Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Columbia Downtown Focus Group Meeting

The Focus Group is meeting this Wednesday, May 3 from 3:00 pm to 5:30 pm at Historic Oakland Manor, 5430 Vantage Point Road. Here is the Agenda and the handouts DPZ has posted online: Community Facilities, Design Advisory Panel Process, and Columbia Downtown Overlay Zoning. Take a look and tell me what you think. Post your thoughts in the comments or email them to me.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Town Center Election Results

I just got word of the Town Center election results. Gail Broida is the new Town Center CA Rep.

For Village Board the winners are Burt Knauft and Linda Wengel.

Congratulations to all of you!

I think the important thing to take away from this election is that voters want their representatives to stand up for the community and they want the downtown plan revised to be a livable, economically sustainable development that reflects the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and well thought through planning before it is built so that the infrastructure will meet the communities needs as the community consistently worked for during the charrette and which was not reflected in the current plan. As I have said from the start I will support the plan as soon as I am satisfied that the plan will achieve a livable, economically sustainable development that reflects the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and well thought through planning before it is built so that the infrastructure will meet the communities needs. I have suggested some potential solutions to some of the current problems and have consistently worked -- as have others in the community -- for the plan to be improved so that it meets the basic needs of the community. No one I know other than Harry Dunbar has been against redevelopment, they just want it done well and that means in a livable, economically sustainable way that reflects the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and well thought through planning before it is built so that the infrastructure will meet the communities needs. If the plan is changed to satisfy these needs it will help to rebuild the trust that has been squandered so far. I want to see a good plan and I and many others have repeatedly offered to work in partnership to improve the plan, yet it is games like what was tried to be pulled at the last focus group meeting that have broken down the trust. Let's end these games. Let us end the strawman arguments that there is some sinister group out there trying to stop the redevelopment. Harry Dunbar is not competent enough to be sinister nor is he a group. There is in this situation that rarity in politics: a passionate center. If the plan is fixed to be a livable, economically sustainable development that reflects the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and well thought through planning before it is built so that the infrastructure will meet the communities needs, then we can all move forward faster and easier. General Growth has new leadership and I truly hope that they will realize that they will get a profit sooner if they work as a partner, support the changes the community wants, be a responsible member of the community and not push the costs associeted with them making that huge profit onto the community, and not preasure county officials to play games on their behalf. We are a politically savy community and such games are only going to backfire on those who play them. The power of a quick resolution to these issues is in the hands of those who can fix the plan to reflect what the community has been saying. Let's start seeing the plan fixed.

Friday, April 28, 2006

CA Elections

The Town Center elections are this Saturday. Polls will be open from 9am to 2pm at Vantage Road Park or if you live in Vantage House or the Evergreens in your building. All owners or renters can vote. If you haven't mailed your ballot in yet, please take a few minutes to go to your polling place.

The results of all the other villages were published in this week's Flier. Congrats to all the winners.

The Flier also has some editorials on the Town Center race worth checking out. They didn't publish mine, but here is what I wrote them:

In the editorial “Openness, accountability for CA arecommon goal” the Flier when discussing the position of Town Center CA Rep wrote “The CA board rep will bean important advocate for residents' interests as the county's evolving 30-year master plan for downtownColumbia continues to take shape”. I agree that the CA Rep for Town Center should be an important advocate for residents' interests during the redevelopment of Town Center. I have attended every single Focus Group meeting on the redevelopment of Town Center and sadly during those meetings the current incumbent CA Rep, Jud Malone, has used his seat on the Focus Group toroutinely preach that we must trust the developer. In contrast, I have watched the other candidate for Town Center CA Rep, Gail Broida, throughout the redevelopment process ask probing questions, listen to the concerns of other residents, and work to find ways to fix the plan so that the redevelopment will result in a livable, economically sustainable Town Center that reflects the Howard County values of diversity, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so that infrastructure matches community’s needs.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Downtown Columbia Redevelopment Recap

With another Focus Group meeting again next Wednesday let us run through the issues. Here are links to a number of major posts on the downtown Columbia plan:


The Mall to Merriweather Promenade: Part 1
The Mall to Merriweather Promenade: Part 2



Mixed Income Housing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Parking

Why community planning matters.

Martin Luther King Day thoughts on the impact of community planning and whether new developments are contributing or undermining his dream and Rouses vision.

Let's Not Be Florida


Will the county use the Focus Group to help restore public trust?

I guess not yet, but here's hoping they will do it this time.


Let's Talk Solutions

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Congress Is in the Process of Ending the Internet as a Free Market of Ideas and Shifting it to the 18th Century Principles of Mercantilism

I know that is a strong statement and if I had not seen this proposal I would not have believed it but here is a good rundown of what is likely to be voted out of the House Commerce Committee today and what you can do about it:

The House Commerce Committee is likely to vote as early as Wednesday on legislation that would essentially hand over the keys to the Internet to the giant telcos, AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast.

It's hard to imagine that the Internet, that vast free-flowing world of entertainment, enlightenment, education, and interaction could be fettered, but under this legislation it very well could be. Internet service provision in the U.S. is covered by telecommunications law, and has operated under the idea of "network neutrality." In it's early years, telephone companies provided most Web service, and carried most of the traffic. Because of the nature of laws regulating phone service, Web traffic was handled just like phone traffic, each "call" being equal. That means every page you surf to on the Internet is served up just like any other, as far as your ISP is concerned. You can go from Amazon.com to Aunt Harriet's family history blog equally.

Here's
what's at stake with this legislation.

"The nation's largest telephone and cable companies -- including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner -- want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won't load at all.

They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video -- while slowing down or blocking their competitors. . . .

On the Internet, consumers are in ultimate control -- deciding between content, applications and services available anywhere, no matter who owns the network. There's no middleman. But without net neutrality, the Internet will look more like cable TV. Network owners will decide which channels, content and applications are available; consumers will have to choose from their menu.

The Internet has always been driven by innovation. Web sites and services succeeded or failed on their own merit. Without net neutrality, decisions now made collectively by millions of users will be made in corporate boardrooms. The choice we face now is whether people can choose the content and services they want, or whether the broadband barons will choose for them."

That does seem like so much speculation, doesn't it. But this scenario isn't unprecedented. Consider these examples from the
Save the Internet Coalition:

In 2004, North Carolina ISP Madison River blocked their DSL customers from using any rival Web-based phone service.

