August 20, 2006

THE ISSUE: -- Even as Howard Community College prepares to open its $20 million visual and performing arts center, the Columbia Association's board has turned down a proposal to donate $200,000 to the facility. Some board members were concerned about adding to the association's debt, though they stressed the importance of close ties between the college and the community, and the importance of the arts.

What formal role, if any, do you think the Columbia Association should have in relation to the community college's arts programs? More broadly, just how much should the association be involved in the financial support of county civic and cultural institutions?

Performing arts? Nobody is home

I fail to comprehend the thought process of the Columbia Association in their decision to turn down the appropriation for the performing arts center at Howard Community College. It seems that every time a survey is performed, Howard County rises to the top in household income, in grade level of education and in appreciation of the arts.

There always seems to be funds available from the Columbia Association, Howard County and many prominent citizens such as Northrup Field, but when it comes to performing arts, nobody is home. This type of mentality must stop. There is a thirst for performing arts in Howard County, and everyone must take a step forward.

Case in point. I ask you to read the main article on the front page of the Howard section of The Sun dated Aug. 18, entitled, "Family Fun at SportsPark, one of Columbia's best-kept secrets." This is a 15-acre facility built at a cost of $2.8 million. Imagine $2.8 million for an athletic facility that is a "best-kept secret."

I assure you the $200,000 will not be for a best-kept secret but will provide the type of entertainment Howard County needs for its citizenry.

Bernie Bargteil Columbia

Donation would be money well spent

Since it is one of the most predominant organizations in Columbia, I was surprised that the Columbia Association did not contribute to HCC's new visual and performing arts center.

This center will benefit not only the students at the college but other residents of Columbia and Howard County who will take classes and/or enjoy events there. Many local organizations and companies contribute to cultural institutions because they know that by doing so they strengthen the entire community. The Columbia Association's emphasis has been on recreational facilities, but surely CA should realize that Columbia and the county would certainly be lacking without cultural institutions as well. As a "local neighbor," one would hope that the Columbia Association would see the benefit in promoting music, art and drama as well as recreational facilities. It would be money well-spent.

Claire Albert Columbia

CA board made the right decision

The Columbia Association's board of directors made the right decision when it rejected the proposal to contribute toward the cost of the Howard Community College arts center. To its credit, the CA board understood that giving money to another organization that is already funded by tax dollars would be inappropriate. And it understood that paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars to HCC would mean that CA's huge existing debt would increase even further.

CA already makes a heavy investment in the arts by funding its Art Center in Long Reach and contributing to the annual Festival of the Arts, Lakefront summer performances and Columbia Foundation arts grants. The CA board understood its fiduciary responsibility, and that there are compelling needs to use CA's limited funds on its own facilities and programs.

At a time when a Columbia parent and child have to think twice about spending a total of $13 so that both of them can use a CA pool for a few hours on a sweltering summer day, it makes no sense for CA to subsidize the costs of a big institution like HCC. When excess CA money becomes available, let it be used to reduce pool admission fees and to reduce the amount of the annual charge that Columbia homeowners must pay. First things first.

Alex Hekimian Columbia

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