Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ideas: Past, Present and Future - Oy!

A Close Call With A Stupid Idea
Senate Rejects Flag Desecration Amendment – Washington Post, June 28, 2006

With all the pressing societal issues that need to be addressed (the Iraq War, Katrina Rebuilding, Energy Independence) why is the Congress of the United States busy worrying about flag burning (which, by the way, is how you are supposed to retire a worn out flag)?

The Senate rejected by a single vote yesterday an effort to amend the Constitution to allow Congress to ban desecration of the American flag, after a two-day debate freighted with political calculations and sharp disputes over the limits of free speech.

A Call For A Stupid Idea
Bush Calls on Senate to Pass Line-Item Veto – Washington Post, June 28, 2006

Why would the United States Congress give up more power to the Executive Branch by giving the President a line-item veto (of course the current majority in the Legislative Branch seems to care less about the balance of power between the branches of government then about maintaining their power over all the branches of government)?

President Bush pushed the Senate yesterday to give him and his successors the power to strip special projects out of spending bills, part of a broader political effort to assuage disaffected supporters that he really is a fiscal conservative despite the growth of government on his watch.

The president summoned key senators to the White House and later gave a speech promoting a line-item veto to fight earmarks, or spending requests that members of Congress slip into larger bills without going through the normal budget process. The House has passed one version of the proposal and another is waiting for a vote on the Senate floor.

An Idea Whose Time Is Past
The Superhighway to Everywhere – Washington Post, June 28, 2006

We should celebrate the 50th birthday of the Interstate Highway System but declaring victory over “roadlessness” and move on to building a world class system of mass transit and interurban high speed rail service. There are at least three benefits from this project: jobs, a healthier environment and motivation for all of us to get some exercise by walking to the train station.

On June 29, 1956 . . . President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the law launching a massive federal project that had been his dream for decades: the Interstate Highway System.

To mark the 50th birthday of one of the most ambitious and consequential engineering projects in human history, a caravan of highway figures led by Eisenhower's great-grandson has been traveling across the country by interstate and will arrive in the District of Columbia on Thursday. They have been celebrating a system that includes 47,000 miles of highway with 55,500 bridges, 104 tunnels, 14,750 interchanges and zero traffic lights.

An Idea That Should Be Put In The Past
A Single Person Could Swing an Election- Washington Post, June 28, 2006

Why the United States needed an electronic voting system (and a faulty one at that), when many advanced democracies in the world use “old fashion” paper ballots to count votes is a mystery that some political scientist will have to answer some day. We can blame it on Federalism or Gore v. Bush for our current debacle, but let’s get back to a system that works, fast.

To determine what it would take to hack a U.S. election, a team of cybersecurity experts turned to a fictional battleground state called Pennasota and a fictional gubernatorial race between Tom Jefferson and Johnny Adams. It's the year 2007, and the state uses electronic voting machines.

Jefferson was forecast to win the race by about 80,000 votes, or 2.3 percent of the vote. Adams's conspirators thought, "How easily can we manipulate the election results?"

The experts thought about all the ways to do it. And they concluded in a report issued yesterday that it would take only one person, with a sophisticated technical knowledge and timely access to the software that runs the voting machines, to change the outcome.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Election Auction or Who Will Give Me 10 Million For The Governor's Office? Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!!!

The Washington Post reported that the Supreme Court has ruled in Randall v. Sorrell against a law in Vermont which restricted campaign contributions in state elections.

The Supreme Court struck down Vermont's strict limits on campaign contributions and spending yesterday, in a splintered ruling that left intact the constitutional basis of current campaign finance laws but may make it difficult to put new curbs on money in politics.

The Vermont law was a challenge to the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo ruling by the Supreme Court which in effect equated speech and campaign contributions, that is, money. And since this type of “money” is speech, it cannot be easily restricted; at least that is what the majority of the court thinks.

So I got an idea, why don’t we save all of us taxpayers money and save the courts time by eliminating elections. We can replace them with a public auction for political offices with the highest bidder getting “elected”. On second thought, I guess we have a form of that system already.

If you disagree with the majority of Supreme Court and believe that there is too much money in elections, then check out the Public Campaign site to do something about it.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

When "Gifted" Isn't Good Enough

Howard County prides itself on its excellent public education. Just recently, it was published in local newspapers that HoCo students are doing better than ever on Maryland State Assessments. Strong test scores combined with exceptional extracurricular/athletic programs make for a very desirable school system.

However, I believe that it would be naive to assume that every student is happy within the system. Teachers often complain about homework not getting done, even in "Gifted & Talented" (GT) classes. Why do "gifted" students cut corners on assignments and skip homework altogether?

