Sunday, January 31, 2010

Many Miles To Go

A big thank you for all of the support I've received via e-mail and comments today. You guys make it easy to get the motivation to keep this conversation going. Nothing is going to change here.

I posted earlier today about fundraising numbers. It's been sitting on my mind ever since. On one hand, candidates would be hard pressed to reject a funding offer. On the other, they should be willing to accept the appearance of impropriety and respond. I refuse to accept the excuse that "my donors can afford large cash donations." Well...uh...Ken, you've got a growing homeless population with diminishing funds for community service organizations. For some reason, these public minded folk don't seem so interested in being "over-wealthy" in that respect. But obviously, the money has nothing to do with influence. Obviously.

We have backwards liquor laws that affirmatively hurt the consumer. We are one of 12 states that does not allow direct shipping. Yet, our liquor lobby is one of the most frequent contributors to our delegates and senators. But obviously, the money has nothing to do with influence. Obviously.

The largest set of lobbying interests in our county are land developers and real estate attorneys. But obviously, the money has nothing to do with influence. Obviously.

More importantly, why can't we talk about this? Why do we have a President that was on every T-shirt from here to San Fran that promised to accept funding, re-neg'ed on that promise, and is accepted as the "people's president"? Why is he allowed to portray himself as one to rail against Wall Street when they were his biggest donors?

So readers, what do we do? Try to buy influence back?

Scott Brown Knows How to Run

Great op/ed on Scott Brown's race and his apparent rejection of ideology driven campaign speech. As you may know, Brown had a 3 to 1 advantage with independents. His opinions were based on his consideration of the issues and his independent conclusions. He rejected party planks in favor of people planks. This is what made him win.

Friday, January 29, 2010

HoCo...Rising?

I read a post on a fellow blogger's site praising the work of Jessica Feldmark, assistant to the county executive, for her tireless efforts in making this new redevelopment work and it made me remember that I had at one time seen Ms. Feldmark's salary and recalled it to be over six figures. Doing some diligent research in between bench memos (whoops) I found this article from 2004 that made my jaw drop. Government salaries don't go down folks. Think about it this way, in about five years, the exec has put on $10K. Imagine where these other salaries may be. And don't go saying that these are the "county employees" I felt so bad for earlier this week. They're not. These are, with some notable exceptions such as fire, police, and State's Attorney, political home-boys. I said it before, and I'll say it again, this county needs an A-U-D-I-T.

Explore Howard Op/Ed

Another thank you to my readers for spreading the word on what we're trying to do with this blog. If you look at the comment section on this article, you will see that the commenter makes a short concise evaluation of the Supreme Court's most recent decision and the "pulling away" of civic voice in favor of corporate noise.

I honestly believe that local elections can be affected by concerned citizens with loud voices. New media gives us that opportunity. Unfortunately, I also believe that corporate money will always find a way. No measure of campaign finance reform can fix that. You need to have an electorate and candidates that reject the status quo and take risks for the sake of "taking out the trash" when it comes to political contributions.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

John Edwards is a Punk

I'm not going to read this book, but I will strongly recommend the summary. This is evidence of one of two alternatives:
1) Power attracts bad people;
2) Bad people are successful at obtaining power.

I've said before (long ago) that I was inspired by John Edwards. I thought he had the right ideas and was taking a less than popular stand in order to get poverty into the spotlight. I didn't agree with everything, but I liked his focus, or at least what appeared to be his focus.

It was all a game. People talk about the travesty of Tiger Woods and Roger Clemens setting bad examples for our children, but even worse is when bad examples are set for our leaders; adults who aspire to public office. How can you not look at John Edwards and be discouraged? Here is a man that almost became Vice President and fancied himself a Presidential candidate. He was rotten to the core.

Chris Matthews Should Call Imus



Few Observations:
1) Olberman and Maddow appear unaffected by Matthews's mis-step.
2) Can these people really attack Fox News with a straight face?
3) It is evidently a "profile in courage" to go along with the President on wreckless policy.

State of the Union

Overall, I think the President gave a good speech, but that's all it was. We get it, jobs are important. Now the real question is, do YOU get it? You've been in office for a year and the primary focus has been apologizing to Europe and health care. You just gave a speech about American exceptionalism and jobs. What are we supposed to take from that?

