Columbia's debt: a red herring or a hidden scam?Dan...


September 08, 1996

Columbia's debt: a red herring or a hidden scam?

Dan Morse's Aug. 18 article juxtaposed arguments for and against the Columbia Association borrowing additional money to build new recreation facilities in River Hill and Harper's Choice villages. Consistent with modern journalistic practice, Mr. Morse reported the pros and cons without bias -- thereby granting credence to opposing arguments that are largely irrelevant.

In this debate, the amount of CA's total debt is a red herring. Emotive, yes. Relevant, no. The real money question facing the Columbia Council is whether building these facilities makes sense in today's world.

A businesslike way to make this decision turns on the project profitability or losses expected at the facilities. The good news is that conservative pro formas project that both new facilities will easily generate income that surpasses the cost of financing and running them. This excess revenue is termed "profit." Profit can be used to reduce CA's debt quicker, keep user fees low and/or reduce the lien charged against Columbia properties.

It's that simple. We can build facilities that enhance the lives of many Columbians and generate profits that benefit all Columbians. Or we can succumb to the simplistic laments of those who either don't understand business and finance or who have other unspoken and/or sometimes contradictory motivations.

Mike Rethman


The writer represents the Village of Hickory Ridge on the Columbia Council.

The truth and light concerning the financing of the Columbia Association has been covered in almost total darkness until The Sun recently began removing the blindfolds from the eyes of the residents of Columbia.

Until now, the residents knew only that which was published by the Columbia Flier, and it published only that which pleased Howard Research and Development Corp. and the management the Columbia Association, and it was more fiction than fact.

To make this whole devolution complete Dan Morse must now write the full story on the CA covenants: how Howard Research and Development wrote and had them placed on the land by the court so any purchaser of a parcel of the land would be bound by the covenants as specified to pay for debts created by CA.

The covenants are a contract between the property owner and HRD and each is obligated to fulfill its part of this agreement through the operation of CA. Very few property owners in Columbia know that HRD can be held accountable in the courts for any failure on its part in the compliance of these covenants. Article VII of the covenants states that any disagreements over these covenants will be resolved in a court of law.

HRD has completely ignored the covenants from the beginning. By its own admission, it had full control of the CA board until 1983 and has had minute knowledge of everything done by CA during the lifetime of the operation. And every piece of residential property it sold in Columbia is under covenant. The property owners should, in a class action suit, hold HRD liable for every penny of debt placed on their property by CA.

Just one example of HRD's complete disregard of the covenants: The operation of Hobbits golf course was placed in the hands of CA from its beginning and the cost became the responsibility of the property owners. Article V of the covenants states that before any land can be designated as a community property, the board shall cause a declaration to be executed and recorded among the land records of Howard County. This was not complied with until April 1990. Anyone purchasing property in Columbia tomorrow morning will be liable for that debt. We've just been paying the interest on it.

Charles W. Ahalt


African-American Republicans aren't misguided or naive, Norris West

As chairman of the Howard County Republican Central Committee, I was deeply disturbed by Norris West's column of Aug. 18. I have learned from Mr. West that I am wealthy, unfair, not compassionate and racist. Mr. West has characterized me in these terms simply because I am a member of the Republican Party. Despite Mr. West's concerns and comments to the contrary, the Howard County Republican Party has always been willing to accept African-Americans as equal partners. Anyone who would like a history lesson concerning the African-American involvement in the Howard County Republican Party should sit down for a few hours and speak with my father, Del. Robert Kittleman.

My father has been active in the Republican Party since he came to Maryland in the 1950s. In the 1960s, he was president of the local chapter of the NAACP and chairman of the Howard County Republican Central Committee. His actions demonstrate that Howard County Republicans have not and will not restrict the participation of African-Americans in our party.

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