Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Ehrlich and HoCo Politics

The Howard County Times was in touch with some local politicians about their views on Ehrlich semi-officially throwing his hat in the ring for Governor (he will officially announce on April 7th).  The responses were mostly predictable with Republicans saying "woo hoo" and Dem's saying "who cares."  Funny enough, the article refers to former Ehrlich appointees Bob Flanagan and Dennis Schrader as "rumored GOP candidates for the County Council."  I don't know about Dennis, but I presume Bob has already declared, since he held his first fundraiser a little over a week ago.  Either way, both candidates have campaign websites (or "web sites" if you will).  Come on Patuxent, get on it.

It's On Like Donkey Kong

According to my Facebook notices, Delegate Don Dwyer has introduced articles of impeachment against Attorney General Doug Gansler. (Live feed here).  This is in response to AG Gansler's opinion paper that addressing gay marriages from other states.

I finally found the Opinion Paper, which appears to almost wholly relate to whether the Governor may execute an Executive Order recognizing gay marriage.  AG Gansler answered in the affirmative.

This is a legal opinion of no, repeat no, precedential value or weight.  It cannot be cited to make the government act, and it cannot be cited to prevent the government from acting.  It is advisory.

Delegate Dwyer's articles of impeachment appear to be partisan hogwash, but I would welcome the alternative purpose.

UPDATE: It's Off.

Early Wednesday Morning Links

In order to find a better peace between my work and hobby, I've decided that these links need to be done much earlier.  I may decide down the line to break the link days up into two or three a week, but for now it is the only thing I've found worth posting, so I'm going to stick with the daily dose.

You thought Tiger Wood's apology was bad, check out Judge Russell's (don't worry, I don't go before District Court judges).  A hole in the book market, that would probably not go well read, would be the "Art of the Apology."  I can imagine this book being purchased by wives across America and happily wrapped for Christmas, leading to the husband opening it, and saying something that puts him in need of the text.  As far as Judge Russell, I don't think you'll be seeing him move past traffic tickets and fender benders anytime soon.

I like this analysis of the Ehrlich/O'Malley rematch.  It suggests that Ehrlich wasn't expecting O'Malley's uppercut last time around, but plans to be ready time time.

Looks like PZGURU and I weren't the only people looking to donate towards the man who has to pay court costs for the hecklers at his Marine son's funeral.  Here's the link.  I can't attest to the validity of the site, but by all appearances that is the way to donate.

Baltimore City will have to cut funds for four of ten main street projects.  In light of the nonsense going on in that city, there is a good chance taxpayers were overpaying for those projects anyway.

Attempted car-jacking and assault in Elkridge.

Wordbones has not seen a TAG petition wielder yet, which is really a shame since he is almost certainly dying to get his name on there (and is without hand tremors).

53 Beers also takes a sarcastic run at the TAG representatives.

HowChow posts about an interesting joint venture.  Donut Kabob Sandwich...mmmm.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Footise No More

Ehrlich declares his candidacy for Governor.  It ought to be a fascinating election cycle.  I think we are going to see the limits of the "but it was a bad economy" excuse.

Tick Tock, Tick Tock

TAG's first deadline for 2,500 signatures on their referendum petition is FRIDAY at 4:30 p.m.  In an article posted on the Baltimore Sun website, Russ Swatek expresses little concern on having 2,500 signatures, but says it is up in the air whether 2,500 of the signatures they've collected will count.  I'm sure petition wielders have kept the high standard for signatures in mind during their rounds, but it seems a fair presumption that a number of names will be knocked out.

We can also presume that reporter Larry Carson was not a petition signer:
The massive, three-decade plan, passed unanimously by the Howard County Council in February, would transform central Columbia from an auto-dominated, disconnected series of aging buildings and a shopping mall into a lively urban downtown.
If creating a lively urban downtown was just a piece of legislation away, what the heck took us so long?  May I suggest the next item on the agenda to be the "end of homelessness"?  I'm not attacking the plan, but rather this interesting brand of journalism that melds "analysis" with "fact" with "editorial."  Isn't that what blogs are for?

