Howard Week

April 28, 2002

Challenger defeats Columbia Council chairman in vote

In a surprising Columbia Council election upset, the chairman lost his seat April 20 to a challenger who belongs to a group that advocates changes in the association's image and practices.

Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice defeated incumbent Lanny Morrison, 234-208, in a victory for the citizens group Alliance for a Better Columbia.

The other two Alliance candidates vying for council seats did not fare so well. In Hickory Ridge, incumbent Miles Coffman easily beat challenger Joel Yesley, 245-89. In Owen Brown, incumbent Pearl Atkinson-Stewart defeated challenger Barry Blyveis, 270-167.

Maglev plans prompt political bickering

Howard County's state delegates are bickering over who opposed the suddenly widely criticized Maglev train when it really counted - and who is a convenient convert.

The dispute - reducing a nationally watched pilot transportation experiment to a local election-year backyard fight - is a classic example of the old political dictum that "all politics is local."

Republican Del. Donald E. Murphy says two of his Democrat colleagues, Frank S. Turner and Shane Pendergrass, are "Johnny-come-latelys" who became opponents two weeks after voting to keep $2.8 million in Maglev planning funds in the state budget.

Turner and Pendergrass say their conversion was an honest one as they learned more about the project and its proposed route though parts of Howard - thanks in part to Murphy.

Possible Maglev route changed to avoid Emerson

Maryland transportation officials have shifted the possible route of a proposed Maglev train through southern Howard County to minimize contact with the Rouse Co.'s upscale Emerson development, but the move hasn't mollified opponents.

County Councilman Guy J. Guzzone and Del. Shane Pendergrass met with state transportation officials Thursday, and Rouse executives got a briefing on the new route Friday, they said.

The Rouse Co. remains staunchly opposed to a route that would follow Interstate 95, although the altered route would skirt building lots in Rouse's 570-acre, mixed-use Emerson development, which straddles I-95 at Route 216. Two other proposed routes would cut through Anne Arundel County.

Although the new alignment might not traverse lots in Emerson, it would pass so close to homes and churches in communities such as Huntington, Guilford, Hammonds Promise and Lennox Park in Dorsey that it would affect people living there.

Development, dumping concern Elkridge residents

A proposed business development and continued dumping on a former Superfund site just off Interstate 95 have Elkridge in an uproar.

Residents rallied in front of a Howard County government building, distributed fliers in the community and streamed into a hearing with signs.

Some had just learned that they live near land where hazardous waste has been illegally dumped. They're outraged that a developer wants to build an office and industrial park on the 25-acre site on the west side of Interstate 95 at Route 103.

Recreation fund used to help general budget

Tight fiscal times have pushed Howard County Executive James N. Robey to take $1.7 million accumulated in a recreation and parks fund to bail out the county's leaky budget boat.

The move has raised the ire of recreation advocates, though Robey defends it as something he had to do for the county's general welfare in a difficult revenue year. The executive pledged Monday that "no recreation and parks program will suffer."

But several present and former recreation board members are angry that during the past decade, the county has forced recreation officials to raise an ever-increasing share of their annual budget by charging fees to the public, and now that those funds have accumulated, the county is taking the money.

Graduation time changed for religious reasons

Howard County school officials have changed the time of Oakland Mills High School's graduation to accommodate students whose religious practices might have conflicted with the original schedule.

Oakland Mills had planned to graduate its Class of 2002 at 8 p.m. May 31. But after learning from numerous community members that Jewish and Seventh-day Adventist students would be unable to attend, administrators set a precedent by juggling graduation rehearsals and event times to ensure that all students have a chance to walk across the stage. The new time is 10 a.m. May 31.

Officials take closer look at plan for 15 schools

Last month, Howard County school officials unveiled a plan to improve performance in its struggling schools and eliminate a so-called achievement gap. Though it was called "bold" and "audacious" by some, it was a work in progress - more sizzle than steak.

On Thursday night, board members and top school officials met to digest the unfolding details of the plan, how it is progressing and what administrators and teachers are saying about it. The Comprehensive Plan for Accelerated School Improvement - which will target the county's 15 schools with the lowest test scores or highest percentages of poor students - essentially involves more accountability from teachers, principals and central office staff.

School Improvement Plans will be rewritten, with central office help. Teachers will take more compulsory training. Data will be equally shared between schools and the central office.

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