In 2005, Canada's telephone giant Telus blocked customers from visiting a Web site sympathetic to the Telecommunications Workers Union during a labor dispute.

Shaw, a big Canadian cable TV company, is charging an extra $10 a month to subscribers who want to use a competing Internet telephone service.

In April, Time Warner's AOL blocked all emails that mentioned www.dearaol.com -- an advocacy campaign opposing the company's pay-to-send e-mail scheme.

Still think it's not going to happen? That these companies wouldn't dare to alienate the entire Internet-using community? Well, think about how much fun it is to deal with Comcast for your cable, and how much flexibility they're willing to offer. Also consider
this comment from Edward Whiteacre, CEO of SBC Comm., when he was asked about how concerned he was about losing ground to Internet upstarts:

"How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"

It's not about the customer, you see, it's about their profits. So if a giant retailer like Barnes and Noble wanted to screw the competition, they could pay the right ISPs, the right networks, and make sure that traffic to a site like Powells.com would run much slower. Or they could guarantee one Internet search engine that their engine would run much faster than anothers. If one of the network providers developed a music service, they could slow down your access to iTunes. Non-profits could be squeezed off of the Internet if they couldn't pay for the "fast-lane" of Internet service.

You can find out much more about the legislation, how bloggers are reacting, and how various organizations are reacting at
Save the Internet. Additionally, Matt Stoller at MyDD has been doing yeoman's work following this issue. You can see his quick run-down here.

You can also act.
Write to Congress and sign the petition.

Please make your voice heard on this before it is too late.

Affordable Housing

HayDuke has a great post on affordable housing that is well worth a read to put the current numbers in context.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Open Thread

Use the comments section to discuss your thoughts on the Columbia elections or your thoughts on the Democracy for Howard County meeting Monday in Elkridge if you attended or your experience with the housing market/need for affordable housing in Howard County (fellow blogger HayDuke recently shared his story) or whatever else that is Howard County related.

Coming tonight I think I will do a post reviewing the Columbia redevelopment issues so far. Remember that the Town Center elections are this Saturday. Congratulations to those who won in all the other village elections last Saturday.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Maryland to BG&E: 8% or Reregulation.

The BG&E rate hike and the Ehrlich plan to phase in that rate hike is nothing but a rip-off of consumers. The whole presupposition of the deregulation legislation in 1999 that permitted unregulated rate increases was that there would be competition in the utility industry and market forces would not allow a company to raise rates unreasonably if they wanted to stay in business. That has not happened. Therefore, the rate increase that BG&E/Constellation Energy is trying to impose on the citizens of Maryland is merely monopolistic behavior and should be stopped. Utilities are natural monopolies and they need to be regulated by government. If you don’t believe me, read what a conservative think tank in Maryland has to say.


FACTS THAT BG&E DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW
By: Maryland Tax Education Foundation

Utilities Always Want High Rates. As profit making entities responsible to their stock holders, electric utilities constantly search for reasons to jack up rates unfairly and to make excess profits. In 2005, a dozen utilities across the US used the pretext of higher oil and gas prices to seek huge rate increases. None were fully granted.

BG&E Follows the Pack. With the increase in oil and natural gas prices, Baltimore Gas & Electric (BG&E) thinks it has found a “poster boy” for higher electricity rates. However, a cursory investigation of the company’s claims shows them to be misleading.

BG&E Consistently Made Money During Rising Fuel Prices. Consider the following. In a period of rising oil and gas prices, BG&E’s earnings actually improved, rising from $150 million in 2003 to $176 million in 2005, according to the federal filings of Constellation Energy, BG&E’s parent company. Return on investment was a healthy 11%, and BG&E paid $319 million in cash dividends to its parent over the three year period. Does this sound like a firm that needs a 72% rate increase to survive?

Electricity Generating Costs (and Prices) Don’t Track Oil and Gas Prices Directly. Over the last 12 months, wholesale “off peak” electricity prices in the Pennsylvania, Jersey and Maryland grid showed, on average, no change, despite higher fuel prices. “On peak” prices rose 50% during the unusually hot summer months but then reverted to prior levels, according to Platts, the authoritative energy information firm. The fact that wholesale prices don’t follow oil and gas costs demonstrates that electricity values reflect many other items, such as coal and nuclear fuel prices, capital costs, and operating and maintenance expenses, as well as supply and demand dynamics.

Reasonable Rate Increase Expectations. With all the changes in energy prices over the last 25 years, the average electric utility rate increase has been about 8% annually, according to the utility research department of Harris Nesbitt Securities. This number must be the goal of our elected officials. Anything more has to be seen as a capitulation to the moneyed interests at BG&E, Constellation and FPL, who seek to put a stranglehold on the everyday electricity consumer.

Contact: Jeff Hooke
Chairman, Maryland Tax Education Foundation
Adjunct professor, finance, Univ. of MD MBA program
Investment banker with substantial experience in utility corporate finance.
(office) 703-761-4591

So what our elected officials in Annapolis need to do is call a special session and offer BG&E an annual rate increase of 8% or reregulation. Take it or leave it.

Open Thread on Columbia Elections

There were a number of letters to the editor in the Columbia Flier on the Columbia elections. Go check them out. With all the villages (that are having elections this year) other than Town Center voting this Saturday, April 22nd use the comments to this post as an open thread to discuss the elections and why your favorite candidate should be voted for. Town Center votes Saturday, April 29th though voters can cast there ballots by mail before that.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Calvin Ball New District 2 County Councilman

As I expected Calvin Ball was the one selected to fill the vacant Disrict 2 County Council seat.

Calvin should do a great job. He asks good questions and probes issues to find the best solutions. His addition to the council will also mean that it is very likely one councilmember next year will have some experience on the council before this years election. I have been curious if we have ever had a complete turnover of the council since we went from a 3 member commission to the 5 member council.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Look From the Inside and What You Can Do About It

The CA Rep from Kings Contrivance, Phil Marcus, has a blog where he covers Columbia Association issues. Yesterday Phil wrote:

Lately the Board has fallen back on old, bad habits. More closed sessions are happening these days, usually for announced personnel or contract negotiation purposes. But I cannot recall the last time we declassified minutes after the deal was done.
. . .
But the sentiment on the Board is for keeping silence. We saw some indication when half the Board voted to re-impose secrecy on meetings regarding the “Downtown Partnership.” Fortunately, I think, half is not enough to make such a change. (It takes half plus one vote.) Those who voted for believed good brainstorming takes place when public and press are absent. I am not that afraid of what I say and the crazy ideas that I utter sometimes. I can always discard the really crazy ones, and some crazy ideas people have turn out pretty good.


