Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Coverage of the West Columbia Candidates Forum

It looks like it will take me to sometime this weekend to get video of Monday’s candidates forum up on this blog.

In the meantime, Larry Carson at the Sun has the scoop. I am not sure I agree with Larry’s scene setting, though Columbia is clearly pretty Democratic I didn’t feel that the crowd was particularly partisan. The crowd asked some great detail questions and you could tell they they were taking this election very seriously. What did you think of the forum? What questions do you want us to ask in the Bloggers Candidates Forum? If you have a question you would prefer not to put in the comments below email it to me.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Today’s Focus Group

Today’s Focus Group (or at least its second half) was one of the more interesting ones. It turns out the county finally ran the numbers of proposed square footage and proposed building footprints and heights and discovered that the whole proposed square footage could be achieved without buildings over 12 stories high. It is amazing to think that if they had run the numbers first all of this public uproar about 20 story buildings could have been prevented. The Department of Planning and Zoning says that they will have their PowerPoint with the numbers and some models of the look of building heights after redevelopment online tomorrow. If they do I will start sharing it with you on this blog. I want to give a special thanks to Randy Clay and Mina Hilsenrath who clearly put a lot of time and hard work into running these numbers and creation these models.

On a side note, the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning says they convened the Focus Group to get the reactions of the community to the plan so they can refine it before it goes into the approval process. If this is truly their goal then they should desire audience comments and participation so they can get as much input as possible so the plan so the maximum range of concerns are heard before the approval process starts. The new “moderator” seems not to get this and is trying to change the rules in mid-stream and not allow the audience to contribute in the discussion where it would have the most impact and instead wants all the audience to throw their comments out at the end of the Focus Group meeting without their relevance or context connected to the discussion that prompted them. To say that such new rules are not constructive to the Focus Group’s stated goals would be a huge understatement. I hope the Department of Planning and Zoning will live up to its declarations and make sure that anyone who takes the time to attend (in many cases people are using their leave from work to do so since they insist on having the meetings during the work day) will be allowed to speak during the flow of discussion as was allowed at all of the past Focus Group meetings (and I have attended all of them except for two).

Downtown Columbia Redevelopment

The Focus Group on Downtown Columbia Redevelopment meets today from 3pm to 5:30pm at The Other Barn in Oakland Mills at 5851 Robert Oliver Place.

This redevelopment of Downtown Columbia will be the biggest change to the county since James Rouse proposed to take farm fields and build the city of Columbia that is now home to roughly 100,000 people.

Here is some background on the Downtown Columbia Redevelopment:



A Rough Review of the Plan Proposed by the Consultants at the End of the Charrette

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Candidates Forums

The west Columbia Candidates Forum was amazing! The room was packed, standing room only. I would guess at least 300 people were there. Normally the candidates forums I have attended have more campaign staff than voters, but that was certainly not the case this time. The Harper's Choice Village Board should be very proud. And I was very impressed by the more detail oriented substantive questions that were asked than the average forum.

I taped the forum and I hope to have it online by this weekend. I worked on trying to get it up tonight for three hours with a techie friend, but we came up short on getting it to work. I will keep trying and hope to have it by sometime this weekend. In the meantime use this as an open thread to discuss the forum, what you heard from the candidates, what you thought of what you heard, and anything else that is election related.

Also remember that Tuesday is a Congressional Candidates Forum at Owen Brown Interfaith Center and the League of Women Voters Board of Education Candidates Forum. The League's forum will be rebroadcast on local cable to I will be going to the Congressional forum. Hope to see you there. I am really enjoying meeting readers as they come up to me at these forums.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Open Thread

Here is an open thread for you to discuss today's candidates forum for County Exec and County Council District 4. What did you think of the candidates? Even if you are not able to attend feel free to use this as a place to share your thoughts. What are you hearing in the community? I have seen a lot of candidate literature being left at people's doors and my mailbox is certainly full of a lot of pieces of literature from candidates. What are you getting from the candidates? What do you think of what they have to say. Feel free to discuss any election, not just the ones will be covered at tonights forum.

Oh, and for those new to the blog here are a couple posts you might be interested in:

1) A Recap of Issues Related to the redevelopment of Columbia's Downtown
2) An idea about how Metro might be extended to Columbia in a way that relieves local road and not just highways
3) An idea about how to revitalize our village centers and get rid of the big box strip along Snowden River Parkway
4) Why community planning matters

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Candidate Forum Monday

Here is a reminder about the candidate forum to be held this Monday, Aug. 28, 7:30pm, Kahler Hall (Harper’s Choice Village Center).

The candidates forum will be on county executive and county council district 4. Here are the candidates:

County Executive:
  • Harry Dunbar (D)
  • Chris Merdon (R)
  • Ken Ulman (D)
  • Steve Wallis (Independent)

County Council, District 4:
  • Tom D'Asto (R)
  • Josh Feldmark (D)
  • Mary Kay Sigaty (D)
  • UNcommon (D)

Questions will be accepted from the audience.

