Columbia Council's fresh start

Elections: New members give the body a chance to bury its bickering past and tackle town issues.

April 26, 2001

THE TOWN that James Rouse built has gone through much acrimony during the past few years. Hostility defined the Columbia Council, the closest thing to government in the city where Rouse dreamed that harmony would forever reign.

The council has been described as dysfunctional. Members have blasted one another during meetings and behind the scenes. The effort to choose a new president was a polarizing mess, and other bizarre fights broke out over legal fees and lien rates.

It's enough to make state Board of Public Works meetings with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer look like lovefests. One local organization, in fact, thought matters had gotten so far out of hand that its litmus test for endorsing candidates for the Columbia Council was congeniality.

Saturday's election brought five new members to the 10-member Columbia Council. Though some of those blamed for the discord remain, this new council has a chance to move beyond petty bickering.

Congeniality certainly would be welcome, but residents need both accord and accomplishment. The council, for example, must re-energize older villages, such as Oakland Mills, which recently suffered a blow when its supermarket closed.

Also on the agenda is a governance committee, which is studying how the town can operate more effectively. Members ought to encourage the committee to examine all possibilities, including incorporation, before issuing its report this summer.

First, the council needs leadership. When the panel selects a chairman May 10, it must pick someone who not only can get the board working together, but who will move it forward.

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