I am also very much convinced that secrecy in dealing leads to more secrecy, and increasingly shrouds deals that should receive public attention. Not because they are likely crooked, but because all the secrecy foments what is called "team playing" but is really "group think". The bleach of sunshine is the most effective preservative of public interest in public institutions.


My hope is that Columbia voters will consider the attitudes of candidates for the Council/Board toward secret meetings, and ask if they do not know what the attitudes are.


I think Phil is absolutely on the mark. He has seen the situation from the inside and knows the barriers closed meetings cause between our elected Columbia governing structure and lien-payers. I would add that closed meetings reduce trust and cause a lot more trouble in the long run.

Jud Malone, the Town Center CA Rep, is one of those that voted to close meetings on the Downtown Partnership. This is one of the reasons I think Gail Broida will be a better CA Rep for Town Center. Another reason I think Gail would be a better CA Rep is I have attended every single Focus Group meeting on the redevelopment of Town Center and sadly during those meetings the current incumbent CA Rep, Jud Malone, has used his seat on the Focus Group to routinely preach that we must trust the developer. The logic of preaching trust while closing the public out of meetings escapes me. In contrast, I have watched the other candidate for Town Center CA Rep, Gail Broida, throughout the redevelopment process ask probing questions, listen to the concerns of other residents, and work to find ways to fix the plan so that the redevelopment will result in a livable, economically sustainable Town Center that reflects the Howard County values of diversity, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so that infrastructure matches community’s needs. If you live in Town Center please vote for Gail. If you have friends or family that lives in Town Center please ask them to vote for Gail. Your vote matters and is needed to keep the downtown redevelopment process open and to give Town Center a stronger voice.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Western Howard County Democratic Candidates Forum A Great Success

As Evan has noted the candidates forum was well attended. It ran for 2 hours and was filled with a lively give and take between the audience and the candidates. One of the great things about the event was that each candidate presented specific ideas about how to make our community better. Here are some of the topics discussed: Don Dunn spoke extensively about the need for the Howard County government to do a better job at anticipating the consequences of future development in the county. Dave “Oz” Osmundson spoke about the prison system in Maryland, how it contributed to the problems of Baltimore and how it needed to be fixed. Richard Corkran talked about how Maryland needs to do a better job at attracting teachers to the state by improving their wages, benefits and working conditions. Tony McGuffin, the Chair of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee, was also in attendance and announced his desire to raise the profile of Democrats in Western Howard County. One of the ways Tony hopes to do this is by creating a Western Howard County Democratic Club. Those interested in this club can contact Tony by email or by phone at 410-750-7524.

Western Howard County Democratic Candidates Forum Open Thread

If you made it to the Western Howard County Democratic Candidates Forum Monday night use this open thread to share what you thought.

I arrived late, but I was impressed that if you don’t count the candidates that were at each the turn out was the same size as the well attended RestoreUS.org candidates forum a couple weeks earlier. It was also interesting that besides the candidates there was not much overlap between audiences.

When I arrived 5th District County Council Candidate Don Dunn was speaking passionately about thinking through growth and change before it happens and developing a plan to manage it. I know it will be an up hill battle for Dunn to win, but the more I see him at events in the community I think he has a chance. Dunn strikes me as that rare genuine fighter for the interests of the community and good governance that you rarely see entering politics these days. Maybe I am becoming a Don Dunn groupie, but I just find his honesty a breath of fresh air and I love his passion for making a difference.

Unfortunately I missed most of when 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 were speaking, were speaking, so I hope those who were there will fill me in in the comments section.

Update: Here is a picture of the forum Kevin Donohue of KFDMedia just emailed me:

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Meet the Democratic Candidates on Monday April 17th at the Glenwood Library

There will be a Candidates Forum at the Glenwood Library on Monday, April 17th at 7:00 pm. This forum will provide an opportunity for the community to meet and greet the Democratic candidates running for office in northern and western Howard County.

The Democratic candidates in attendance will be Dave "Oz" Osmundson, a member of and a recruited candidate from Democracy for Howard County, who is running for District 9A House of Delegates seat. Don Dunn, who is running for a County Council seat in District 5. And Richard Corkran, who is running for State Senate in District 9.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Open Thread on Thursday's CA Meeting

Here is a thread for those of you who were at tonights CA meeting to share your thoughts. I hear fellow local blogger HayDuke was there and I hope he can pop in over here and share his thoughts, particularly on how to get the best outcome when the HFStival is at Merriweather over Memorial Day weekend. I have shared some of my thoughts in this post, but I want to hear your thoughts.

On a side note there was coverage of the local blogs in the Baltimore Examiner on Wednesday. In it HayDuke revealed his true identity to my surprise as my friend Ian Kennedy. I had only guessed that HayDuke was Ian the night before when I read his very good post on his own search for an affordable starter home in Columbia and realized that the story was the experience Ian had just gone through. I can only imagine what was going though Ian's head when we were discussing what I thought of HayDuke while watching a Terps game a couple months ago (January I think). Anyway Ian congrats on buying your first place and great point about the fact that part of our problem is that we aren't building starter homes any more. That is one of your best posts yet and I highly recommend everyone read it.

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.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

From Heart Attacks To Hurricanes: GET PREPARED

The April 6th, 2006 issue of the Howard County Times contains an article entitled “Defibrillators are Increasingly Standard Issue”. This article relates how an “untrained civilian” saved a life.
As Howard County paramedic Tim Hann rushed to a cardiac arrest call March 18 at the Ellicott City Veterans of Foreign Wars post, he encountered an unusual situation - an untrained civilian already applying emergency medical care with a defibrillator.

Donna Melzer, the canteen manager at the VFW, had placed an automated external defibrillator, or AED, on the patient's chest, an action that would save his life.

As Hann neared the patient, the defibrillator sent an electric shock through his chest, activating his failing heart.

Within minutes, the man was conscious, breathing and talking normally. Fire officials took him to Howard County General Hospital, Hann said.

Donna Melzer is to be congratulated. Her quick action saved a life.

However, dear reader, what would you do? Would you have had the composure of Donna Melzer to follow the necessary steps to save this person? And what will you do if there is not an AED around to use? What if a person isn’t having a heart attack, but is bleeding severely, do you know what to do? And here is a bigger question. What will you do if you are involved in an emergency that is greater than just one person? Let’s take a random example, Katrina? Are you prepared?