I know a lot of people who read this blog care about how the Columbia’s downtown is redeveloped. The next County Council will the Zoning Board that will be asked to approve any plan and the next County Exec will be in charge of the Department of Planning and Zoning that will have a major role in the design of the plan that is submitted for approval. This forum is the only candidates forum of which I am aware of that will emphasize District 4 (Dorsey Search, Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge, River Hill, Wilde Lake, and Town Center – as well as parts of Clarksville, Highland, and Fulton), which as you can see is the council seat that includes Town Center. Since the candidates forum also includes the County Exec candidates that means this is a great opportunity for people who live all over the county to come ask those candidates questions. This truly is the public's one opportunity to ask questions of the candidates who will play a big role in our community's future.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Wincopin Street South

Laura Greenback in the Baltimore Examiner has a great article on how the county’s proposed plan for downtown would destroy some of Columbia’s greatest community gathering space by running Wincopin Street south through the Hug Statue Park and on the top edge of the Grass Amphitheater at the Lakefront. I highly recommend you go read Laura’s article.

As Laura points out in her article I have written about this before and suggested solutions to allow the developers to make a lot of money while at the same time preserving these community gathering places that are local treasures:

The Problem:


A Solution:



The solution preserves the Hug Park and the winding path through the trees in it.


Laura, thank you for giving the web address for this blog in your article. I think my fellow bloggers will agree that it is great when journalists covering blogs provide the web address so their readers can go out and check it out for themselves. I know I always try to link to news articles that I talk about so that my readers can go read the news articles. It is great to see that Laura is one of the ones that gets the etiquette of blogging. Laura also has several over great articles in the Examiner that you can check out here.


To find a recap of what has been going on with downtown Columbia redevelopment click here:

Tom Perez

Tom Perez has been taken off the ballot in the Attorney Generals race. The MD constitution stipulates that the Attorney General must have practiced law in MD for at least 10 years. Though Tom Perez had practiced law on behave of the federal government effecting every corner of the country as part of the Clinton Justice Department the highest court in MD has said that because he had only been a member of the MD Bar for 5 years he is disqualified from serving. From a constitutional design point of view I think it is stupid to write restrictions on who may serve into constitutions. Let the voters decide. Whether it is professional experience requirements, or residency requirements, or age requirements they undermine voter choice. If the voters don’t think someone is qualified they won’t vote for someone and these issues can be political issues in the campaign, but fundamentally it is the voter who should be left to decide for themselves who they want to have serve them.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wilde Lake Giant Is Closing

The Wilde Lake Giant is closing. The reason given is that it was too small to satisfy consumers desired range of grocery products. This will be a vital challenge for our community to address. The desires of the community for diverse options are growing and Rouse had no way of knowing the scales of stores today when he planned Columbia. Thus we ended up with the new development of the big box store lining the outskirts of Columbia. When addressing the future of the village centers we need to keep in mind the scale desired by consumers and upsize rather than downsize our shopping options in the village centers. Consumers like to try to get all their shopping done in one place and they will go to the places they can do that. If the village centers are downsized they will have less draws and will die off as less and less shoppers use the businesses. If we upsize the village centers by stacking shopping options and adding more shoppers (in the form of residents and office workers) onsite we will draw more people to the village centers and the businesses will thrive.

I wrote a letter to the editor on this, months ago, suggesting that by upsizing the village centers and stacking big box stores on top of grocery stores as is done in Seattle we can relieve some of our growth pressures by getting rid of the big box strip along Snowden River Parkway and build a new village of Columbia there, which will get more bang for the buck off that land and will revitalize the village centers by adding shopping draws that do not compete with existing businesses.

In the meantime HayDuke has a good suggestion on addressing the situation in Wilde Lake:

So, what to do with the space? The story provides no details, but there are two options that I would support. The first is getting David’s Natural Food Market and Produce Galore to join forces and give Columbia it’s first (nearly) full-sized natural food store. The second, which is bound to happen eventually anyway, is to redevelop the entire village center, something we may want to hold off on, however, until the whole charrette thing is done.

The second option is already being pursued. I believe the effort is being championed by forward thinking Mary Pivar on the Wilde Lake Village Board.

I would add that if a grocery store cannot use the space our area could really use an REI camping goods store. I always thought that Oakland Mills should have gone after an REI when their grocery store problems were going on.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Invitation to Beilenson event in East Columbia on Aug. 29

Here's an invitation from Ken and Chris Crandell, who I know as friends, to an event at their East Columbia residence on behalf of congressional candidate Peter Beilenson, who is involved in a highly competitive congressional primary with such others as a fellow who has great name recognition (John Sarbanes), a State Senator and chair of an important committee in Annapolis (Paula Hollinger), and a former familiar fame on Baltimore TV (Andy Barth). Come on out and meet Dr. Beilenson. I can affirm that you can't go wrong with any food provided by Chris.

a different Ken

We are pleased to invite you to a reception for Dr. Peter Beilenson, who we believe is the best candidate seeking the Democratic Party’s nomination for Maryland’s Third Congressional District (Ben Cardin’s seat). The reception (including Chris’ hors d’oeuvres!) will take place on Tuesday, August 29th from 5:00 PM until 6:30 PM at 9111 Brunners Run Court, Columbia, MD 21045. You will have an opportunity to meet Peter face to face, hear him speak about key issues and then ask questions. (Peter will also be at the candidate forum at OBIC at 7:00 PM immediately following our reception.)

