A change in Columbia?

New directions?: It's time for the Columbia Council to say explicitly what changes are afoot.

March 28, 2000

IF THE grass gets cut and the swimming pools open on time, it is said, Columbians don't think about city government.

But suppose the city can't afford to run the mowers or pay the lifeguards? What then? Unrest? Massive letter writing? Or something really radical: turning out to vote in village elections!

As far as we know, the grass will be mowed and the pools attended.

As far as we know.

Big change could be in store for Columbia -- but few could say what that change might be. A leadership struggle between some members of the Columbia Council and questions about the stewardship of Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty obscures almost everything -- including, apparently, changes in policy directed by Ms. McCarty.

But what is Ms. McCarty proposing? If anyone on the council knows, he or she isn't saying -- nor is Ms. McCarty.

And whatever change it is, oddly, is being pursued while Ms. McCarty is on leave. Notwithstanding that fact, she has asked for the resignations of her six vice presidents.

Called talented and courageous by her defenders, she has exhibited some unorthodox approaches to running the city.

A majority of the council endorsed the mass resignation request -- for good reasons, perhaps. But what were those reasons? Surely, such a move requires some explanation -- suggesting as it does a catastrophic loss of confidence in a staff which, one imagines, was running the ship in Ms. McCarty's absence.

Fifty or so citizens came last Thursday night to ask for Ms. McCarty's head.

Wisely, the council voted against that course of action. A performance evaluation is under way, the majority argued, and must be completed.

What should have been requested was presentation of policy shifts in city government proposed by Ms. McCarty -- if any. The absence of public discussion on such critical questions is shocking.

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