Candidates for council trade barbs

Lancos, Sigaty, Ulman attend standing-room forum in Wilde Lake

District 4 primary election

Education issues, budget problems are put to Democrats, Republican

Howard County

September 06, 2002|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

With Tuesday's primary election looming, smiles were common, but loaded questions were too at last night's standing-room-only forum for the three west Columbia District 4 County Council candidates held at Wilde Lake's Slayton House.

Two liberal Democrats -- Mary Kay Sigaty and Kenneth S. Ulman -- are battling for their party's nomination in the heavily Democratic district, with Republican Joan Lancos running unopposed.

With the 28-year-old Ulman's huge advantage in money, advertising and endorsements, it was the last chance for Sigaty, 52, to make her case.

Ulman was asked what the pictures and testimonials of his wife, Jaki, and brother Doug in his campaign literature have to do with his qualifications for the job.

"I guess that wasn't a supporter," Ulman responded to laughter, as he wished aloud for a return to "more substantive questions. I think family is important," he said.

Sigaty and Lancos had to explain their roles in the transfer three years ago of about 50 pupils from diverse Wilde Lake Middle School to a much newer, less diverse school. The episode caused a furor when the move -- with parents hiring buses -- came to light.

Sigaty said that because Wilde Lake Middle wasn't lacking for pupils, she felt denying parents the right to transfer was wrong.

Lancos said it was the parents' action in leaving Wilde Lake that finally moved the school board to fix problems at the school and bring in a new principal.

Ulman called the transfer "a bad decision," and said he'd have convened a news conference to highlight problems at the school.

And even a seemingly innocent question to all -- About how many of current Councilwoman Mary C. Lorsung's Columbia revitalization committee meetings have they attended? -- had a hook. Lorsung is a Sigaty supporter.

Lancos and Sigaty -- both longtime Columbia residents -- said they have attended since last year.

Ulman, who has been an advocate of revitalization, said he'd never been to any of the meetings.

The candidates staked out new ground, too.

Ulman repeated several times that he will be "a much more forceful, strong advocate for this district." You don't need a committee to fix a broken streetlight, he said. As councilman, he would just "pick up a phone" and get things like that done.

Howard has "been left out of the regional mass transit system," Ulman said, and though no candidate favored incorporating Columbia as an independent town, Ulman said Columbia's system of governance is "fairly dysfunctional," with 10 Columbia Council members constantly bickering and, he said, presiding over the only golf courses in the nation that lose money.

Sigaty called for demolishing Howard High and building a new school rather than turn a $4 million renovation project into a $12 million one, which when done would still be difficult to navigate for someone in a wheelchair.

Lancos criticized the glitzy features at the new Reservoir High, because they create jealousy and encourage people to abandon older schools.

"I don't think we need every building to be a Taj Mahal," she said.

And in answer to another question, Sigaty and Ulman both pledged to support the winner, regardless of who comes out on top in their primary.

Asked the difference in this race between a Democrat and a Republican, Lancos pointed to the projected $1 billion state budget deficit.

"I can't support a governor who did to [his wife] Francis Anne what he did. A woman my age! It just makes me mad," Lancos said.

She referred to Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, who divorced his wife and married his much younger chief of staff.

Ulman, who has stressed his ties to Glendening, then shot back that he's "not at all excited" about going along with President Bush, whose tax cut helped push the federal budget back into deficit.

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