City Had 'Adopted'

Spacecraft Columbia

The tragedy of the space shuttle Columbia and its astronauts immediately brought to mind the city of Columbia's relationship with the space shuttle Columbia and a previous group of astronauts.

As president of the 15th Birthday Celebration for Columbia in 1982, I was contacted by an enthusiastic group of volunteers (Chris and Debbi Mangin, Mike and Doretta Kratochwill, Carl and Carol Milhous, Rusty Mikel and Alison Hurst, and Stan and Jackie Roberson) that felt that we should adopt the Columbia because it had the same name as our city and we had a deep interest in the space program.

A letter was written to NASA, which surprisingly brought terrific results. We were informed that Lt. Col. John M. Fabian would attend our birthday celebration to participate in the adoption. So on June 17, 1982, with Lt. Col. Fabian present, the city of Columbia adopted the space shuttle Columbia.

The story does not end there. We asked Lt. Col. Fabian if two patches bearing Columbia's People Tree could be taken on board during the next flight of the space shuttle. He promised to see if that would be possible.

Once again we were surprised, when we received two framed photographs of the Columbia's launching along with the Columbia patches. The photographs were signed by the astronauts (John Young, Brewster Shaw, Owen Garriott and Robert Parker) on that flight. The wording on the framing is as follows:

"This patch was flown aboard the Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-9) during the mission of Spacelab 1. Nov. 28 - Dec. 8, 1983."

The Columbia's crew represents the uniting of people from diverse backgrounds brought together for the purpose of one mission. Similarly, residents of Columbia are working together for the betterment of our community, which is why I am proud that we were able to have had such a special relationship with NASA. We all mourn the loss of Columbia's crew. The members were a team working for the betterment of mankind.

Maggie J. Brown

President, Columbia Birthday

Celebration Inc., 1979 to 1987,

And Current President,

Columbia Association

Realtor Board Is Wrong

About Tax for Schools

The board of the Howard County Association of Realtors has taken a strong and clear position opposing the proposed increase in property transfer tax to pay for school construction. As a realtor and a member of HCAR, I have a difference of opinion with my association's board that I would like to share.

The HCAR board says the additional revenue would be used to pay off the debt for borrowed money, not for new school construction. This is flat-out wrong. Howard County Budget Director Ray Wacks explains that to build schools now, based upon revenues to be collected over several years, the county will have to sell bonds. (Those bonds are the mortgage on the schools, if you will.) The HCAR board's position is like saying that people who make mortgage payments on their home are not paying for their homes but are paying off a debt owed for borrowed money. That may be semantically true, but it's deliberately misleading.

The HCAR also says the county should consider multiple revenue sources for funding a broad-based issue such as school construction, not a single tax. If the need is being driven by expanding enrollment, then should we get the money from innocent bystanders, or from the people who are causing the increase and who will benefit most from our good schools?

People are coming to Howard County because of our schools. Many more school kids come than leave as new families replace those who are selling their homes. Half of the growth in enrollment comes from resale demographics. The desirability of our exceptional schools has been a significant factor contributing to the 30 percent increase in property values in Howard during the past three years. People who are selling now and leaving the county will cash in on that windfall.

The HCAR board says this is a permanent tax increase that would affect home buyers and sellers in every price range in Howard County, including firefighters, police, teachers and seniors. Is the point here that they should be exempt? Should the tax be levied only on the seller's side for them? The tax increase does not just affect the home buyer and home seller but the overall economy of Howard County in the future. The question is whether the county's economy would be better or worse if we denied the schools the money the school board says they need.

You should know that I strongly support Howard County Executive Jim Robey, and my wife, Donna, works for him. But this is not about that. I usually stay out of politics. And I don't know anybody who likes tax increases. However, after looking at both sides of the issue, I feel my association's board is misleading our members and county residents to the detriment of our county schools.

Dick Corfield

Ellicott City