This is where I get on my “soapbox” and ask you to do two things before summer.

First, take a CPR class and a First Aid class. The easiest place to do it is through the Central Maryland Chapter of the American Red Cross. They can teach you CPR with or without the AED instruction. And they can teach you Basic First Aid in an evening. It is fun, informative, and easy. And the life you save might be someone you love.

Second, hurricane season starts June 1st. The National Weather Service has forecast a hurricane season as bad as or worse than last year. In addition, the probability of the East Coast getting hit with a hurricane is high. So GET PREPARED. If you don’t know how, you can check out the American Red Cross National website. It is a good place to get information on how to start preparing. You can also check the FEMA site. DO IT NOW, don’t wait. You may save your own life. If you don't believe me, go to Louisiana. I have, and it is not pretty.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Town Center Candidates Forum

I am going to give it a day to collect my thoughts on write up my post on tonights Town Center Candidates Forum. In the meantime tell me what you thought in this open thread. Candidates should also feel free to post info about where they stand on issues and answer commentors questions. Note: The next two posts also address major issues that came up at the candidates forum.

Open Meetings at CA

One of the other issues at the Town Center Candidates Forum tonight was open meetings. I think the context of why this was an issue might have been lost on those who have not following the inner workings of CA for a while, so I am reposting below a post I did several weeks ago after an effort by some CA reps to close the public out of CA’s meetings with the county and the developer General Growth on the Downtown Partnership that would determine the maintenance and management of public areas after the implementation of the downtown redevelopment plan:

The Columbia Association Board of Directors/Columbia Council (what is in a name? I think in the future I will refer to it as the Columbia Council because in fact they are the elected representatives of the lien payers of Columbia) voted tonight to continue to have open meetings on the creation of the downtown partnership between CA, the county, and General Growth. I applaud those on the Columbia Council who stood up for open meetings and allowing the public to observe such an important process that is crucial to the future of downtown Columbia and Howard County as a whole (the first time there was a public meeting on the creation of the downtown partnership I am told 13 members of the public showed up).

Here is a review of the final vote:

The vote was on a proposal to allow closed meetings.

Voting for open meetings were:

  • Henry F. Dagenais, Long Reach
  • Josh Feldmark, Wilde Lake
  • Phil Marcos, Kings Contrivance
  • Wolfger Schneider, Harper’s Choice


Voting to allow closed meetings were:

  • Miles Coffman, Hickory Ridge
  • Jud Malone, Town Center
  • Tom O’Connor, Dorsey’s Search
  • Patrick von Schlag, River Hill

Because the vote was tied the effort to allow closed meetings failed.

The irony of the evening was supplied by Jud Malone expressing concern about the creating of distrust while advocating for closing the meetings. I mean lets be real, a good part of the reason the public has been losing trust in the process has been a concern that decisions are being made behind closed doors and the public’s concerns are not being addressed. Most people I have talked to who attended the charrette thought the first day was great and they were thrilled by how much in agreement the public is, but then they felt that what they said was not reflected in the plan.

Anyway, back to open meetings. The way trust is built is by having a process that is open and where the plan is a true product of community input. I want to applaud Phil Marcos and Josh Feldmark in particular in being vocal advocates for keeping the meetings open. And while we are at it I think a lot of credit is due Ken Ulman for opening the whole downtown Columbia redevelopment process up by pushing to have the charrette.

Lake Kittamaqundi Dredging Open Thread

At the Town Center Candidates Forum tonight one of the major issues that was raised is the plans under consideration to use the silt resulting from the dredging of the lake to fill in part of the north end of the lake. Since this is an important issue I don't know much about I am putting up this open thread so that members of the community who know more than I can fill us all in and discuss the situation. I look forward to hearing what you have to say.

Town Center Candidates Forum Open Thread

The Town Center Candidates Forum is Tuesday, April 11th at 7pm at Vantage House. Use this thread as an open thread to discuss what you think of the forum, candidates, issues, etc.

Note: I missed the Wilde Lake Forum due to a prior commitment, but I got a couple emails on it and I gather some of those were there will post there thoughts sometime soon in the open thread below. I also encourage candidates to share their thought and where they stand on the issues in the open threads.

HFStival Coming to Merriweather

HFSvital is the best concert in the Baltimore-Washington area every year and it is a big deal for everyone under 35 or 40 (the older range went when they were younger and remember its coolness). This is a big get for Merriweather and the county. If the county does this right this will be great for the county. The question in my mind is will they do it right? Will they give all residents a car passes so they can go through any parking and traffic flow check points? Will they get together with business owners and develop a plan for promotions for concert goers to draw them to use local businesses?

The more welcoming and friendly the county is to concert goers and the more preparation is put in to limit disruptions to county residents, then the smoother this will go. If we get confrontational, the concert goers will get confrontational back. And if the county doesn't plan this in a way that allows residents to go about their everyday activities without major disruptions the residents WILL get confrontational. And as I just said that WILL lead to concert goers getting confrontational back. All of this can be prevented if we:

1) can get residents passes so they can go through any traffic block and park where they need to,
2) can get residents the same promotional discounts as concert goers,
3) employ local teens and twenty-somethings to help run things in exchange for free tickets because they will create positive peer pressure to treat the area with respect because it is their area, and
4) create venues for local bands to perform during the weekend at places like the grass amphitheater at the lakefront, the L.L. Bean square, the fountain square in Corporate Boulevard, and the food court exit to the mall

With good planning we can make this a superb concert that will help keep Merriweather viable and draw business into our community without adversely effecting residents.

(By the way the HoCoMD Blog has an interesting post on this subject and another local blogger HayDuke I think hits the nail on the head with his response, though I would add that locals --whether cops or concert goers -- are more likely to look out for and respect the area than outsiders, so I am all for as much local cop and local concert goers/volunteers as possible.)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Wilde Lake Candidates Forum Open Thread

This is an open thread for you to post your thought on the Wilde Lake Candidates Forum for the upcoming Columbia Elections. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Columbia Elections

The Columbia Elections are upon us. The candidate forums are this week and next. I will be relying on you to be my eyes and ears on this, so please use the open threads to post your thoughts, discuss the elections, and share information.

