March 19, 2006

Seeking the best for our children

I read the article in today's Sun ("Athlete, 16, seeks a court order," March 15) on Tatyana McFadden by Tyrone Richardson. I thought it was a wonderful, well-written article and I would like to comment on it.

I couldn't believe the mean-spiritedness with which Mark Blom spoke about the family of Tatyana McFadden, who only seeks what every parent in Howard County seeks for their children: The opportunity to compete and be part of the extracurricular activities offered to all students. Tatyana is a world-class athlete, and because she uses a wheelchair the school system is denying her the right to participate with other track athletes.

I am particularly disturbed by Mr. Blom's defense of this policy. He called the lawsuit, "a case about a parent trying to trail- blaze, and people are entitled to do that, but she has no law or authority to support her position."

Do Superintendent [Sydney L.] Cousin and the woman and men of the Howard County school system actually agree with and encourage their staff to practice what Mr. Blom is preaching? Deborah McFadden is not trying to be a trailblazer. She wants what every parent, myself included, want for their children who are attending public schools in Howard County: the opportunity to compete and become the best human being they can be.

This makes me wonder how many employees in the Howard County school system have a disability. I suspect it is very few.

David Tossman Ellicott City

A different view on preservation

A March 5 letter to The Sun editor claimed 70 percent of Howard County's rural west will be preserved even without county purchase of preservation easements. The author argued that public funds should not be used for this purpose. In fact, the county Department of Planning and Zoning estimates that about 35 percent to 45 percent of the rural west ultimately will be in preservation, only half that claimed by the letter's author. This includes existing and future easements due to both county purchase and clustered development as well as parkland and other open space. The county purchases only land which has particular value. This includes working farms, agricultural land with rich soil and parcels adjacent to existing preserved parcels, etc. Land prices will only rise; the county will save money by purchasing at current prices. A bill pending before the County Council will make that possible.

Bridget Mugane Columbia

The writer is president of the Howard County Citizens Association

Planning and Zoning praised, criticized

The Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning has announced that it will continue to meet with the Downtown Master Plan Focus Group. These meetings will provide one way for the public to have continued input into the developing Master Plan. I applaud the decision.

I would like to suggest that the focus group meetings be held in the evening, rather than during the workday, so that more citizens can attend. A commitment to an open process, in substance as well as in form, will go a long way toward restoring public trust in this process and its outcome.

I am less appreciative of the fact that Planning and Zoning's advertised video of its Feb. 27 Master Plan public meeting has omitted the compelling and mostly convergent testimony of the many well-qualified citizens who testified at the meeting. To withhold this footage is -- at best -- a terrible public relations mistake. At worst, the omission has the effect of suggesting that Planning and Zoning doesn't take public input seriously and/or that the department would like to conceal citizens' input.

I hope that the department will correct this omission.

Rebecca L. Johnson Columbia

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