Green jobs are important, but I feel like he's talking about computer jobs in the middle of the '90s. The innovation is already going on, and many of the jobs are already filled. The guy who just got laid off as a roofer is not going to be rehired as a solar panel installer. Small businesses are critical, but small business owners are some of those evil evil people making over $250,000 that you want to tax the bejesus out of. Making an enemy out of Wall Street is going to keep people from using the otherwise reliable savings vehicles that are needed to provide for our citizens heading into retirement.

If this speech was deconstructed, I think we would see that Obama has attacked the shaky pillars of our country in order to put the reliance back on him. "Don't trust the market to save you, trust me." As I said during the live-blog, "Why is the government in charge of creating jobs?" This was an ego trip, that may work for the President short term, but will have its legacy hung around his neck for years to come. "Where's my job, Mr. President? You told me that you would be getting me a job." It's just not possible, and to the extent it is, it is unsustainable.

I enjoyed the live blog and have some good ideas for how to use it more effectively in the future. Anthony Jordan has already volunteered to participate in a live "chat" of sorts, and I think we can broaden that to a whole candidate panel. ALL CANDIDATES ARE WELCOME. Just get in touch with me at hocorising@gmail.com. We'll try to set something up in the next couple weeks.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

LIVE BLOG OF TONIGHT'S STATE OF THE UNION

I'm giving this a whirl. If you catch it, great. If not, I will try it again once I figure it out.

Free Market Blog

I am embarrassed to say that someone linked to this site prior to being asked (that's a first) and, more importantly, without me including a corresponding link. Thank you to Free Market for not only linking this blog, but also the "Inside Out Campaign." I've linked up accordingly and must say that if you haven't been over to Free Market, you are missing some stinging analysis of some under-reported material.

I Bet Deciding On Furloughs Was Easier

From the "I can't believe my own eyes" department, comes this story that the members of the County Council are divided over a $500 raise to their annual salary of $53,400. Courtney Watson and Greg Fox have come out against the raises. Showing a trend, Councilman Ball is "not sure" about how he will vote:

Ball initially called the proposal reasonable, but said this week he is not sure whether he will vote for the pay raise legislation.


Jennifer Terrasa is also on the fence.Well please allow me to sway you:

Howard's nearly 2,000 workers received no cost-of-living pay raise this year and lost four days of pay between Christmas and New Year's Day, while department heads and elected officials gave up five days of pay to save a total of about $1.8 million.

If these raises are accepted, we deserve some explanation as to why 2,000 full-time employees didn't deserve a raise, but five part-timers did. I know its a hard job, and it doesn't "feel" like a part time job, but if you don't think you're being paid enough, there are those gearing up campaigns right now that would love to try to "make it work."

Frankly, this is shameful. My wife, until about 6 months ago, worked for the University of Maryland school system. I know what it is like to figure out how to budget for these furloughs when you rely on a steady income. I was incensed that I had to budget, when those that had been elected had failed to account for hard times. I am furious that county workers are going to have to make those same decisions when the people that write and vote on our budget are "not sure" about whether they will give themselves raises.

Go ahead and call me a party hack or "ultra-pro-Anthony Jordan," but please also explain why this makes sense.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Way to Read the News

Check this out. Often I will read stories in which I feel like I missed Chapter 1 and this is Chapter 17. This new way of presenting news stories presents a great opportunity to know more in less time (which should probably be a goal of any news provider [myself included]).

Monday, January 25, 2010

Staring Into The Sun

I've often been curious how so many wily politicians are following down a political path that will reap very few short term political gains and quite certainly will cost most officials their...yuck..."careers." It appears that they are all still intoxicated on the crowds and cheers that Candidate Obama was able to generate. He's telling them "Don't be scared. Although you walk through the valley of tea parties, thou shalt not fear..cuz hey, ya got me."