Arrogance is probably one of the biggest reasons. Yes, you can blame it on procrastination or bad time management skills or too many things being scheduled for these kids, but often at the root of it all is arrogance. Homework is supposed to reinforce concepts taught in class. Too often, though, GT students do not feel that they need any further reinforcement. If they understand the lesson perfectly well (and for some, they already knew the lesson months, if not years in advance), they don't believe that doing the homework is going to help them at all. To them, homework is often just "busywork" meant to take up time.

As a student myself, I would probably be tarred and feathered by my peers for saying this, but perhaps the school system should make GT and AP classes more difficult. Hundreds of gifted students, in my opinion, are not reaching their potential, even in GT classes. They are sitting bored during class because they are able to master lessons in a fraction of the time in a 50 or 90 minute class period. An even more accelerated course would cut down on time spent being bored, and it would encourage learning. Yes, students chafe at the very notion of "more thinking," but deep down, they like it. It's the reason why they choose to enroll in as many AP classes as possible, why they participate in an inordinately large amount of extracurriculars, why they pursue hobbies like computer programming (hacking, to be "cool"), music, and sports.

There was a long-running joke in Patapsco Middle School about the "Challenge Reading" course. It was essentially an accelerated reading class. The students in it, however, would joke about themselves being put in the class because they were "challenged," in the "mentally challenged" sense of the word. Middle schoolers can be very politically incorrect. However, the irony was that these kids were not only the opposite of mentally challenged, but that they were not being challenged enough and probably wouldn't be for the rest of their K-12 academic careers. Howard County will never realize the potential of its students if we keep them in the "safe zone." Sometimes it is necessary to push kids to their limit, to find out how much more "gifted" they can be.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Focus Group Schedule

I have received the following email from the Department of Planning and Zoning and I thought I would pass it along to you:

We are canceling the June 28 meeting of the Focus Group and, in its place, will meet on Wednesday, July 5 at 3:00 p.m. in The Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center at 5851 Robert Oliver Place.

The meeting date and topic have been changed so that we can have an open discussion about the process we have been using and how we can best ensure that, collectively, we create a vision that the community wants. For quite a while, there has been a string of critical emails about the charrette and focus group process and the issues as presented by DPZ. We know that, at the Vision Howard County session, people also criticized the process and information being generated in the focus group meetings.

With so much more work to be done to formulate the Master Plan, we want to get on the right track. So, we want to talk about how to reach a consensus, how to improve the communications and how we make sure that all concerns are on the table. This will be a “pulse check” of the focus group. We will have a facilitator to assist us.

We hope the shift in dates does not cause any serious inconvenience but we think it is important to have this discussion. We look forward to seeing you on July 5 at The Other Barn.

Reminder: The Focus Group meeting scheduled for July 12 to discuss the traffic study will be held at The Other Barn in the Oakland Mills Village Center at 5851 Robert Oliver Place.

It is good to hear that the Department of Planning and Zoning recognizes that they have not been "on the right track" and they now want to "get on the right track". I have from the start wanted to work constructively to get the best plan for downtown reflecting what the community has said repeatedly it wants. I hope this will help get the process back on the right track, but to do so it is very important that this meeting is open for all to attend and to speak up. The facilitator should be instructed that it is an open meeting and all people whether they are on the focus group or not should be heard from, since one of the issues that prompted this meeting according to the Department of Planning and Zoning is complaints about "the focus group process". I also strongly recommend, and I must emphasis the importants of this, that this meeting be video taped so there is a record to be referred back to if there is a disagreement on what was said. This last issue is crucial to rebuilding trust into this process, which is something we all want.

Well, now I am off to Yosemite for a week of camping and I look forward to participating in the meeting on July 5th, when I get back.

Oh, and since I am on the subject of Yosemite I guess I should leave you with a link to the best wedding picture ever (no one I know, but it is courtesy of Yosemite Blog).

Friday, June 23, 2006

Maybe votes on amendments were more important than final vote on new electric rates legislation

I notice that the local press lists how our county legislators voted on final passage of the just-enacted and subsequently vetoed rate legislation. More telling of their interest in protecting consumers, I contend, were their individual votes on a couple of identical amendments introduced first in the Senate by Senator Pinsky (D-22/PG Co.) and then in the House by Delegate Hubbard (D-23A/PG Co.) that sought to permit counties or municipal corporations to act as aggregators on behalf of consumers. Unfortunately, these amendments were rejected in the Senate by 13-34 and in the House by 55-73. All three Howard County Senators (Kittleman, Kasemeyer, and Schrader) voted NO. In the House, Delegates Bates, Miller, DeBoy, and Malone also voted NO while Delegates Bobo, Pendergrass, Quinter, and Turner voted YES. The final vote in each body just tells you who accepted the overall compromise.
The source of this information is the Legislative Services website and it is also the source for the Hubbard amendment which is printed out from it below:


BY: Delegate Hubbard


(Third Reading File Bill)


On page 1, in line 24, after "provisions;" insert "repealing a certain prohibition on a county or a municipal corporation acting as an aggregator unless the Commission makes a certain determination;".

