Council wraps up stormy year

Thoughts offered at final meeting

April 27, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

The Columbia Council that picked a president, nixed a big land deal and did a whole lot of arguing along the way met for one final time last night, five days after residents elected five new members to the 10-member board.

The outgoing council's main duty was to formalize Saturday's election results, appointing the winners to serve as members of the Columbia Association board of directors. The appointments are effective Tuesday, when the new council term begins.

But the evening turned into a succession of valedictory addresses, as council members looked back on a difficult year. They took pride in some accomplishments. Wished the new council well. And, in a few cases, managed to get in one or two last jabs at their council foes.

"It's been a long, bumpy ride, but it's been a growth experience for all of us," said Donna Rice of Town Center, whose two-year council term does not expire until April 2002.

Councilwoman Pearl Atkinson Stewart of Owen Brown, also halfway through a two-year term, thanked Councilman Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice for his service as chairman.

Morrison, who says he has not decided if he will seek the chairmanship again, was "open and fair to all who wanted to be a team player on the council," Stewart said.

Her comment seemed aimed, as least in part, at Councilwoman Cecilia Januszkiewicz of Long Reach, who battled Morrison for six weeks this year over access to the homeowners association's legal bills.

Januszkiewicz, who is giving up her seat, expressed dismay that some candidates in Saturday's elections ran not on issues, but on a promise to make the council more collegial.

"As a resident, I would be sorely disappointed if the emphasis on getting along resulted in a reluctance to discuss openly the challenges that confront Columbia," she said. "Without full and frank discussions, there can be no progress. Now is the time for vigorous debate of radical ideas that could transform the Columbia Association."

`Revolutionary thoughts'

Januszkiewicz went on to list "a few revolutionary thoughts": sell all CA assets except the pools and open space to eliminate the perpetual debate about subsidizing recreational facilities; establish a board of directors with three- or four-year terms; consider turning Columbia, a community of 87,000 governed by a homeowners association, into an incorporated city.

The council, which sets policies and the budget for the Columbia Association, struggled all year with the practical and political effects of Deborah O. McCarty's ouster as president of the association.

With her leadership and commitment to the community in question, McCarty resigned the $130,000-a-year job after most of her council supporters were defeated in April 2000 elections. She had held the post 20 months.

Troubled search

The council split - largely along anti- and pro-McCarty lines - over the search for her successor. A national search collapsed in January amid charges of racism.

The council also sharply divided over a plan to annex a future Rouse Co. development in North Laurel.

The discord centered not just on the merits of the plan, but on the fact that some council members were not informed of behind-the-scenes efforts by association staff to salvage the deal.

Eventually, the council wrapped up both matters. The council hired Maggie J. Brown, an association vice president, to serve as president in February. It let the land deal die in a 5-5 tie in November.

Councilman Vincent Marando of Wilde Lake, who did not run for re-election, said serious issues lurked behind the battles: the role of senior association staff; the dissemination of information to council members.

Marando said it was simplistic to call the council "dysfunctional." He described the discord as "part of an evolutionary process ... as we start to grab hold of our own community."

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