Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Gerrymander Results

Last week I posted a fun "rank your favorite gerrymander" post. The results are in and IL-4 made everyone's list.

Personally I found all of them cases of bad gerrymandering. Some like IL-4 and our very own MD-3 are only connected at times by highway. Others like the NY and NJ districts that are were listed and MD-2 and MD-3 jump over bodies of water. Then there are states like PA and FL that go block by block in some areas.

Some states are particularly bad. IL, NC, and MD have some very bad districts, but PA takes the cake as the single worst across the board.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Candidates Forum Aust 28th (Date Corrected)

The Harper's Choice Village Board is having a west Columbia candidate forum Aug. 28, 7:30pm, at Kahler Hall (Harper's Choice Village Center, Columbia).

To enable candidates' views to be discussed in some depth, the forum will be limited to candidates for Howard County Executive and District 4 County Council.

All eight of the candidates will be participating:

-- County Executive Candidates:

Harry Dunbar, Chris Merdon, Ken Ulman, and Steve Wallis

-- District 4 County Council Candidates:

Tom D'Asto, Josh Feldmark, Mary Kay Sigaty, and Jeffrey Underwood

The public is invited to ask questions and hear the candidates' views on the future of Howard County.

Seems like a great opportunity. Use this as an open thread to discuss the County Exec and County Council District 4 elections.

Money Laundering by the Hollinger Campaign?

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that a consultant paid by State Senator Paula Hollinger's campaign for Congress offered to exchange money from her state campaign account for a contribution to her federal campaign account. This would be an illegal effort to circumvent campaign finance rules that prohibit money in state accounts raised under looser fundraising rules to be used in federal campaigns. Is this part of a coordinated effort or the lone act of a paid consultant (who served as a campaign manager for one of Hollingers prior elections)? The Sun mentions at least two cases of this illegal behavior by a person working for the Hollinger campaign.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

HoCo Police Support Ulman, too!

"Police Issue Endorsements, Pick Ulman for County Exec" is the newest headline in this week's issue of The View. I'd have to agree with the Howard County Police Officer's Association in its endorsement of Ken Ulman for county executive. Mr. Ulman is a great supporter of the county's police officers, and just a great guy in general.

Going off on a tangent, you can really judge a person by their treatment of others. In my experience from working for Ulman's campaign, he is not only an admirable politician, but he's exceptionally kind to "us lowly interns." We're kept happy (for the most part..) and while I cannot vote, I hope you vote Ulman because who wouldn't want a good person as county executive?

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Democracy for Howard County Endorsements

Democracy for Howard County (the local Democracy of America group) made its endorsements today. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Democracy for America it is a fiscally responsible, socially progressive group that came out of Howard Dean's presidential campaign. The local Democracy for Howard County groups stated goals are:

  • Fiscally Responsible Government
  • Equal Rights for All
  • Economic Security For All
  • Environmental Preservation
  • Health Care for All
  • Investment in Children
  • A Transparent Government and Political Process Free of Corruption and Responsive to the American People
  • A National Security Policy that Protects America Without Curtailing Our Civil Liberties

Democracy for Howard County endorsed:

Governor/Lt. Gov.: Martin O'Malley/Anthony Brown

Comptroller: Peter Franchot

Attorney General: Tom Perez

US Senate: Allan Lichtman

Congress-3: Dr. Peter Beilenson (interesting to note that in this very competitive primary Beilenson recieved every vote except one)

State Senate-9: Richard Cockran

State Senate-12: No Endorsement

State Senate-13: No Endorsement

Delegate-9A: (2 slots) Dave Osmundson

Delegate-12A: (2 slots) No Endorsement

Delegate-12B: Liz Bobo

Delegate-13: (3 slots) Nina Basu, Neil Quinter, and No Endorsement for the third slot

County Exec.: Ken Ulman

Council-1: Courtney Watson

Council-2: Calvin Ball

Council-3: Jen Terrasa

Council-4: Mary Kay Sigaty

Council-5: Don Dunn

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Downtown Columbia Revelopment Focus Group Wednesday, July 26th

The next Focus Group Meeting is on Wednesday, July 26 from 3pm to 5:30pm at The Other Barn at 5851 Robert Oliver Place in Oakland Mills. Here is the agenda for the meeting.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Rank the Worst Gerrymanders

For some fun before I write about Metro again I thought we should play: "Rank the Worst Gerrymanders" inspired by our very own MD-3.

