Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Friday, April 27, 2007

In the News

The Sun has a good article on last weekends Columbia elections.

The Flier also has a good article, though I must say I was a bit surprised my the sub-headline: "Slow-growth blogger joins election winners". I am a blogger, but I am not for slow-growth. Frankly, I would prefer a plan approved for downtown as soon as possible and I am for a re-developed downtown. I am however opposed to the sloppy development plan the county currently has on the table because I think it fails to have the infrastructure needed to meet the community's needs and it does not reflect the value structure of Columbia where people of all backgrounds can live next to each other.

That all being said the Flier had an editorial on me that I am ecstatic about :) It is not online for me to link to, but is on my listening sessions at the Bagel Bin. I am really looking forward to talk to everyone about any issue they see facing Columbia. It will be this Sunday from 10 am to 12 noon.

The editorial also ponders how I might use my blog now I am elected. I hope that it becomes a useful mechanism to have a open conversation where we can collectively search for the best solutions for challenges facing our community.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

First Listening Session

As I promised in my campaign I will hold listening sessions once a month at the Bagel Bin in Kings Contrivance to listen to any concerns or suggestions residents might have. My first listening session will be this Sunday, April 29th from 10am to 12noon. Please stop by. I look forward to talking to you.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Election Results

I won. It was a close election and I hope that Jason considers staying on the Village Board to fill the current vacancy.

The final result was:
202 Evan Coren
181 Jason Ridgell

I look forward to working with the other members of the board:
Hank Dagenais
Barbara Russell
Pearl Atkinson-Stewart
Michael Cornell
Miles Coffman
Cindy Coyle
Phil Kirsch
Gail Broida
Tom O'Conner

In the two contested Village Board elections the top three vote getters won:

In Town Center:
1) Sue Waller
2) Lee Richardson
3) Steve Meskin
4) David Wissing (David has his thoughts on the election at his blog: The Hedgehog Report)

In Owen Brown:
1) Ann Coren (Way to go Mom! ) :)
2) Tie: Al Romack and Summer Romack

4) Jeff Underwood (You may know him better by the name he ran for County Council under last year: "UNcommon")


Friday, April 20, 2007

Election Day

The election here in Kings Contrivance is at Amherst House from 5pm to 7pm on Friday, April 20th and 9am to 1pm on Saturday, April 21st.

As you probably saw no bloggers got endorsed by the Columbia Flier. I have a strong commitment to openness and transparency and so I have decided to post here my answers to the Fliers endorsement questionnaire:

1. Which Columbia Association programs would you like to see get higher priority? Lower priority? Started? Eliminated? What changes would you suggest and what would be their financial implications?

As stated on the CA website “The Columbia Association is a non-profit public benefit organization, created to nurture the Columbia vision and to enhance the quality of life for people living and working here.” To that end I believe the CA programs that should be a priority are ones that promote the Columbia vision of bringing people of diverse backgrounds together, preserving green-space, and promoting quality planning that has the infrastructure to meet the community’s needs. Pools, bike paths, tot lots, the gyms, the CA summer camps, the before and after school care, the classes at the Arts Center, the Columbia BikeAbout, the Columbia swim teams, and the Friday night movies at the Lakefront all bring people of diverse backgrounds together. The preservation of green-space through proper management and care of Columbia’s open spaces is also a priority of mine. With the proposed 10% to 20% increase in Columbia’s population CA must be planning ahead to make sure it has the infrastructure to serve this population. I will make a priority of examining what new pools, tot lots, gyms, and other facilities are needed to meet this population increase. If CA doesn’t ask these questions now and start to address these issues before the plan is approved, CA will find itself playing catch up without reserved land in the plan and with increased cost to lien-payers who will have to pick up the costs of paying for items that CA might have gotten developers to contribute to in exchange for easements on CA land.

I firmly believe that one of my main roles is to look out for the efficient use of lien-payers’ money. I have concerns about bonuses to senior staff, effective oversight of technology contracts, and whether CA is getting a fair value on easements they have given.

One new expense I will propose CA take on is building sheds at each of the swimming pools that have a swim team so that the swim teams have a place to store their gear. CA collects money for the swim teams, but the teams must store their gear in parents' homes. I have learned from the parents who currently run the KC Waves swim team that many parents, particularly those not living in single family homes, often do not have room to store this gear. Getting sheds built at the pools so that they can store their equipment at the pools will help allow any parent to run the swim team not just parents with storage space to store the teams gear. It will cost CA $500 to build a shed at each of the 14 CA pools with a swim team. This $7000 total is a much better use of CA money than large bonuses to senior staff. It should not take residents long drawn out bureaucratic navigating to get CA to take action to improve its services to make residents' lives easier and support the building of a strong community. Our swim teams are one of the great community building activities that CA supports.