On page 3, after line 42, insert:

"BY repealing

Article - Public Utility Companies

Section 7-510(f)

Annotated Code of Maryland

(1998 Volume and 2005 Supplement)".


On page 9, after line 30, insert:

"[(f) A county or municipal corporation may not act as an aggregator unless the Commission determines there is not sufficient competition within the boundaries of the county or municipal corporation.]".

Is library censorship coming to Howard County?

Under the guise of protecting children from whatever they might find in their computer searches, it seems like a real possibility that we're going to get a little more censorship in our Howard County libraries. That's what I read into the article by Jennifer Surface in the June 22 Times and Flier. You can check it out at

To date, the formulators of our county library policy have resisted the federal government's computer censorship attempts to bring us all down the level of six-year-olds. We've told them we won't be bought with their money and that they can keep their prudish attempts at censorship to themselves. But now there is talk of reconsideration and even a Howard County Times poll on the subject.

I would argue that the existing policy of the county library system is more than adequate and that we need no more in the way of Big Brother-style oversight. The activities of children are the responsibility of their parents. If some of the latter choose to try to keep their children ignorant about sexual matters or whatever, they can keep them out of sex education classes, away from their home computers, and even out of libraries. That doesn't seem educationally productive to me, but it would be plenty protective. Just don't require that others be subjected to governmental or library censorship based on puritanical prudery. I submit that no change in the library's computer policy is either required or necessary. Say NO to filters on the library computers.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Doug Duncan Drops Out of the Governors Race

Doug Duncan has dropped out of the governors race. My thoughts are with him and his family.

Osmundson Has It Right On the BGE Mess

Democrat Dave "OZ" Osmundson, candidate for State Delegate in District 9A, was "right on the money" with his position on the BGE rate increase mess in March and he is still right.


I think everyone in Maryland was shocked to learn that the cost of electricity could go up as much as 72 percent in July. We were even more shocked that BGE would begin adding the additional cost on to consumers now. Meanwhile the Democrats and Republicans are arguing back and forth, blaming each other. One wonders why nothing was done until now when the law to deregulate electricity was passed by Democrats in 1999 (with the vote of every Republican favoring the bill also). The Erhlich administration has been in charge for three years and surely that is time enough for the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler to do something. Was the motivation politics, with the idea being that this would help get Ehrlich re-elected in a state that is heavily Democratic?

When this legislation was passed in 1999 the thought was that competition would lower electricity costs. What they failed to understand is the basic economic reality of ELASTICITY of demand. The demand for “necessities” tends to be relatively inelastic and electricity is a necessity. The demand for “luxuries” tends to be elastic. We can’t get along without necessities so trying to create competition between power companies tends to create more collusion than competition.

I believe our state officials should take more of an interest in electrical power and less interest in political power. We don’t need the political finger pointing and posturing when both Democrats and Republicans contributed to this crisis. This huge rise in the cost of electricity may create more romantic candle lit dinners and perhaps a sudden burst in Maryland’s population but it comes at a time when we are already coping with rising gasoline prices and wages are remaining stagnant. Sometimes I get the feeling that our politicians only care about themselves. Politicians are supposed to be our voice and it would do them well to start listening to what regular folks are saying. We don’t need the PSC getting cozy with people who want to make energy a profitable endeavor. Because electricity is inelastic and a necessity it should remain a public utility with regulated fixed profit margins. Deregulation of electricity only results in increased profits for the companies and their stockholders and the big loser is you – the consumer.

David L. Osmundson
24 March 2006

The lack of leadership by Ehrlich is just as shocking as the increases BGE wants to put on everyone's utility bills. Ehrlich should just admit that this whole deregulation nonsense is a mess and move to reregulate BGE.

Ellicott City Democratic Club Meets Thursday, June 22nd

The Ellicott City Democratic Club will hold an organizational meeting on Thursday, June 22nd at 7:00pm in the Miller Library, 9421 Frederick Road, Ellicott City. Join the Democrats in Ellicott City as they prepare to take back America starting right here in Howard County.

Are You Keeping Score?

The Maryland League of Conservation Voters has issued their scorecard for the Maryland General Assembly. Every two years they issue this scorecard so that voters can know the environmental record of their representatives in Annapolis.