How you play: Look at the congressional district maps below and in the comments section list the districts from with worst gerrymander last. Feel free to discuss your thoughts on the districts as well.

Here are your options:

(Note: I have chosen not to include TX and GA who have been mid-decade redistricted.)
























Friday, July 21, 2006


The biggest blog on the Democratic side is DailyKos, which has a daily readership over 500,000 viewers, is having a poll of its readers on who they like for President in 2008. Though this is obviously not a scientific sampling it is a good indicator on what the online Democratic activists are leaning towards. Check out the results. I think it will surprise people.

What do you think about the 2008 field?

Oh and we will do "a rank the worst gerrymander" poll of our own this weekend inspired by a commentors reaction to our very own MD 3rd Congressional District.

We will also be returning to the Metro Extention conversation already in progress very soon.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Columbia Democratic Club Endorsements

The Columbia Democratic Club made its endorsements today. The club endorsed:

Governor/Lt. Gov.: Martin O'Malley/Anthony Brown

Comptroller: Peter Franchot easily won by a wide margin

Attorney General: Not Enough Agreement to Endorse (Personal Note: This race based on what I saw tonight looks like it is shaping up to be one of the tightest primaries in the state. Tom Perez and Stu Simms were the candidates that advanced to the final round. Though Doug Gansler has plenty of money he was the first eliminated.)

US Senate: Ben Cardin

Congress-3: Dr. Peter Beilenson

Congress-7: Elijah Cummings

State Senate-9: Richard Cockran

State Senate-12: Ed Kasemeyer

State Senate-13: Jim Robey

Delegate-9A: (2 slots) Dave Osmundson

Delegate-12A: (2 slots) Steve DeBoy, Jim Malone

Delegate-12B: Liz Bobo

Delegate-13: (3 slots) Guy Guzzone, Shane Pendergrass, Neil Quinter, Frank Turner (Yes, this is four candidates for three slots, but they all made the threshold of votes needed for endorsement. )

County Exec.: Ken Ulman

Council-1: Courtney Watson

Council-2: Calvin Ball

Council-3: Jen Terrasa

Council-4: Josh Feldmark

Council-5: Don Dunn

Judge of Circuit Ct: (two slots) Becker, Bernhardt

State's Attorney: Tim McCrone

Clerk of Circuit Ct.: Cale

Register of Wills: Blickman

Judge of Orphan's Ct.: (3 slots) Cohen, McNeal

Sheriff: Fitzgerald

Central Committee: (12 slots) Carole Fisher, Erum Malik, Tony McGuffin, Michael McPherson, Kristen Neville, Bill Woodcock, and there wasn’t enough agreement to endorse the other six

Board of Education: (5 slots) Aquino, Cohen, Gordon, Kaufman, Siddiqui

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

More Metro Posts Coming Soon

I will be responding to the discussion so far on extending the Metro very soon. I was camping on the Eastern Shore this past weekend and I need some time to think about everyone's comments thus far. If you have any more thoughts feel free to post them.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Congressional Candidates Forum - Tuesday, July 18th

The League of Women Voters is holding a Candidates Forum at 7pm on Tuesday, July 18th at the George Howard Building (i.e. the Howard County Government Building in Ellicott City) in the Banneker Room. With Ben Cardin running for the US Senate the 3rd Congressional District (most of East Columbia, Elkridge, Rivers Edge and north side of Johns Hopkins Road) voters have the most competitive election they have seen in 20 years. Here is a map of the district:

The candidates are:
Mishonda Baldwin (D) - Motivational Speaker, Attorney, & Desert Storm Veteran
Andy Barth (D) - TV News Reporter
Dr. Peter Beilenson (D) - Former Baltimore Health Commissioner
Oz Bengur (D) - Investment Banker, Ex-State Dem. Party Treasurer & '02 Candidate in District 2
Paula Hollinger (D) - State Sen., Ex-State Del. & Nurse
Kevin O'Keeffe (D) - Attorney & Former Aide to Anne Arundel County Exec Janet Owens
John Rea (D) - Salesman & Frequent Candidate
John Sarbanes (D) - Attorney & Son of US Sen. Paul Sarbanes
Bruce Altschuler (R) - ?
Gary Applebaum (R) - Physician
Rick Hoover (R) - Minister & '04 Candidate
Eugenia Ordynsky (R) - Attorney
Scott Smith (R) - ?
Paul Spause (R) - Engineer
David Trudil (R) - Research Scientist & Businessman
John White (R) - Marketing Company Owner

Charles McPeek (Libertarian) - Used Tire Store Owner & Frequent Candidate
John Hoffert Jr. (Independent) - Author & Army Veteran

In the 7th Congressional District the Republicans have not found anyone interested in running against Congressman Elijah Cummings so he is running unopposed.

