"The Early Show" on CBS was slated to run a three-minute, nationally televised segment today about three students who successfully lobbied to improve conditions at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City.
Juniors Ryan Tompkins, Patrick Gilbert and Chris Rodkey spent a year putting together a video that highlights problems at the school: broken lockers, restroom stalls without locks and chipped tile and paint. The teens played their video for the Howard Board of Education during a recent public hearing on the school system's capital budget that drew dozens of Mount Hebron parents and students.
The meeting sparked a storm of media attention, resulting in an article in The Washington Post and interviews with several local television stations. And that's when "The Early Show" came calling.
A camera crew spent hours last week at the school, interviewing the teens and other students, said Sue Tompkins, Ryan's mother. The segment was scheduled to air between 8 and 8:30 a.m. today.
Meanwhile, school officials have begun planning for renovations at Mount Hebron that will last long after the teens' 15 minutes of fame has ended.
Thousands More Voices
About 9,000 people registered to vote in Howard County between late August and Oct. 12, when the state officially closed its voter registration, county elections chief Betty Nordaas said this week.
In Howard, there are now 164,179 registered voters. Of those, 76,325 are Democrats, 57,002 are Republicans and 30,852 are listed as other, including those registered with other parties or listed as unaffiliated, Nordaas said. Of the newly registered voters in Howard, Democrats held a slight edge.
Nordaas said the county is still looking for elections judges for Nov. 2. They would be paid $150 for their work. For more information, call 410-313-5820.
CA to Review Policies
The Columbia Association's board of directors last week admitted it needed to take a long look at whether it's conducting business as openly as possible.
The 10-person board said that its policy committee, headed by Phil Marcus of Kings Contrivance, will look at the specifics cited by the Alliance for a Better Columbia in its Sept. 22 complaint to the Maryland attorney general's office. The group, which claims about 60 dues-paying members, said the association is violating open meetings provisions of the Maryland Homeowners Association Act by holding closed sessions and failing to report what happens. It also accused the board of withholding information, including agendas and budget documents, and limiting public comment during meetings.
The board of directors oversees affairs for the community of more than 90,000 residents. It has a paid staff and an annual budget of $55 million, which is used to operate Columbia's network of parks, recreation centers, pools and public grounds. Columbia property owners pay an annual lien to the association based on the value of their homes.
The board is made up of the 10 members of the Columbia Council.
Council member Barbara Russell (Oakland Mills) said during the Oct. 13 meeting that the board ought to take steps to address concerns before the attorney general's office gets involved directly. "Any move we can make in resolving our problems or discussing our problems would be in our favor," she said.
The attorney general has appointed a mediator to examine the complaint by the Alliance for a Better Columbia, but no formal mediation has begun, said Joshua Feldmark, board chairman.
A Lingering Loitering Issue
It's a sticky issue, but the Columbia Association board is going to study the use of legal bans after some village residents complained about loitering.
Juanita Robinson, chairman of the Harper's Choice Village Board, said loiterers in her community sometimes drink alcohol from bottles in brown bags, urinate in public and otherwise behave disruptively.
"We call them hobos," she said. "We work with the police. They come and they take them down, but they are right back because they can't hold them."
CA general counsel Sheri V.G. Fanaroff suggested the possibility of formally banning people from certain areas of Columbia. But some residents, including Henry Shapiro, a retired physician who lives in Wilde Lake, were angered by the idea. "It's fall, and there is a new aroma in the air. It's the odor of banning and intolerance," he said.