Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 12, 2004

Zoning process a chance to guide

Our community faces times of change, but with change comes opportunity. A number of recent events - last year's Zoning Board hearings on Columbia's residential density, the current proposal for new commercial development in Town Center, and the sale of the Rouse Co. - have raised many questions about the future of Columbia.

The County Council will hold two public hearings on New Town Zoning to give the citizens of Columbia and Howard County an opportunity to voice their opinions and express their vision for the future of our community. Citizen testimony will provide critical input as the County Council examines New Town Zoning and considers possible changes.

Important challenges face us, such as the future of Merriweather Post Pavilion, the development of the 60-acre parcel behind the pavilion, the future development of downtown Columbia, and many other issues which impact Columbia as a whole.

Zoning and land use are critical to how we live. What is built, or not built, on the land helps define the way we live, work and play. Zoning decisions affect how we educate our children, where we will be able to live as we grow older, and how we interact with our neighbors and our community.

As Columbia continues to mature, new challenges such as revitalizing older neighborhoods emerge, and zoning should provide a framework for this process. New Town Zoning was a visionary and successful tool to create a wonderful town. The time has now come for the citizens to define the vision Columbia should embrace moving forward.

The Rouse Co. has done a remarkable job building Columbia, and I am proud to be a product of Jim Rouse's vision of a community based on the values of acceptance, diversity and opportunity. My wife, Jaki, and I are proud to raise our daughter here, and I am honored to represent West Columbia on the County Council.

I am approaching these hearings in a deliberate and serious manner, looking for constructive opinions and comments which will help the County Council determine the best zoning construct to ensure that Columbia continues its legacy of bringing out the best in each resident and our community as a whole.

I look forward to hearing from the citizens of Howard County on Monday, Sept. 13, at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room at the George Howard Building, 3430 Court House Drive, Ellicott City, and on Thursday, Sept. 23, at 7:30 p.m. at Slayton House in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

Ken Ulman

Howard County councilman

Working together for continued success

The Howard County Public School System is poised to have an excellent 2004-2005 school year guided by the stable leadership of Superintendent Dr. Sydney Cousin. Howard County is fortunate to have the No. 1 school system in the state and has reached this position with the help of dedicated teachers, involved parents, strong business partners, the support of our elected leaders, active volunteers and the board. Some of the positive results of the past year include:

Earned the position of No. 1 school system in the state of Maryland with the highest scores on the Maryland School Assessments.

A 16 percent increase in the teacher confidence level in the Board of Education (Howard County Education Association survey).

Greater fiscal oversight through a more rigorous budget review process that includes an advisory committee headed by certified public accountants, as well as a new board auditing function to start this year.

96 percent of our schools met the federal government's standard for Adequate Yearly Progress.

The county's 12th high school is $5 million under budget and scheduled to open on time.

Over $1.5 million donated by private donors to school system programs.

Strengthened communities through dramatically improving results in our lowest-performing schools and the addition of full-day kindergarten in seven schools.

Working together, we can accomplish the goal of all students achieving in a safe and nurturing learning environment.

Courtney Watson

Chairman of the Howard County Board of Education

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