Columbia needs modern system of government In the heat...

LETTERS

April 16, 2000

Columbia needs modern system of government

In the heat of the moment, the tendency is to think that the answer to the Columbia Association's problems is to replace the president and the council.

This may satisfy a few egos, but The Sun, as well as a number of prominent Columbia residents, have recognized that this not the real answer.

They rightly look beyond today's personalities and focus on the need to change the flawed governing structure that continues to plague Columbia.

Without that change, simply playing musical chairs with different faces on the council and choosing a different president is unlikely to produce different results.

CA's turbulent history confirms this. For example, under the Pat Kennedy administration just a few years ago, we were faced with headlines exposing irregularities in CA's bidding and purchasing practices and its lax financial controls.

Serious problems also occurred when Lanny Morrison (currently running again for the council from Harper's Choice) was council chairman more than a decade ago.

CA was created by the Rouse Company and served the developer well during Columbia's formative years.

But now that the city has matured, and CA cannot, in its present form, fulfill residents' demands for an open, democratic and responsive government.

The current structure has no checks and balances: the council is the legislative, executive and judicial branch all rolled into one, which can lead to abuses of power.

Representation is unequal -- a council member who represents a village of 5,000 households has the same vote as the member who represents 1,000 households.

The important position of chairman of the Columbia Council is not accountable to the public; the chairman is selected by and from council members, rather than by the community at large.

Council members are volunteers who are well-meaning, but often cannot devote the proper time and energy to their oversight and policymaking roles.

CA is no stranger to turmoil. It has been a major source of controversy for decades.

It's time for the council to acknowledge that this persistent problem lies with Columbia's outmoded form of government.

It's time to restructure CA to make it more community-friendly and accountable.

Alex Hekimian, Columbia

The time has come to incorporate Columbia

The ongoing absurdity of the dispute between the Columbia Association's president and council is not only an embarrassment to every Columbia resident, but particularly disgusting to long-time residents who have long supported the Columbia governance concept.

While change is necessary in every organization, in this instance we have turned back the clock and are reduced to the comical political behavior of our neighbors in Washington and Baltimore.

ka0

Perhaps it is time to incorporate Columbia.

Nothing can be more politically unacceptable than a well-paid chief executive officer who is unable to resolve issues and must resort to hiring a consultant at the taxpayers' expense.

At the very least, Deborah McCarty should pay the consultant's fee from her own pocket.

At the very best, she should resign and spare us further distress.

Larry Aaronson, Columbia

Wishy-washy mediators don't resolve disputes

Erika Niedowski's article "Mediator was center of dispute at church" (April 2) attacking the selection of the mediator in Columbia Association dispute illustrated a basic lack of understanding of the mediation process.

I have participated in hundreds of mediations and can tell you that the matters least likely to be resolved are thoses handled by non-confrontational mediators.

Mediation requires frank discussion of things participants do not necessarily want to disclose.

The mediator must have the ability to confront individuals directly with the weaknesses in their positions and get them to move toward the middle, where common ground can be found.

The last thing that an emotional mediation needs is a wishy-washy mediator.

While I am not happy with what has been going at the Columbia Association, and am not a Deborah McCarty supporter, I believe The Sun loses credibility by attacking the background of a mediator, rather than focusing on the facts.

ka0

Digging up an eight-year-old controversy, and quoting people involved in that controversy, is hardly investigative reporting

Personal experiences do not necessarily have any correlation to the ability to achieve results.

To imply otherwise is reckless and irresponsible.

Lauren R. Martin, Columbia

Steve Beall: a fine minister and mediator

The Sun's article "Mediator was center of dispute in church" (April 2) disturbed me greatly. Its personal remarks about Steve Beall are, in my opinion, not true.

I was a member of that Unitarian Universalist congregation at the time of the dissension noted.

Steve Beall was a fine minister. He was and is caring, intelligent, a good listener, perceptive, honest, full of humor, capable -- a well-educated man of of integrity.

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