Politicians go clank, bonk, boggle on park

PLAYING AROUND

Howard At Play

September 26, 2004|By LOWELL E. SUNDERLAND

WE CAN'T think of another time in the 31 years we've paid Howard County taxes that anyone in local politics has spouted so many off-key thoughts - no, such appalling noise - as what surfaced last week during the battle to get Western Regional Park finished.

In case you missed it, a small group of western county residents who despise the idea of building a $14 million county park in Glenwood, at Route 97 and Carrs Mill Road, succeeded in delaying state funding for more park construction for at least two weeks.

Clank.

These folks have won concessions locally since the idea for the park was broached about a decade ago, but everyone except them agrees that they lost the war. The park is under construction. Most recently, they lost in the County Council despite one concession - lights for three fields instead of five.

Outvoted or not, onward these folks trudge, shamelessly spewing misconception and misinformation, now apparently paying to spread hysterics. On Wednesday, they talked the Board of Public Works - the governor, the comptroller and the state treasurer - into withholding $534,114 in state money for the park so that the issue can be argued further.

Bonk.

We'll revisit the issue in two weeks, the state's top politicos decided, even though Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said park plans are typically a local issue, not a state one. Exactly - one tuneful note, at least.

But then way more noise. The park opponents' spokesman is Bruce C. Bereano, a hired mouth that roars on despite a 1994 conviction on federal mail fraud charges. Disbarred, Bereano continues as a lobbyist, still a well-paid one by all accounts.

Just listen to this guy on Western Regional Park, as quoted Wednesday by Sun colleague Larry Carson: "This is a great deal of money. I may be exaggerating a little bit, but they're building like a Six Flags [amusement park] out there."

In Annapolis the same day, Bereano, who lives in the Annapolis area, was quoted in this newspaper as telling the Board of Public Works, "People in western Howard County moved to get away from Columbia. They don't want people following them from Columbia. The park is going to kill the whole [western] area."

Plop. More plop. What utter, astoundingly irresponsible slop. We state it so politely only because this is still a family newspaper.

If you're tempted to believe Bereano, first visit any Howard County park - Rockburn Branch, Centennial, Savage, Cedar Lane, Schooley Mill - to see and experience how antithetical to a Six Flags they are. And what Western Regional will be: ball fields and picnic areas and pathways on beautiful countryside, designed smartly, with community input and maintained wonderfully.

Next, what does Columbia have to do with a park in Glenwood? Nothing. That's fact.

Then what does Bereano mean when he says, "They don't want people following them from Columbia"?

Is he implying that Columbia residents are somehow undesirable? Unworthy of or unsuited for Glenwood? That's plain funny when you consider the tales any experienced Howard County real estate agent can tell about selling McMansions on septic-served, 3-acre lots out west to people who made a ton of money selling their original houses in Columbia.

Now, for Del. Warren E. Miller, a western county Republican and Glenelg High alumnus who acknowledged that he wasn't around politically when this park fight began but still managed to tell the governor and associates: "I think the concept of a park with ball fields is a great idea, but we're taking Glenwood suddenly and making it a metropolis."

Boggle. That's all one's mind can do.

Think about it: a park turning pastoral Glenwood into a metropolis. Give us a break. County schools all must teach critical thinking better than that. Really, Delegate, we've never, ever thought of your constituents as anything approaching stupid. Neither is the state public works triumvirate.

BOGGLE!

We won't address lighted ball fields again, except for this: To experience what's planned for Western Regional, check out the Soccer Association of Columbia-Howard County's new Northrop Fields at Covenant Park at night. What a difference those new, highly directional lights make.

Finally, we repeat advice offered once before to local politicians fussing with Western Regional:

These park opponents, who've had ample time to make their case before responsible, representative segments of Howard County government only to lose repeatedly, consist of a few individuals. The majority savoring the moment they can play in the new park include multiple Western Howard County youth and adult sports groups, with literally thousands of potential users.

So, in deciding this thing, Governor, Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, just ignore Bereano, Miller and company. Count the votes.

Call the writer at 410- 332-6525 or send e-mail to low ell. sunderland@baltsun.com.

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