Highest Scores:
Senate (100%)Conway, Frosh, Gladden, Green, Grosfeld, Hollinger

House (100%)Benson, Bobo, Cardin, Conroy, Frush, Gutierrez,
Hammen, Healey, Heller, Holmes, Hubbard, Kaiser, Kullen, Lawton, Mandel, Menes, Moe, Montgomery, Morhaim, Murray, Parker, Proctor, Pugh, Ramirez, Ross, F.Turner, V.Turner

Lowest Scores:
Senate (0%)Jacobs, Stoltzfus

House (0%)Bates, Boteler, Dwyer, Krebs, McConkey, Miller, Shewell, Stocksdale

Unfortunately, my Delegates Bates and Miller, who represent District 9A, are at the bottom when it comes to environmental protection. Hopefully, District 9A will get more environmentally friendly delegates after the election this fall.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Republicans, Then and Now

Do you ever wonder why the Republicans of today are so different from the Republicans of the 1950s? Where did all the Eisenhower Republicans go? What happened to the Republican Party which was truly a conservative party, respecting the results of history (the New Deal and the Post World War II consensus of shared prosperity) and concentrating on preserving those results? Paul Krugman, while referring to a new book by three political scientists called "Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches", thinks he has found part of the answer.
What the book shows, using a sophisticated analysis of Congressional votes and other data, is that for the past century, political polarization and economic inequality have moved hand in hand. . . . The era of bipartisanship, which lasted for roughly a generation after World War II, corresponded to the high tide of America's middle class. That high tide began receding in the late 1970's, as middle-class incomes grew slowly at best while incomes at the top soared; and as income gaps widened, a deep partisan divide re-emerged. . . .
Before the 1940's, the Republican Party relied financially on the support of a wealthy elite, and most Republican politicians firmly defended that elite's privileges. But the rich became a lot poorer during and after World War II, while the middle class prospered. And many Republicans accommodated themselves to the new situation, accepting the legitimacy and desirability of institutions that helped limit economic inequality, such as a strongly progressive tax system. (The top rate during the Eisenhower years was 91 percent.)
When the elite once again pulled away from the middle class, however, Republicans turned their back on the legacy of Dwight Eisenhower and returned to a focus on the interests of the wealthy. Tax cuts at the top — including repeal of the estate tax — became the party's highest priority.
I don’t think we can count on another Eisenhower to arise in the Republican Party. So it is up to the Democrats to make the case for shared prosperity and the common good. The Democrats have to change the terms of the political debate from the Republican "you're on your own" to the Democratic "we are all in this together."

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Harassment of Pack Shack resumes


I learned from this news article in the Sunday Sun that Howard County had to pay last year a substantial sum to the Pack Shack adult entertainment bookstore in Ellicott City for what amounts to legal harassment. Now our county law enforcers are at it again. Will we have to pay a bigger penalty next time?
Nine years ago, as you can see from the article, an effort was made to specifically "get" Pack Shack via changes in county zoning. It was found to be an infringement of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression by the court. Yet here we go again with enforcement of a "get Pack Shack" zoning change enacted in 2004. We can expect another extended legal entanglement, because the bookstore will surely defend itself as implied by its lawyer in this article, and more court costs. And for what?
As long as only consenting adults are involved, whose business is it what goes on at Pack Shack. I neither know nor care and wish our county government could say the same.
So they apparently sell X-rated books or publications. Big deal!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Delegate Deboy - A Strange Endorsement for the HCEA

The Howard County Education Association (HCEA) has announced their list of endorsed candidates for local political races. One of them is Democratic incumbent Steven Deboy, the State Delegate for Legislative District 12A. According to Ann De Lacy, the president of the HCEA, "incumbents get the union’s automatic endorsement if the incumbents’ voting record falls in line with the union’s agenda" (source Howard County Times, June 15, 2006, p. 6). The strange thing about Deboy’s endorsement is that his voting record shows that he is a weak supporter of public education.

In 2003, on the budget bill (HB40), he voted against a failed amendment by Delegate Shane Pendergrass that was aimed at deleting $3 million that had been inserted by the governor for nonpublic school textbooks. Here is the House vote and click on numbers after FLOOR AMD Pendergrass to see the language of the amendment.

In 2004, on the budget bill (SB125), he voted against a failed amendment by Delegate Elizabeth Bobo that was aimed at deleting funds that had been added by the governor for nonpublic school computers. Here is the House vote and click on numbers after FLOOR AMD Bobo to see the language of the amendment.

Also in 2004, he voted against a bill (HB1188) that would have capped college tuition while temporarily increasing corporate taxes. Despite his opposition, the bill was enacted. But the governor vetoed it and his veto went unchallenged. For the synopsis and history of the bill. Under Roll Call votes at the bottom of the page, click, one at a time, on 81-60 and on 80-58 to see the vote on original House passage and on final House passage accepting the Senate amendments. If you return to the synopsis page, you can click on House Bill 1188 at the top of the page to see a copy of the final version of the bill.

