Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Monday, August 21, 2006

Howard County Bloggers in the News

Note: This is a long post and for you weekday readers there are a lot of good posts below from this weekend so feel free to skip to the last paragraph of this post and then read other posts from over the weekend. For those of you who are interested in meta thoughts about blogging and a personal story about an experience I had at a candidates forum enjoy the long post.

Larry Carson wrote an article in yesterday’s Sun about our upcoming Bloggers' Candidates Forum. I think it is a well-written piece that highlights the pros of this kind of forum:

A politically diverse group of Howard County bloggers is planning an electronic question-and-answer session for the general election that voters can use when and how they please.

Larry notes my point that blogging actually has taken off with places like Montana and Colorado pioneering the medium to cover local events. Montana’s Left in the West is one of my favorite local (i.e. not national) blogs and is a great place to start exploring Montana politics. Colorado’s Square State is a good place to start exploring Colorado politics. I use to read Luis on Square State when he was over at another blog. Another great state blog is the Bluegrass Report, which covers Kentucky politics.

Now I love when people spout off without knowing what they are talking about so I really got a kick out of Donald F. Norris (public policy professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County)’s quote: "This is out there in the ether. If what you want to do is influence the election, a blog is not the way to do it."

Well I didn’t start this blog to influence elections and I think blogs perform a lot of functions (more about this below), but clearly Dr. Norris didn’t follow John Thune defeating Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004 in South Dakota where rightwing blogs played a major role. In fact, word on the street in DC is the Republican Party has been encouraging the development of similar use of blogs to influence elections and has even been using the South Dakota race as a case study to train operatives. And just to provide some examples of other blogs that have influenced elections I would guess that without the OH-2 blog the special election in Ohio’s 2nd Congressional District where Iraq War vet Paul Hackett nearly won in a very Republican district would never have caught national attention. Likewise I think that few people would have taken some guy named Ned Lamont seriously when he announced he was going to run against Joe Lieberman if blogs hadn’t started covering the race. Blogs are just another news source, but what makes them special is that they remove the filters that old fashioned media has used to determine for their readers/listeners/viewers what the editor things people care about. Anyone can start a blog and if people are interested in what they have to say people will choose to read them. Blogs credibility rests with them linking to sources and people calling them on errors in the comments section. Blogs with large readerships can act as online think tanks as the collective knowledge base of the readers can brainstorm solutions to problems or research an issue. People will turn to blogs to find coverage of events they are not getting from other media sources. It is the market at work.

Now as to why I did start this blog. An architect friend of mine from growing up in Columbia kept pointing out to me the use of deceptive sketches by the Department of Planning and Zoning that failed to accurately take note of topography issues or selectively picking an angle tried to sell an idea. He said this is quite common in the field and as I was talking to friends that were sharing their concerns with me about the redevelopment plan for Downtown Columbia I decided there needed to be a place I could direct people to find out about what was going on. Though most people might think I should have started a webpage I decided on a blog because this way we can discuss the plan and find solutions to problems in the plan together as a community. I like the participatory nature of the format. I have put out some possible solutions on this blog like:

1) My idea for the Lakefront

2) My idea for extending Metro

If you have ideas or suggestions, please write about them in the comments sections.

Now I found very interesting Jim Robey’s response to the idea of a Bloggers Candidates Forum:

Most candidates like the blogger idea, but not outgoing County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat who is running for state Senate this year.

"No, I'd rather show up and confront people face to face," he said. Answering questions electronically is "not my favorite way."

Now I should say upfront that I really liked Jim Robey until earlier this year. We had spoken in passing at several events over the years, including a very nice conversation when I was working the polls for Ken Ulman on primary day 2002. Now that changed at a candidates forum for state legislative candidates at the Columbia Democratic Club where I asked Jim something along the lines of: “I am a resident of District 13 and I am hearing from many of my neighbors that live in the district that they are very concerned that the current plan for downtown Columbia redevelopment doesn’t reflect what the community said during the first day of the charrette. I don’t want to see Schrader re-elected and I am getting concerned that Democrats will get hurt by this unless people are assured that the plan will be fixed to reflect what people said they wanted. Would you be willing to give us that assurance?” Jim got very upset by the question and said he had already spoken to me about it (which is not true because our only interaction on the subject until then had been less than 30 seconds at Ken Ulman’s announcement event when he was pulled away to go up to the stage before I had said anymore than the rough concerns I expressed in the later question to him. At Ken Ulman’s announcement he had given no response, though as he was getting pulled away I had suggested he check out the Howard County Blog where I had been writing about a lot of the concerns people had with the plan.) Anyway, since we really hadn’t talked before on it I went up to him afterwards, but before I could get two words out of my mouth he stuck his hand in my face and said he knew who I was and he didn’t want to speak to me and I should go vote for Schrader. I kind of stuttered at that and tried to continue, but with his hand still in my face he kept saying “I know who you are. Go vote for Schrader.” I was sure that there must be some mistaken identity. I kept trying to go on until he turned his back on me to talk to someone else. I picked my jaw off the floor and went off to see if I could get the mistaken identity sorted out another way. I spoke to three people who have known me for many years and who have a close political relationship to Jim, but I have never gotten any resolution on the matter. At the time I thought he may be mistaking me for the guy (David Keelan) who writes the HoCoMD Blog, which also goes by the name Howard County Blog. David is a Republican activist and has been very critical of Jim Robey’s friend Wayne Livesay who is running for County Council in District 5. Based on what I have heard since I no longer think that was the case, but as I said, I have not gotten a full explanation of what Jim’s outburst was all about. I would not even bring this up except for Jim Robey saying he’d “rather show up and confront people face to face". I am just still flabbergasted by that statement and his response to me when I asked him a question in a live candidates forum.

