Why Columbia should become a municipality As 15-year...


April 09, 2000

Why Columbia should become a municipality

As 15-year residents of Columbia we are so disheartened by the lack of leadership and direction that we have witnessed over the last few years. We had never been supporters of the incorporation movement. What was the point?

We had so much -- great schools, parks and recreation programs, health clubs, well-managed green space, children's programs. What changed? How did the wheels come off the cart? Much more importantly, how do we reattach the wheels and move on?

That seems to be the simplest question and the one with the clearest answer -- leadership. Strong clear visionary leadership that can bring together the community. Incorporation is the process that can bring the type of leadership that we need. Also, the process of incorporation can catalyze the community, awaken us from our apathy.

Howard County is such a diverse entity, with many competing needs. Columbia has its unique needs, which are currently getting lost in the mix. It is time that the residents of Columbia speak out and let their power be felt. The Columbia Association, which has taken the "New Town" so far, has clearly lost its way. It has lost its mission. The Columbia Council is not an effective vehicle for community involvement, which they have proven with the "McCarty Mess."

The traditionally low turnout in village elections for Columbia Council representatives indicates the degree of apathy residents have had toward CA. Now is the time to change this and the entire structure of Columbia.

It is time that the taxpayers and lien payers of Columbia stand up and demand that their voices be heard. After all, this is an organization that spends $50 million a year of our money. Important voices are beginning to be heard calling for reexamination for the incorporation issue.

There are so many issues that need to be addressed. The desperate need for uniform school redistricting. The desperate need for school equality. Older neighborhoods with real inner-city type problems. Declining property values. Columbia is a city that is growing in one area and aging in many others. There are diverse populations (recent immigrants beginning anew, Section 8 families, older residents, etc.) that have unique needs. An effective and responsive city government can provide the leadership to address these issues.

What should be done with the out-of-control Columbia Council and the Columbia Association? We say dissolve the Columbia Association and incorporate.

Mark and Lenna Janick


Living up to the ideals Columbia has stood for

It is ironic that the key goals of the Columbia incorporation movement -- greater scrutiny of the Columbia Association by elected officials and greater citizen participation -- have been accomplished by the controversy concerning the incumbent CA president. However, as co-chairman of that effort, and one who has wanted something to happen that reflected greater community awareness and participation, I am deeply disturbed at the fashion in which responsible democracy has emerged.

Columbia is acting like an infant democracy, which is probably understandable given its limited experience, but the often-invoked Columbia ideals that talk of fairness and mutual respect have not been followed in the case of Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty:

She has not been given a real opportunity to prove whether or not she is able to do the job she was hired to do.

She has not been given a clear direction as to what the board wants accomplished partly because the board does not know itself. This does not mean it should not provide direction, it simply means the board needs more time, training and staff to effectively provide the kind of oversight true community responsibility requires.

A number of sad things have happened in the life of Ms. McCarty and the Columbia Association. However, the Columbia ideals mean that we should have compassion for Ms. McCarty's situation and not railroad her out of office. Ms. McCarty has been subjected to a new set of rules which probably should have been in place a long time ago.

Columbia ideals and genuine human decency require that we give her a clear chance to see if she can do the job. If after a period of clear, structured direction and evaluation, it is clear to all that she is not the appropriate person for the position, then a respectful arrangement of departure should be instituted.

Columbia has been special to many because it has stood for something. How it treats those in its employ is the clearest test of whether Columbia can live up to the ideals it espouses.

Rabbi Martin Siegel


The writer is president of the Institute on Behavioral Health and Spirituality.

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