For thirteen years, Peter served as the Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City. During his tenure, Baltimore gained national recognition for its progressive health care programs. As Commissioner, Peter was an innovator who implemented new solutions to juvenile violence and homicide, promoted safe affordable housing, and succeeded in reforming the child welfare and social systems. In 1999 Baltimore Magazine honored Peter by naming him “Best Civil Servant”.

We believe that Peter’s character, education, background, experience and leadership make him the best candidate for this Congressional seat. In Congress, Peter will bring the intelligence, compassion and commitment to public service that served the people of Baltimore so well. He will continue his campaign to provide healthcare coverage for all and protect children from violence, as well as improve our homeland security. He will also be a strong voice for a cleaner environment and greater fiscal responsibility.

If, after the Q&A, you are interested in supporting Peter, we will describe a few specific opportunities to volunteer and/or donate to his campaign.

In order to plan for hors d’oeuvres and drinks, we would really appreciate it if you could let us know quickly whether you accept or decline. Please either call 410-997-4611 or email kencrandell@yahoo.com to RSVP.

We are proud to be able to introduce Peter to our friends and neighbors, and look forward to seeing you on the 29th!

Sincerely,

Ken and Chris Crandell


Democracy for Howard County Endorsements

Democracy for Howard County (the local Democracy of America group) made its endorsements today for Board of Education and Central Committee. 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:

Board of Education: (5 slots)

  • Larry Cohen
  • Allen Dyer
  • Sandra French
  • Peter Sola
  • And no one else got enough votes for the fifth endorsement

(Personal Note: Di Zou came one vote short of getting endorsed and since I really think he would be a superb addition to the Board of Education I am going to give him a quick shout out. Di just graduated from Glenelg High School and is about to start at my alma mater the University of Maryland – College Park, where he will be majoring in Physics and Math. As a recent graduate of our school system he probably has a better understanding of what policies are working and what policies are not than most people who do not spend every day in the school system. I think this shows in his three priorities 1) stop having standardized tests diverting attention from quality teaching (and I got the impression that he was willing to use the leadership role of the school board to advocate for state and federal officials to clean up the messes they are making of our education system when they mandate poorly designed tests), 2) promote vocational training, and 3) improve the school systems technological infrastructure. On this last point I can just think of the money the county could save if we had someone on the Board of Education who was technologically literate enough to ask the right questions before we buy programs like the county’s current grading software that is so clearly broken.)

Central Committee: (12 slots)

  • Mark Hensman
  • Raj Kudchadkar
  • Byron MacFarlane
  • Gary Magnuson
  • Debbie Matherly
  • Tony McGuffin
  • Jim Mellicant
  • Dave Osmundson
  • Cathy Zomlefer
  • And Three No Endorsements

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Primary Night Election Coverage

The Howard County Bloggers are going to be providing live primary election results coverage. HayDuke and I will be over at the Democratic Party’s Primary Night Party and the two Davids will be at the Republican Party’s Primary Night Party getting the precinct level returns as they come in so you can track the results live on our sites. I will be posting maps of all of the precincts in each district next to the return results as they come in so people can see what areas are voting which way. I think this will be a great way to explore Howard County’s political geography.

So here is a breakdown of who will be covering which results:

Howard County Blog:

  • County Council District 4 Democratic Primary
  • Delegates District 13 Democratic Primary

HayDuke:

  • County Exec Democratic Primary
  • County Council District 2 Democratic Primary

HoCoMD Blog:

  • County Council District 5 Republican Primary

Hedgehog Report:

  • Delegates District 9A Republican Primary
  • County Council District 2 Republican Primary

So this year the primary election returns will be available quicker and in more detail than ever before. This coverage will add a depth of understanding of the political geography of Howard County that has never been provided before.

Upcoming Candidates Forums

Monday, August 28th, 2006, 7:30PM
County
Exec and County Council District 4 Candidates Forum hosted by The Harper's Choice Village Board at Kahler Hall (Harper's Choice Village Center, Columbia).


Tuesday, August 29th, 2006, 7:00PM - 9:00PM
Congressional Candidates Forum hosted by the Christ United Methodist Church and the Unitarians at the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, 7246 Cradlerock Way, Columbia, MD 21045

After the primary we will have our Bloggers’ Candidates Forum. If you have questions that you want us to ask the candidates you can put your suggestion in the comments section or email me.

