Letters to the Editor

Letters to the Editor

August 29, 2004

Time for the YMCA to stash the slogans

My family relocated to Howard County over six years ago. In that time period, we have fought three zoning battles.

We moved here because of the school system, the diversity, my husband's employment and promise of a safe, quiet and beautiful environment. Clearly, one has to fight for what one wants from life, but this is getting ridiculous.

When we moved to VFW Lane, we were excited by the fact that we had easy access to roads, stores, and a YMCA. We also came to realize quite quickly that we had wonderful neighbors - not only the families who lived in the homes, but the VFW Post as well.

The "V," as it is affectionately known in these parts, has never held an event or made a policy change without considering the subsequent effects upon our little community. They even placed a speed bump on the edge of their property to warn patrons of the recent presence of small children in the neighborhood.

The VFW sits on 30+ acres of prime real estate, yet they have never wavered from their rule not to sell out to developers. Yet, in an effort to broker a deal between the DOE, YMCA, and landowners, both on Montgomery Road and the VFW neighborhoods, they have kindly offered to sell some of their acreage.

Actions speak louder than slogans. The VFW, DOE and the "stronger families" in the neighborhoods have all negotiated in good faith to find a solution that would be fair and amicable to all parties involved. It is time for the YMCA to stash the slogans and come to the table with something that makes the community stronger.

Carol A. McKissick

Ellicott City

Howard has a duty to help impoverished

Sun staff writer Eric Siegel's story concerning recent studies identifying Baltimore as an economically "stressed" city (Aug. 19) and the published letter of Rev. Martin Burnham citing the undercurrent of intolerance and unfounded fears in resident objections to moderate income senior housing as part of a Waverly Woods development in Howard County (Aug. 15) together identify the troubling link between the woes of poor City residents and objections to adequate affordable housing in wealthy suburban communities.

Among many alarming aspects of the Brookings study cited by Siegel is the difference between Baltimore's urban poverty rate (22.9 percent) and neighboring suburban poverty rates (5.4 percent), a disparity among the largest in the country.

Our region's acceptance of abject, generational poverty and substandard education in parts of Baltimore, and the refusal in wealthy neighboring suburbs like Howard to be a very small part of the solution to the plight of the working poor by not welcoming even a small percentage of low-income families and individuals into our communities, warrants serious self-examination by each of us.

Joel Williams

Owen Brown

How Columbians got a break on CA levy

In the beginning, relieving East Columbia's CA "tax" burden faced much opposition. In June and July 2003, Columbia Council members from East Columbia began to comment about the increases of one-third or more in CA annual tax-like levies. Council members Coffman, O'Connor, Rice and especially and surprisingly Atkinson-Stewart, herself from an east side village, belittled those concerns. They said that other villages had previously had increases in real estate values and hence levies. Others from the east, Russell, Hlass and Marcus, were grateful for the verbal support they got from west side members Schneider and Greenwood.

There was surprise on the Council and Board when Pres. Brown announced she had on her own directed the General Counsel, aided by outside lawyers, to seek [an] IRS opinion whether it would be legal to render rebates or discounts to east side payers. It is puzzling why she did this, since it did not square with her mantra that CA needed every nickel it could collect, repeated in public and in Council through the start of 2004.

One Council member, Ms. Russell, besides being outspoken in her concern for east side payers, also raised questions with state Delegate Shane Pendergrass. Would she ask the state Attorney General to issue an opinion whether CA's covenant allowed the Board to implement caps and phase- ins? Soon thereafter, Council member Russell received a great deal of pressure from some other Council members for individually requesting this opinion through Delegate Pendergrass.

In August 2003, Delegate Pendergrass began to float the idea of legislatively enabling CA to establish caps and phase-ins on levy increases, which CA's covenant prohibited, and making them retroactive. Del. Elizabeth Bobo expressed a similar interest. Pres. Brown and CFO Siddiqui told Pendergrass and Bobo, in an arranged meeting attended also by three Council members, why this would be much to the financial distress of the CA.

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