. We need a new pro-active council with fiscal savvy to meet the challenges and opportunities in years to come.

Arie Eisner

Columbia

Ecker's subsidy for the rich

Howard County Executive Charles Ecker has sold his trash-tax idea to most of the County Council. These days, county elected officials rhetorically promote austerity and efficiency so I find it odd that Mr. Ecker is championing a Howard County subsidy for mansions.

Mr. Ecker's new tax will shift the cost of trash collection from being tied to the value of property to a flat rate fee on residential owners. As a fee, it is not eligible as a local deduction on federal taxes. If this is coupled with a reduction in county property tax rate for business property and residences, the biggest impact will fall on owners of average and smaller homes.

The largest houses on multi-acre lots will come out way ahead (their new tax reductions will be higher than the trash fee) and commercial property would also get a windfall in tax savings. But the majority of Howard County residents owners of typical houses, townhouses and renters will bear the financial burden.

This is not the way to make Howard County hospitable to first-time homebuyers or to retain our young people as they enter the work world. Additionally, residents and employers want county money available to help maintain the quality of our schools. So why is Mr. Ecker promoting giveaways to mansion owners?

Frederic C. Cooper

Columbia

O, say can you see?

With that uncertain weather in Maryland, one would think that the powers that be would be conscious of the dangers of driving in reduced visibility. Evidently, our legislators either do not drive during such conditions or do not see the dangers.

I think it is high time they looked beyond politics and produced a bill to require headlights under these conditions, and put teeth in the law.

Rain, snow, fog and twilight hours are the times of reduced visibility. Let us get this thing through the assembly.

George Baldwin

Ellicott City

The chicken- neck defense?

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