Feel free to use the comments section also as an open thread to discuss your thoughts on the elections, what you are seeing and hearing on the campaign trail, and what you think of the candidates.

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.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

County Financial Numbers

David Wissing at the Hedgehog Report compiles the county candidates' financial reports into his handy tables:

Senator James Clark Jr. Has Passed Away After a Full and Distinguished Life

This weekend we morn the loss of a great Howard Countian. Former Senator James Clark Jr. passed away Friday at the age of 87 after a very distinguished life. He served for as a Democrat for 24 years in the Maryland Senate eventually service as the State Senate President.

He was particularly proud of creating legislation that formed the Maryland Farmland Preservation Foundation and Program Open Space.

As Charles Feaga said of Senator Clark in the Sun obituary:

It could be said he is the father of our land preservation programs.


A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Sept. 2 at St. John Episcopal Church, 9120 Frederick Road, Ellicott City.

Animal Planet Expo at Centennial Park

John Misita and his high-flying Frisbee dog perform at the expo.

Frisbee dog Kora is given a leaping start.

The Animal Planet Expo came to Centennial Park this weekend, as one of their thirteen stops this summer around the country. There were Frisbee dog shows, trivia games, and the popular Discovery Kids' Endurance Experience, where kids got to feel the exhilarating fun of the Discovery Kids' Channel's show Endurance.

The expo also included a theater where visitors came face-to-face with a python, alligator, fox, porcupine, or lemur. Visitors were able to meet Dave and Molly from Animal Planet's Backyard Habitat. As part of this wonderful opportunity for Howard County's families and pets, Comcast will also be making a $1000 donation to the Howard County Animal Control and Adoption Center.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Glen Echo Park

A friend of mine from high school is turning 30 this weekend and is having a three day long party to celebrate (I am taking a little break from the festivities right now). The festivities started last night when we went contra dancing (a type of folk dancing) in Glen Echo Park. I had never been to Glen Echo Park before, but it is really an amazing community treasure. It has the feel of the Tivoli Gardens that Rouse originally envisioned for downtown Columbia with a carousel, bumper cars, children’s art center, glass blowing studio, arcade, and a variety of public space including a Spanish Ballroom, a Dance Theater, playground, and picnic area. The park was hopping last night with contra dancing in the Spanish Ballroom and Salsa dancing in an open air pavilion nearby both to live music. As we think about the redevelopment of downtown Columbia I think it is worth studying such local treasures and see how and where best to integrate such community space into the plan. Anyone have any suggestions?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Finance Reports are Out

The campaign finance numbers are out and David Wissing at The Hedgehog Report has a series of great posts on the numbers that affect Howard County. To make it easier for you guys to see I am going to re-post his handy tables as images below. If you click on each it will take you to his post on that race and I highly encourage you to go check out his analysis and express your thoughts either here in the comments section or in his comments section on these races. David is also an avid poll junkie so if you like to follow polls of races around the US, then you should make David a regular stop on your daily blog-hopping. And while we are discussion national blogs (David is a national blogger that grew up in Howard County graduating from Oakland Mills High School and still lives in Howard County) I guess I should give a couple links to some of the best national blogs:

1) Politics1 – This is where I start all my blog hunting. It is one of the oldest blogs dating back to that ancient time of 1997. This is a link clicker/info seekers dream site. If you click the “State/Federal” link on the top you will get a US map you can click on and get a list of all congressional and statewide candidates in the state of your selection along with links to their websites, the states filing deadlines and primary schedules, links to most major and a number of minor local news sources, and each states Secretary of States websites. If you click on the “News Links” link you get a page full of links to some great news/info/political resources.

2) Political Wire – The best rundown of political news you can find.

3) Josh Marshall – This is a great investigative journalism blog that is the best source for covering all the scandals going on in DC including the Abramoff and Duke Cunningham scandals.

4) DailyKos – This is the biggest and best Democratic blog with a daily readership of about a half million.

5) RedState – The Republican version of DailyKos.

6) Andrew Sullivan – An independent minded Republican

7) Wonkette – The queen of DC snark

There are plenty of others like AmericaBlog, FireDogLake, and FreeRepublic, so go check them out for yourself and feel free to give a shout out to your favorite blogs in the comments section below or share what you think of some of the blogs that are mentioned above.


Now onto the campaign finance numbers:

The one thing I would add is that though money is very important for statewide (and Franchot’s money in the comptrollers race really stands out to me) or even big district races at a local level a candidate without much money can knock on enough doors to win a race through person to person contact without needing much money. For example, I keep hearing reports that Nina Basu’s energy and passion are really impressing people she is meeting as she is campaigning and though quite honestly she is fighting an uphill battle without much money, it will be very interesting to watch to see how many people respond to that energy and her ideas and see if she can pull off an underdog upset. What are you hearing from or about candidates in your part of the county?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Will This Be Our Future

It seems the development issue is becoming a huge factor in the Montgomery County elections. Now any of us who have ever driven through Montgomery County understand why voters there might be mad. There are few better contrasts between the well thought out planning in Howard County and the sprawl, traffic congestion, and unnessisary reductions in the quality of life of Montgomery County and Northern Virginia. The residents there are angry about this and now they are putting out campaign videos that go after the politicians that side with the developers over the community. Check out this video.



