Council approves Kaufman nomination

Columbia resident to fill vacancy on school board

Howard County

October 08, 2003|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Joshua M. Kaufman was confirmed last night as Howard County's newest school board member by a unanimous vote of the County Council, despite opposition from an organized group that lobbied for an appointee with a background in local education.

The new board member said he will vote on the school system's capital budget request at his first official meeting tomorrow night.

Three council members expressed concern about whether Kaufman will devote enough time to the new job because he commutes daily to Washington, where he is a democracy specialist with the Agency for International Development.

"That's my only reservation," said Councilman Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, who noted that Kaufman did not attend a meeting yesterday morning of the council and the school board.

Western county Republican Allan H. Kittleman said he hesitated to approve "a candidate who has not shown a desire to be involved in the education community before the appointment."

He and Merdon, however, called Kaufman "level-headed and reasonable," and voted for him.

David A. Rakes, an east Columbia Democrat, defended Kaufman, noting that he is "an intelligent man" who undoubtedly has analyzed his time demands. "We think you bring something unique to this board," Rakes told Kaufman.

Kaufman said that he is pleased by his appointment, adding that school business "is my biggest priority from now on."

He said he had given his boss a list of his duties and time demands before applying for the job, and that his one-hour commute won't interfere with his board responsibilities.

Kaufman, 32, of Columbia, was chosen by County Executive James N. Robey to fill a vacancy created by the resignation in summer of elected board member Virginia Charles.

Leaders of the 28,000-strong PTA Council testified against the appointment last month, arguing that someone who has been active in school affairs should be chosen. Howard's five-member school board is elected, but two members resigned for personal reasons over the past several years.

In other matters last night:

The council approved a bill that would allow developers to renovate some older homes to fulfill the county's moderate-income housing requirement, instead of building all new ones. Under changes adopted last night, these older residences can make up no more than 20 percent of the project's quota for moderate-income housing, except for those developers building fewer than six moderate-income units.

Sponsored by Merdon and Rakes, the measure is designed to help remove eyesores - neglected homes that may help spread blight in older communities.

A second housing bill, also sponsored by Merdon, would increase the minimum number of units that an adult-housing property must have before it can restrict residents by age. The bill is designed to address the fears of residents in older, single-family-home communities who fear adult-housing projects will be squeezed into incompatible neighborhoods.

Under the bill, the minimum size of such special zoning projects would be raised from 20 units to 50 units - but only in the four zones normally restricted to single-family detached homes.

Approved a measure to sharply increase the price that can be paid for land designated for agricultural preservation, to $20,000 an acre. The current rate is $7,200. Officials hope this will attract more farmland into the preservation program. With residentially zoned land selling for up to $100,000 an acre in Howard County, farmers have been reluctant to give up development rights.

Tabled a bill that would ban roadside vendors in the county.

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