UPDATE:  As a reader pointed out, a later version of Mr. Carson's article includes an "alternate ending":
The three-decade plan, passed unanimously by the Howard County Council in February, would transform central Columbia from an auto-dominated, disconnected series of aging buildings and a shopping mall into what proponents say will be a lively urban downtown.

Tuesday is Monday's Accomplice (Tuesday Morning Links)

Good Morning Marylanders!  I caught a little pre-season baseball last night, and even though Jeremy Guthrie would best serve as a little league batting practice coach, it still made me excited for the Spring and...gulp...Oriole baseball.  I thank God for making me an Oriole fan, for it has taught me humility, patience, and that delusion comes in six month intervals.  I will be going to a lot of games this summer, and hopefully it does not dampen my otherwise persistent good mood.  Links?  Yes, lets.

Andy Harris is running for Congress with the promise that he will not be there long.  I wish more candidates ran on term limit platforms, but then again, those that have done so in the past have overstayed their original "limit" on the basis of having "many miles to go before they sleep."  The principle of citizen government requires this turn-over, and our currently Congressional scheme of "seniority" and the like stand in the way of this type of reform.  The only problem is that in order to get done what needs to be accomplished, we need to take "self interest" out of the equation, which may require straight-jackets and handcuffs.

The Catholic Church, as part of its mission, offers services in the community under the banner of Christianity.  Every so often, the government will stick its finger in the eye of the Church in order to thrust their chest out on some social more that runs counter to the teaching of the church.  Baltimore, despite the fact that they can't seem to keep their own house in order, has decided to follow Washington, D.C's lead in picking a fight with Catholic non-profits.  It is truly a shame.

Sometimes Lady Justice isn't so pretty, but that's why she wears a blindfold.  Please comment below with any word on how we can help contribute to this man's costs.

Armed robbery in Long Reach.

Home invasion and robbery in Laurel.

Wordbones covers the land use litigation.

HowChow suggests you skewer yourself.

Hedgehog will not be paying for RNC strippers anytime soon.

Another quiet day on the local blogging front.  I have been a little disappointed at the lack of interesting fodder recently.  WB has even taken to pondering his phone.  I guess everyone is off hiding Easter Eggs.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Yama Sushi in Dorsey Search

This is not a food blog, but I just had some great sushi about 3 minutes from my house and had to share.  Yama Sushi opened last week in the Dorsey Search shopping center and we decided to check it out.  I've had sushi at just about every HoCo location, and so far Sushi King has been my favorite.  Well there's a new King in town.  Yama had great service, a great menu selection, and great non-seafood fare for my scale avoiding bride.

The biggest pain for me at sushi places is getting enough so I'm full, but not breaking the budget with $7-8 rolls.  The menu offered combo platters at about $17 that will fill up the hungriest of sushi lovers.  I had the Crispy Spicy Platter, which had Yellowtail, Tuna, and Salmon (6 pieces each).  This normally doesn't matter to me, but even the plates were decorated with vegetables cut into fish and snails (Indiana Jane called this "wasteful," but I found it to be a nice touch).  Heck, even the salad dressing was great.

Yama Sushi is a franchise, but it appears to be locally owned.  I've commited myself to favor the locally owned places when deciding where I want to eat (come on locally owned Chipotle!!!).  I suggest you go out and enjoy some locally owned sashimi and rice.

Rinse & Repeat (Monday Morning Links)

It look me a full minute to type the title correctly, so this may be a typo filled Monday Morning post.  I also have a busy day ahead of me, so it may be brief.

Political Machines are alive and well in Maryland (in case there was any doubt).

I truly believe that gay marriage is the civil rights issue of my generation.  Public opinion is shifting slowly, but the important thing to note is that it is shifting.

Wordbones meets a young laddy on a first date (note: if you click the link, you will see that WB was not ON a date with a young laddy, merely in close proximity to said date...not that there's anything wrong with that) and uses it to characterize our "there there" as being a pass-thru point for the other "theres."  He also closes the tent on Google Howard County.

