Moving on in Columbia

Symbol: City voters have changed government leaders, but important work remains.

June 09, 2000

IMAGE, says the camera ad, is everything.

True enough if you're selling cameras. But often image is a surface thing. In these pages yesterday, readers saw a picture of former Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty walking out of her rented Columbia townhouse, a moving man nearby and a minivan with Georgia plates parked in front.

Ms. McCarty's troubles as the $130,000-a-year head of government in Columbia deepened when people learned she hadn't registered her car in Maryland, had sold her house and wasn't registered to vote. Now the other shoe -- the moving team -- has dropped.

Some say Ms. McCarty's departure ends the story. Controversies at the Columbia Association or on the Columbia Council were and remain people problems, according to this view.

The structure of government in one of America's best-known "new cities" was less the issue than Ms. McCarty and the other people in power.

Others disagree. Councilman Vince Marando, for example, wants the council to participate in a year-long review. He proposes a 15-member Columbia Governance Study Committee. No more than two members of the council and two representatives of village associations would join 11 others chosen at large.

"As Columbia ages and as development winds down in the planned community," he says in the preamble to his resolution, "the Columbia community should review whether the structure established at the inception of the community and its present form of governance are adequate to address the current and future needs of the community."

Mr. Marando and others in Columbia who believe a city must be a vibrant and evolving entity are right. Even if the committee concludes that the best course is to do nothing, such a study would be worthwhile.

Concerned citizens are meeting, looking for leadership. The council must provide it.

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