The future development of Town Center and the need for open lines of communication between residents and the Columbia Association board are the key issues echoing from six candidates vying for three Columbia Council seats.
With two incumbents not seeking re-election - Wolfger Schneider of Harper's Choice and Joshua Feldmark of Wilde Lake - the council will have at least two new faces next month.
The Columbia Council seats up for re-election are in Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge, Oakland Mills, Owen Brown, Town Center and Wilde Lake. But three of the seats are uncontested - those held by incumbents Miles Coff- man of Hickory Ridge, Barbara L. Russell of Oakland Mills and Pearl Atkinson-Stewart of Owen Brown.
In Town Center, incumbent Jud Malone was initially uncontested for his re-election bid on the council. But legislation signed recently by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. enabled Town Center's developments to be annexed into Columbia. Gail Broida, who lives in the Lakeside condos, was added to the ballot against Malone.
Columbia Council representatives Tom O'Connor of Dorsey's Search, Phil Marcus of Kings Contrivance, Henry Dagenais of Long Reach and Patrick von Schlag of River Hill are not up for re-election this year.
Kings Contrivance will hold its elections Friday and Saturday. All other elections will be held Saturday, except for Town Center's, which will be held April 29.
The Columbia Council meets once a year, in May, when the elected council representatives appoint themselves to the Columbia Association's board of directors. The board meets twice a month.
Here is a look at the six Columbia Council candidates in contested races:
Candidates: Cynthia Coyle, 51, and David Willemain, 59.
Coyle, the current vice chairwoman of the village board and a retired Navy commander, said her career in the Navy and four years on the village board have prepared her for the council position and provided an ability to spearhead changes on issues such as the association's openness policy.
"We are not a corporation, we are a homeowners association," Coyle said. "We are in the business of affecting the positive things this community needs and to do that you have to communicate."
Coyle said she wants the Columbia Association board to be actively involved in the plans for development of Town Center. In addition, Coyle said she wants the association's community services to better serve underprivileged residents.
Coyle is endorsed by Schneider, who said: "I worked with her on the village board and observed her in action. I saw qualities in her that I thought were good for the job and she's a known entity."
Willemain, an engineer and lawyer, has centered his campaign on his experience as a manager with Baltimore's Department of Public Works and experience with nonprofit organizations. Those experiences, he said, give him the ability to ensure a stronger Columbia Association role in developing plans for Town Center.
Willemain also said that being one of 15 children has taught him the importance of teamwork.
He said a teamwork approach would greatly benefit the development plans for Town Center.
"It's a matter to make sure all the right issues are raised," he said. "It's CA's role to be proactive and represent the community. The community organizations are in place to predict what is planned, and they have a proper role to do that."
Willemain said he wants the association to promote increased public safety by helping to create a surveillance-camera network among the association, Howard County police and private organizations.
Candidates: Gail Broida, 67, and Jud Malone, 55.
"There is a need to keep the conversations that are occurring between CA, the county and [General Growth Properties Inc.] open to the public because we are talking about an expensive proposition and who gets to do what," said Broida, a retired office worker and a Columbia resident for 35 years.
Broida wants the association to be more dedicated to citizen issues and have a more hands-on approach.
"I feel that the CA board needs to be the leader of a lot of things," she said. "I think that a lot of times the board is not in the forefront where it should be."
Broida said she would promote increased openness of Columbia Association governance. During Tuesday's Town Center candidate night, Broida expressed concern about past closed CA board members meetings and questioned the content of the discussions.
Malone responded at Tuesday's forum by denouncing the skepticism over the content of the meetings. He said the closed discussions involved sensitive issues such as personnel and contract matters.
Malone, running for a second term, said his success on the board includes helping to organize October's charrette, in which residents participated in the brainstorming of development ideas for Town Center.