2. What would you as a Columbia Council/board member do to make the Columbia Association a more open organization?

I am deeply committed to the Columbia Association being a more open transparent organization. I have proposed that CA create a searchable online database of board decisions on its website. I believe this will provide a clearer awareness of what are the CA policies set by the board, help clarify what policies the board has established for staff to implement, and make the board more accountable to voters by allowing anyone to easily find out how each board member voted on a particular issue.

My strong belief in the voters’ right to know about the proceedings of an organization that collects their money will make me a strong and consistent voice for keeping meetings open.

3. Do you believe your village needs a master plan to guide its redevelopment in the coming years? If so, how would you suggest such a plan be devised and implemented?

Yes, I am a strong advocate for quality planning before building is approved. I have a long track record on my blog and at public meetings advocating quality planning. The tough questions need to be asked when there is still time to fix a plan, not after construction has been approved. Piecemeal development rarely serves the community as well as quality comprehensive planning.

I have attended all of the charrette meetings and most of the Focus Group meetings on downtown redevelopment. I believe the first day of the charrette, when residents drew their vision for downtown on maps and presented them to the rest of the community that chose to attend, was a good way to start developing a master plan, but I believe that after the open mike session on the Monday of charrette week it became clear that the community was not getting listened to and the plan was not reflecting the community’s concerns. I believe that any master planning process must be done in an open way responsive to the community and it must involve careful planning to make sure the infrastructure will meet the community’s needs. Sloppy planning creates preventable frustrations, lost time, and the reduction of the quality of life in the community. If we can with a little pain in the short-term reduce a lot of sustained long-term pain we should.

4. Do you think the board/council does an adequate job representing the interests and concerns of residents to the CA president and staff? If not, what improvements would you suggest?

There seems to be a difference of opinion within the board/council on whether or not it is their function to represent the interests and concerns of residents. I strongly believe that one of my primary duties as someone the residents elect will be to represent their interests and concerns on the board. I will hold monthly listening sessions at the Bagel Bin in Kings Contrivance so that any resident can come by and talk to me about any issues they have. I will champion the needs of residents on the board and be proactive in making sure board decisions are implemented in a timely, financially efficient way as the board directed.

I have serious concerns about the clarity of the communication between the board and the President. To solve this I propose that CA create a searchable online database of all board decisions so the board, the President, staff, and the public knows what decisions the board has taken and what instructions the President and staff have received.

5. If there are any issues of particular importance that this questionnaire does not touch on, please outline them, and your prescription for dealing with them, here.

An over arching issue that CA faces is there seems to be a lack of understanding of mission and purpose in many recent CA decisions. CA needs to constantly judge its actions off of its purpose as stated on the CA website “The Columbia Association is a non-profit public benefit organization, created to nurture the Columbia vision and to enhance the quality of life for people living and working here.” I will consistently work to make sure that all CA actions are true to that mission. This will require working with other board members to judge if policies conform to this mission. It will also require better board control of CA policies and clearer directions to staff. I have mentioned my proposal for an online searchable database of board decisions in answering other questions, but I think it will be a very important component in making sure board members and staff are more accountable and clarifying communication between the board and staff.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Book Signing at the Columbia Archives

This looks like a neat event. The Columbia Archives holds a special place in my heart. My dad, who is an archivist, served on the Columbia Archives Board of Directors. I have known the head of the archives Barbara Kellner for many years and consider her a community treasure. Barbara is a wealth of knowledge about Columbia and I encourage everyone to talk to her.

Columbia Archives will host the first book signing of New City Upon a Hill by Joseph Mitchell and David Stebenne on Friday, May 11 from 5 to 7pm. Columbia Archives is located in the American City Building at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia Town Center . At 5:30pm Mitchell and Stebenne will speak briefly of their ties to Columbia , the research process and how this book heightened their understanding of Columbia . New City Upon a Hill is published by History Press, Charleston , SC.

Mitchell has lived in Howard County since 1961 and taught high school history at Howard, Oakland Mills and Centennial. He also was as an adjunct faculty member at Howard Community College for more than 20 years and has co-authored readers in world history and the Holocaust for McGraw-Hill Higher Education.

Stebenne was Mitchell’s student at Oakland Mills from 1975-77. He has been a professor at Ohio State University since 1993 and is author of Arthur J. Goldberg: New Deal Liberal and Modern Republican: Arthur Larson and the Eisenhower Years.

Mitchell was a regular at Columbia Archives from June 2005 to November 2006 poring through documents and newspapers. He also conducted 20 interviews with people who figured prominently in the history of Columbia and has donated those tapes to the Columbia Archives.

Columbia Archives houses the James Rouse Manuscript Collection and a collection of records of Howard Research and Development, Columbia ’s developer. The collection also includes books and other printed materials, photographs, maps and graphic materials, audio and videotapes and memorabilia that collectively tell the story of the development of Columbia and the clubs, organizations and people which make it a community.

For more information on the book signing or the Columbia Archives contact Barbara Kellner at or 410 715-3103.

