Howard Week

April 13, 2003

School spending slashed 37 percent in capital budget

School system officials got their hands on Howard County Executive James N. Robey's recommended capital budget Tuesday, and they didn't like what they discovered in the plan that slashes their proposed spending by 37 percent.

Chief Business Officer Bruce Venter announced during a Board of Education meeting Thursday that he had found $700,000 in unannounced cuts, on top of the $32.7 million in reductions he was told to expect in a news release from Robey's office.

"This is a serious situation for us this year," Venter said.

Last year, 12.5 percent of the board's recommendations were not funded.

2 councilmen lobbying to fund 12th high school

Two Howard County councilmen and a school board member are on the campaign trail again, but this time they are lobbying for something other than their own elections.

Christopher J. Merdon and Allan H. Kittleman, the only council Republicans, have been setting up appointments with school PTAs and groups of parents in search of backing for an expensive plan that would return funding for Howard's 12th high school to the county's proposed capital budget.

County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat, cut funding for the school because he said capital requests for schools and other projects far exceeded the county's financial capacity.

Now, Merdon and Kittleman hope to persuade at least one of the three Democrats on the five-member County Council to join them in overruling Robey's decision and provide funding for the school, which school board members, administrators and politicians agree is needed to relieve crowding.

Prosecutorial outreach to have a different look

In a sharp turn from the previous use of prosecutors in a nationally praised outreach effort, Howard State's Attorney Timothy J. McCrone has hired a public relations specialist who also acted as treasurer and an adviser in his political campaign to be a point man for the office's community prosecution program.

T. Wayne Kirwan, 51, who runs a consulting business, has been working part time with the office for the past few weeks and will handle public relations while also working with the office's community justice coordinator on the state's attorney's outreach efforts.

Under McCrone's predecessor, Marna L. McLendon, the state's attorney's community outreach program relied heavily on the involvement of the office's assistant state's attorneys, each of whom was assigned to an area of the county and required to make community contacts, attend meetings and submit monthly reports.

Odum seeks re-election, and plans to move

To Linda Odum, representative democracy isn't about where you live. Odum, 61, is running for re-election to the Long Reach village seat on the Columbia Council, but she is planning to move to Wilde Lake village before her two-year term would end.

Her opponent is questioning her likely distance from her constituents, but Odum argues she is qualified to represent Long Reach, regardless of where she lives.

Odum, the council vice chairwoman, pointed out that she has lived in Columbia for 32 years - 13 of those in Long Reach. "I don't see how turning off my bedside table light in another village is going to erase all the experience and the concerns I have in Long Reach," she said.

County's chief planner becoming a pioneer

Marsha McLaughlin 54, became Howard County's planning director this week after 12 years as the deputy.

She spent the past few months handling both jobs while leaders searched for a replacement for Joseph W. Rutter Jr., who left in January to take over Anne Arundel County's planning efforts.

In some important ways, McLaughlin is a Maryland planning pioneer. Howard County appears likely to be among the first in the state to be filled to capacity, as defined by the county's master plan. How Howard copes with that turning point is certain to be watched closely by planners elsewhere across the state.

Likely radar-camera veto displeases county officials

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. indicated that he is likely to veto legislation to allow local jurisdictions to use automatic speed enforcement cameras, a move that would be a frustrating defeat for Howard County Executive James N. Robey and others seeking tools to fight an epidemic of speeding on suburban roads.

Robey said speeding in residential neighborhoods and around schools is "the most frequently recurring complaint I get" from county residents.

Howard tests of the new cameras last year showed high proportions of speeders around schools. County police had hoped to park cameras along 22 county roads where speeding is common. At the top of the list is College Avenue in Ellicott City. Enforcing speed limits along its treacherous, shoulderless hills is nearly impossible.

Ground-display fireworks banned by County Council

Howard County joined three other Baltimore-area communities in prohibiting the sale and possession of ground-display fireworks after the three Democratic councilmen voted in favor of the ban at last week's County Council meeting.

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