Come on out and decide for yourself who you want representing you in Congress.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Finding Solutions

One of the reasons I started this blog was my belief after observing other blogs that a blog can be a great collective brainstorming tool. Ideas can be posted, commented on and refined. The community can have an open discussion of the issues and find solutions. To that end I posted the Metro idea yesterday and my proposed solution to the Wincopin Street South problem back in March. Since our readership has grown significantly I thought it would be a good idea to revisit my proposed solution for Wincopin Street South and get more input. So far the reaction has been very favorable. So with out further ado, click here to read my proposed solution to Wincopin Street South. I look forward to hearing your thought and suggestions.

Also while we are at it click here to get links to most of the major posts I have written on downtown Columbia.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Focus Group Meeting

The Focus Group meeting on the Traffic Study was interesting today. The bottom line on the Traffic Study was that the proposed road system could not support the proposed development under the current standards. The surface level response the traffic consultant gave was that if the proposed plan exceeds the current standards then we should change the standards so that the plan is meets the new standards. It is a brilliant approach that I wish my sixth grade teachers would have bought had I gotten a low score on a test and suggested that by new standards that low score should earn me a passing grade. I doubt my teacher would have bought that argument then and I am greatly entertained to hear it proposed now. But that was not the most interesting part of the consultants take on the results of traffic study. Wait for it…wait for it… You will love this. The underlying argument of the traffic consultant was that changing the standards to accept more congested traffic was actually a good thing because the congestion would 1) make people less likely to drive and 2) create public pressure for mass transit.

I hope our elected officials and candidates are paying close attention to this second point. I am sure they are all smart enough to realize that if the plan is approved as is they are creating political conditions where voters day to day lives are frustrated enough that they are expected to create public pressure on their elected officials. As I have thought for a while any politician who doesn’t get out in front and try to fix the current plan before it is approved will be in for a world of hurt from frustrated voters who will hold whoever approves it responsible. I may be Cassandra on this one, but I really hope for our elected official’s sakes they are paying attention.

In the next post down you will see one of my potential solutions to the traffic situation. It would allow the community and politicians to get out in front of the issue by putting into the plan the release valve that would allow people to drive less and be happy about it because they can live their lives without the planned congestion. I think the developers will like the idea because it is the only solution that will enable them to do the scale of development they want, but it will also mean they will need to dedicate some of their profits to covering the added cost they will be creating for the community.


Talk of extending Metro north to either Fort Meade or Columbia or both was kicked around pretty intensely last April. In fact Delegate Liz Bobo in the type of forward thinking I wish more of our elected officials would show got the state legislature to have the state study extending Metro to Columbia’s downtown. (I think it was the same type of forward thinking shown by Ken Ulman by proposing comprehensive planning of the redevelopment of downtown Columbia rather than the piecemeal approach that was going on until then.)

Anyway back to extending Metro. The key is to do it right and I think after the last Focus Group meeting on downtown Columbia that if extending Metro is done right it could be the solution the developers need in order to develop the land in downtown Columbia. What does doing it right entail? Well the key to whether Metro or any mass transit will be successful is ridership density. People will only ride if it moves them between where they are at and where they want to get to. Thus the more stops at desirable departure points and destinations the more people are likely to use the system. As you get further out on a line ridership density will drop off if it is solely a commuter line, thus the case for a commuter line up to Columbia is often scoffed at. Similarly Howard County probably could not support its own stand alone mass transit rail system, however if you create a system that is both a commuter and internal transit system we increase ridership density on the system.