Here is the list of upcoming candidates forums (for details on each villages election situation see below):

April 10: Wilde Lake Candidates' Forum, 7:30pm, Slayton House
April 11: Town Center Candidates' night, 7pm, Vantage House
April 17: Harper's Choice Candidates' Forum, 7:30pm, Kahler Hall
April 17: Hickory Ridge candidate forum. 7:30pm, Hawthorn Center
(CA rep. election is not contested)
April 18: River Hill candidate night, Claret Hall, 6020 Daybreak Circle
(Village Board only).

============

Harper's Choice
Absentee ballots have been mailed and received.
Candidates' Forum: April 17, 7:30, Kahler Hall
Election: April 22, 9am-3pm, near Harper's Choice Safeway. One vote per property.
CA rep. election only: Cindy Coyle and Dave Willemain

============

Town Center
Absentee ballots should be mailed on Monday or Tuesday.
April 11, Candidates' night, 7pm, Vantage House.
April 29, Election. 9am-2pm at Vantage Point Park (if inclement weather,Oakland Manor), and 10am-1pm at Vantage House and Evergreens House. One vote per property.

Candidates:

CA Rep:
Gail Broida
Jud Malone

VB (2 seats open):
Burt Knauft (Incumbent)
Stephen Meskin
Hugh Tousey
Linda Wengel of Evergreen

============

Wilde Lake
Absentee ballots were mailed March 30th but are delayed in the mail.
Absentee ballots are available at Slayton House.
Absentee ballots due at Slayton House before end of business day on April 21.
Candidates' Forum: April 10, 7:30, Slayton HouseApril 20th
Statements published in newsletter
Election: April 22, 9:00am - 4:00pm, front edge of parking lot of Wilde Lake Giant. One vote per property owner/tenant.

CA Rep (1-year term):
Phil Kirsch, present Wilde Lake Village Board Chair
Bill Santos, currently WLVB vice chair.

VB (All terms are 1-year; 5 seats open):
Sarah Croushler (incumbent)
Vince Marando (incumbent)
Mary Pivar (incumbent)
Rhoda Toback (incumbent)
Linda Odum
Bob Vogel

============

Hickory Ridge
April 17, candidate forum. 7:30pm, Hawthorn Center.
April 22, election, 9-3, Hawthorn Center. All are 1-year terms.

Columbia Council Rep: Miles Coffman is running unopposed.

Village Board (7 candidates - including all 5 incumbents - for 5 seats):
Tom Louden (incumbent)
Gregg Schwind (incumbent)
Nancy McCord (incumbent)
Linda Hitzelberger (incumbent)
David Zeitzer (incumbent)
Dawn Ashburn
George Bendor

=============

River Hill
April 18, candidate night, Claret Hall, 6020 Daybreak Circle.
April 22, election. 8-10am at Columbia Gym, then 10:15-am - 3pm at Claret Hall. One vote per resident aged 18+

CA rep.: Not open. Patrick Von Schlag will continue.

VB: 3 seats open, 4 candidates:
Todd Harrison, Incumbent
Larry Blickman
Sean Keller
Michelle Potocko

============

No contested elections:
Dorsey's Search
Kings Contrivance
Long Reach
Oakland Mills
Owen Brown

A Small Step Toward A Big Goal - Affordable Housing

According to the Howard County Times, Ken Ulman has offered a bill that would provide assistance with the cost of housing in the county to Howard County Police Officers.

Ulman's bill, submitted April 3, would create a directory of apartments that offer free or reduced rent to county police officers. The county government would also take a "proactive" approach in encouraging landlords to participate in the program, Ulman said. . . "This isn't a free gift to police," Ulman said. "The communities are benefiting from the added security a police officer with a take-home car brings."
We all know how expensive housing is in Howard County, so I think this is good idea. There have been concerns expressed about police officers opening themselves to ethical problems if they received housing at reduced rates.

"Hypothetically, you could have a situation where an officer feels pressure to act a certain way because he's getting free rent from a property owner," Merdon said. "If he sees the office manager with marijuana, does he feel pressure to turn a blind eye? It's something for the Ethics Commission to review."
I believe these concerns can be addressed through regulations and oversight. Besides, government employees have been given access to many different discount programs in the past with very little problems that I’m aware of. The bigger issue is the scope of the program proposed by Ulman. I believe it should be expanded to all civil servants who are within certain income brackets. And that is mentioned in the Times article.

County teachers union president Ann DeLacy said she would like to see the bill expanded to include all county employees. "It would be beneficial to all people categorized as public servants, who aren't as highly paid as those in the private sector," she said. "It would be an induction for those people to reside in the county, which would give them a better understanding of the dynamics of the county." . . Ulman added that he would consider adding other public servants to the program in future years, should the measure pass the five-member County Council.
Ken Ulman deserves credit for attempting to address a serious problem in Howard County. Ultimately, however, all of this discussion is just skirting the issue of affordable housing. If we want to have a vibrant, diverse community to live in, we have to figure out how to provide housing for people who have modest and/or limited incomes, especially, if we want our parents and grandparents to age in place in the county. The original vision of Columbia was a community which was racially, economically and socially diverse. We need to renew that vision and apply it to all of Howard County. And we need to do it now.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Election Year Twist

Have you seen the front page story of the April 6th, 2006 Howard County Times entitled Smoking Bill Sparks Questions? The first paragraph is one word “Puzzled.” That is the reaction of Earle Eldridge, the author of the article, about County Council Chairman Christopher Merdon introducing a bill which would ban smoking in most public places in the county. Why is Eldridge “puzzled”, because Merdon’s bill is almost identical to the bill he helped kill a couple of months ago, and on top of that Merdon doesn’t really support the bill he is introducing. So what is going on here? Well election years make some elected officials twist themselves into strange positions, like a Kamasutra for politicians, but not as much fun!

Enfranchisement

Thanks to the work of Liz Bobo all of Town Center’s residents now will have the ability to vote and run for office in the Columbia elections this month. Here is some background on how lien paying residents were being denied the right to vote do to a bureaucratic mess. Thanks Delegate Bobo for finding a solution and getting it passed.

Town Center’s elections will be on April 29th and the rest of the villages will vote on April 22nd.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Metro

Local blogger HayDuke has a great comment about an article in the Post on extending Metro to Howard County. The Post reported:

State Sen. John A. Giannetti Jr. (D-Prince George's), a strong proponent of the Green Line extension, said planners talked for years about Columbia as a possible connecting point between the two cities. After the Pentagon approved a plan last year to expand Fort Meade -- a move that could bring tens of thousands of people to the surrounding region -- Giannetti said it became clear that the rail extension needed to go through the base in Anne Arundel County, about eight miles east of Columbia.