In 2005, he cosponsored a bill (HB998) that sought to provide a state income tax credit for the costs of sending a child to a nonpublic school in the state. The bill failed unanimously in committee. For the bill's synopsis and history. But to see exactly how the Ways and Means Committee voted on it, you'd have to call Legislative Services on 301-970-5400 or 410-946-5400 and ask them to send you a copy of the committee vote on this or any specific legislation. You want to ask for HB998 of 2005. (Neither DeBoy nor any other delegate representing Howard County sits on that committee.)

Also in 2005, he cosponsored a bill (HB256) that sought to provide a state income tax credit to nonpublic school teachers for the costs of up to $1500 of their required graduate level expenses. It received no action. For the bill's synopsis and history. It shows that there was no action after the hearing.

In 2006, he cosponsored a bill (HB1228) requiring that the state Board of Education permit the teaching or discussion of the theory of intelligent design in humanities or philosophy classes. It received an unfavorable committee report on the last day of the session. Generally, any committee votes taken that late in the session are perfunctory. For the bill's synopsis and history. You'd have to call Legislative Services and ask for the Ways and Means committee vote on HB1228 of 2006 if you want it. (Again, neither DeBoy nor any other Howard County Delegate sits on that committee.)

This voting record hardly reflects someone who is a strong supporter of public education. So what exactly does an incumbent have to do to not get the HCEA endorsement?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Accountability vs. Impartiality

I wanted to stick my own two cents in on Demos's post below, but before I do I want to thank Demos, Ken, and Alan for posting while I am camping out west and I hope all of you have been enjoying there posts.

Now on to what Demos wrote in the post below, I could not disagree more. There is no such thing as impartiality with such things as zoning decisions, but we can have accountability. That is if the zoning board is elected the voters can hold them accountable. That is the only way the public can have a voice in this very important process. The more the zoning board is separated from the voters the less voice the public will have and the more likely back room deals with developers will be able to go on unchecked. Let's not throw out accountability in the search for the mythical notion of impartiality.

Sachs Is Right - County Council As Zoning Board Is A Problem

As reported in the Howard County Times, Adam Sachs, Democratic Candidate for County Council seat in District 2, has suggested that the County Council should not also serve as the Zoning Board. I agree. And the County Council should not serve as the Liquor Board either. Both boards should be nonpartisan and appointed by the County Council. The council could have the ultimate veto over any action by these boards and have the ability of removing members from these boards, but the boards should be allowed to operate openly and transparently, outside the political arena of the County Council. Political pressure and campaign contributions from wealthy supporters could cloud the judgment of Council members who are making these important decisions for all of us in Howard County. Until some change occurs, I think Sachs’ comment reflects what many people are feeling right now about the Council’s decisions when it comes to zoning.
“There's no question that the public does not have full faith in the
impartiality of this process."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The BG&E Mess - Money vs. People Power

A special session of the Maryland Legislature will hopefully provide some relief from the pending 72% rate increase that all BG&E customers face on July 1st. However, I don’t hold out much hope that the true interests of Marylanders will be served once the session is over. If you read the Baltimore Sun article on the BG&E mess you will notice that no one in a position of power is seriously considering admitting that the whole deregulation movement is a failure and regulation should be reinstituted. Constellation Energy, the parent company of BG&E, has spread enough money around in Annapolis to make sure that reregulation will never come up. (Gail Bates and Warren Miller, my state legislators and, of course Robert Ehrlich, have take money from Constellation, so no leadership will come from them on this issue). The side bar in the Sun article shows that where states have deregulated electricity, rates have gone up significantly. Like I said before, electric utilities are monopolies and they should be regulated. This whole crisis is another indication of how far the Enronization of our economy has gone. If this deregulation movement is not stopped here, the next market fundamentalist deregulation in Maryland will be water. If you don't believe that is possible, check out what is happening in Lexington, Kentucky. If you believe the whole BG&E mess has an obvious solution like reregulation call your state representatives and tell them. The number for the switch board in Annapolis is 800-492-7122. The power of money has spoken, the only thing we have left is the power of the people.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth - Hayduke Has A Great Post About Al Gore's Movie

I saw An Inconvenient Truth last weekend and I recommend it to anyone who doesn't know much about global warming. Hayduke has a great post about the movie, science and what you can do about global warming on his blog - check it out.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Three Democratic Candidates Host An Irish Inspired Arts "Friendraiser" Event June 24th at 6:30pm

Don Dunn, who is running for County Council in the 5th District, Dave "OZ" Osmundson, who is running for District 9A House of Delegates seat and Richard Corkran, who is running for State Senate in District 9, are hosting a “Friendraiser” event on June 24th at 6:30pm. The event will be held at the Howard County Conservancy, which is located at 10520 Old Frederick Road in Woodstock. They call this event a “Friendraiser” because the candidates are offering this event which celebrates the performing arts as act of friendship to the community.

