Uprising in Columbia

Embarassment: Village center activists hope to reverse years of no interest in local elections.

March 31, 2000

CONTROVERSY can be a positive force. It can define what's at stake and become a lever for moving citizens to wake up.

A handfull of concerned Columbians rallied 125 activists overnight to a get-out-the-vote meeting Wednesday -- using e-mail and widespread embarrassment over recent Columbia Council actions. Village elections are scheduled for April 14 and 15.

Many of those at The Other Barn meeting in Oakland Mills Wednesday night said they were appalled at the recent and continuing appearance of turmoil and confusion on the Columbia Council and in the offices of the Columbia Association.

The council's abrupt decision to request the resignations of six Columbia Association vice presidents was called "scandalous" by Jean Moon, one of the organizers.

How could such a step be taken when the association's president, Deborah O. McCarty, is both under fire in her own position and on leave, Ms. Moon and others wondered.

Who would be left to run the association?

The council ordered or authorized Ms. McCarty to request the resignations -- but has said little about why. Ms. Moon and others said they thought the action was unfair -- and not a good reflection on the community.

The rally organizers said this election is a way of expressing displeasure with the council in the most dramatic way -- by unseating some of its members.

Officially, their purpose was merely to coax and wheedle and cajole Columbia citizens to the polls -- but the 7-3 balance of power on the council could be altered by the election.

For now, the organizers' focus seems precisely right: turnout.

"Drum it home," one of them cheered. "Ask people if they're definitely going to vote. Ask them if they know where to vote. Tell them `Let's just get in the car and go up right now and vote.'"

Sounded a lot like democracy.

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