Anyway, back to your chance to ask questions of candidates. If you cannot wait for the Bloggers' Candidates Forum the Harper Choice Village Board is putting on a major candidates forum for County Exec and County Council District 4 candidates. All of the candidates are scheduled to be there and this may be the best chance to get your questions answered before the primary since the Bloggers' Candidates Forum will be after the primary.


Anonymous Dave Wissing said...

Interesting story about Robey. On the flip side, I have to say that Wayne Livesay has actually been pretty civil towards me when I come across him at various GOP events. He knows I am not supporting him in the primary and I have told him specifically why directly, but he never has completely dismissed me or ignored me when we come across each other at a GOP Club Happy Hour or public candidate's forum the way Robey did to you.

Maybe you need to vote for Senator Schrader, even if it is just to teach Robey a lesson in etiquette :)

8:31 AM  
Anonymous nina basu said...

Dissing any voter in general is a bad idea. Doing so in public worse, and doing so in an age where, well, news travels exceptionally quickly is really not a good idea.

I will say this - in response to Dave's post - many, if not most, candidates are civil, polite, and intelligent people who behave correctly to those who disagree with them. Or, at least I hope so!

12:40 PM  
Anonymous David W. Keelan said...

I was thinking the same thing you were. That he had you and me mixed up. Wayne Livesay has always been very courteous and polite even to ME!

Do your friends who know him offer any insight? Is that how he reacts to any perceived criticism or was it just a bad day?

12:44 PM  
Anonymous David W. Keelan said...

BTW: If you want to meet Sandy Schrader let me know. I would be happy to arrange a meeting.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As County Executive, Jim Robey has made himself accessible to the people of Howard County for the last eight years. His public calendar is relentless, he has maintained an open door philosphy throughout his administration, and he is on the job every time he goes out in public (including the many times he and his wife are in a restaurant trying to enjoy a quiet meal together and a resident approaches with "I'm sorry to bother you but...")

It is an extremely rare occasion that you will ever see anything but courtesy and civility from this County Executive. I know because I am with him for many of his public appearances. I'm truly sorry if you were treated in a way you found objectionable. That is ceratinly not Jim's true nature and I think you sense that. I hope that you, and the others who have posted comments regarding the incident you have described, would not judge someone too quickly until you have "walked a mile in his shoes". If you could experience the level of persistent public demands that he faces I think you would quickly gain a much better understanding of why and how a public figure may occasionally drop their guard or even "lose their cool."

Having known Jim Robey for fifty two years and worked closely by his side during the last eight, I can tell you with confidence that it was just a bad day. After all, he is human and faces the same kind of personal issues that we each face in our day to day lives. I'm not making excuses, just asking for a little understanding.

As far as voting for Schrader instead of Jim Robey, eight years of getting real results for Howard County should far outweigh one "off night" for this long time public servant.

Good luck with your up coming election coverage.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Evan said...


I am a very active observer of politics both locally and on the national and international scene (and at points in the past an active participant) so I do greatly appreciate the demands of running for and holding office. I until very recently had a very positive view of Jim and hope that at one point this whole thing can be cleared up. If as you say you have know Jim for 52 years, then maybe you could help clear up this unfortunate situation. I am happy to sit down and talk to Jim and you can reach me at or I am sure Jim can pull my contact info off my voter file since I am in his district (or he could ask about any elected Democrat in the county, since all but two or three knows how to track me down with ease). I am not a very hard person to find.


12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Initially a few years ago, I supported Jim Robey. Since that time, I have found that he had NO vision for Howard County in the area of land use. He let his Director of Planning and Zoning twist in the wind and permitted the developers to overly influence the decisions in that department. If Robey had any policy in the area of land use, it must have been "hands off." If anyone knows of his vision and policy, please respond.

11:45 PM  
Blogger Ken said...

It looks like a couple of people here are hoping to get you to join the Schrader team as a reaction to your personality differences with Jim Robey. All that matters to me in that particular contest is how they would vote on issues. I've seen how Schrader votes (not that good in my view), but have to go by what Robey says (because he has no voting record). Because of how Schrader votes (and I can lay it out on the issues in which I'm interested), I do believe I'm going to take a chance on Robey.

7:22 AM  

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