Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, April 13, 2006

My Thoughts on Town Center Candidates Forum

A couple things stood out to me:

1) All four of the Village Board candidates were very concerned with and to greater or lesser degrees unhappy with the current plans for downtown redevelopment.

2) The first three questions the audience asked were on open meetings. For background on why this is an issue, check out this post. The third of these questions came from Jud Malone’s wife who in rising to his defense (he is the incumbent for the CA Rep position and played a leading role in pushing for closing the public out of the meetings discussing how the Downtown Partnership -- that will maintain the downtown public spaces after the downtown redevelopment -- is approved) said (and I am paraphrasing so I may not have the words exactly right, but I am trying to get the concept right) that what we need is greater participation instead of constant complaining about open meetings and in participation she raised the issue of few young people being involved. As one of the “young people” who has been involved, I think a lot of us “young people” would like to be involved and I have seen a number of us participating in the downtown meetings, but I also hear that many more would if the focus groups weren’t held while they are at work or in school. (The local blogger HayDuke is just one many such examples I have heard from over the last couple months.) It is also worth noting that no one under 30 has been included on the focus group even though the focus group is discussing a 30 year plan for Columbia. More to the point if the meeting are not open it is hard to participate.

3) The candidates were asked about whether they would like to move to one-person one-vote and they all said they would and it seemed that because the difficulty achieving the 90% vote requirement to change the covenant that going through the Maryland legislature made the most sense. I have proposed before that I think we should move to one-person one-vote for all residents who are high school freshmen and older. I have suggested this because from my experience the ones most connected with Rouse's vision are the high school age residents of Columbia. I remember many a night growing up in Columbia hanging out at a friends place late at night discussing the Rouse plan. Had it worked or not? Were we drifting away from it? How should Columbia continue to evolve? Not only does including high school students as voters for CA office help give voice to those who have recently learned about Rouse's vision in school, but it also makes high school age residents feel like stakeholders who can constructively raise their concerns through the system and have them addressed. This even might increase their participation (though many already are very active participants working as life guards and camp councilors).

4) The issue of a proposal to use the silt created by the dredging of the lake to fill in part of the north end of the lake came up and I have created an open thread for people to discuss this issue.

5) Jud Malone is a very smooth, well practiced politician and I can see that if I had not 1) sat through the CA meeting where I watched with my own eyes Jud trying to close the public out of the Downtown Partnership planning meeting when there was no personnel or legal council reasons to justify the closing of those meetings, 2) sat through all of the focus group meetings where Jud has repeatedly preached how we must trust the developers and the county officials, 3) watched him preach our need to trust the developers and county official at the downtown Columbia public meeting on February 27th, I might have fallen for his smooth talk. In contrast, I have seen Gail Broida participate in the downtown meetings and raise important questions, listen to other participants, and search for solutions. She has earned my respect and I think she will listen to residents and be the strong voice that Town Center needs when such important decisions are being made. Sadly as I reflect on the past several months I do not think Jud has been either listening to the residents or a strong voice for their concerns. Rather I think Jud has become a cheerleader for trusting those who through their behavior have shown themselves not worthy of trust. In the crucial next two years Town Center will be better served by someone who will look out for Town Center and Columbia and not be a cheerleader for developers. Town Center and Columbia needs CA reps like Gail Broida who helps find solutions so the redevelopment plan serves both the developer AND the community.


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