Will our candidates and elected officials learn this lesson before creative and pissed off citizens start doing similar videos here? I hope so. I have never liked to follow Montgomery County in anything. Let us show that Howard County plans effectively and our electeds and candidates are smarter than those that are contributing to the mess in Montgomery County.

About This Blog Recap

I have noticed a recent increase in our readership so I wanted to welcome our new readers and give a little background and then encourage both new and old readers to check out some of the major posts this blog has covered as something to think about as a lot of posts in the next year may build on them.

Howard County Blog is one of five blogs that cover goings on in Howard County. Each of the blogs has its own character. The other four blogs are:

The Hedgehog Report
: A Republican blog that covers both Howard County stuff and national polling and election info. It is to my knowledge the oldest blog that covers Howard County

HayDuke
: A blog run by a friend of mine who was one of the champions of the Save Merriweather effort.

HoCoMD Blog: A blog by one of the past presidents of the Howard County Republican Club and current candidate for Republican Central Committee.

Phil Marcus's Blog: A blog on Columbia Association issues by the CA Rep from King's Contrivance

Howard County Blog is the only one to have guest bloggers and I hope that brings a broader range to this blog. I am thrilled with the diversity of this site's guest bloggers that range in age from a retiree to a high school student and in geographic diversity with one guest blogger from Savage, one guest blogger from Elkridge, two guest bloggers from Ellicott City, and myself and one other guest blogger from Columbia. I hope you find their writing interesting and I hope they will post with more frequency and will provide interesting commentary, insight, and analysis particularly as we move into probably the most important set of elections in our counties history. With an open and likely very competitive county executive race, with a complete turnover in the county council since the last election, and with a majority of the school board up for election I don't think our county has ever seen so many competitive races.

Each of my guest bloggers choose what they want to cover for themselves. I mainly have been focusing on community planning issues as Howard County considers the biggest change to our community since Columbia was proposed by James Rouse. As someone who grew up in Columbia and has traveled all over the world observing community planning and its impact on quality of life issues I hope my insights and examination of the details help produce the best possible development plan as we continue to experience immense population growth pressures for the foreseeable future. As I have said many times I think the county's population will double in the next 30 to 40 years and I want to see that we preserve our quality of live, green space, and values as a diverse, welcoming community with housing available to all income levels.

So without further ado here are some past blog posts worth checking out if you are interested in the future of Howard County and how we address population pressures:

1) Why community planning matters

2) A Recap of the Redevelopment Plans for Downtown Columbia

3) The Next Evolution of Our Village Centers

4) Extending Metro In a Way that Relieves Local Road Congestion

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Event Tonight at East Columbia Library

Barry Tevelow is hosting an event on Civility in the Community, this Wednesday, August 16th (tonight) at 7 pm at the East Columbia Library. Barry, with his group www.RestoreUS.org has been hosting a series of candidates forums, but I get the sense this is something a little different.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

League of Women Voters' State Legislative Candidates Forum Tonight


League of Women Voters' State Legislative Candidates Forum is Tuesday night (i.e. tonight). It will be in the Tyson Room, George Howard Building, 7 PM. If you go in person you can submit a question for the candidates, but you can also watch live at 7 pm on Cable Channel 70 (G-TV) or watch the rebroadcast.

Rebroadcast on Gtv, Cable Channel 70 as follows:
Wed. through Mon. - August 16 through August 21 at 12:30 p.m.
Wed. - August 16 at 8 p.m.
Fri. - August 18 at 9 p.m.
Sat. and Sun. - August 19 and August 20 at 10 p.m.

As a reminder there will be a Bloggers Candidates Forum after the primary. If you questions for the candidates that you want to suggest we ask feel free to post them in the comments or email them to me.

Use the comments section as an open thread to discuss the state legislature elections and your favorite candidates. What are the issues that matter to you? How do candidates stand on those issues? Have you met a candidate on the campaign trail? If so, that was the experience like? What are you hearing from your neighbors on the race? Please use a consistent pseudonym or your real name so we can have a good conversation. Please also provide links to your source if appropriate.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Ken Ulman Family Picnic | Eat 'n Greet

All are invited to a family picnic hosted by Ken Ulman's campaign. The picnic will be held on Saturday, August 19th, from 3-7 PM at Debbie & Harry Adler's home. The address is 21206 Dusk View Court in Clarksville. Information for RSVP can be found at www.kenulman.com! Ken and his campaign hope to see you there!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Columbia Experience

Last night I went to one of the free outdoor movies at the Lakefront in downtown Columbia and as sat there before the movie I saw as I always seem to at these movies the true Columbia experience. People of all ages and all backgrounds sitting out on the grass amphitheater enjoying each others company and dancing under the People Tree as they waited for the movie to start. It was really amazing the diversity and the number of interracial couples. Rouse did an amazing job of bringing people together of all backgrounds and making Columbia a truly welcoming community.