Dunn, Osmundson and Corkran have arranged to have Joan McCready perform her one act play "Coole Lady", Richard McCready play Irish music and The Teelin Dancers perform Irish dance.

The one-act play "Coole Lady" combines dramatic intensity with graceful elegance and is a play about Lady Gregory (1852-1932), co-founder of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre. George Bernard Shaw called her “The greatest living Irishwoman.” The play is performed by Joan McCready, a Belfast woman who now makes her home in Baltimore. "Coole Lady" was first performed at the Yeats International Summer School in 2003 and was on tour in Ireland in 2004, Off-Broadway and Baltimore in 2005, and again in Ireland in 2006. The play was written by her husband Sam McCready, who is a well known actor and director in Ireland.

Richard McCready teaches music in Howard County at Mayfield Middle School and plays a wide variety of musical instruments. He is as much a performer as his mother Joan and his father Sam.

The Teelin Dancers are nine lovely high school females who give an energetic performance much like River Dance. They’ve performed often throughout the area and I’m sure you will love them.

If you are interested in attending, send a check for $30 dollars to Oz for 9A, 575 Deer Hill Road, Sykesville, MD 21784 or pay at the door.

Also, you can bring you own wine or beer.

Directions: From I-70 exit north on Marriottsville Road (Exit 83) and turn right at the stoplight onto Route 99 (Old Frederick Road). Go east about 2 miles and you’ll see the Woodstock Post Office on the right. The next left is 10520 Old Frederick Road. The Howard County Conservancy is in a rural setting far from the road and has a gravel road entrance.

Camp Wellstone Comes to Baltimore June 23rd to 25th

If you are interested in getting involved in progressive political campaigns, then you should sign up to get hands-on training at Camp Wellstone Baltimore. Everyone I have talked to who has attended the training has had a great experience.

Camp Wellstone will be held in Baltimore, Maryland the weekend of June 23-25. Click here to register.

Camp Wellstone is a training program that teaches progressives how to win on issues and elect good candidates. They use a distinctive approach to politics, based on Paul Wellstone's success at integrating grassroots organizing, electoral organizing, progressive public policy and ethical leadership.

The training is highly interactive, combining exercises, lectures, and simulations over the course of 2.5 days. Camp runs Friday from 2:30pm-9:00pm, Saturday from 9:00am-6:00pm, and Sunday from 9:00am-3:00pm. They will keep you busy the whole time! The exact location of the camp will be announced soon.

Camp Wellstone is divided into three tracks:

Candidate track. This is for people who have made the decision to run for office.

Campaign track. This track focuses on how to be an effective staff or volunteer member of a winning progressive campaign.

Citizen activist track. For people interested in citizen lobbying, issue advocacy, and community organizing, this track provides skills in how to win on issues.

For more information about Camp Wellstone or to see which track is right for you, click here.

Camp Wellstone fills very quickly. If you are interested, sign up here.

The cost is $75 or just $35 for students, low-income, or unemployed participants. Camp participants are responsible for their own accommodations.

If you have questions about the training, contact Cietta Kiandoli by email or call 202-419-3077.

New group meeting tonight in Elkridge

A new interreligious group called People Acting Together for Howard (PATH), headed by Hector Rodriquez of Columbia, is meeting tonight at 7PM at St. Augustine's Hall in Elkridge. The address is 5976 Old Washington Road.
Numerous politicos are expected to attend to hear the views of those present on such subjects as housing, transportation, and youth. There is likely to be a large turnout, so those attending might be wise to get there early.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Traffic Study Causing an Accident?

The long-awaited traffic study on the proposed Master Plan for downtown Columbia seems to be in and that screeching sound you hear is GGP and the rest of the development community, along with DPZ and their elected bosses, slamming on the brakes! According to Laura Greenback in the (gag) Examiner on Jun 8:

In 25 years, you might be missing the days when inching along Little Patuxent Parkway after work was merely annoying. If growth explodes in Columbia’s Town Center, existing roads would not support the traffic, according to the initial data from an ongoing traffic study by Glatting Jackson, a land planning firm based in Orlando, Fla. The firm "better have some smaller scenarios. We should look at something that doesn’t have so much office area," said Walter Kulash, traffic engineer for Glatting Jackson.

