Howard Week

October 17, 2004

Some are critical of the process used to rate lawmakers

Like many of her fellow Howard County Democrats, Del. Elizabeth Bobo ranked high on an environmental group's General Assembly scorecard but was near the bottom of the ratings of a Maryland business group.

The low business rating doesn't bother Bobo, who said she considers her 7 percent score a badge of honor.

"Being on the low end of their rating reflects what I feel is important," said Bobo, of Columbia.

Western county Republican Dels. Warren E. Miller and Gail H. Bates - at the bottom of the environmental group's list - are at the top of the business card with 100 percent scores on 18 measures the group tracked.

"I'm happy because I'm a businessperson, being on the strong end of business," said Bates, an accountant.

The annual scorecards are a political ritual that yield few surprises. But some legislators complain that the scores are suspect because of the select handful of measures each group subjectively chooses to count.

Bates and Miller, for example, got credit from business for supporting an early version of the Ehrlich administration's flush tax to protect the Chesapeake Bay - even though they lost points with environmentalists for voting against the final bill.

The different ways the two groups counted the flush tax votes - which both supported - shows how subjective the scorecards can be.

Rezoning bids renew conflicts over land use

The public's will has come face to face with the government's will, and the outcome could have broad implications for a broad swath of Howard County, where aging neighborhoods are competing against the desire for commercial expansion.

The tensions are neither new nor unique to Howard County, but they have taken on heightened importance because county planning officials have embraced the idea of converting some residential property along U.S. 40 into office or light commercial uses.

That position is in conflict with not only many homeowners, but also citizens who served on a county-appointed task force that examined how to beautify the seven-mile corridor, mitigate acute traffic snarls and still encourage development.

The strain between preserving the integrity of residential neighborhoods and achieving commercial expansion was evident during a recent Planning Board meeting when members were buffeted for four hours by scores of residents opposed to rezoning requests in their neighborhoods.

Group plans to save parts of house slated for car lot

The forlorn-looking white Victorian house and the abandoned car dealership on Route 108 at Ten Oaks Road strike a discordant note in bustling, upscale Clarksville - remnants of an earlier time in Howard County.

But things might be changing.

A two-level auto dealership is planned for 3.5 acres that includes the house. Across Ten Oaks Road, a bank is planned for the former auto dealership, if the County Council approves a zoning change, according to Thomas Meachum, an attorney representing the owners.

Second Chance, a nonprofit group that dismantles old houses and resells the pieces, is to get possession of the 113-year-old house early next year, according to Stanford D. Hess, executive vice president of Antwerpen Auto Group, which owns the property.

School board OKs budget, funding for new schools

The Howard County school board approved Tuesday night an $87.4 million capital budget for next fiscal year that includes money for two new elementary schools and major renovations at older buildings.

The request includes $8.5 million to complete a western elementary school that would open in 2006, and $13.3 million for a northeastern elementary school scheduled to be completed by 2007.

The budget also goes to fixing older facilities, including $4.6 million for a much-delayed addition and renovation at Glenelg High School and $17.2 million to renovate Howard High School.

Responding to pleas from the Mount Hebron High School community, the school board also voted to include money to renovate the aging building in the school system's long-term capital plans.

More specifically, $1.7 million in planning money would be added in the fiscal year 2007 budget, with about $17 million in construction included as a line item for 2008.

Two join council race as one drops out

The field of prospective replacements angling for the County Council seat of soon-to-be state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman is changing.

William A. Theis Jr., 45, Kittleman's special assistant on the council for the past six years, is dropping out of contention, he said last week, while Patrick Dornan, 43, a fiery Ellicott City tax protester, and John Taylor, 49, a Highland activist who ran twice before, have entered the race.

Theis said a combination of factors - including the arrival of a baby and the prospect of losing half his salary to become a council member - weighed in his decision to drop out. Kittleman is scheduled to resign his County Council seat Wednesday and be sworn in to succeed his late father, state Sen. Robert H. Kittleman, the next day.

Steven H. Adler, 51, now in the process of buying a house in Kittleman's western county District 5, said he has mailed resumes to each of the nine members of the Central Republican Committee.

Gregory Fox, 37, who ran for the council's District 4 seat in 1998 but whose home was later moved into District 5, is also a candidate.

Former central committee member Rose LaVerghetta, 56, of Ellicott City, a former six-year central committee member and a former aide to Del. Warren E. Miller, is considering a run for the job, she said, partly because she feels the five-person council should have a female member.

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