Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Monday, February 26, 2007

"Portrait of Howard County" Art Exhibit

The Sun highlights a photography exhibit at the Columbia Art Center in Long Reach Village Center that sounds amazing. The exhibit was organized by Lisa Silverman, a junior at Centennial High School, with the help of Meg Mekelburg from the Horizon Foundation’s Connections Program. The photographs were taken by high school students and portray life in Howard County.

The photos will be on display at the Columbia Arts Center until March 4th and then will be at several of the county’s libraries. I plan to go over to see the exhibit on Thursday.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Maryland Beats North Carolina

Wow! I think Maryland just played their way into the NCAA Tournament! Maryland just beat North Carolina (which was ranked # 5 nationally) by 89-87.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Howard County Maps

One of the best tools on the Howard County website is a great selection of county maps. If you need some friday procrastination go check them out.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

State of the County Speech

More on this later, but check out the text and audio recording (downloadable at the county website) of County Executive Ken Ulman's State of the County speech and tell me what you think in the comments.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Another Great Choice By Ken Ulman

County Executive Ken Ulman made a superb choice in selecting Josh Feldmark to be Executive Director of the new Howard County Commission on the Environment and Sustainability. There are few people I ever met more passionate about this county and the environment than Josh. Combine that with Josh’s superb ability to keep an open mind to creative solutions and willingness to explore others' ideas to see how to achieve the best outcome and I can think of no one better suited to serve as Executive Director of this commission.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Howard Community College

Mary Ellen Duncan, President of Howard Community College (HCC), will be retiring in June after nine years as president. She will be replaced by the community college's current Executive Vice President Kate Hetherington.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Happy Presidents Day

In honor of Presidents Day: Who were America's five best Presidents and what makes them the best?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Recap of Downtown Columbia Redevelopment

I think it is a good time to have another recap of issues involving the current redevelopment plan for downtown Columbia, which will be the biggest change to the county since Columbia was proposed. Here are some past posts on the subject:

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

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


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

Why the Community can set the terms of of redevelopment: Market Forces

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.

Transportation Solutions: Or How to Exand Metro to Solve Local Road Congestion and Maximize Ridership

Let's Talk Solutions

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentines Day

In honor of Valentines Day:

1) What are the most romantic destinations in Howard County?

I will share one of mine in the comments later in the day.

2) Where do you enjoy taking a date in Howard County?

In the summer I love going to the soft serve icecream place on Rt. 40.

What Destinations are in Each of Columbia's Village Centers

Continuing a discussion in the comments to yesterday's post, what destinations (i.e. things that provide a draw for people to gather) are in each Village Center?

I thought of a number off the top of my head for some of the villages I know best:

The Bagel Bins in Wilde Lake, Kings Contrivance, and River Hill definately are destinations. So are restuarant/bars like Michael's Pub in Kings Contrivance, Sonomas in Owen Brown, the former Last Chance Saloon that has now been replaced by the Fire Rock Grill in Oakland Mills. The Interfaith Centers and Meeting Houses are also destinations. The ice skating rink in Oakland Mills is a destination as is the indoor pool/water park in Wilde.

What would you add?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Columbia's Village Centers

So I started this post Sunday, when Maryland's victory over Duke interrupted my thoughts and I could think of nothing else. :) This post was brought back to my mind by a conversation I had with Bill Santos tonight and comments made by Rhoda Toback, Wilde Lake Village Board Chair, at a community event I was attending.

As villages such a Wilde Lake start to look at their future design, lets start the discussion with: What design elements are the best features of each of Columbia's Village Centers? To broaden this conversation let us include both the village centers as they are now and the designs and elements they have had in the past (for example Oakland Mills and Owen Brown were redeveloped in the last couple years so feel free to discuss either their current or past design). By identifying what elements of the village centers work best we can start exploring this crucial question of the future of our community.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Maryland Beats Duke!

Maryland beat Duke 72 to 60! It is amazing how a team that has had such a bad season can step up and play quality basketball when they face their old rival. Duke certainly is not at the top of its game, but considering how Maryland has been playing I had not gone into this game with high hopes. It was great seeing one of the freshman, Greivis Vasquez, having such a great game scoring 18 of Maryland's points.

How many other happy Terps do we have out there?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Doug Godine Speaks About GGP's Approach to Downtown Planning

Bill Santos has an interesting recap of statements of Doug Godine on General Growth Property's approach to downtown Columbia planning. A lot of what Mr. Godine said is pretty encouraging and two points jumped out to me:

  • Mr. Godine stated he was working with Del. Liz Bobo and has contacted Congressman Cummings with regard to extending the DC Metro green line into Columbia.

  • Mr. Godine stated (and this was the second public meeting I had heard this during the week, so I don’t think this is spilling the beans) that the County was going to commission an extensive traffic study in the near future.
It sounds like the representatives of the developer, the county, the state, and the federal government have all recognized that transit is key to the plan. I think the last traffic study showed that transit was the biggest constraining variable on how much can be built in downtown Columbia. I hope, as extending the Metro is looked at, thought is given to the situation where local road capacity is a significant restraint on our community absorbing the population growth that is coming. Though a drive and park Metro system will not relieve local road congestion, if we design the systen the right way with enough strategically located embedded walk and ride Metro stops we can relieve both highway traffic and the larger problem of local road congestion. Columbia is luckily designed where large sections of the population are walkable to density hubs such as village centers that would allow walk and ride Metro stations. If we want a truly walkable community a properly designed Metro system is key. It will take a lot of money and that is why getting all of these players talk to each other is important, but particularly with the federal government sharing in the funding it is possible. We just must not nickel and dime ourselves into a system that isn't comprehensive enough to solve the underlying problems that are constraining our community from achieving its next evolution where it is able to absorb population growth while maintaining our values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so that we have an infrastructure that meets the communities needs.

