Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

February 22, 2004

Pendergrass bill needs more study

After much thought and deliberation, I would like to express my opinion on a subject of major importance to the residents of Columbia. I have followed the discussion concerning HB 567 very carefully and I am disturbed by the divisive nature of this debate.

I am opposed to the timing of HB 567, which changes the voting procedure needed to amend the Columbia Association's covenants. While I understand and support the concept behind this legislation, I also believe we need more time to study the issue before any specific changes are made.

The Columbia Association Board of Directors and a majority of the village boards voted to oppose this legislation after Del. Shane Pendergrass [a Howard Democrat], sponsor of the bill, denied their request to postpone this bill for further study. I believe this request was both reasonable and necessary, and I also believe this request should have been honored. I am confident that further discussion will prevent any unintended consequences that may adversely impact the future of Columbia. Change is often good, but judicious change is always better.

To this end, I am asking Delegate Pendergrass to reconsider her decision and postpone this legislation until next year. I would like to propose the creation of a task force to study the process and impact of any voting procedure change. Task force members should include one representative from each of Columbia's ten villages and one member appointed by the Columbia Association management. Public input should be encouraged and the task force should report their findings at a public hearing at the end of a specified term.

The task force may well determine that HB 567, as written, is sufficient, but that determination should only be made after a careful review and thoughtful discussion by Columbia residents.

The task force will provide a framework for cooperation, consensus and positive change; hallmarks of the very foundation on which Columbia was built. I hope you will support my effort to restore reason to this debate and harmony to the villages of Columbia.

I welcome any comments, suggestions, or questions you might have.

Sen. Sandra B. Schrader

Howard County, Republican, District 13

CA board members, top staff at odds

Columbia Association Board Chair Miles Coffman claims we on the board regularly "beat up on" members of the staff, but he has that backwards. Moreover, his timing of last Thursday's consideration of allegations against me by CA's President was not in the interest of Columbians as a whole.

The board has been dealing with the most complex budget process in decades, and the time could thus have been better spent. We have a first-time multi-year budget. We have staff proposing a high, 8.5 percent increase in operating expenses when inflation is under 2 percent. And most importantly, we have a popular "caps" bill filed by Del. Pendergrass with a potential $5 million-plus impact on the budget. Plenty to discuss. Some of the allegations against me go back as much as ten months, and Ms. Brown wrote Mr. Coffman before Christmas. Except to distract board and public, I do not understand Mr. Coffman's haste.

Aptly scheduled or not, with Mr. Coffman's prospect or not, Thursday's discussion did surface the real issue. It is not that I verbally harassed any staff members, which I did not, but that the senior staff, far from being "beat up on" have and exhibit a nasty attitude toward many members of the unpaid board.

We on the board each spend 15 or 20 hours during a typical week on CA business. That includes reading reports, attending Council and Board meetings, CA committee meetings, village board meetings, and meeting in person with members of the community we serve plus e-mails and phone calls. None of us has to. None of us gets paid. We do it for the community.

Yet, as pointed out by my friends on the Board, we are frequently met by staff stonewalling on requests for information, muttered comment by staff at board meetings and sometimes more. The senior staff -- and I am referring to the President, VPs and Division Directors, not the folk who clear snow, mow lawns and clean gyms -- are highly paid and eager to keep their comfortable and well-paid positions. They look at the volunteer board as interlopers. A recent set of shameful verbal assaults on a board member show staff's attitude.

Staff misbehavior rarely becomes public, because the board must discuss it, if at all, in closed sessions as a personnel matter. Apparently board members are one down from the staff, because one-sided allegation against a board member like me can be brought up by the Chair in public if he wants to.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.