Transportation officials said the extension could be paid for by a combination of federal and state money, private investment and contributions from Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Howard counties.

"You really need Howard County's money to make this work," Giannetti said. "They are one of the wealthiest counties in the country."

He has proposed a "Guilford/Columbia East" stop on the Green Line, near Interstate 95 and Route 32. Bus service could then connect that stop to downtown Columbia, he said.

"That's how we get Howard County's money," said Giannetti, who added that Howard County Executive James N. Robey (D) has pledged to support the project. Robey did not respond to requests for comment.


HayDukes response was:

Actually, that’s not how you get our money. One stop, roughly eight miles from the center of the most populous city in our county – and the second most populous in the state – is not going to win my support. If, big “if” here, we extend the Green line and the most we get is this Columbia/Guilford junk, I won’t support the county spending gobs of money on the project, and I’m a huge supporter of public transportation.

My problem with this idea is that it’s the same old, same old that has proven to be ineffective. In concept, maybe, having people catch a connecting bus from downtown to the Metro stop might seem reasonable, but in reality all it will mean is a bunch of empty buses.

Look, extending Metro to Town Center would be difficult and expensive ... But if we’re planning to building a denser, more populated Town Center and improving our existing county transit system in the process, putting a stop in downtown should not be just a possibility – it should be a priority.


I couldn’t agree with HayDuke more on this one and I am looking forward to hearing his thoughts on my proposal that I am working on and hope to post in the next week or two (it is taking a little longer than I thought). I am a huge supporter of public transportation and I think there is a way to do it right using a more creative economic model that will serve the community better.

Thoughts on Wednesday’s Candidates Forum

Both local Republican bloggers have posted their thoughts on Wednesday’s candidates forum (HoCoMD Blog and Dave Wissing). It was a pleasure finally connecting faces with my fellow local bloggers and I hope the fourth county blogger, HayDuke, gets to join the fun next time. I want to thank Barry Tevelow and his fellow organizers from RestoreUS.org for doing such a great job and giving the public an early look at the candidates.

I arrived late because I was coming from the Downtown Columbia Focus Group meeting and thus arrived about halfway into the county exec candidates forum. Apparently I missed some controversy the Republican bloggers have been talking about regarding Ken Ulman responding to some audience member rolling their eyes at Ken when he was talking about the cancer foundation his family set up after his brother survived cancer. Now I wasn’t there, but I think any one of us who has seen a loved one go through a life threatening illness might want to respond to someone blowing that off with an eye roll. So I don’t understand what all the fuss is about other than some person in the audience clearly hasn’t been through such an awful experience.

As for the issues, shortly after I came in Chris Merdon was saying “You have to lead by example” and “in the public sector you have to manage the public”. The first comment may seem like one of the normal bland statements made by candidates and overpaid motivational speakers, but I guess I had the Monday smoking ban maneuvering on my mind when he said that. I just don’t see how he squares the blatant political maneuvering going on there with leading by example. As for the second comment my impression is that the public doesn’t like being managed. Just look at the downtown Columbia stuff for evidence of that.

I was surprised to hear Merdon say that county executive will be the last office he runs for. For someone as young as Chris I just have a hard time believing that. I think all politicians have ambitions and very few do the George Washington thing. In fact, Washington’s Presidency was even his return to politics after he had previously said he was done after the Revolutionary War.

Of course the above did not surprise me nearly as much as when Chris said that when we talk about agricultural preservation what people are really talking about is preserving open space. I wonder what Howard County’s farmers and their families think of that? I think of agricultural preservation as preserving a way of life, a way of providing for a family’s livelihood, and preserving part of our culture and county’s character. Sometimes something’s value cannot be solely measured in the abstract number of development dollars that can be generated by a property. And more importantly sometimes it is unhealthy and costly for a community to exclusively look at development dollars as the sole determiner of the land being carved up piecemeal. We need to provide a way for our farming families to use the land for farming without getting financially trapped and penalized for their good stewardship. It is a difficult thing to find the right solution to, but the first step is listening and understanding the issue. Don Dunn, one of the County Council District 5 candidates seemed to get it, but I don’t think Chris understands.

Ken Ulman had already left due to a prior commitment he had before the agricultural preservation issue came up, but I hope he listens to our counties farmers and listens to Don Dunn. Ken before he left did bring up his success at saving Merriweather, which is something he should be rightly very proud of and is something that is a good example of listening and finding solutions to use with both farming families and the people of Columbia who clearly feel the current plan for downtown doesn’t reflect what they said at the charrette and isn’t yet a workable plan.

To HoCoMD Blog’s comments:

In the opening statements the best line was Chris Merdon’s “Quality of life is not measured by a line item in the budget.” Mr. Ulman said later on that he didn’t like that comment.

A line item on a budget is one of the tools to achieve quality of live. A budget is both a product of and a window for voters into politicians’ values. It is shows where they choose to put one of the main resources of the community.

Harry Dunbar was sadly yet again what Dave Wissing called “comic relief”. What I find most troubling with Harry is his failure it seems to grasp governments function. What is his governing philosophy that he would use to weigh policy choices? Among other things Harry said was that education eats up to much of Howard County’s resources. I just find myself baffled by statements like this. Our school system is one of the prides of this county and one of the major factors in keeping property values up and business coming to the county.

On the District 5 County Council Forum, Livesay seemed to need some more preparation. He clearly knows the police department from his many years as a county police officer and now as chief, but I think he could use some more time sitting down with Charles Feaga or Jim Robey learning about the rest of county government. One nice thing is he seems to understand very well the connection between a quality school system and crime prevention. Yet the one thing that took me aback the most was when he said safe driving was the number one priority of the police department. Really? Safe Driving? I know we have a low crime rate in the county, but it seems like other things should be at the top of that list. At the very least I would put petty burglary above safe driving. If we can catch criminals who commit petty burglary and get them off the street before they move on to other crimes we might be able to prevent other crimes.