The plan, which calls for up to 5,500 residential units, 5.2 million square feet of office space. and 1.3 million square feet of retail will be spread throughout 493 acres of Town Center in buildings up to 20 stories tall, according to the report. The large amount of proposed office space would be especially burdensome, Kulash said.

To reach ideal traffic, in which a driver stops for about one minute per traffic light, buildings in the urban center of Columbia should be between five to six stories tall, he said.

Interestingly, although DPZ continuously refers to the Master Plan as representing what came out of the Charrette in October 2005, almost no one at the Charrette mentioned tall buildings as something they found desirable. In fact, it appears to be just the opposite. Apparently, residents had the collective intuition that not only are tall buildings out of keeping with Columbia, the resulting traffic tie-ups would be unacceptable, as well.

It's time for what residents really said at the Charrette to come to the fore...stay tuned!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Political junkies ahoy!

Barry Rascovar's Gazette column of June 2 contains a rundown on the competitive State Senate races this year. He lists a number of seats that the Democrats might lose and mentions only one endangered Republican seat (the one now held by Sandra Schrader in LD13). He puts it in the "swing" category now, but adds that the Schrader seat would surely fall to Jim Robey if she is chosen to be Ehrlich's running mate. (With the filing deadline being July 3, the Ehrlich decision on that can't be far away.)

Rascovar also seems to be of the opinion that, with eight vacancies and given who's running or might be running to fill them, the next Senate will likely be somewhat more independent of Senate President Mike Miller than now. That, in my opinion, would be a good thing.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Morality of Republican Values

The Republican controlled Senate is at it again. They are moving forward
with huge tax cuts for the wealthiest families in America. The party of
“values” seems to value only one thing and that is paying off their wealthy
contributors with tax cut upon tax cut. Paul Krugman has a great editorial
about this situation in Monday’s New York Times.

The Senate almost voted to repeal the estate tax last fall, but
Republican leaders postponed the vote after Hurricane Katrina. It's easy to see why: the public might have made the connection between scenes of Americans abandoned in the Superdome and scenes of well-heeled senators voting huge tax breaks for their even wealthier campaign contributors. . .

But memories of Katrina have faded, and they're about to try again.
The Senate will probably vote this week. So it's important to realize that there's still a clear connection between tax breaks for the rich and failure to help Americans in need. . .

Who would benefit from this largess? The estate tax is overwhelmingly a tax on the very, very wealthy; only about one estate in 200 pays any tax at all. The campaign for estate tax repeal has largely been financed by just 18 powerful business dynasties, including the family that owns Wal-Mart.

The estate tax issue is a moral issue. Are we as a society going to give more money to the most wealthy among us while all the needs of America are neglected, for example, infrastructure security or health care or environmental protection or education? And bequeathing the debt for this irresponsible tax cut to our children and grandchildren so that billionaires can have more “capital” to invest in China or buy a nice Monet is just obscene.

Krugman concurs with the moral dimensions of this issue.

Let me remind senators that this isn't just a fiscal issue, it's also a moral issue. Congress has already declared that the budget deficit is serious enough to warrant depriving children of health care; how can it now say that it's worth enlarging the deficit to give Paris Hilton a tax break?
If this upsets you, as it does me, do something! Contact your Senators and tell them how you feel.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Support the Arts in Howard County - See Shakespeare in Ellicott City

The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is again performing plays outside in the ruins at the Patapsco Female Institute in Ellicott City.

The plays are:

The Taming of the Shrew directed by Patrick Kilpatrick, on June 2, 3, 5, 11, 18, 23, 24 and July 1, 2, 8, 9.

King Lear directed by Ian Gallanar, on June 9, 10, 16, 17, 24, 25, 30 and July 7.

In addition to seeing the plays, there are other activities before each performance which are great fun, especially for kids.

And if you are hungry, the Friends of the Patapsco Female Institute are responsible for concessions and have arranged for Mangia Italian Grill to offer a range of delicious dinners and snacks, so you can pre-order your food. Here is the menu.

Or you can bring your own dinner and snacks.

Finally, the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company offers great deals for children, young adults, for Father's Day and for those who would like to see both performances.

The special session will surely provide some electric rate relief,0,6446755.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

See today's Sun article. If the special legislative session that will soon begin does nothing else, we will have a reconstituted Public Service Commission. That body, which appears too business-oriented and not enough consumer-oriented, has done enough damage. Members of both political parties will be competing to see who can look like the greatest savior for the rate-paying and voting public. This issue does directly affect a whole lot of people and the pressure is on to provide some kind of remedy. Legislators and the governor cannot afford to look like they're not interested in providing as much of a remedy as possible.

