Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Morning Reporting on Sun Reporting

Been a while since I did one of these.  As you all are aware, for reasons unbeknownst to this blogger, the Baltimore Sun is able to draft, print, and collate hundreds of thousands of "Howard Section" newspapers, yet chooses not to put (all of) those articles on the Sun website until the next day.  I would say this is to encourage people to subscribe and not live off the free stuff, but, with all due respect to Mr. Carson & Co. (who I honestly believe do a great job getting to just about every important event in the County), I don't think the Howard section alone is going to tip the scale (the coupons, however, are another story -- so says Jane).

Let's dig in:

I'll start with the article that was most interesting to me "Sue or Settle at Cattail Creek," by Larry Carson (this one is available online).  One of my "eye-opening" experiences as a young attorney was when one of our clients refused to pay our bill.  I'm talking about our entire bill, not just certain areas that they thought were excessive.  The reasons were complicated, and not related to a "bad result," but as someone who had spent nights and weekends on this case, I was pissed.  The partner in charge was immediately willing to write it off.  He told me "we can sue these guys for the next six months, get 10 cents on the dollar, and waste more billable time that we can only charge to the firm, or we can move on."  We moved on.

Now the Cattail residents are offered what appears to be the next of many attempts at a "new and improved" sewage system, five cents on the dollar in claimed damages, and an "incomplete" from Donald Reuwer, Jr., J. Thomas Scrivener, and NVR Inc.  Who honestly has the time or inclination to complain about the absence of a 9-hole golf course (that surely was incorporated into the purchase price for the homes) when you're just glad that Scent-de-manure has left the premises (for the time being).  I wonder if the same economists that were invoked for CB-58/59 were available to the County Solicitor's office to evaluate the diminution in property values caused not only by the faulty sewage, but also the broken promises and bad press the Cattail Creek residents have endured.

The residents are faced with a big "move on" sign, with the encouragement of the County, despite the fact that the current offer is approximately $4,000 a resident.  I'm sorry, but that is not a credible offer.  As with all litigation, there are facts I can't see, and I know that Plaintiffs' counsel is faced with an unenviable task of proving damages in the diminution of property values during an already down economy, but $4K per house is the difference between a new coat of paint in the family room and new faucets in the bathrooms.  It does not properly value the fact that the entire neighborhood smelled like an airport bathroom for the past decade.

Second, the budget gets some more love (posted this afternoon), including an interesting quote from Councilman Ball addressing Greg Fox's proposed amendment to HHAP funding.  Noting that a $300,000 cut would constitute 77 cents per year for $100,000 worth of property, Ball said "I'm concerned that we would think 77 cents is not worth expanding affordable health care."  I don't like this reasoning at all.  First, it's not 77 cents, it's $300,000.  Second, it muddles the issue.  If I told you "I will mow your lawn for $50," and then mowed one quarter of your front lawn, and none of your back lawn, you would have reason to say "What the deuce?  I'm only paying you $15.  You didn't mow all that you said you would."  You are not going to say "Well, $35 is really about 9 cents a day over a year, so here's $50."  Healthy Howard is not serving all of the citizens it said it would.  We were promised 2,200 participants.  There have been 625.  I am not incorporating the soft stats of 4,000 that have been helped to obtain health care since that is more of an indication of the failure of other government offices than the success of HHAP.  So, please explain why the full funding is still necessary.  Otherwise, I would like to formally announce the creation of HoCo Rising Mowing Co., which will exclusively work on the proper landscaping of government properties.

Finally, there is a very sad article (although probably not intended as such) about the properties surrounding Route 29 that will be affected by the expansion.  Here's a definition of "suburban malaise hell":  "Karen Fulty, a 25-year Wandering Way resident whose house backs to the highway, said she can't leave windows open because of the constant din. ... 'We have white-noise machines in every room of the house."  Ugh.

As always, all of the content and quotations noted above are attributable to the Baltimore Sun.