I had first met Greg Fox in 1998 at the Wilde Lake Bagel Bin when he was running for County Council District 4 (mainly West Columbia). He was in there with his campaign t-shirts on with his wife and a young kid in a stroller and I went up to talk to him. He impressed me as a very intelligent, charismatic, centrist candidate. I was curious that his literature didn’t say what party he was, but he seemed at the time from what he told me very much in line with the politics of Columbia. It wasn’t my district and I didn’t think much about it at the time. The person I saw at the candidates forum Wednesday shocked me. Either he was telling voters what he thought they wanted to hear or he has completely flip-flopped since 1998. He talks about the need for predictability in development, but says we should give tax cuts when we run a surplus which means we will constantly have to be raising and lowering taxes as we go though the economic cycle. That is neither tax predictability nor fiscally responsible. If you don’t pay down debts and take care of long term needs when you have a surplus you will never have the money to do so without having to raise taxes. In 1998, Greg was talking about fiscal responsibility and investing in quality of life issues in the county when I spoke to him. Let’s just say I was very surprised and that I will need to hear more.

The other thing Greg said that really disturbed me was when he compared energy price caps to caps on land prices. This seems to show a Harry Dunbar level of failure to understand the market economy. Energy transmitted over power lines is a natural monopoly. It is inefficient to run and maintain multiple lines from many competitors. Since there is then no competition, the market doesn’t function and government has a role in allowing a profit, but preventing gouging. Land is not a natural monopoly unless you are in Columbia with General Growth being the sole petitioner for zoning changes (in fact in the case land in Columbia is not a “natural” monopoly in any respect, but a unnatural man-made monopoly in need of fixing). Owners can buy and sell and there is no reason for caps. In fact in the case of land caps get in the way of the market.

I was very impressed with Don Dunn. Obviously it is very difficult for a Democrat to win in District 5, but Dunn struck me as a man with a good head on his shoulders who has lived in western Howard County for decades. He seemed to understand the challenges facing farm families and the challenges presented to the community by development better than any of the other candidates in any of the forums. In addition he came across as a solutions oriented fighter for the community with a long track record working in the community and listening to the community. His sincerity was a breath of fresh air. I think he knows he is in a very difficult district and feels he is just going to go out and say what he thinks and tell it straight up how he see it.

Of the candidates for Board of Education it is still early and at this point I don’t have a solid feel for anyone of them. There are 7 running for 5 spots up for election this year. Will anyone else be getting in? I think I hope so. Picking 5 of these 7 will be difficult. I think I will do what I have done for the last two elections and personally interview the ones I am most interested in. I am very happy Barry organized a Board of Ed candidates forum this early.

So Barry, what other forums do you have planned?

And to everyone else, what did you think?

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Downtown Columbia Focus Group Reactions

What did you think of Wednesday’s focus group meeting on downtown Columbia redevelopment? My reaction can be summed up in one word: disgust! Utter disgust. I think the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) should be ashamed of themselves for their efforts to try to ramrod the Focus Group members into giving their assent to 1) positions they clearly had already said they were not in agreement with (such as 10% moderate income housing and 5% middle income housing) and 2) provide a blank check for decisions on key aspects of the downtown plan be made without coming back for further review before the focus group (in many cases this involved pushing unresolved issues into a less public format). DPZ gave the appearance that they wanted the Focus Group to just serve as a means to give the plan a stamp of public approval and a tool to try to co-opt specific community leaders. Luckily we, Howard County residents, are very politically intelligent (after all many of us work in DC and have seen the big boys play these games or played them ourselves) and the focus group hasn’t let this happen. The game of pushing a decision forward in a process by claiming future opportunities for input and then turning around at these later “opportunities” and claiming that these decisions have already been made and the time for input has passed is an old one. In fact it is such an old game that we should all be insulted that they thought we were suckers enough that they could pull this off. Let us stop these games! These decisions are way too important for this type of childishness. It is this exact type of bull-shit that has been reducing public trust.

I want to thank the members of the focus group who spoke up against giving there assent, particularly Liz Bobo, Jud Malone, and Bridget Mugane.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Candidates Forum Open Thread

If you attended Wednesday’s candidate’s forum put on by RestoreUS.org for County Exec, County Council 5, and Board of Ed candidates use this as an open thread to discuss your thoughts on it and the candidates. I arrived a little late since I was coming from the Downtown Columbia Focus Group meeting, but from what I saw I was impressed by the great job Barry and the rest of the organizers did and interesting questions. I will probably post the rest of my thoughts (including my take on the candidates) Thursday night, but I want to hear your take first.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Terps Win!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, you heard that right. The MD Terps are the National Champions in Women's College Basketball! And what makes it sweeter is they won the championship by beating Duke. Go Terps! Fear the Turtle!

Downtown Columbia Plan Recap

With the Focus Group meeting again Wednesday let us run through the issues. Here are links to a number of major posts on the downtown Columbia plan:



The Proposed Grid System
Downtown Driving Experience



The Effect of the Road System on the Lake Front and the Grass Amphitheater



Specifics that Matter and Some Details Following the Feb. 27th Public Meeting



Pedestrian Oriented, Walkable Streets?


The Mall to Merriweather Promenade: Part 1



The Mall to Merriweather Promenade: Part 2



Mixed Income Housing: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3


Parking

Why community planning matters.

Martin Luther King Day thoughts on the impact of community planning and whether new developments are contributing or undermining his dream and Rouses vision.

Let's Not Be Florida

Let's Plan this Right

Will the county use the Focus Group to help restore public trust?


Let's Talk Solutions

Monday, April 03, 2006

Focus Group This Wednesday

The Focus Group on downtown Columbia redevelopment starts up again this Wednesday, April 5th from 3pm to 5pm at Oakland Manor off Vantage Point Road in Town Center. Here is the agenda. The handout that has been posted online by the county is a summary of what the county says they heard at the Feb. 27th meeting. Let me know if you think it matches up to what you heard. I know that my comments are not accurately portrayed in DPZ's "minutes" of the Feb. 27th meeting and I frankly am very disappointed that the Department of Planning and Zoning (DPZ) did not video tape the public comments and put them up on the web as they promised. I feel like yet again when DPZ had an opportunity to build trust in the process they yet again decided to through there actions undermine trust. Every single person I have talked to in this process has wanted to work positively with county officials to find the best plan for downtown redevelopment, yet it seems to me that this process has been made a lot more difficult because 1) the plan the consultants presented after the charrette didn't reflect what the community said during the charrette, but what the developer had been advocating for, 2) the fact that the plan has yet to be changed to reflect what the community has been consistently saying on things that there was near universal agreement about at both the charrette and the focus group like mixed income housing, 3) the effort by some to close the public out of the process, and 4) actions like the lack of the promised video of the Feb. 27th meeting that break down trust. I truly would like to see trust restored in this process, but I think the situation is clearly in the hands of the Department of Planning and Zoning and the new representative of General Growth to rebuild this trust.

