Howard Week

April 07, 2002

Cellular phone towers are taking root in residential areas

After years of tucking cellular telephone antennas on commercial properties, telecommunications companies are proposing several towers in Howard County's residential areas - catching neighbors' attention and occasionally their wrath.

The county's Board of Appeals approved at least two towers on residential land in the past six months and will hear three more requests soon. All are outside Howard's urban core. Most are or would be on farms.

County planners are counting the reasons: more drivers with cellular phones, more cellular companies, and - in rural western Howard - few commercial parcels.

Candidates reaching out in several languages

Howard County's growing diversity is popping up in this year's political campaigns, from last week's Muslim-sponsored fund-raiser for County Executive James N. Robey, to the Spanish and Chinese translations Republican Steven H. Adler is promising for his Web site.

"We're going to try to be diverse," said Adler, Robey's rival for county executive. He says he plans to upgrade his Web site to link the activities of all Republicans in the county and offer translations in Spanish, Chinese and perhaps eventually Korean.

Robey's fund-raiser at a Columbia hotel followed one sponsored by Korean-American members of the community and a large business-sponsored event in January.

Robey seeks bonds to fund schools, other projects

Howard County wants to borrow more but spend less on bricks-and-mortar projects next fiscal year, according to a proposed capital budget released Monday by County Executive James N. Robey.

Almost all that is borrowed will finance new public school or community college seats, Robey said, while maintenance and infrastructure projects will be delayed.

Adding $7.9 million in state school construction funding - compared with $25 million last year - grants and county bonds, almost all school requests will be satisfied, he said. Nearly two-thirds of the capital budget would go to public schools and Howard Community College.

The executive's proposal calls for spending $97.1 million, two-thirds of this year's total and substantially less than the $130 million requested. Roughly half the funds would come from borrowing via municipal bond sales - $5.6 million more than was borrowed this year.

School board plan to narrow achievement gap is praised

Howard County Council members seemed delighted Tuesday with an ambitious school board plan to attack the achievement gap among students in county schools.

The plan, outlined by school officials last month, aims to have at least 70 percent of Howard's students scoring at the satisfactory level on state standardized tests by 2005, and to eliminate the achievement gap among white, black and Hispanic students by 2007. Although emphasizing efforts to improve student performance in every county school, the plan targets 15.

But a key to this plan is that it is aimed at all children who need help - not just those in certain schools. "We know we have some kids in every school that have needs," said Kimberly Statham, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Language classes focus on parents and children

There are prep courses in Howard County for law school, college, even high school. And, now, there's one for kindergarten, too.

The class, "English for Speakers of Other Languages for Families," is designed for preschool immigrant children and their families to prepare for the first year of school. Elizabeth Coppolino, the project manager who also teaches part of the class, said it is geared for parents as much as children.

"Everyone is behind the curve, and that's the whole point: to get Mom and Dad and child prepared for the next level," she said.

Educators say the class, which is run by Howard Community College instructors and paid for with nearly $25,000 in HCC funds and State Department of Education grants, is the only one of its kind in the area. Most ESOL classes cater to children or parents, but few focus on both, they say.

Pamila J. Brown appointed judge of District Court

Pamila J. Brown, an assistant attorney general with a long history of community involvement, was appointed Thursday to the Howard County District Court bench.

Brown, one of five diverse finalists for the job whose names were forwarded to Gov. Parris N. Glendening in January, will fill the vacancy created by District Court Chief Judge James N. Vaughan's promotion in September.

Glendening's decision to pick Brown, 47, a nominee for District Court openings in the mid-1990s, was lauded by her bosses and by members of Howard County's legal and African-American communities. She is the third African-American to be appointed to a Howard County judgeship.

Shopping center proposed for Dorsey's Search on hold

A developer who wants to build a strip shopping mall across from Dorsey's Search Village Center put those plans on hold last week after neighbors objected and Howard County planners recommended the project be rejected.

But that is not expected to be the last word for either side. The developer still hopes to build the center in some form, while village officials and merchants have hired lawyers to try to stop the project.

"Our plan of action is, just assume that at any time the petitioner could choose to have it put back on the agenda," said Deborah Seate, chairwoman of the Dorsey's Search Village Board, which is concerned about increased traffic, "visual clutter" and the health of its village center.

Timothy J. McCrone, a lawyer for Security Development of Ellicott City, said the company hopes to devise a plan that the village will accept.

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