Freemarket says "Phooey" to Moody's AAA rating for HoCo bonds in terms of their description of Ken Ulman's "conservative management."

HowChow likes Ginger Candy.  Reminds me of when my Dad passed me my first bottle of Ginger Beer...and I thought I had taken a sip of poison.

That's all I have for now.  There was nothing all that interesting in the Sun today.  I hope you're weekend was as good as mine.  I logged some miles on my new bike, ran around Centennial Lake, completed some errands around the house, and enjoyed some local BBQ at Kloby's.  Needless to say, I feel great and am ready for what the week has in store.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Morning Links

Good Morning One and All.  I hope you're weekend has been productive and/or relaxing (I normally have to pick one of the two [especially if Indiana Jane is around]).  Links?  Yes, please.

Howard County officials want the reuse of wastewater to be the new standard for large developments in the county.  I don't know much about this (and didn't find the article to be particularly enlightening on the subject), so I did some good old fashioned googling.  While I doubt this is what they're talking about, from everything I can find, reuse is limited to agricultural purposes, however the article notes that it can be used at industrial plants, presumably for rehab/mitigation purposes.  I think this is a great idea, but, as with all things, I think the use of wastewaster needs to be "need-driven" and that proper policy cannot just say "let's reuse waste-water."  Hopefully they can find the corresponding need, but if not, this is, yet again, a program that gets into the paper that cannot be effectuated in practice.

Sheila Dixon shares my own belief that SRB's mock budget was a "scare tactic."  I'm somewhat surprised that Sheila didn't decide to keep herself on the down-low for a bit, but then again, this is one public figure that no one can predict.

Bob Ehlich's footsie team suggests that they are ready to "go all the way."  Rumor has it that there will be an anouncement around Thursday of next week (April 8th).

The Maryland Legislature apparently is only willing to make easy cuts to the budget, and is wary about shifting pension costs back to the County (the people who decide how much they will offer their teachers in pensions).  Moral Hazard.

Wordbones gets some yardwork out of the way.

HowChow wants you to get out for Taste for Life.

I've noticed that some Anonymous commenters have taken to calling individuals, and NCA as a group, "liars" in the course of the redevelopment debate.  I respect the right to remain Anonymous while expressing dissent, and why some individuals may feel the need to do so, but I don't support name calling behind the mask of anonymity.  I'm not going to delete these comments, but I think it is childish and detracts from the substance of this debate.  However, I also feel that this is the result of escalation of rhetoric allowed by both parties, referring to either side as "crazies," "nut-jobs," or "greedy developers."  Hopefully cooler heads will prevail, but I have begun to doubt it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Healthy Purge

As noted in my Friday Links, Freemarket found what appears to be Healthy Howard's Twitter site, and let's just say someone should check the switchboard operator.

The Twitter post says "Remember that diet I tried, it works!" linking to a website suggesting that you can lose 37 lbs in the next 10 days without dieting or exercising!!  The apparent means of weight loss is...ahem...a cleanse of the system with an Acai based solution. 

This is clearly a hack, but if nothing else it's worth a laugh.

IT'S FRIDAY!!! (Friday Links for your Morning Coffee)

Even though I have to work tomorrow, I still enjoy the way the juxtaposition of letters in the word "Friday" look together.  The word itself brings me happiness.  I used to have that feeling towards the word "Tuesday" in college, due to a $2 pitcher deal at the college bar (and a countervailing disdain for the sadistic smirk of "Wednesday"), but that story is for another time.  Before I sully my reputation any further, let's get down to some links:

Our state has an artistically rich past, which, sans the occasional theatre closing, has been maintained to the present.  I think we as a state community need to decide whether we will step up to the plate and support the arts in their time of need.  With the budgetary pressures that currently exist, it is not for the government to subsidize those performances, exhibits, shows, that are marketed to the people, but not supported by the same.  Get out there and enjoy the show.

