Even Split On Columbia Council

Board Must Look Beyond Yesterday's Debate, Tackle Today's Problems.

April 22, 1997

THE COLUMBIA COUNCIL'S direction could rest in the hands of two newly elected members. The Columbia Association's governing board currently is split between members who supported borrowing heavily to build ambitious new projects like the proposed athletic club in the new River Hill village and those who would rather focus on pumping vitality into older communities.

The two swing votes ought to agree to move beyond issues already decided. The reconstituted council has considerable work to do without revisiting the past. Indeed, the council has four members who criticized Columbia's $90 million debt and four who voted for projects that will raise the debt even higher.

In the middle are newcomers Jean Friedberg, who ousted Council Chairman Mike Rethman in Hickory Ridge, and Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who bested incumbent Roy Lyons in Long Reach. Both have been careful not to cast themselves into one camp or the other.

Mr. Friedberg never said whether he would support the $6.3 million athletic center championed by his predecessor and approved earlier this year. The energetic Ms. Januszkiewicz described any differences between herself and the low-key Mr. Lyons, a club foe, as being more a matter of style than substance.

Mr. Rethman's defeat and the election of Kings Contrivance representative Chuck Rees, a defict-hawk who ran unopposed, raises the possibility that council may reconsider the athletic club and the $3.3 million ice rink and sports park planned for Harper's Choice. Mr. Friedberg and Ms. Januszkiewicz should resist any urge to renew that debate and move forward on other crucial issues facing Columbia.

One of the council's challenges should be to improve voter participation in village elections. The 10 percent turnout on Saturday was pitiful, especially at a time when the community is at a crossroads -- village centers are struggling to survive and concern is rising over crime, traffic and education.

The council should consider changing the timing of the election so it coincides with local, state or national elections. Or it should adopt the voting method Oregon now uses: mail-in ballots. The council must be able to take its cues from a broader segment of the community as it leads Columbia into its fourth decade.

Pub Date: 4/22/97

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