Will Howard County's new smoking law be emulated statewide?,0,2031945.story?coll=bal-local-headlines

As indicated in today's Sun, the bill to extend the ban on smoking in Howard County bars and restaurants was adopted on a 3-2 partisan vote last night. It will surely be signed into law by County Executive Robey. Will Baltimore City be next? Or will it be the state?

Summer Lakefront Schedule

I have been checking my Flier and the CA website for weeks looking out for the most important (to me at least) CA publication of the year: The Lakefront Summer Festival Schedule. It is finally out! If you have never been the summer free movies and concerts at the lakefront are one of Howard County's greatest civic treasures. I started going as a little kid, when my mom use to take my sister and me, a blanket, and a picnic dinner down to them. I remember seeing Star Wars outside under the stars and how amazing it was. I still go every chance I can get. What better way to spend a Friday than a free movie at the lakefront with friends, family, or that special someone. It is amazing the difersity of ages the movies bring out. Young couples, parents with their kids, empty nesters, aging parents who because the area lacks affordable housing for their kids wish they could be empty nesters, and high school students looking for a fun, cheap night out. It is a great way to bring the community together.

Check out the schedule. It is a good eclectic mix this year.

Also remember that the current plan for the redevelopment of downtown (unless you fight to change it) will have a road going over the top edge of the grass amphitheater. You have the power to safe this amazing civic space and the events we love to enjoy there.

There are solutions that have been suggested that would allow the developer to make a lot of money off this area without having to run this road over the grass amphitheater.

Impartiality and Accountability

HayDuke declares “impartiality is a myth” when dealing with zoning and I could not agree with him more. I will add that though it is impossible to have impartiality in such matters, but you can have accountability. If the final decision rests with an elected Zoning Board ultimately the voters can keep the zoning process accountable to the citizens through the ballot box.

Friday, June 02, 2006

While ratepayers stew, corporate execs make millions,0,2581325.story?coll=bal-home-headlines

Somethings's wrong with this picture as portrayed in today's Sun. Is it really fair and par for the course that some corporate execs get million dollar plus payouts from the profits of the electrical industry while some people who the electricity to survive may not be able to pay the drastically increased utility rates to come?

The "22-story" Building Part XXXVIII: Law Enforceable and Content Matters

There is a letter to the editor on the court case over the “22-story” building in the Flier this week. It raises an interesting question: after an illegal act has been committed can and should a review to uphold the law be prevented by another procedural maneuver? Obviously the notion of standing has been part of the legal system for a long time (though it seems to me that any citizen should have standing in a democracy to challenge the illegal act of a government body), but in this case it is being used to try to prevent a legal remedy to an illegal act. We are a nation of laws and when the law is broken there must be a way to enforce it, but here we have a maneuver, yes grounded in legal tradition, but in this case being solely used to try to prevent enforcement of the law. It is an interesting little game that tries to protect illegality using a cloak of legal maneuver and I am interested to see if the judge looks at the big picture issue of an illegal act being reviewed so the law can be enforced or chooses to determine that there is no means to enforce the law and thus make the law meaningless. For, surely a law that cannot be enforced is meaningless.

Now as I have said many times before my biggest problem with the “22-story” tower is less its height than its content. If you are going to build a building of that size there surely is room within the massive profits the developer is to make to absorb the mixed income housing that Howard County values and needs. And that doesn’t even mention the fact that despite pools being an integral part of the mixing and community building Rouse used to strengthen our community that this tower will have a private pool on its roof. If this pool were to be the Lakefront Neighborhood Pool that all CA members could use under the Package Plan structure, then I think it would be great and I would be happy they were making such great land use by putting a neighborhood pool on the roof in an urban environment, but as a private pool it is a direct assault on the principles of Columbia.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

How about a county electricity cooperative?

Interesting story from the Sun.

Your comments are invited.

Desperation tactics on early voting

Because of the anticipated results of early voting, Democrats are generally very much for it and the Ehrlich administration is very much (even desperately) against it. See this Sun article.

Republicans statewide are pulling out all the stops (a referendum attempt and unwillingness to provide funds for it) against early voting.

Legislation that was enacted over the governor's veto both last year and this year would enable early voting in Howard County at three specific library locations (East Columbia, Miller, and Savage) from Tuesday through Saturday the week before both the primary and general elections. This would obviously make it easier for more people to vote, both in Howard County and elsewhere in Maryland. But the prospects of this happening this year are more than a little cloudy because of the referendum efforts, the funding matter, and the real possibility of it getting entangled in legal proceedings that might extend past either election day. Time will soon run out and it's going to be an interesting situation to watch.

Intercounty Connector

The Washington Post published this map of the approved route for the ICC yesterday. What do you think of it?