Howard Week

September 19, 2004

GOP begins talks on replacement for Kittleman

The Howard County Republican Party is advertising for candidates to replace state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman and plans a final vote Sept. 29, said Howard Rensin, the county party chairman.

Most Republicans are publicly declining to speculate about a replacement for Kittleman, a popular 78-year-old farmer who died Sept. 11 of leukemia, as maneuvering for the job goes on behind the scenes.

Howard County Councilman Christopher J. Merdon of Ellicott City and western county Del. Gail H. Bates appear to be likely contenders to replace Kittleman, but the situation is more complicated than usual.

In the past, a spouse was often named to fill out an official's term after a death, but in this case, Kittleman's widow, Trent Kittleman, who is deputy state secretary of transportation, or his son, Howard County Councilman Allan H. Kittleman, might seek the office.

Schools considering naming ombudsman

After a succession of controversies - two grade-changing scandals, false allegations of a gang rape in a high school bathroom and the ouster of the superintendent - Howard County education officials are considering the appointment of an ombudsman to field complaints and questions.

If it does so, Howard - which has the region's highest-performing public school system - will join a growing list of districts in Maryland and throughout the nation that have hired independent liaisons who can direct the public to the appropriate office, lend a sympathetic ear or help resolve complaints or concerns.

School districts in Chicago, Cincinnati and St. Paul, Minn., have hired ombudsmen, as have school boards in Baltimore and Montgomery counties.

Residents air views on New Town zoning

Preparing to study Columbia's New Town zoning regulations, the Howard County Council listened Monday night to residents' opinions on what shape development of the planned community should take.

The council is studying Columbia's New Town zoning after, acting as the county Zoning Board, unanimously denying a Rouse Co. petition to increase Columbia's residential density in an attempt to urbanize the community's downtown.

Chairman Guy Guzzone told an audience of more than 50 people that the council wants to learn more about the zoning process that was created in the 1960s for Columbia and examine "how it has worked and how it can work in the future."

E. Alexander Adams, a Glenwood attorney who was one of the primary opponents of Rouse's petition, told the council that the development company should be treated like any other developer and should not be the "gatekeeper" of residential ordinances in Columbia.

"The gatekeeper should be this board," he said of the council.

Nordaas takes over as elections director

Newly retired at 53 and casting about for a new direction, Betty L. Nordaas spent a long March day as a Howard County election judge at Columbia's Phelps Luck Elementary school, and a new career was born.

"It was just so rewarding that day," she said of helping people use the county's new touch-screen machines during the primary.

A few weeks later, she saw a newspaper ad for the vacant Howard County election director's job and decided to apply.

With her long background in telephone company management and advanced degrees in information technology, the job "just seemed like it was a good fit for me," Nordaas said.

The Howard County Board of Elections agreed, and Wednesday, less than seven weeks before the Nov. 2 general election, the 24-year Columbia resident took over as the county's election director.

Nordaas, a Republican, will be paid $55,167. She was chosen from among 31 applicants.

High school students gain in assessments

Howard County high school students showed solid gains in every category of the Maryland High School Assessment tests, with more than 70 percent passing the English, algebra, biology and government exams.

Howard's scores surpassed the state average and most of its counterparts' in the Baltimore region, according to results released Tuesday by state education officials. Black teens still lag behind their white classmates but made significant strides in each test.

Slain student's mother sues apartments' owner

The mother of a 23-year-old computer student who was fatally shot at the Stevens Forest Apartments in Columbia is suing the apartment owner and operator for $5 million, claiming they knew or should have known about criminal activity at the complex and did nothing to prevent it.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Howard Circuit Court, Celestina Wallace alleges that Cornerstone Stevens Forest Inc., the owner, and Shelter Properties LLC, the manager, implemented no security measures at the apartment common areas before her son was shot in the head during a botched robbery.

Deshawn Anthony Wallace of Columbia was killed Jan. 25, 2002 at the Oakland Mills complex.

In June, Tavon Donya Sands, 23, was sentenced to life in prison without parole, plus 20 years, for the murder. His cousin, Jonas L. Askins, 20, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder last year and was sentenced to life in prison with all but 40 years suspended. He was also sentenced to five years for a handgun conviction.

Prosecutors dropped all charges against another cousin in November 2002, saying they could not prove their case against him.

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