Tomorrow I will post a rundown of the plan as it currently stands and some of the issues we have discussed here before that need to be fixed to make it a workable plan that will be a livable downtown that will be economically sustainable and true to the Howard County values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so that infrastructure meets the needs of the community.

Candidate Forum Wednesday

Barry Tevelow's group RestoreUS.org is holding a candidates forum this Wednesday, April 5th at 5pm at the Glenwood Library.

5:00 pm - 6:00 pm - Meet & Greet (All Candidates areWelcome)
6:00 - 7:00 - County Executive Candidates
7:00 - 8:00 - County Council Candidates (5th Dist.Only)
8:00 - 9:00 - School Board Candidates

Format:
Three minute opening statements by each candidate
Moderator & panelists will ask questions of candidates

Frankly I like Barry a lot (when he takes on something he really study's it), but I don't yet have a good feel for what his group RestoreUS.org is all about. I hope to make it out to this candidates forum to learn more and I think any time we get to see the candidates answer questions it is a good thing. I see that the questions at this forum will come from a panel and a moderator, but you can submit questions by emailing them to admin@RestoreUS.Org.

I encourage everyone to come out to this forum and get a better feel for the candidates.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Stop Study, Start System

An article on page 14 of the March 30th print edition of the Howard County Times entitled Metro might go to Town Center discusses the possibility of the Metro Green Line coming to the county.

A possible stop in downtown Columbia will be included in a $1 million study on the feasibility of extending the Washington, D.C. metro’s Green Line to Baltimore-Washington International Airport. The study is a part of the Maryland’s fiscal 2007 budget, which the General Assembly passed March 25. Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Columbia Democrat, introduced language into the budget that requests the study include a possible stop downtown. . . . Carl Balser, Howard County’s Chief of Transportation Planning, said that parts of Route 29, Route 100 and Route 32 all had sufficient median to potentially run rail parallel to the roads, for at least part of a downtown connection.

Unfortunately, Carl Balser also pointed out that this idea has been around a while.

The idea of a rail stop in Columbia is an old one, Balser added. “The thought of having some sort of rail into Town Center has been discussed for years,” he said. “There are plans that go back to the 1960s that talk about it.”

Our thanks to Delegate Bobo for getting the Metro Stop study off the ground.
However, since this has been talked about since the 1960s, I think we need to start building a rail transit system now.

The article is not available yet online. Search for it soon at the Howard County Times.

VERY Worthwhile Event This Week!

I encourage everyone to attend this upcoming event, sponsored by Howard County Friends of Latin America and the local chapter of Amnesty International.

Dr. Karen Hanscomb, a distinguished humanitarian and psychologist and recipient of the 2001 American Psychological Association's International Humanitarian Award, will speak about the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of torture and trauma.

When: Tuesday, April 4, 2006 at 7:30pm
Where: Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, Room 6
Refreshments will be served.

The APA's International Humanitarian Award recognizes extraordinary humanitarian services and activism by psychologists, including professional and volunteer work conducted primarily in the field with undeserved populations. Award recipients are psychologists who, by their extraordinary service at a difficult time, improve the lives and contribute to the well-being of people in a large or small geographic area anywhere in the world.

Dr. Hanscom's Citation from the APA:
For her commitment to human rights, to the healing of torture victims, and to educating the world community about torture. Karen L. Hanscom has touched the lives of hundreds of women who survived the civil war in Guatemala through her work with the Puentes de Paz health project. In the words of one of the
participants, 'We know nothing about mental health before... Karen gave us a new vision... now I get upset but I know how to deal with it, and I know I'm not alone.' Hanscom has been a driving force in the development of torture treatment programs locally and nationally. Her training programs have contributed to increased understanding of the needs of torture victims by a wide variety of professionals and community groups. Her direct work with torture survivors has changed the lives of many who have suffered the worst experiences imaginable. The reach of her compassion spans the globe.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Road to Enfranchisement

The MD Senate and House of Delegates have now passed identical bills to allow all Town Center residents the right to vote in Columbia elections. The bill now needs to be signed by the Governor and this sorry tale bureaucracy will be resolved. To think as we moved towards adding 5500 new residential units to Town Center the right to vote of all these new residents was in doubt. I think it would be good for CA to make public all of their records on this matter, so that residents of Columbia are not left with the current impression that I have been hearing in the community that it was CA's inaction that allowed this mess to happen.

Columbia Village Elections

The Flier published a list of who is running for Columbia Village Boards. The Town Center Village Board list is incomplete since residents who are in the currently disenfranchised parts of Town Center have filed to run and are not listed. As Town Center residents who have been paying their CA liens once the enfranchisement situation is cleared up I am sure Town Center will do the right thing and let them run.

Here is the list of who is running in each village: (*Denotes an incumbent.)

Dorsey's Search
(Four candidates for four seats)
*Brian Cuthie
Greg Pelesh
*Diane Turner
*Larry Winston

Harper's Choice
No candidates up for re-election.

Hickory Ridge
(Seven candidates for five seats)
Dawn Ashburn
George Bendor
*Linda Hitzelberger
*Thomas Louden
*Nancy McCord
*Gregg Schwind
*David Zeitzer

Kings Contrivance
(Two candidates for three seats)
*Hillary Bierce
Lorraine Kelly

Long Reach
(Three candidates for three seats)
*Karen Hitcho
*Bridget Mugane
*William Taylor

Oakland Mills
(Four candidates for five seats)
*Phil Engelke
*Karen Gray
*Wilburt "Kriz" Krizmanich
*William Woodcock
(The board will appoint a fifth member in Columbia's new fiscal year, which begins May 1)

Owen Brown
No election because only two candidates, both incumbents, have filed for two available seats.
*Rani Chohan
*Andrew Stack

River Hill
(Four candidates for three seats)
Larry Blickman
*Todd Harrison
Sean Keller
Michelle Potocko

Town Center
(Four candidates for two seats)
*Burt Knauft
Stephen Meskin
Hugh Tousey
Linda Wengel (currently disenfranchised)

Wilde Lake
(Six candidates for five seats)
*Sarah Croushler
*Vincent Marando
Linda Odum
*Mary Pivar
*Rhoda Toback
Robert Vogel

The first thing that jumps out at me is how few contested races there are. Only four villages (Hickory Ridge, River Hill, Town Center, and Wilde Lake) have more candidates than seats to be filled. Feel free to use the comments section to post info about the candidates or if you get a hold of any candidate's literature email it to me and I will post it.