Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

October 19, 2003

Budget problems caused by Democrats

The tax and spend mania that characterizes Howard County government is a direct spin off of what has been going on in the top ten deficit states in the United States. The American Enterprise Institute has released statistics that make a clear connection between Democratic Party controlled states and large budget deficits.

If one looks at the data, it is clear that in the ten highest deficit states (all Democratic) tax revenues increased at about 5 percent per year over the last decade. Yet, with all of that revenue growth, enormous deficits were created.

In contrast, the ten states that are the most fiscally sound had tax revenue growth of 1.5 percent per year over the previous decade. Why were these states so fiscally sound - responsible budget and spending controls? They bit the spending bullet.

Howard County is a microcosm of the tax and spend craze that has caused so many problems in state and local governments. Democratic officials have shown too little regard for taxpayers' money.

Part of the reason is that Howard County is blessed with an abundance of wealthy citizens. There is an inherent belief on the part of county officials that the tax bar can be raised with little or no pain to those who must pay.

Another significant factor is that in a time of declining revenues due to the stock market, the word "restraint" seemed to vanish from the county government's vocabulary. There was never an attempt to balance the books with existing revenues. Political courage just disappeared.

Now we have two of the three Democratic members of the Howard County council bemoaning the budget cuts recommended by the Board of Education. County taxpayers would be well advised to remember their irresponsible behavior and hold them accountable.

Carl LaVerghetta

Ellicott City

Assessments help Columbia succeed

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about Columbia's governance accountability and the value that residents get from their assessments. These two topics are interrelated.

Columbia is unique as compared to most places in our country. One of the first, if not the first, planned communities, today it is home to over 96,000 residents.

While planned communities are more common, they still remain special. Today, millions of families live in planned communities in every state of the union. Columbia is not even the largest planned community.

These communities use various forms of governance based on their state laws, charters and deeds of trust. No one form is necessarily more correct than the other.

Columbia's governance is based on elected representation, not unlike our national model. Each village elects their own representative and each representative has an equal vote in the oversight of the Columbia Association (CA). Since CA and the Villages are not government agencies, this is an acceptable and appropriate form of choosing our leadership.

This system has worked for 36 years with only one charter change in 1982 with only a minor amount of confusion. Why has this governance structure worked?

The governance of Columbia and its Villages is the most open governance process possible. Columbia should not be a noun. It should be a verb. Columbia is activism at its extreme. Columbia was developed by Jim Rouse, who believed it would be a better place if people cared and love one another. Columbia's success is the embodiment of this philosophy.

Mr. Rouse got people to care for one another by getting them involved with each other. The Village structure insures that people get to know each other at the local level.

The 23 outdoor swimming pools give the people a place for their families to interact. The pathways and tot lots help families congregate together in their local neighborhoods. The health and fitness facilities provide locations where we can exercise and play together.

Today, all these concepts are accepted and taken for granted by most residents. Ultimately, all of these factors create an environment that encourages volunteerism.

During the 36 years of its existence, Columbia has had over 100 people serve on its Council/Board and several hundred serve on its sub-committees. The Villages have had over 500 people serve on their Boards and several hundred serve on their RAC's and other sub-committees.

Most of these people still live in Columbia and are proud to call it home. These people and many others are just some of the volunteers that Columbia and the Villages depend on to make our community the caring place it is.

If Columbia was an incorporated city, would it be able to generate the passions and feelings with dedicated bureaucrats running all the functions of the community? It is doubtful.

Just stop by the Howard County Volunteer Center at CA Headquarters. You will be amazed how many volunteer organizations and how many people are making positive impacts on the lives of people in Columbia and Howard County.

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