As many long time readers know, I have in the past suggested a Metro system that would address the local road congestion problem by designing a walk and ride system. The Metro system started operating 30 years ago and grew to its current size from an initial 5 stations. We are making a 30 years plan for downtown Columbia and it is likely that Columbia's density in 30 years will be the density Washington is currently. Let us start planning now for a system that relieves local roads.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

New County Health Officer Peter Beilenson

County Executive Ken Ulman has made a superb choice in nominating Peter Beilenson to be Howard County’s Health Officer. Dr. Beilenson formally served from 1992 to 2005 as the Health Commissioner for Baltimore City, where he racked up an amazing record of accomplishments including improving immunization compliance, expanding drug treatment programs, and initiated a wide range of lead poisoning prevention initiatives. While Dr. Beilenson was running for the Congressional seat that Ben Cardin was vacating this past election I heard Dr. Beilenson speak in Howard County on multiple occasions and was always impressed by his dedication to finding sound policy solutions to complex problems. Dr. Beilenson will be a superb addition to county government and I think Ken showed real vision and leadership in recruiting him to serve our county.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

In the Howard County Blogosphere

Bill Santos has done a great job looking at another mall that GGP owns and recently expanded in a similar way as it sounds like GGP is considering expanding the Columbia Mall. There is a lot of meat in Bill’s post. You should go read it yourself, but a couple things stand out from GGP’s experience with the other mall it wanted to expand:

1) It took 4.5 years to get a mall expansion approved. Here in Columbia we are talking about the complete redevelopment of the downtown of the second largest community in the state of Maryland. Personally, I sure hope we can complete our plan in a lot less time than the Natick Mall redevelopment project, but it kind of puts things in perspective.

2) GGP committed to mitigate the cost to the community of their development. Bill quotes this section of a Boston Globe article addressing GGP’s Vice President Jim Grant's reaction to GGP’s work with the community to the mitigation the costs of their development:

"I don't think, four years ago, we expected it to be that high," Grant said of the total mitigation costs. "In every case, we said, 'Gosh, this is tough, but we can live with this amount.' "

Note the reaction. It is tough, but we can live with this amount. The desirability to build in Howard County is as high and more likely much higher than at this other mall project that was rather small compared to the redevelopment of downtown Columbia. I have said from the start that I want GGP to make a huge profit, but that profit must not come at the expense of tax-payers, lien-payers, or the community’s values of mixed income communities and the preservation of greenspace.

3) Julian J. Munnich, the Planning Board Chairman of the community where this other mall is, had this very important thing to say that Bill quotes from that Boston Globe article:

Natick would not have received the concessions "unless the town could show they had the wherewithal to be serious in its negotiations," Munnich said.

This goes back to my longstanding frustration with those in our community that want to play the “we are asking for to much” surrender flag or try to say we cannot ask for X because Y is a higher priority for them and they stupidly think the best way to get Y is to pick a fight with the people who want X rather than actually insisting that the plan include Y.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Wilde Lake Village Mettings

Thanks to commenter and Village Board Member Lisa Mikkelsen we have an update on the upcoming Wilde Lake Village Meetings:

Monday, February 5th at 7:30PM The Wide Lake Village Board will have as their Special Guest Speakers: Maggie Brown, President of The Columbia Association, and Tom O'Connor, Chair of The Columbia Board of Directors. And at 8:30 PM: Mary Kay Sigaty, County Council Representative.

Wednesday, February 7th at 7:30 PM The Wide Lake Village Board will hold a Special Board Meeting for Guest Speaker Doug Godine, GGP Vice President and General Manager of Columbia.

These look to be very interesting meetings. If you are able to make it ,please feel free to share your thoughts on what you hear in the comments.

I also want to thank Lisa for passing on this update in the comments. I value deeply the imput I get from my commenters.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Why not legalize prostitution?,0,5706546.story?track=mostemailedlink

Here in Howard County we just had a young woman commit suicide after being arrested and hailed into court because she was entrapped into a situation where she supposedly took money from someone who was supposedly a consenting adult in exchange for apparent sexually-related activity. It's true that this woman seemed to have other problems and who knows what led her to do what she did at the end.
Anyway, do we as a society really need to prosecute or persecute someone who engages in consensual sex for profit with another adult? I would hope not.
Sex can be a dangerous thing these days and I don't think there can be a thing like too much sex education in the schools. But do we really want big brother monitoring or proscribing the private affairs of adults when it's all consensual and no minors are involved? Is this what we want from our lawmakers and law enforcers? Does the fact that money changes hands make it all different? Really?
Enough of prudery as far as I'm concerned. Let's abolish these puritanical laws and have our law enforcers concentrate on real problems and real crimes.