Council picks Morrison as its chairman

At critical point, search for president is important task

`Open process' stressed

Atkinson-Stewart elected to No. 2 spot after three votes

May 05, 2000|By Erika Niedowski | Erika Niedowski,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council elected a former council chairman last night to lead the 10-member board through a critical time as the Columbia Association begins to search for its second president in less than two years.

Lanny Morrison, the newly elected representative from Harper's Choice, defeated Adam Rich of River Hill by a vote of 6 to 4.

Morrison, who served on the council more than a decade ago, stressed before the vote his commitment to an "open process" and maintaining a level of civility, even in the face of conflicting views.

"We can always have differences of opinion," Morrison said, urging the council to learn from the tumult of the previous session to avoid repeating it. "It's a question of how those differences are played out."

Three votes were necessary to decide the race for vice chairman. After losing to Morrison, Rich challenged Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown for the second in command. Twice the council deadlocked, 5-5.

Rich then withdrew his name from consideration to break the impasse. In a final tally, seven members voted for Atkinson-Stewart, one voted for Rich, one abstained and one declined to cast a vote.

Atkinson-Stewart, who served as vice chairwoman during last session, was absent but had provided a written statement of candidacy this week. She cast her ballot by proxy.

The new council, which serves concurrently as the Columbia Association's board of directors, is facing several major tasks this year, including finding a replacement for former Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty.

After months of community debate over her leadership and performance, McCarty stepped down this week in exchange for $200,000 in severance. She had succeeded the association's only other president, Padraic M. Kennedy, in August 1998.

Morrison, who overwhelmingly defeated incumbent Tom Forno in the election April 15, served as council chairman during an earlier stint on the council.

He has proposed taking board meetings "on the road" to each of Columbia's 10 villages -- which he called the "backbone" of the community -- and holding media briefings at least once a month.

On the issue of structural changes to the Columbia Association, which McCarty had maintained was at the root of the recent controversy, Morrison identified a need for "organizational fine-tuning."

He also supported a long-range study of the association's needs to determine the direction it will take in coming years.

One issue on the new council's plate is whether to "annex" the Key property, the Rouse Co.'s neighborhood-style development in North Laurel. The development would become part of Kings Contrivance -- with its residents subject to the Columbia Association "lien" -- if the council approves it.

Another issue is the fate of the horse center, which has come under scrutiny because of its financial losses and limited use.

An independent study recommending that the facility remain open is expected to be presented to the council next month.

The council's decision on the horse center could have far-reaching implications for other Columbia Association facilities.

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