Columbia is not perfect: Here are some flawsFriends of...

Letters

August 29, 1999

Columbia is not perfect: Here are some flaws

Friends of ours remind us that Columbia is not perfect. Of course not. Here are several serious flaws:

1) This city of 11 contiguous "villages" with more than 95,000 citizen residents is still not a unit of full participative democracy. We are a homeowners association with only an annual vote to elect our village's member of the "Columbia Council." Its president is appointed, not elected. Very few Columbians bother to vote for their one village member (an unpaid volunteer). We cannot elect a mayor or a City Council fully answerable to citizens rather than to the developer. In fact, villages only permit homeowners to vote and several villages permit only one adult per family to vote. No true American democracy.

2) The Rouse Co., against the preference of many Columbians, has built in Columbia more and more "big box" warehouse stores, more malls and a cine-megaplex. It is adding 40 shops and two department stores to our enclosed mall, which already has three department stores and boasts of 190 shops and eateries. Our small special city is being turned into a huge commercial mecca for a vast urban region and for soaring developer profits. One result is the imminent closing of our downtown Cinema I, II, III and of some of our village center stores. They are run by "small" merchants whom we know and who know us, the way Jim Rouse planned it for a sense of workable urban community. And traffic looms larger and larger on our streets. Things over people.

3) Maybe there are too many village centers, some too close to each other. Perhaps Columbians are just too comfortable to be politically involved. It is still very beautiful and nice here, but where are constitutionally adequate citizen responsibilities and controls?

Richard Rodes

Jean Rodes

Columbia

Concern for the public good?

The state's encouragement of citizens to turn in their neighbors for suspected watering ban violations brings out the worst in some people. This was illustrated in The Sun's Aug. 12 story about the Howard County couple, Bill and Pat Kidwell, who tried to embarrass their local fire department and its chief.

Fire officials told The Sun that they needed to add water to the swimming pool that they occasionally use for training exercises in preparation for testing new diving equipment.

It is obvious that the fire company thought its actions were above board. After all, rational people don't commit intentional violations in broad daylight with a bright red fire truck with their name painted on the side in large letters. If the couple truly thought the firefighters were not in compliance with the rules, one would think they might first ask the fire company directly.

Or, they could have reported it to county government. But when, as The Sun reported, one of their first actions was to call TV stations, one can't help but think that their motivation had little to do with concern for the public good.

Edward L. Maddox, Millersville

Well-paid Congress can't relate to public

Recently, Congress members raised their salaries by more than $4,000 a year.

After this pay raise, members of Congress receive an annual salary of $141,300, plus other perks and substantial retirement benefits. Congressional salaries should not be above the median income of all working Americans.

How can someone who receives such an income appreciate the problems of average American citizens. Why do Congressional salaries need to be at such a high level? It is not to encourage people to run for office. There are plenty of candidates running for Congress and there are no vacancies.

Our government was supposed to be of the people, by the people and for the people. Our Congress members were supposed to be citizen-legislators who had careers other than politics. If we had a citizen Congress interested in the people's business and not their own well-being, we would all be better off.

Donald B. W. Messenger, Laurel

Yellow triangles: a cautionary tale

As a recent addition to the Maryland driving wars, I ask myself on an almost everyday basis if anyone knows the meaning of a yield sign?

Ninety-nine percent of all drivers with whom I come in contact have no idea what this little triangular beauty stands for.

As noted in the Maryland drivers' manual, a yield sign means that oncoming traffic should yield to the drivers who are already traveling on the highway. You should look for a gap in traffic and then speed up to enter its flow.

I have almost had three accidents because the driver behind me did not want to slow as I encountered a yield sign with no gap in traffic for me to enter, or as the drivers with the yield sign sped at warp speed neither looking nor touching their brakes.

A prime example of this is the ramp from Broken Land Parkway onto Route 32 west in Columbia. Not yielding is an unsafe practice and can well lead to deaths. Learn what your traffic signs mean.

Christopher J. Kim, Columbia

Cities need job opportunities

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