I am so passionate about fixing the plan for the redevelopment of downtown Coulumbia because sadly the current plan for downtown Columbia is an assault on everything I saw last night at the Lakefront. The refusal to require mixed income housing throughout in every residential component that reflects the mix of household incomes in the community despite nearly unanimous and repeated efforts by the community to say the current 10% moderate and 5% middle income housing in the plan is insufficient. Read these posts on the affordable housing needs in our community:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

The plan to extend a road over the top edge of the grass amphitheater where we were watching the movie also destroys one of the great mixing places in Columbia.



And of course we have the issue of exclusive pools that remove yet another on of the main mixing area.

It is generally appalling to me that the people pushing the current plan forward either to not understand or care how their plan will destroy the very core of what makes are community successful and that Rouse was able to achieve. And to think that many of these things (with maybe the exception of mixed income housing) could be fixed without much loss of profit for the developers. Here is one idea for solutions to some of these problems:


Friday, August 11, 2006

Accountability

HayDuke and I are in absolute agreement that it is great to see a reporter actually fact check. As HayDuke says:

Flier reporter Nate Sandstrom has earned my respect for actually reporting the facts, rather than just repeating dubious claims verbatim. More like this, please.

Reading both of Nate’s articles on the candidates forum also highlights that the number one issue of this election will most likely be zoning/development, which is something I tried to get across to several of the candidates last fall. Zoning and community planning has the greater impact on voters day to day lives than any other issue. It is the leading factor in how long we are stuck in traffic, how easy it is for us to shop where we want to shop, how difficult it is to find parking at our house or where we shop, how crowded our kids schools are, whether those who work in our community can afford to live here, whether those who grew up in our community can afford to stay here, and, as James Rouse has shown us, on the character and values of the children who grow up here. The design of a development can have a huge impact on whether it divides sections of the community or brings people together and builds community. And of course the design of a community has an impact on the health and accessibility of nature in our community as well as an impact on the likelihood of crime in our community.

I was glad to see many of the candidates recognized the importance of accountability to the voters in the zoning process and want to keep the Zoning Board elected. A couple months ago I responded to HayDuke saying that impartiality was a myth when dealing with zoning by saying:

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

I went on in a later post to explain further:

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

It is good to see that some candidates are realizing this. Hopefully the others will wake up and recognize that accountability must be the cornerstone of our zoning process.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Grand Opening of Campaign Office, Anyone?

Tomorrow, Friday, August 11th, Ken Ulman's campaign will be holding a grand opening of their new office. The event's going to be held at 4 PM at 8858 Twin Knolls Rd, which is on Thunder Hill Rd, where the old BB&T bank used to be. Word through the grapevine says Martin O'Malley will be there, though that may not be certain. Hope to see you guys there!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wi-Fi

Last week the Columbia Flier raised the issue of including wireless internet access (also known as wi-fi) in the redeveloped Downtown Columbia. Wi-fi is a great, forward thinking idea. There is no better way to get people to spend more time outside at cafes, parks, and street side seating areas than to allow them to bring their work, email, and web surfing outside where they can both enjoy their surroundings and get done what they need to do. When I was on vacation out west this summer I was amazed how many areas with free wi-fi I found. Whether I was at a pizza place in Red Lodge, MT, a library in Helena, MT, or a lodge/restaurant just outside Yosemite National Park I found free wi-fi and it brought patrons out to enjoy each facility.

As the Flier editorialized after their article:

Like running water, electricity and cable television before it, wireless Internet capability will soon be widely considered a part of living and doing business in American communities.

Communities that don't have it will find themselves at a competititve disadvantage for attracting and retaining business and keeping residents happy.

But, make no mistake, this technology is coming. And in a few years, we'll probably be wondering how we lived without it.

I could not have said it better myself. If we want a forward looking downtown for Columbia free wi-fi has to be a component to it. Thanks to the superb Howard County Library System and a couple forward thinking businesses we already have free wi-fi in a couple pockets in our community. Lets make outdoor free wi-fi a key component of bringing people out to use existing and proposed public spaces.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Candidates Forums

The League of Women Voters held a candidates forum for County Exec and County Council candidates that have to run in the primary. You can watch the forum all week on the county's cable channel: Channel 70. The rebroadcast schedule is not very clear, but I gather it might be Wednesday at 8pm and Friday at 10pm. Which raises the point that won't people watch the county cable channel more if they had a clearer schedule.

So for those that were at the forum or watched live on county cable, what did you think? Use this as an open thread to discuss all the county council races and the county exec race. Even if you missed the forum, but have been following the race feel free to share your thoughts.