One of the best things I learned in high school was the principle of hubris. Pride before the fall. It is constant and it is true. Arrogance is always a fatal flaw in leaders and greek protagonists alike. Local politicians (and challengers) would do well to know humility. Take inner pride, shun external praise. Be serious, but don't take yourself too seriously. Listen, and talk only to encourage others to speak. Be solid, but not immovable. Don't ever think that you are bigger than the people.

Look, There You Are!

I've recently added a feature that will prominently display the great comments of my readers. This should make it easier for you all to converse with one another and supplement my less than consistent ramblings.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

AJ Interview

Any of you that have been to Anthony's blog know that he is open to answering any comments/concerns you may have. I'm not sure if that allows anonymity, which I know is a treasured commodity. I would like to have an interview with Anthony on this site, but due to my involvement with the campaign, it is hard to post anything but "party line" if I come up with the questions. So I would really appreciate it if the readers would post your own questions (hopefully some hardball ones) that I could send to Anthony and have him send back responses.

I STILL have my podcast equipment, and I spent good money on it too. Tale of Two Cities is a much more advanced operation, and they've got their podcast in full swing, but I think there is something I can add on that front. If we get enough questions, maybe we can make the whole thing live so you can hear the candidate in his own word.

Yours Truly,
Ultra-pro-Anthony-Jordan

You Guys Are Great (Link Dump)


I love my readers. I really do. Not only do you read and comment, but you also mention this blog on other posts so that we can broaden the discussion, and possibly bring on more people that may disagree with me. This is the best way to enrich the ideas and civic possibilities of a blog like this. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and please keep it up. I know I have been lax this past week with work keeping me down, but I will continue to post whenever possible.

After being called "ultra-pro Anthony Jordan" (which would be my super-hero name, of course) I am hesitant to post this, but it is part of the little first person news I have. I attended one of Anthony's new Happy Hours, which he is holding at independently owned restaurants in District 2. This past week, he held it at Second Chance Saloon. It was well attended and Anthony was able to talk to a lot of independent voters, which will be the key to making his campaign work. Unfortunately it is hard to get in touch with "independent groups" in order to get word out about these events, but the effort is continuing.

There is a separate "sprawl" issue on the council's docket that is not getting as much press. The site at issue would appear on the map to be in the middle of nowhere, but as someone who lives near there, it's not. I need to educate myself more on this plan before commenting, but I wonder what the readers think. Opponents seem to have a stronger say in this plan than the Columbia redev. One thing is true, powerful families seeking rezoning appears to be as constant as death and taxes.

More about that Baltimore city sex offender on payroll. How can you NOT be anti-incumbent when you see the great things that bad government can do?

Interesting discussion about the Supreme Court's most recent decision on financial contributions to political campaigns. My view is that the wealthy will influence elections no matter what loop holes they need to step through. I've reviewed some fundraising numbers for our county council, and without naming names, it is "funny" how developers, their wives, their employees, and their employee's wives, all seem to max our their individual contributions. But hey, its free speech. I think the real revolution in this area will be when we can use new media to get around the money. I thought Obama may have been able to prove this, with his promise to use public financing. That...well...that didn't work out so well.

Evidently the Democrats can still save us and the Republicans are still in a dead party. That's reassuring. However I feel it is more likely that commentators are blinded by party labels and can't see that if you've got a company full of incompetent employees, a good way to fix the problem is to "kick the bums out." But no, we just need to convince them that they are the saviors of..the problems that they caused.

Anyway, thank you again, and keep up the good work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Where's Scott Brown From Again?

Funny how a lot of the media outlets aren't talking about the fact that Scott Brown was elected in the one state that has seen "universal" health care. The most common notion I've heard amongst my Dem friends is that Brown was elected because the health care plan is not revolutionary ENOUGH.

I think any rational person can agree that nobody wants revoluntionary government. No one likes to see the people with power doing "too much." In general, the problems in society fit into one of two groups: 1) Chronic with the opportunity for progressive change; 2) Acute with the need for immediate attention.

The Dems have tried to treat health care like the latter, while I believe it is entiretly the former. We need reform. We need to make health care more affordable and find insurance innovations that may cover pre-existing conditions. However, addressing the issue as an acute problem of definable proportions will get you a failed expensive model, and may even destroy what progress we've made in medical services. You will anger the populace and aggrivate an already bubbling "class warfare" sentiment. Everyone loves the middle class when running for office, but ignores them once they sit down to their desk. The middle class is the Bruce Banner of our politics. You won't like them when they're angry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A few notes...