Oh, and I would be remiss in being a proud graduate of Oakland Mills High School if I didn't point out that one of the authors is a fellow alum of my alma mater. I am continually impressed by the caliber of people that Oakland Mills High School has produced.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Not Really A Compromise

So this idea for a “compromise” on the 22 story building seems like something that is neither a solution nor a good idea to me. First suddenly the building the developer and advocates of the building have been calling 22 stories is suddenly called 23 stories for this article to make it seem like the developer is giving more. This seems like an utterly ridiculous tactic for them to try to use to sell this “compromise”. Second this does nothing to resolve the illegality of the initial approval. Government must not be allowed to get away with breaking the law. Since the 22 story building is not yet vested there still time to fix this. Any developer (whose good part of their business is getting the proper approval of their project) should have known what the lawful approval process was and insisted that that process was followed in order to make sure their project was not later put in jeopardy. The fact that WCI went along with the county breaking the law because it was expedient and they thought they could get away with it does not give them any right to complain when the legality of the county's actions are legitimately challenges, because the bottom line is that knowing the proper legal approval process is a huge part of their business.

Also let's note in the article that neither the developer WCI nor the appellants have agreed to this “compromise”. Don't you need the sides to agree to have a compromise.

Now let us get to the new site they are proposing moving this building to. That site is an even more inappropriate site for this building that the current proposed site. I have said repeatedly over the past year and a half that the parking lot south of the Rouse Building is the perfect spot for a signature building that will provide an elevation transition from the Mall/Merriweather area to the Lakefront. The proposed 22 story building not only is not special in anyway to achieve a signature building status, but its very content is a middle finger at how Rouse designed Columbia. The building is not mixed income, it has a private pool on the roof that is an attack on how CA’s pools have been a very effective way of getting people of all different backgrounds to mix, and the lack of sufficient parking is a perfect example of bad planning. As I have said from the start my problem with the building is its content, not its height. If the developer's laywers ever stopped playing procedural stalling tactics and actually let the case be heard we could fix the illegality of the building's approval and put the building’s site back into the downtown master planning process. Let us develop a quality comprehensive plan for downtown. I wish the proponents of the current downtown plan would 1) realize the current plan will not achieve the beautiful words they say it will achieve and 2) sloppy planning only makes the community more suspicious of allowing development and that only makes it more difficult to get development approved.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Absentee Ballots

The absentee ballots for Kings Contrivance came out in this week's village newsletter "Crown Prints" that is inserted in this week's Columbia Flier. If you live in Kings Contrivance I would appreciate your vote.


In the News

What do you think of the Columbia Flier article on the Kings Contrivance elections? I found it interesting that it seems more focused on downtown issues than what I remember the interview being on. I talked in the interview a lot about the need to be a strong advocate for the residents of Kings Contrivance and the need to improve the clarity of communication between the board and staff. I wish the article had mentioned my idea of creating an online searchable database of board decisions. And the issue of the pools only got one sentence and nothing about the sheds for the swim teams. Oh well, I guess when one has a word count some things get left out. The article did get right that I think downtown is a good place for redevelopment. My concerns with the current plan are that the plan will not achieve its stated goals. The infrastructure is not in the plan to meet the community’s needs (roads, parking, schools, etc). The plan doesn’t reflect the values of Columbia because it lacks the full range mixed income housing. Unless it is fixed it just won’t achieve the “vibrant” downtown the plan’s supporters claim. That is why I have been working so hard to fix it for a year and a half.

As to the issue of getting the new Harris Teeter in as quickly as possible, I said in the interview that it is a huge issue. I am very happy the old Safeway is now being torn down so the new grocery store can be built. I wish the article better reflected that this is something Jason and I agree on.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

It Is Really Happening

I know many in Kings Contrivance had begun to doubt if our grocery store was really going to get replaced. Here are some of our local elected officials starting the process of knocking down the old Safeway so that the new Harris Teeter can be built.

From left to right: Barbara Seely (Village Board Chair), Jen Terrasa (County Council), Guy Guzzone (House of Delegates), and Ken Ulman (County Executive).

I know all of these elected officials have worked very hard to get the new grocery store in as soon as possible. As a Kings Contrivance resident I want to thank all of them for their hard work and persistence.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

Kings Contrivance Grocery Store News

The old Safeway will begin being knocked down Tuesday morning at 10am. The new Harris Teeter will then be built and is scheduled to open in the spring of 2008.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

New Howard County Search Feature

Courtesy of James Howard we now have a new Howard County targeted search engine on the Howard County Blog's main page. For the time being it will be located under the blogs header, but will eventually make its home on the side bar.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Columbia Elections Open Thread

So blogging has been a little light on most of the local blogs recently. I know for my part I have been spending less time at the computer and more time out talking to people in my village now that I am running for Columbia Council rep from Kings Contrivance.

Have you seen any candidates out campaigning? Where are they campaigning? What does their campaign literature look like? If you have a copy and scan it and email it to me I will post it.

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