If this doesn't satisfy your forum needs then you can attend the Harper's Choice Candidates Forum on August 28th or participate in the upcoming Blogger's Candidates Forum. What is the Blogger's Candidates Forum you ask, well it is a new joint effort by the four bloggers that cover Howard County issues. After the primary we will send the candidates that make it into the general election questions for then to answer and then post them on our blogs after October 1st. You can then comment on the candidates' responses and ask them additional or follow up questions. You can also provide your own analysis and commentary on the responses and the other blogs and my guest bloggers will also likely provide their own analysis and commentary. This hopefully will be a great way for voters (i.e. you guys and gals) to directly engage those seeking their (i.e. your) vote. So lets start the process rolling. What questions do you want the candidates to answer? Post them in the comments section or email them to me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Beilenson Iraq War Town Hall Meeting Tomorrow In Columbia 7:00 PM

Dr. Peter Beilenson, Candidate for Congress in the Third Congressional District, will hold a Iraq War Town Hall meeting, tomorrow , August 8th, 2006, at 7:00 PM in Columbia at The Meeting House, 5885 Robert Oliver Place, Columbia. Click here to RSVP.

Dr. Beilenson writes:
The news coming out of the Middle East is sobering. The situation in Lebanon is deteriorating and the war in Iraq rages on. The cost of the conflict will reach $315 billion by the end of September and American casualties have topped 20,000. It's time to change direction by implementing smart strategies that defuse tensions, effectively combat terrorism and bring our troops home.

I want to hear from you. I will be hosting town halls across Maryland's Third District to have a frank discussion about Bush's Middle Eastern quagmire and what we can do to fix the mess. Please, join me for these important meetings and lend your voice to the discussion. I hope to see you at one of these events. Thank you so much for your support.

Sincerely,
Peter Beilenson, M.D., M.P.H.

This meeting will give you an opportunity to discuss with a Candidate for Congress one of the most pressing issues facing American Voters today. Please attend if you can.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

County Council District 5


David Wissing has a post on the Republican primary for County Council District 5. I think he does a great job of reflecting what I have been hearing from a lot of Republican activists. Go read it, this looks like it is going to be a very interesting race. Though obviously District 5 is by far the most Republican district in the county the supporters of whoever loses the Republican primary have longtime west county activist Don Dunn as an option in the general election.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Legislative Scholarship Reform

I very much agree with the thrust of the Columbia Flier/Howard County Times editorial of Aug. 3 opposing Maryland's legislative scholarship program. But I believe we should aim high and totally abolish this program that amounts to vote-buying with public funds rather than start out with a halfway measure.

The late Bob Kittleman, with whom I did not agree on much as his career unfolded, does deserve much praise for initiating scholarship reform legislation throughout the 90s while enduring the brickbats of his peers in the House of Delegates and State Senate (who acted like he was stealing their toys). While he was not successful, he did get to see the House Ways and Means Committee send alternative measures at least three times to the House floor where they had overwhelming support. The most recent bill to pass the House did so by 114-20 in 1996, with the vote showing that there was nothing partisan about it. The whole problem was, and undoubtedly remains, in the Senate. That's surely because State Senators get way more of our money with which they can, intentionally or unintentionally, buy votes. That 1996 bill was passed by the House in mid-March and was sent to be totally ignored in the Senate Rules Committee.

It's good to know that Bob's son, Senator Allan Kittleman is carrying on in the tradition of his father on this matter by turning his allocation of scholarship money over the the Maryland Higher Education, which would make the decisions on its dispersal. That Senator Schrader and Delegates Pendergrass and Bobo do the same is also good to hear. Suffice it to say that I disagree with the two Republican Senators on a lot of other issues, so they won't be getting much praise from me in general.

I have noticed that Senator Schrader has been introducing scholarship reform bills as a form of memorial to Bob Kittleman (and that's nice), but the bills themselves don't go as far as I'd prefer. While recognizing that politics is the art of the possible, I believe you have to aim high and try to get as much reform as possible.

Since this is a wholly self-serving program for legislators, it would take a very strong public demand to end it and get electoral politics out of scholarships. Editorials and articles like those of Aug. 3 can only help.

Local Blogs

Business Monthly has an article this month on local blogs, including us here at Howard County Blog. I was interviewed for the article in May and I have been looking out for the article for the last couple months. In the process of looking out for the article I have discovered the Business Monthly's web site needs a lot of work to become more easily to navigate. The article itself is very good and includes some of my discussion of the strength of blogs as a medium:

Evan Coren, who has been blogging since January, said his ... Howard County Blog allows him to delve into issues with greater detail than even daily publications can, and noted that the county's bloggers possess individual strong points that set each of them apart. For example, "Hayduke understands [the controversy surrounding] Merriweather better than I do," he said.

...

But the real beauty of blogs, Coren said, is that they "serve as community space, where people can have discourse in a civil manner and find solutions to common problems."