I think SRB's budget is clearly a scare tactic, and that her appointed staff are merely playing along.  This issue has been framed to allow for tremendous tax increases, including the commuter tax that makes my blood boil.  The media love it, because they can play Chicken Little, and SRB loves it because she thinks everyone is falling into her trap.  Don't get me wrong, I still think she will be a great mayor, but I hate that politicians feel they need to play these games rather than giving it straight.

O'Malley may be pissing off the only profession that is given a day off for Election Day (thanks Anonymous, I really like that quip).

Evidently, someone at the Howard County Times had to do some unexpected car maintenance recently.

Local resident takes umbrage at Ken Ulman's $24,000 pay-out to high schoolers in the face of a budget shortfall.  (Insert Mary Kay Sigaty "how can you put a value on a human life?")

Another letter to the editor criticizing CB 58 & 59 causes a stir up in the comment section.

Wordbones gets a compliment, sort of, and chats about food (hope he asked HowChow's permission!).

Freemarket's post made me laugh out loud.  As someone who has recently lost about 25 lbs (over the past year), I can tell you that losing 37 lbs in 10 days is something to go to the doctor about, not promote via public announcement.  You have either lost a limb, gained a tapeworm, or misplaced your refrigerator.  I can only hope against hope that someone hacked the Twitter account and these people are not so stupid as to advertise this scam (with your tax dollars).  Otherwise, Dr. Gov, you've got some 'splaining to do.

That's all for now.  Have a great Friday, a great weekend, and hopefully spend some time enjoying our great county.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

NCA Reaches Out

I received an e-mail/press release from the fine people of the New City Alliance addressing what they believe to be some of the Myths that have been promoted by their "opponents."  It certainly adds to the conversation, but I encourage the "opponents" of NCA to get me their spin, or just respond in the comments below.  I would encourage any response to cite, to the extent possible, documents or studies that support their position.  That said, I think it is important to note that the non-monied interest cannot pay lawyers, economists, or urban planners to respond to those hired by the side with a potential profit.  That is not a villanization of developers or "the rich," but rather plain old common sense.  You can't turn to the person that says "You've got a hole in your boat" and say "Yeah, well where's your boat," expecting that to solve the debate of whether, in fact, you're sinking.

Thank you again to NCA for sending this to me and offering it up to this audience.  I can tell by the Facebook posts that I am not a favored blog of the Alliance, but I also try my best to give both sides equal room to speak, and try not to call anyone any names.

Here is the release, without further edit or commentary:

As we work to fulfill Jim Rouse's vision for a vibrant downtown Columbia, we hear that there is some misinformation floating around from some folks who are opposed to change.  We'd like to set the record straight by sharing some facts right from the Downtown Plan legislation and primary documents.
MYTH: "Puts burden of providing new roads, parking, sewers, etc. on ALL county taxpayers.  Too few demands on developer to provide roads, parking, and other infrastructure.  Higher taxes.  CB-59 is big County giveaway to GGP."
FACT: All fiscal reports point to a net gain to the county, not a loss.  It is estimated that the new development will generate between $7 million and $13.4 million to the County annually.  Again, those are the net amounts - the monies left over AFTER the County has delivered all of its services.
FACT: The developer must pay for all new infrastructure (roads, sewer, water, parking) as required in the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.  The requirements for building and paying for infrastructure are the same as for every other developer in Howard County.  In Columbia, the developer has gone above and beyond those requirements by also committing to a series of amenities for the community, including, but not limited to:
- Renovating the Merriweather Post Pavilion, and eventual transfer of its ownership to the community;
- Providing sites downtown for a new Transit Center, school, and fire station;
- Preservation of the building that formerly housed Rouse company headquarters;
- Building four new pedestrian/bicycle pathways, connecting Downtown, the hospital and community college, and villages;
- A $43 million fund for a full-spectrum housing program; and
- Renovation of the bridge over Route 29.

MYTH: "Allows 7,600 additional Columbia residences - at least 5,500 must be in downtown."
FACT: In Downtown Columbia, the maximum number of residential units that can be built over 30 years is 5,500.  It breaks down this way: in the first ten years, a maximum of 2,296 units may be built.  An additional 2,404 units may be built in the ten years after that.  And in the final ten-year phase (ending 30 years from now), 800 more units may be built.  Outside of downtown, the zoning does not change.

