There are ruffled feathers in the Howard County executive's office over the appointment of an interim director for the Department of Social Services.
Herman Charity, assistant to County Executive James N. Robey (D), said there was little consultation with Robey before Maryland Human Resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe announced his selection Friday. McCabe appointed Doris Mason, an assistant director overseeing child welfare and adult services, to replace Samuel W. Marshall, who is retiring this month. Mason has worked for about a year in Howard and 13 years in Caroline and Talbot counties with the state social services agency, officials said.
Charity said Robey had formally recommended someone else for the appointment in mid-July.
"We thought there would at least be some discussion about who we recommended and who they wanted to appoint," Charity said. Robey "certainly wants to be more of a partner in selecting the permanent director," he said.
McCabe has clashed with Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) over his appointment of the city's interim social services director, but a spokesman for the human resources secretary said the two situations were dissimilar.
"We feel we have a good rapport with the county executive," said Norris P. West, a spokesman for the state agency. McCabe, a former state senator from Clarksville, "knows [Robey] very well."
West said McCabe and Robey plan to meet next week to talk about the county's social services department.
Giving Up on Ballot Measure
Jim Oglethorpe, president of the Howard County Taxpayers Association, has conceded defeat in the group's bid to get a tax-limiting charter amendment on the November ballot, saying the effort started too late to gather enough signatures.
As of mid-July, the group had gathered about 3,000 signatures of registered voters, far fewer than the 10,000 needed by early August.
Oglethorpe said he will focus instead on building the association's membership and on the 2006 county government elections.
"Who can afford to move into Howard County now?" he said. "It's turned into a country club county. That's what motivates me to stay involved."
Divide Over Road Widening
The three Republicans who represent western Howard in the General Assembly were fuming last week when much of the county's elected Democratic establishment tried to persuade the state Board of Public Works to block the state's plan to widen Route 32 between Clarksville and Interstate 70.
The board, made up of the governor, comptroller and treasurer, had to decide whether to grant an exception under the state's "smart growth" law so planning for the project could continue. The exception was approved after Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) and Comptroller William Donald Schaefer (D), who voted through his deputy, supported it. Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) voted against it.
Before the vote last week, Republican Sen. Robert H. Kittleman and GOP Dels. Gail H. Bates and Warren E. Miller told the board the project was needed to alleviate congestion on the nine-mile stretch of highway, which runs through their districts, and to reduce accidents.
Although County Executive Robey supports the project, several other county Democrats sent letters to the board expressing their opposition.
Dels. Elizabeth Bobo and Neil F. Quinter and County Council member Ken Ulman (West Columbia) wrote that "expanding the divided highway portion of Route 32 all the way to I-70 will open the floodgates to increased vehicular traffic in Howard County . . . [and] will in effect become an outer Beltway."
In another letter, County Council President Guy Guzzone (D-Southeast County) reminded the board that the county's General Plan, approved by the council in 2000, says the expansion should not continue until all other potential options for improving safety are exhausted.
But the letters did not go over well with the Republicans from western Howard.
After the board's decision, Miller and Bates said the legislators from the eastern part of the county had no business intervening in a project for western Howard.
"They are not ones that get these calls from people who cannot get out of their driveways, yet they weigh in on an issue in our area," Bates said during her testimony before the Board of Public Works.
"Maybe we should start weighing in on issues in their area?" Bates said, looking at Miller.
Festival Allows Rights Group
After initially being denied permission to participate in the Columbia International Day fair Saturday, members of the local chapter of Amnesty International were allowed to set up a booth after all.
Organizers originally denied the human rights group permission to participate in this year's fair, concluding that Amnesty did not conform to their vision of "celebrating Columbia's ethnic and cultural diversity."
The organizers had in mind "crafts, dance, anything we consider a celebration of culture," said Columbia Association spokeswoman Keisha Reynolds.
But at last Thursday's Columbia Council meeting, local residents and Amnesty members weighed in with their own ideas about the fair.
"They wanted to see deeper topics covered," said Reynolds.
"After the residents' speak-out, [Columbia Association President] Maggie Brown just opened it up for all to participate," she said.
Robert Steiner, a member of the Columbia/Laurel Chapter of Amnesty International, said the initial denial remains a mystery to him, but this year's fair turned out to be a big success, maybe in part because of the flap.
"We got an awful lot of free publicity," he said. "We had people streaming to our booth all afternoon."
Charter School Plan Denied
The Howard County Board of Education last week rejected a bid to establish the county's first charter school because it said the application was too vague and could not reasonably be carried out.
Robin and Tristan Rynn, sisters who run the private Lornwood Day Care & Preschool in Columbia along with their mother, Joanne Rynn, said they had hoped to create the Columbia Public Charter School, which would tailor instruction to students' individual needs. Their proposal included small class sizes, "multisensory" learning and mandatory parental involvement.
"There wasn't enough detail to determine exactly how the school would operate and how it would run," board Chairman Courtney Watson said.
With two members absent, the board voted 3 to 0 against the proposal. Robin Rynn said the Rynns plan to resubmit their application. The only charter school operating in Maryland is in Frederick County.
Staff writers Ylan Q. Mui and Mary Otto contributed to this report.