OK, enough navel gaving, but here are two example of us using the blog format to delve into greater detail than other mediums can:

1) Downtown Columbia Redevelopment

2) Extending Metro North


My one complaint with the article is that is doesn't provide the web addresses of the blogs it talks about. But for those of you curious about local blogs here they are:

The Hedgehog Report: A Republican blog that covers both Howard County stuff and national polling and election info. It is to my knowledge the oldest blog that covers Howard County

HayDuke: A blog run by a friend of mine who was one of the champions of the Save Merriweather effort.

HoCoMD Blog: A blog by one of the past presidents of the Howard County Republican Club and current candidate for Republican Central Committee.

Phil Marcus's Blog: A blog on Columbia Association issues by the CA Rep from King's Contrivance

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Jon Stewart Coming to Merriweather!

Jon Stewart from the Daily Show is going to be at Merriweather on Saturday, September 16th! Thank you HayDuke for the heads-up! As always HayDuke is on top of all things Merriweather :)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Downtown Columbia Redevelopment and the Columbia Association

In response to an excellent article in the Examiner local blogger HayDuke asks some very important questions:

What about the fact that CA -- already burdened by debt -- will have to provide thousands of additional residents with the amenities all Columbians expect? Will they have to build a pool? What about pathways? What about a new community center, since the current Town Center location is well away from the heart of the village at Oakland Manor?


These are some excellent questions. I have raised the pool issue at past Focus Group meetings and my suggestion is that in order to save land space (which is very highly priced) that the new downtown pools are designed creatively. For example, the proposed 22 story condo building for the Lakefront is currently designed to have a pool on its roof. Now since exclusive pools are an assault on the very principles Columbia was founded on, with our pools being one of the main mixing areas where peoples of all backgrounds get to know each other, I suggest that this pool be made the Lakefront neighborhood pool run by CA and part of the CA system.


I have also raised at a past focus group meeting the need for additional neighborhood center facilities for each new neighborhood. More residents will mean more demand for space for new community groups to meet and residents to rent for special events. I have already heard from some old friends that there is not enough appropriate space for the Israeli dance group, which probably means groups that do similar activities like Irish folk dancing, Jazz dance, ballet, step dancing, country line dancing, swing dancing, and ballroom dancing. The overall increase in the population of Columbia might mean we need some larger public gathering spaces. As a whole I think a thorough evaluation of what the needs will be for Columbia and Howard County with the additional population is needed. Maggie Brown’s response to me seemed to be based on the present conditions rather than the needs after the new population. Of course I think all of these facilities could be integrated into mixed use buildings as long as adequate parking or mass transit are provided.


Put of course all of this means that HayDuke’s conclusion is right on the mark:


In reality, CA isn't gaining more money or power. It's gaining more obligations.

And obligations for CA mean obligations for lien payers and thus potentially lien increases. Lien increases really amount to property tax increases. Thus it should be no surprise that the CA Reps currently on the focus group have been asking tough questions and that Jud Malone who is on the focus group and was a CA Rep got voted out of office last spring after preaching that we should trust the developers.


I believe that if the developers want the huge profits that they will get from building in downtown (or in my opinion anywhere) they must not pass on the costs resulting from the development (including roads, parking, mass transit, schools, sewers, water treatment, environmental impact mitigation, social services (and this includes the issues of pools, community facilities, etc. mentioned above), maintenance of developed areas, and preservations of community standards such as mixed income housing) to tax or lien payers. This is basic economics. When the costs of production are not fully absorbed in the cost of a product (these unabsorbed costs are known in economics as externalities), then it is the job of the government to require that the producer bare that cost as part of the cost of production so that third parties (i.e. the tax or lien payer) don’t have to pay for the unabsorbed costs. This is the accepted and normal fix to the third party payer problem that is used in every capitalist country. In our case the situation is very simple: What we (the community) has that the developers want is the additional residential units, so any elected official that wants to get elected again will not grant those residential units until the developer agrees to a plan with firm guarantees that are legally enforceable that the developer will cover these costs that must be met to make the plan workable.


As a side note, I think the article does a great job of portraying the mentality of some in CA, including Tom O’Conner, who is quoted in the story. I think HayDuke raises questions that I have heard other more realistic and forward think CA Reps like Cindy Coyle and Phil Kirsch raise at focus group meetings. Understanding the space limitation of the Examiner, I hope that this article becomes the first in a series that reports on how different elected parts of CA are looking at these issues.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Zoning Bills Open Thread

What do people thing about the zoning bills that were just past?

Nina Basu

HayDuke likes District 13 House of Delegate’s Candidate Nina Basu’s idea to give tax breaks to low income workers. As a side note, I have been hearing that Nina has been really impressing the people she has been meeting when she has been out campaigning in the community. One of the first things I heard when I got back from my summer vacation was how impressed people were with her and since then I have been hearing a lot of buzz about how passionate, intelligence, and hard working she is and how refreshing her energy and forward thinking ideas on regional transit needs.