Howard Week

May 12, 2002

Public hearing on schools budget doesn't draw many

A relatively small group of Howard County parents and community members turned out to ask the County Council on May 4 to try to come up with more money for schools next year.

About 45 people - many of those school system officials or employees - attended a 75-minute public hearing on the proposed operating and capital budgets for fiscal year 2003. In past years, similar school budget hearings have lasted four hours or more because of the number of citizens wishing to speak.

Although several budget items are facing the chopping block because of a gap between what Superintendent John R. O'Rourke says the schools need and what County Executive James N. Robey says the county can afford, the usual crowd of school supporters stayed home.

Forum's message: Fight racism and bigotry

Telling anyone who would give up a sunny spring afternoon to attend a forum on prejudice that hatred is alive in post-Sept. 11 America is a bit like preaching to the choir, acknowledged Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. "But you have to tell someone about it. ... You have to do something about it," the Baltimore Democrat told an audience May 5.

The forum, "We Are One Community," was intended to encourage people to do just that. Held at Howard Community College and sponsored by a variety of groups, including Maryland State Police and the U.S. Department of Justice, the event was designed to raise awareness but mainly to encourage people to act against racism and bigotry.

Much of the dialogue focused on Arab-Americans. While hate crimes in general have risen nearly 12 percent since September's terrorist attacks, according to a Department of Justice official, many of the most notorious crimes, such as the killings of turban-wearing Sikhs, have been directed against people of Arab or South Asian descent.

School system acting on consultant's report

Howard County school system leaders have implemented a number of recommendations from a consultant's audit of the school district completed last year, and plan to offer a more comprehensive assessment of the report's recommendations in September, the Board of Education was told Thursday.

Top administrators have almost completed their review of the audit, school officials said. Superintendent John R. O'Rourke will tell the county Board of Education in the fall which of the consultant's 123 recommendations are practical and feasible to carry out, which have been done and which will not be done.

Missing man's family has him declared dead

Nine years ago, Dae Won Kim, an immigrant from South Korea living in Columbia, went by himself to Atlantic City, N.J., to play the slots and return in a few days - a trip not unlike others he had made. But he never came home.

On Monday, with Kim still listed as missing, his wife and older son appeared in Howard Court Circuit Court to ask Judge Dennis M. Sweeney to declare him dead, which would allow them to legally close his estate and move on with their lives.

Sweeney said Monday - before signing a finding of presumed death - "It's very tragic that no explanation can be given. ... I'm sure in Atlantic City many people are reported missing who later turn up in other situations. Unfortunately, this is not one of those cases."

Few people apply to join boundary lines panel

Boundary Lines Advisory Committee members struggled last year through 10 months of the first all-public-school redistricting process in Howard County history. They worked through the summer, some holidays, long nights and weekends. Some were cornered in the grocery store by angry parents. A few lost friends.

That appears to be why school district officials, trying to convene a second redistricting committee, had received only one application to join the group by the May 3 deadline. By Tuesday there were nine - still not enough for a full committee - so the system has extended the deadline to May 18.

Farmer's Market opens at two new locations

Laura Johnson began her weekly trips to the Howard County Farmer's Market on Tuesday - the market's opening day - buying fresh apples because the fruit is "so disgusting in the grocery store."

On the parking lot of the Mount Pisgah African Methodist Episcopal Church in Columbia - one of the market's two new homes - Johnson joined a steady stream of customers buying produce and plants under the farmers' tents, beginning the six-month season at what farmers and customers hope will become permanent sites.

The Tuesday market will operate at the church, off Cedar Fern Court, through Oct. 29. The Thursday market opened at the east Columbia library, 6600 Cradlerock Way, and will run through Nov. 21.

Howard gets $4.5 million more for schools from Md.

Despite the economic downturn, Howard County got more additional state school construction money Wednesday than any other Baltimore-area jurisdiction.

The $4.5 million in added state money will replace local funding for several school projects, giving County Executive James N. Robey several options, according to Raymond S. Wacks, the county budget director. Robey can reduce borrowing for the proposed $97.1 million capital budget, or he can pay for more projects, such as the postponed renovations to the Circuit Court building or the Blandair mansion.

The action means Howard County will have received $73 million in state school construction funds in four years, roughly double the amount the county received during the previous four years.

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