03 December 2007

What a difference (almost) half a decade makes…

Yesterday, I read with great surprise a letter to the editor printed in the Baltimore Sun. The letter, authored by former Columbia Council Representative Phil Marcus, addressed the General Growth Properties invitation to the CA board of directors and the ten Columbia village boards. In his letter, Phil states:

Everyone likes to be let in on a secret, even if it's one that will eventually become public. If you get to be part of the in-group, you gain some loyalty to whoever let you in. The same for someone who lets you in on a secret planning meeting.

General Growth Properties Inc. has invited members of the ten Columbia village boards to a closed-door meeting on 13 December. They should decline to attend. The Columbia Association Board has already declined a similar invitation, and as far as I know, the County Council has not been invited. The village board members should avoid the temptation to lend loyalty to GGP, since they were elected by the village residents and other property owners.

I find this particularly interesting because when Phil was a Columbia Council Representative candidate (back in March 2003), he wrote this letter to the Columbia Flier (scroll to the bottom):

Accepting political aid does not mean being 'bought'

Recently Mr. Kirk Halpin, who represents Kings Contrivance on the Columbia Council, wrote to the Village newspaper, the Crown Prints. He asked people to run for village board or to succeed him on the council. Fine, so far.

It also contained this curious sentence, "In the past, there has been an issue with individual candidates pledging their support to an organization in exchange for promises of financial and campaign assistance." (It's a toned-down version of Mr. Halpin's piece in the same Crown Prints last fall, complaining about a mythical "ZIT party.")

Human beings get together and help each other, including in elections. Everyone knows that. Just because someone accepts political aid does not mean they are obligated. They would not get help unless they had views similar to those of their friends and will have those views after the election as well. Mr. Halpin, of course, fully understands that.

As a candidate to succeed Mr. Halpin as representative from Kings Contrivance, I should probably take offense at the idea that because I have political friends willing to help me I have been bought. The notion is too silly to take seriously.

Phil Marcus
Kings Contrivance

It seems that the intervening years has worn on Phil’s philosophy. It appears that in Phil’s world, an elected representative will be mystically bound to a “loyalty” by simply attending an information session, but political aid during a campaign, and its possible effects, is a “notion too silly to be taken seriously.”

I have always found Phil to be a thoughtful, intelligent person, but I am curious as to what has happened in the intervening years to place him on both sides of his argument.


John G. Boyle said...

I may regret saying this someday, but I don't think that every meeting needs to be out in the open. Just like with Congress, the CA is basically a representative democracy. We elect folks to the CA to represent the rest of us so that business can be conducted without our having to be present for every action.

As far as I've gleaned, these meetings are for sharing ideas, not approval or anything official. I can understand how this sort of thing would scare some folks, but it seems like a pretty decent use of time and resources to me.

Is there something I'm missing about why these meetings are such a bad idea?

Anonymous said...

This contradiction does not surprise me. While I do not doubt Phil’s desire to do what is best for the community, I often disagree with his approach. I get a kick out of the analogies he uses to “make a point”. At best, his historical analogies are completely faulty.

I agree with John’s comments above. I would love to know what Mr. Marcus hopes to accomplish for Columbia by turning every possible aspect of plan development into a circus. Open meetings MUST happen. But not EVERY single meeting must be open.

Anonymous said...

Phil, like many of those involved with CA, fight for what suits them at the particular moment. I am sure that you could find similar examples from all who have served CA for the last 5 or 6 years.

Tom said...

Anon - Please, don't throw us all into the same basket.