Back again (whew, I was really underwater there for a bit...and it looks like the water is coming back).

First, due to the readership here, I thought you all may be interested in this article, not so much for what it reports, but the comment section. Very heated stuff with some very good points.

Second, congrats to Scott Brown in Massachusetts. Anyone who wants to paint this as a purely GOP victory isn't paying attention. He ran on socially liberal, fiscally conservative planks, and did it mostly on his own. I saw his "acceptance" (?) speech last night and was intrigued. Karl Rove wants to paint him as this political superstar, but I don't see it. He almost seemed to be riding a wave of sorts and waving down to all of us like "Whoa, can't you believe this?" I mean, the man was making jokes that didn't make sense about how his daughters were single and Obama was making fun of his truck. Don't get me wrong, I am excited for this brand of politics and the effect he can have on a party that has lost its way, but he's no Elvis.

Third, speaking of rising stars, make sure Investigative Voice is in your bookmarks. While the Baltimore Sun covers its own demise as a newspaper, the IV is actually getting the scoops and downing the powerful. Check out this article about how a sex offender was on the Baltimore city payroll and going into SCHOOLS in the performance of his job tasks.

That's all I have for now. Please keep up with the great posts and make sure that you read the posts of others. Somehow I have been fortunate enough to have some very informed readers that post much better things than I write here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Busy Week

Loyal readers,
I just wanted to apologize for my recent abscence from posting. This has been a very busy couple of weeks and looks like it may stay that way for at least the next couple days. I will be back and posting a much as ever, I just need to focus on the stuff that pays the bills for right now.

A couple things:
1) I don't think I will have the time to set up meetings and the like for the Inside Out Campaign, but would be more than happy to attend a meeting put on by one of the readers as long as it is not during my work time. What free time I have (after taking care of family) goes to two places: 1) Route One Day Center; 2) Anthony Jordan's campaign.

2) Please keep the posts going. I mean to respond to every one, but sometimes that is not feasible.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Anthony Jordan on Columbia Redev

Anthony recently posted another note on his position on redevelopment. I thought you all may be interested.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Development Positions

Larry Carson had a piece in Saturday's Sun on the various positions taken by Howard County candidates on Columbia redevelopment. This is clearly not a party line issue and cuts both ways. I take issue with Larry's characterization of "long shot" races, but I think we are to assume that his "Political Notebook" pieces are "news analysis" and not "reporting."

A "third way" (to use President Clinton's term) is bubbling up which is "We are not against a redevelopment plan, just this plan." I think that makes sense. Columbia does need to have some commercial regrowth in areas that have faltered, but we don't need to spur that on in the midst of further augmentation of an already well developed city-scape.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Offshoot Inside Out Site

I've started it. It took me months to figure out how to get this blog started, so you patience is appreciated. Please spread the word.

Inside Out Campaign (Dixon PBJ)

I really think we need a bipartisan campaign to "Get the Bums Out." I'll acknowledge that there are a good number of incumbents that I like and that they are primarily Republicans. However, I will gladly reach across the aisle to my blue compatriots if it means I won't have to deal with the steady and ongoing corruption that is incumbent with incumbents. It seems that incumbents feel entitled to all that is available within the scope of their office.

Sheila Dixon won the day. Rather than face any convictions, a criminal record, or lose her pension, she has agreed to voluntarily leave office. While we deny pensions to police officers and firemen, and discontinue funding for successful anti-crime campaigns, Sheila Dixon will receive $83,000 a year for being a criminal. She will most likely run for office again, and even more tragically, will most likely win public office again.

Our state is a mess. We have a newspaper that complains about declining readership in the face of lack-luster coverage of political misdeeds and partisan fortification.

We have a general public that feel as though their bumper stickers are more important than their principles.

We have a set of incumbents that know that as long as they have a "D" next to their name, they can have lobbyists buy them lunch during a special session and place burdens on those with the least amount of money.

