Clueless in Columbia Coming town council elections should not be taken for granted.

April 05, 1996

IF IT LOOKS like a government, sounds like a government and acts like a government, you might as well treat it like a government. And if it is your government, you should want some say in what it is doing for you (or to you.) In any case, how is it that people who claim to be politically astute and participate in national, state and county elections ignore the voting to select the 10 representatives to the Columbia Council? Typically, only 10 percent of eligible voters in Howard County's planned city participate. And only three of the six council seats up for election on April 19 and 20 are being contested.

It could be that many residents see the governing body of the Columbia Association merely as a rubber-stamp extension of the Rouse Co., which developed the unincorporated town. But the council can have as much impact as any actual municipal government. Residents should want to participate in its deliberations.

The recently approved 1997 budget calls for the Columbia Council to spend $2.5 million on the villages. More people should be concerned about who is elected to spend that money.

Voter apathy has led to a lack of diversity among the viewpoints represented on the council. This shortcoming almost allowed the body to impose a repressive rule that would have required its members to get permission from the entire group before asking any outside agency for information. The measure died after the Maryland Homeowners Association criticized the proposal as Draconian.

Wilde Lake representative Norma Rose is the only council member who consistently questions the association. That doesn't mean she is always right. It does mean the council is in danger of becoming monolithic in developing solutions to Columbia's problems. That must not happen. As part of Columbia ages and other areas are just being born, there are varied opinions as to where the association should spend the dues collected from homeowners.

People who live in the Oakland Mills, Owen Brown and Town Center villages, where there are contested elections, should take advantage of the opportunity to make sure more viewpoints are presented at council meetings. Columbia residents should attend the candidates' forums before the election and vote for the person who best expresses what they believe.

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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