MYTH: "Could end up like Rockville Pike at rush hour."
FACT:  The plan is carefully designed to transition Columbia into a walkable community with public transportation options.  Congestion will be mitigated by diverting traffic to a new network of streets (built at the cost of the developer); by accommodating increased automobile traffic through roadway improvements (such as adding lanes and reconfiguring streets); and by decreasing reliance on single-occupant vehicles in and around Columbia.  This transition to a pedestrian- and bike-friendly environment allows for shorter trips, improves transit connectivity and use, and makes it possible for people to "park once" and walk to shops, restaurants, and other amenities.
Over the next 30 years, as individual projects are submitted, the adequacy of the roads must be evaluated before new development is approved.

MYTH:  "20-story building height allowed - [Lake] Kittamaqundi effectively becomes a 'private' lake obscured by tall buildings."
FACT:  Building heights around the lake are capped at 4 stories, with the exception of one building.  In other areas, anything above 9 stories is very limited.  Twenty-story buildings are only allowed to be built on 6 parcels, which are primarily located at Downtown entry points.  

MYTH: "CB 59 is written by GGP for their own gain.  Their land skyrockets in value while we are guaranteed nothing."
FACT: The County Council scrutinized the enforceability of these bills, consulting with experts and legal counsel both in-house and independently.  They fortified the language of the bills to ensure that the requirements are legally enforceable.  By law, if the developer fails to meet any requirements, development stops.

MYTH: "Rushed through County Council against citizen and Planning Board requests."
FACT: The Planning Process for this project is unprecedented in the state of Maryland.  It began almost five years ago, on May 18, 2005, with the introduction of a draft master plan at a public Town Hall Meeting.  Since then, there have been literally hundreds of meetings, including focus groups, work sessions, a week-long charrette, public meetings, forums, presentations, question-and-answer sessions, County Council meetings, and public hearings.  
The Planning Board studied and tweaked the plan for ten months before passing it along with its recommendation.  Citizens testified publicly in 2-to-1 support of the Plan before a bi-partisan County Council.  The County Council, which is elected by the people, then passed the plan unanimously.
Videos of public testimony on the bills and amendments:

MYTH:  "Few environmental requirements on new buildings or land.  Columbia is exempted from the State Forest Conservation Act."
FACT:  The environmental requirements on new buildings in downtown Columbia are higher than anywhere else in Howard County.  Howard County's Green Building Law requires LEED certification on all new construction 50,000 sf and greater; the Downtown Plan raises that standard significantly by applying those requirements on all new construction 10,000 sf and greater.  
Columbia itself is exempt from the state's conservation requirement because it already exceeds that requirement.  The Downtown Plan, in fact, requires ten times more trees to be planted that is called for in the state conservation requirement.
The developer has also committed to restoration and enhancement activities that will create or improve streams, non-tidal freshwater wetlands, and forests throughout Columbia and contribute to the long-term environmental health of the surrounding areas.

CAPS WIN! (Thursday Morn Links)


If you haven't found yourself watching a little more hockey lately, then you are missing out on a great "movement" in our area.  The Caps pulled out a great win last night in a shoot-out over their rival Pittsburgh Penguins that has just putting me in an overall good mood.  Add that to a great consumer experience over at Race Pace Bicycles in Ellicott City, and I couldn't be happier (except maybe if I was riding my new bike).  Anyway, enough about me.  How bout some links?

MI Developments plans to remake the local racing industry into a thriving business again.  All I know is that we went to the track for part of my bachelor party last summer, and it was depressing and dirty, with rude employees.  The people at the racing counter were great at helping us figure out the bets, but everyone else seemed to be watching the clock for when they got to go home.  I know that's a small problem in the grand scheme of Maryland's dying sport of kings, but it is an easy place to start.