Let me submit a couple items for your consideration before I get to my proposal:

1) Howard County’s current population is over 266,734 people
2) DC’s current population is around 553,523 people
3) When planning a Metro system we should be thinking 30 to 40 years out.
4) Construction on the DC Metro was started in 1969. Thus it went from nothing to its current form in 36 years. (It is worth the reminder that during roughly this same time Columbia went from 14,000 acres of farmland to a city of about 100,000.)
5) Located between Baltimore and DC and next to Ft. Meade (which due to BRAC is likely to grow substantially) Howard County will face significant population growth pressures that we must manage. Personally I would not be surprised if Howard County’s population doubles in 40 years and this creates a huge challenge. How do we absorb this population in a way that 1) preserves the quality of life we have in Howard County, 2) stays true to the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so we have the infrastructure to meet the community’s needs

Through the creation of Columbia, Howard County has a tradition of being a cutting edge pioneer of community planning and as we address extending Metro I suggest we again think outside the box and propose a new way of looking at extending a mass transit system. Instead of thinking of Metro extensions as a commuter line we should recognize that we can increase ridership density – and thus Metro’s viability – by designing it for both local and commuter traffic. This will also help relieve the road network problems that will be created by the increases in the county’s population.

Let us not nickel and dime the design of Metro’s extension into costing us more. I know many people will look at this system and say that it is going to be very expensive to build this system with more than a handful of park and drive Metro stops. However, the more stops that will take people from where they are to where they want to go, then the more riders the system will have and the more likely it will be able to recoup costs. If we short change the system, then we risk costing the public more by creating a system that has less ridership and fails to draw enough people off the roads in order to significantly mitigate congestion and road construction costs. This more extensive system I am proposing can mitigate some of the need for additional roads or the widening of existing roads in all parts of our community, while a more limited Metro extension would only relieve congestion on highways, but still require people to drive to park and ride Metro stops.

Let’s look at the plan:

The idea is to extent the Yellow Line (which currently ends at Mt. Vernon Square) up to Greenbelt on the same route as the Green Line and then extend both the Yellow and Green Lines two stops north to the I-95/Route 212 Intersection in Calverton via a stop on Route 1 under the Department of Agriculture Library. From Calverton the Green Line and the Yellow Line would split with the Green Line going up the I-95 Corridor and the Yellow Line going up the Route 29 Corridor. Then both lines would weave together in Columbia. Stops would be at each of the village centers, major employment areas like the Applied Physics Lab and Gateway Office Park, and major community locations like Merriweather, the Mall, HCC, and Howard County Hospital. In Howard County a Circle Line will be used to complete the system so that a large segment of the population in the dense eastern part of the county can be within walk distance of a station and all major destinations get stops. In some of these stops the station can be designed to have two or more different exits to serve different needs. For example the Calverton stop could be designed to have exits at both the shopping center and movie theater there as well as a massive parking garage located where the current movie theater parking lot is.

Many of the Metro stops will have to be underground because stops increase property values, but rail lines decrease property values.

Finally, before we get to the maps remember that DC Metro didn’t exist 36 years ago and the plan being looked developed for downtown Columbia is for a 30 year plan.

Here is the zoomed out map of the plan:

Here is the zoomed in map of the Circle Line:

Here is a zoomed in map of the downtown Columbia portion:

Most of these stops are relatively self-explanatory, but a couple that aren’t are:

Reservoir Heights: This would be located at the driving range and put-put golf course on Route 29 just north of the Reservoir. This stop would likely be designed to be both a park and ride stop and to serve the residential development and entertainment activities in the area.

Running Brook/Vantage Point: This would be at the intersection of these roads and Little Patuxent Parkway with exits on either side of Little Patuxent Parkway and can be designed to allow a free pedestrian underpass under Little Patuxent Parkway that if designed right can be designed to create continuous eyes in the underpass to discourage any problems. This stop could also have an elevator exit next to Vantage House to ease its resident’s access to the Metro.

Medical Center: This is the name I am using for the former location at the Columbia Medical Plan building. This sight could also be designed to serve the neighboring residential area.

Howard County Government: This would be at the George Howard Building complex.

As a whole I think it will be very important to involve the local communities with the design of each stop.

