Taxation without representation

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Thoughts on issues relating to Howard County

July 24, 2005

Last week's issue: The Columbia Council has voted to abolish itself. The 10 people who served on the council will continue to serve as the Columbia Association's board of directors. Those who supported disbanding the council claim the move will clear up confusion caused by having two bodies when the council virtually has no power. Now that you -- Columbia residents -- are represented by one body, are you any less confused? Do you care?

A sad commentary on governance

The Sun's recent article, "Columbia Council to disband," (July 17) serves as a sad commentary on governance in Columbia. People say it's bad enough that most of our elected CA representatives tend to isolate themselves and turn a deaf ear to the community, but the article indicates that CA now wants to institutionalize that practice.

I'll give our CA representatives the benefit of the doubt -- perhaps they don't recognize the dangerous direction they are taking. On the one hand, they advocate "one person, one vote" in CA elections, but then take a puzzling turn and make it irrelevant by wanting to minimalize the role of the Columbia Council, which is the only elected body that can legally represent the views of Columbia's citizens.

They want to act only as a Board of Directors, thus making CA act more like a private corporation than a quasi-government. CA's attorneys have apparently persuaded most of them that as Board members, by law, their loyalty must be to the CA corporation, not to the people who elected them. And, according to Oakland Mills representative Barbara Russell, her valiant efforts to represent her village could be grounds for her removal by the rest of the Board.

If they get their way, CA's Board members would take our money, but feel no obligation to represent us.

That's called taxation without representation. If they want CA to be just a corporation, then fine, let CA try to survive like other corporations without the mandatory tax-like annual charge that all property owners must currently pay.

Some of our representatives try to argue that we are safeguarded by the CA Charter, which requires them to promote the general welfare of the people of Columbia. And yet, they essentially undermine that goal when they accept the views of CA's attorneys, who are in a position to repeatedly tell them that as Board members their first priority is to promote the welfare of the corporation, not the people of Columbia.

Some of them may claim that they can ignore their attorneys' advice and can represent all of Columbia. Well, if they want to represent the entire community, then people would insist that they start running for election in all of Columbia, not just their villages.

A few CA representatives are the ringleaders in taking CA in this dangerous direction. ... Will they have the wisdom to understand the repercussions and change the course of their actions?

Alex Hekimian

Columbia

The writer is president of Alliance for a Better Columbia.

Democratic Peoples Republic of Columbia

Historically, each village in Columbia elects a representative to the Columbia Council. As our elected representatives, they are supposed to work solely in our best interests. ... However, the Columbia Association is a corporation. The Columbia Council members elect a 10-member board of directors for that corporation. Understandably, they have always elected themselves as the directors.

However, the directors of a corporation are legally required to act in the interests of the corporation. The residents of Columbia have no direct ownership interest ... in that corporation, nor are the residents ... legally members of the Columbia Association.

So now the Columbia Council has been abolished and the people who directly run the Columbia Association corporation are legally bound to consider the interests of the corporation before the interests of the residents. And there is no Columbia Council to oversee the board of directors to ensure that they don't place their own interests and the corporate interests above the interests of the people who pay the bills -- the residents.

Does that make you feel secure? Or does that make you feel like the inhabitant of some third-world country ... -- the Democratic Peoples Republic of Columbia?

Barry Blyveis

Columbia

Who represents residents' interests?

In assessing the decision of the Columbia Association to abolish the Council, one needs to ask what is the function of a Board. As I have known boards in my experience with non-profit organizations ... their allegiance is to the corporation, and that is as it should be. ... As a homeowner in Columbia my question is: If I vote for a Board, who represents my interests and that of other residents?

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