O'Malley is taking an even stronger hold on the Federal teat.  I just don't think this is the time for our state to be the "first" at anything.  We have a gaping budgetary hole, made worse by financial dependence on federal money that will run out, and O'Malley wants to further our reliance on federal funds through "Government Math":
He said Maryland can save $1 billion over 10 years by adopting federal reforms, an estimate that takes into account the expenses of implementing them minus the expected state savings of having hundreds of thousands fewer uninsured residents.

I'm sorry Martin, but you haven't really proven your math skills in past performance.

Kudos to the Howard County Rotary for raising $15,000 for Haiti relief in their Centennial Day event.  This event seemed to have sprung up out of no where, and even though they weren't able to meet their goal of encircling the entire lake, $15,000 is a tremendous feat. 

Dan Rodricks has clearly read the Health Care bill.  I mean, how else could he give the opinion that by passing these measures, the Democrats are standing up for the "working poor"?  Bull.  Class warfare is bad because it feeds on the inherent comfort in being able to blame your fate on being a "victim."  The Government's job is not to level all playing fields and make the world "fair."  If you believe otherwise, there is a Constitution I would suggest you use as reference.

Wordbones talks about his "local pub" blog and how the ruffians will make a mess in the bathroom, stiff the bar on their drinks, claim that they'll never come back, and then be found on the bar stool the very next day.

Looks like the local blogging front was a little boring yesterday.  I hope you all have a great Thursday (as you send Friday love notes).

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wednesday Morning Links

Another nice day that will be spent inside a box.  Oh well, weekend will come soon enough...

I recently found myself behind a woman applying make-up while driving, so the forthcoming cell phone ban makes me think it will be a lot of sound and fury about nothing.

County governments will be receiving a $337 Million bill for teacher pensions over the next two years (pending approval of the full Senate).  I have no idea how the counties will pay for this, other than raising taxes.  Sure, cuts will work wonders at making the increase less, but this will be a significant increase on what is demanded from county coffers.

SRB (yykm) turns down her scheduled pay raise.  I hope others are watching.

While other states are seeking greater independence from the federal government, ours sits on Uncle Sam's lap.

Wordbones covers some MoCo development that he clearly supports.  I think the reason traffic is a common issue with opponents to these plans is that it is in fact a common issue to be concerned about.  While a car-less community may be the goal, surely even under the most optimistic of projections, there is some tipping point that must be reached, before which people are miserably stuck in traffic at every junction.  People don't just wake up one day and say "Hmm, don't need my car today, I'll just walk."  It is progressive.  If proponents of these plans are going to sell our new Columbia, they need to be able to admit that there will be some pain along the way, which I think most people would accept so long as they were aware in advance.  There's a reason car salesmen have the reputation they do.  (Car salesmen, I mean no disparagement of your profession, but rather the reputation.  I am a lawyer, so I feel like I have a right to poke fun).

Freemarket has a great post about Doctor Gov's radio appearance.

HowChow covers Pink Plates over 22 Howard County restaurants for Blossoms of Hope.  This organization is really gang-busters and I think their Board deserves a lot of credit.  Everytime you turn around, they are involved in great events and, presumably, raising a great deal of money for their cause.

I hope you all have a great hump day...unless you have to work that case have a great Wednesday.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hairspray @ Toby's

My father's firm was one of the sponsors for tonight's fundraiser for Columbia Festival of the Arts at Toby's Dinner Theatre.  He couldn't use his tickets so he offered them to Indiana Jane and I.  From the ages of 14 to 16, I worked as a bus boy at Toby's, and looked forward to actually seeing a show rather than asking whether or not people were finished with their salad, so we quickly said "yes."

Ken Ulman was there (almost literally ran into him, actually) and gave a great speech before the show about how the arts were always meant to be a valued component of Columbia's downtown, and how Toby Orenstein had worked with the Council in making sure the new plans for our "there there" incorporated that mission.  He then noted how, on a personal level, the arts had played a large role in helping his own daughter's self esteem.