Now there are several aspect of these plans that may need to be revised as we move forward. First and most obviously, a way to connect Ft. Meade and BWI to the plan needs to be developed. I am still looking at my maps to determine how best to do this, but with Baltimore Lightrail already going to BWI my current thought is to extend the Lightrail to Ft. Meade and then to Elkhorn (i.e. the Route 32/ Brokenland Parkway Park and Ride) and make Elkhorn the main transit hub connecting the Baltimore Lightrail and DC Metro. Second, the plans will have to adapt over time as the Metro is expanded out and the major population concentrations in the area evolve. Third, changes can be made to specific station locations through conversations with the community as each stage of the Metro extensions are designed. One example of a change I can think of is there might be a local interest in Ellicott City to extent the northern edge of the Yellow Line to Route 40 in the area of Normandy Shopping Center and maybe have Baltimore Lightrail (or the Proposed Baltimore Red Line that is under consideration in Baltimore) connecting with the Yellow Line at the Normandy station and with the Green Line at the Mt. Hebron Station.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Lots of Stuff

I am back from my three and a half week camping trip out west and I want to thank our guest bloggers who kept the site going while I was on vacation. I hope you have been enjoying their posts and that they will continue to post.

I want to remind everyone that the next Focus Group meeting on downtown Columbia redevelopment is today over at the Other Barn in Oakland Mills from 3-5pm. They will be discussing the Traffic Study of the impact of the proposed redevelopment of downtown Columbia. What do you guys and gals think of the Traffic Study?

For a recap on downtown Columbia redevelopment you can find it here.

I also want to welcome fellow blogger Hayduke back from Montana. I passed through Montana on my trip west and it is a beautiful state. HayDuke wonders if Montana is hiring full-time bloggers. Well Montana already has a great working-for-free (like yours truly) blogger in Matt Singer who writes at Left in the West, which is one of the best local (i.e. not national) blogs that I read. If you are interested in Montana politics it is one of the best places to find it.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Transit Not Traffic Is What Columbia Needs

As the two articles entitled “Taking It To The Streets” and “Study – Traffic Would Overwhelm Downtown” in the July 6th Howard County Times demonstrates, Columbia Town Center needs to have mass transit and fast. The plans for any development in the eastern part of the county should integrate a mass transit component right from the start. That is the only way Howard County is going to grow in a sensible way, and on a human scale. Visit downtown Bethesda and you will see a high density neighborhood which works because it is supported by mass transit. Let’s get better bus service, then a light rail system and finally bring the metro to Columbia (and eastern Howard County) to create a vibrant urban environment. This can be done. It just takes the vision and political will to do it.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Joe Lieberman - True Democrat?

(With apologies to Calvin Trillin.)

Joe is in all the news.

Many think he will lose.

If he does, he should go.

But now he wants a second show.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

(Hillary) Clinton For President? That Is Not The Past The Democratic Party Needs To Recover

In the Sunday, July 2nd Washington Post article “The Power of Hillary”, James Carville and Mark J. Penn argue that Hillary Clinton, if she runs in 2008, can win the Presidency.

We don't know if Hillary is going to run for president, but as advisers who have worked on the only two successful Democratic presidential campaigns in the past couple of decades, we know that if she does run, she can win that race, too.

They acknowledge that Hillary has high negatives, but, according to Carville and Penn, that is to be expected because of the Republican attacks on her over the years.

Yes, she has a 42 percent negative rating, as do other nationally known Democrats. All the nationally unknown Democrats would likely wind up with high negative ratings, too, once they'd been through the Republican attack machine.

Carville and Penn believe that women voters would be the key for an election victory for Hillary.
Pundits and fundraisers and activists may be unsure of whether Hillary can get elected resident, but Democratic voters, particularly Democratic women and even independent women, are thrilled with the idea.

I beg to differ. It is not women voters that the Democratic Party has to reconnect with, it is working class voters that the party needs to attract again. Specifically, it is white working class middle aged male voters that the Democratic Party has to appeal to. The Democratic Party needs to find a way to go back to its roots, to rediscover its past, and include this set of voters by talking about issues that working people care about, for example, the right to unionize, access to a secure retirement, access to quality health care or access to affordable higher education. In the age of globalization, these issues and others are what the Democratic Party needs to embrace, not Clintonian neoliberalism, which gives working people the shaft while “feeling their pain”. The Democratic Party must once again convince working people that government can provide solutions for problems that seem overwhelming when faced by individuals on their own. One Clinton Presidency was enough for the Democratic Party. I like Carville and Penn, but I think they are wrong on Hillary.