We have incumbents that know that as long as they have a "D" next to their name, they can use police boats to propose to their fiancee or pull on the Governor's sleeve to get their son appointed judge.

We have incumbents that know that as long as they have a "D" next to their name, they can slander their opponent with the very same misdeeds that they commit.

Let's get the Inside Out Campaign going. Who's with me?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Politics As Usual Attacking Politics As Usual

You may remember a political hub bub in approximately 2004 over the firing of political at will employees by the Ehrlich Administration. In 2005, our Maryland legislature hired a special hiring and firing committee to investigate these personnel practices as potentially "illegal." Well approximately $350,000 to $1 million later, they've found nada, zip, zilch, zero to throw at Gov. Ehrlich's administration. As we've seen with the Dixon trials, it doesn't take much for them to look into bringing charges or drafting an official censure.

Interestingly enough, this committee ended up bringing things to like that the Democrats would probably have left unturned. Namely, the Ehrlich administration hired or kept more of the opposing party than any administration before or since.

Political at will appointments are always political, hence the title. They can be equated with the First Family's china: one set gets taken out and stored somewhere while another gets put in place. Normally these appointees have private practice employment that they will go in and out of as the political winds shift. This is a universal practice and I don't find anything particularly wrong with it since many of these appointees are specifically in place to exercise the will of the executive. It is like a football coach having to keep the coordinators of the previous regime, which (as we've seen with the Washington Redskins) does not work.

What is disturbing is that the Maryland Dems seem to be suggesting two sets of rules: one that go for the blue, and another for the red. They are using the scythe of state power to do so. That is scary stuff folks.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mind Your District

One of the greatest faults in Columbia Redevelopment as it stands is that our council has continued to ignore the areas of the county that have the most room for growth. Just as everyone is sick when we talk about health-care, Columbia is failing when we talk about redevelopment. I don't see it. I see a city-town that has a rapidly growing center with new commercial developments popping up every year. Maybe my eyes deceive me and things would be much better with 20 footbridges and a green bus.

What I do know is that there are places in our county that do not feel like Howard County. For a period of time I worked with the County State's Attorneys Office. You may not be surprised to hear that our crime (about 5 years ago) was primarily taking place along the Route 1 corridor, primarily within the political division of District 2. This is an area that NEEDS growth. This is an area that can meet the supply due to new housing developments that spend most of their money on the other side of 95 in Columbia. Why are we ignoring this District? More importantly, why is Calvin Ball the most heavily cited councilman in this article? Why isn't he fighting for the rest of his district?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Columbia Redevelopment

All eyes are on Columbia redevelopment recently, as they should be. Larry Carson had a piece in this weekend's paper about the new plans and some contrarian views on the subject.

Frequent readers know that I am concerned about these plans. Originally, this was little more than an uneasiness in the face of change, which I admit had less to do with substance and everything to do with confused concern. Now I know very well why this sounds like a bad idea. The infrastructure just isn't there. Furthermore, the infrastructure that is planned to be built while the new living spaces are created is experimental. As County Council District 2 Candidate Anthony Jordan recently said to me "Buses and green transit are great, but a mother of two that needs to get errands done is not going to be able to manage the mass transit systems and long walks that go along with those plans." The passageways and foot bridges sound like a good idea, until you think of their practical application. Part of the reason these aspects of the redevelopment plans are so important is because parking is a low priority in the face of "cultural hot-spots" and the like.

Is Columbia looking to push out families to recruit young professionals? That's not the Rouse dream. My parents had me when they lived on the "Bridal Path" near Hobbits Glen. They had block parties, shopped exclusively at Columbia town centers, and participated in multiple community service organizations, including the now defunct Columbia Jaycees (Side Note: Columbia Jaycees were one of the first to allow female members). Pushing out families under the banner of "growth" will empty out Columbia's core. I obviously don't think this is a conscious goal, but I think the pre-existing families are being taken for granted.

I agree with, and wish our government would promote, organic growth. This forced influx of 5,000 residents just screams problems to me. I can't help but think of the Arundel Mills mall as a perfect example of pie in the sky thinking that has now turned into a crime zone. What is being done to make sure that doesn't happen here?