Ahalt rattled the `skeletons' in ColumbiaThis is an...


August 08, 1999

Ahalt rattled the `skeletons' in Columbia

This is an appreciation of Charles Ahalt, who passed away last month.

I know of Charles' work as a union man, a preserver of graveyards and an urban homesteader only second-hand. But I know his work in Columbia's political life first-hand.

Charles helped found a kind of union, the Alliance for a Better Columbia.

Although another newspaper suggested that members of ABC were "grumpy old men," he helped provide many light moments as members of ABC worked to improve Columbia.

Charles was an important part of ABC, keeping membership rosters, providing mailing labels for monthly meeting notices, attending meetings, sharing his opinions and, of course, writing letters.

Columbia doesn't have many graveyards, but Charles knew where all the skeletons were at the Columbia Association: the annual (over)charge on property owners, the skyrocketing debt, all the budget-busting deals, the accounting schemes, the developers' influence on CA, the perks of office for members of the Columbia Council (which he refused for himself while a member of the council), the operations of the Horse Center, and the proposal for a Family Fun Center in Hickory Ridge. He could spot the CA party-line a mile away and argue against it, even if he was a minority of one.

Here in Columbia, Charles was a kind of suburban homesteader. Until the last years, his physical home, which he lovingly cared for, was in Sebring. One of his philosophical homes was in Columbia's covenants.

How he loved to quote those covenants. He had the apparently novel idea that the covenants should be the law, not only for the residents, but for CA as well. He acted on that idea, protesting CA's annual (over)charge by withholding part of his annual payments. He also kept insisting that CA's actions be for the benefit of residents.

I appreciate Charles' contributions to Columbia as an ABC founder, CA "skeleton-finder" and covenant promoter. As the minister said at his funeral service, he was not a "hearer" only, but a "doer."

Chuck Rees


The writer is a former member of the Columbia Council and the Alliance for a Better Columbia.

County's message: `Who cares?'

I have lived at the current address for almost three years. I pay almost $4,000 in county taxes yearly. I don't ask for special privileges or special attention. However, I think the county should be more sensitive to the needs of its citizens.

I recently waited more than 9 hours for a building inspector to come and look at my sun room and he/she never showed up.

I am appalled at a system, in this day of advanced technologies that tells a resident and taxpayer, "We will show up sometime the next day." No time slot given, either morning or afternoon, and worst yet no one bothers to call or even show up.

I work with the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and have dedicated the last 20 years of my life to try and improve the quality of life all over the world. One of the most startling findings over that time span is that "quality counts." And I must say the services of Howard County, reputedly the sixth-wealthiest in the United States, are horrible.

Why must a taxpayer suffer the consequences of a system that seems to say, "So what?" I tried for more than two hours to call the building inspection line. It was constantly busy. Is this why we pay taxes?

Patrick L. Coleman

Ellicott City

Mega-church or mega-politics?

Politics seem to be making decisions regarding what will be Howard County's first mega-church.

The Rev. John L. Wright need not worry about the size of his church, but rather the strength of his political connections. It has been said to get elected to office in Howard, one must go through the Reverend Wright's office.

I wonder if members of the planning board are contemplating thoughts of higher boards? The question will be whether the Board of Appeals regards the special exception criteria as policy or politics.

Kari Ebeling


`Greenway' isn't as noble as it sounds

The Patapsco Heritage Greenway. Sounds noble, doesn't it?

Sounds uplifting, downright "green." It's words, just words -- words cleverly crafted by a group using marketing skills to mask real intent. It wants to commercialize a natural area known in past years as the forest preserves.

In 1996, "heritage" areas were set up to promote development with an eye toward advertising. Don't turn the Patapsco Valley State Park into McPark. Don't make the verdant river valley into a cash cow for a few cunning entrepreneurs.

Remember what happened to Rocky Gap in Cumberland, where the privatization of public land led to a situation where families could no longer afford to picnic there. Hands off the forest preserves.

Ellen Rhudy


Listen to what

Greenspan said

As noted in a Wall Street Journal editorial (July 27) concerning the tax debate in Congress, Alan Greenspan stated, "My first priority, if I were given such a priority, is to left the surpluses run."

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