Howard Week

December 07, 2003

District judges boost community service court referrals

Caught driving 92 mph on Interstate 95, John Swider won a no-points reprieve from Howard District Judge Sue-Ellen Hantman - only to learn that it would cost him 27 hours of community service. The 34-year-old scuba instructor from Washington tried to beg off, but the judge wouldn't budge.

That philosophy has recently shaped the practices of Howard's newest District Court judge in minor traffic cases - and, in the process, swelled the ranks of volunteers available to government agencies and nonprofit groups in the region.

Howard's judges have always been supportive of the community service program as a sentencing alternative, said Neil E. Dorsey, who oversees the program through the Howard sheriff's office. But with the addition of Hantman to the five-member District Court bench in January - and Judge Pamila J. Brown eight months before - the number of referrals has jumped.

Ex-theme park pondered in renewal of U.S. 40 strip

As Howard County officials consider beautification plans for the U.S. 40 retail strip in Ellicott City, others are pondering the fate of a tiny corner - the Enchanted Forest, the former storybook-themed amusement park.

Only 2 or 3 acres remain of the site, which opened in the mid-1950s and closed in the late 1980s. The park, sold to JHP Development Inc., reopened briefly in the mid-1990s. Some see a restored park as a possible boon to the commercial strip.

A critical Merdon votes `no' on Guzzone

Republican Christopher J. Merdon threw down a political gauntlet at Monday night's Howard County Council meeting by publicly denouncing Democratic Chairman Guy Guzzone's leadership over the past year - and then voting alone against him for another one-year term in the leadership job.

Both men, along with Republican Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, are considered possible candidates for county executive in three years, though Merdon said that is not why he made his unusual move.

Guzzone was confirmed as chairman for a second consecutive year on the 4-1 vote. He and Democratic Party Chairwoman Wendy Fiedler attributed Merdon's action to his political ambitions. Merdon said after the meeting that he had expected to be chosen chairman by a 3-2 margin.

Lawyer Dyer plans to seek Board of Education seat

Allen Dyer, an Ellicott City attorney best known for bringing lawsuits against the Howard County Board of Education, announced Tuesday that he will run for one of two open school board seats next year.

"The one thing I'm zeroed in on as far as being a Board of Education member is to bring that operation more into the open," said Dyer, a strong proponent of open government and a critic of the school board's meeting practices.

Several others have announced intentions to run for the school board, including Northfield Elementary School PTA Vice President Robert Ballinger and former teacher and County Council candidate Mary Kay Sigaty. Diane Mikulis, who has been a neighborhood writer for The Sun, also plans to run. Her last column appeared Thursday.

Legislation could change the way CA operates

In response to residents' outcry about high Columbia Association assessment costs, Del. Shane E. Pendergrass, a Howard Democrat, has drafted two bills that would drastically change how the homeowners organization operates.

One bill would impose a 10 percent ceiling on the change in property assessments. The other would allow a majority of property owners to amend the association's covenants - a significant change from the current requirement of unanimous approval from all property owners.

Biography of Rouse: `sympathetic, not uncritical'

Despite being a well-known social architect, developer James W. Rouse - the founder of Columbia - had never had his life's story told in print.

But seven years after his death, the first biography of the businessman - Better Places, Better Lives by Joshua Olsen - tells a comprehensive story of the revered man, from his childhood in Easton to his death in 1996 at age 81. Olsen, a Laurel native who lives in Washington, said the approach he took writing the book was to be "sympathetic but not uncritical."

The book will be released in the spring.

Assault by SUV yields sentence of 7 years

A Howard Circuit Court judge handed down a seven-year prison term Thursday to a North Laurel man who ran over Dennis Roy, 45, with his sport utility vehicle on New Year's Eve.

Steven R. Smith, 49, pleaded guilty to first-degree assault in September as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors that allowed him to avoid more serious attempted murder charges.

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