I've never been a hard hearted conservative, but I would normally put myself in the camp that says when cuts need to be made, the arts are not sacrosanct.  However, I will say that Ken's speech gave me a tilt of the head to remind me why the arts are critical for our youth.  I am more than happy to give credit where credit is due, and I think Ken was able to "bring it home" for the people that were there as to why it is important to support this organization.  

The show itself was fantastic.  During my time as a bus boy, I saw many a show in the Octagon, but this one was one of the most vibrant and active I had ever seen.  We had to leave early due to Indiana Jane's paper grading schedule, but I can highly recomment the first act.  If the second act is depressing and drab, not my fault.

HoCo Crime Stats -- Bad News

Sometime this month, the Howard County Police released the 2009 Crime Statistics for our county.  The good news is that crime (according to these statistics) has slowed down from the original acceleration that was apparent between 2007 and 2008.  The bad news is that it is still much higher than the 2005-2007 average.  Aggravated Assault, the "statistically friendly" step-child to "attempted murder" appears to be where the greatest increases are taking place, and this trend continues into 2009.

No one would say we live in a dangerous county (or at least not anyone that used to live in Baltimore), but between 2007 and 2009, our crime rate has gone up approximately 30%, with aggravated assaults increasing by 50%.  Meanwhile our population growth has increased in single digits, with the population growth over the last five years being 2.5%.

Either that 2.5% was a set of bad mama jamas, or we are in trouble.  This is especially concerning for a county looking to see an large influx in population growth, with or without CB 58 & 59 over the next five years.

NOW it's official

From Facebook:
John Bailey became a fan of Ken Ulman.
Somehow, somewhere, a Ronald Regan framed photograph has tilted askew.

Your Heaping Helping of Politically Convenient Umbrage (Tuesday links)

Good morning!  Late night at the office last night, so the links are a little late this morning.  I don't even know how much readers enjoy these links, but it has become a force of habit.

Per a reader's comment, maybe Executive Ulman should start up a penny jar for the Patuxent Riverkeepers (or just redirect the VirginFest contributions).

As a Howard County resident that works in Baltimore City, I am in danger of ending up in a very high tax bracket should the City pass the proposed commuter tax.  The arrogance of it all is that Baltimore City already gets my tax dollars through the state, and now, due to gross mismanagement and the presumed graft taking place, needs to impose new taxes.  Frustrating.

A commuter tax will certainly have a great effect on the vacant office buildings in the City.

I honestly do not know too much about CA politics, but figured I would pass this article on about Wilde Lake being the only contested CA seat this year.

The Baltimore Sun believes that the Health Care vote proves that the government can get things done.  Really?  You mean they don't have to do anything?  They just "pass it" and that proves they are an effective problem-solving government?  Some days I wonder what it would be like to have a local paper that wasn't the "government's pet."  Well I guess I'll know if Ehrlich wins in November.

Senator Robert Zirkin may save Direct Wine Shipping by amending it to another bill pending in the Senate.  My cynicism on this issue tells me that this is merely posturing, but I do know that "we" have the legislature's attention and that all the liquor lobby money in the world is not going to protect the "no votes" come November.

I hope Wordbones gets a free mocha soy latte out of this...Venti please.  (In an earlier post, Bob Flanagan gets out on the wrong foot with our local blogger laureate).

Freemarket made a bunch of posts yesterday, including his ongoing battle with the head-counters.

Sometimes I regret going to HowChow's site after realizing that I will most likely have to wait until the weekend to eat any of the amazing food that is posted there.  Today is one of those days.

Back to the mines.  I hope you all have a great Tuesday.

Monday, March 22, 2010

"Hold It" -- Why Howard County's Sewage Problem is All Your Fault

Ken Ulman issued a press release today noting that our County has reached a settlement agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment regarding the discharge of untreated wastewater into "State waters."  But don't worry, it's not the fault of our government, paid to oversee and manage the infrastructure of our county, but rather it's YOUR fault, you son of a gun, for all of the Fats, Oils, and Grease you're pouring down your drain.  What cracks me up about the release is that no where does it say to what extent "FOG" caused these overflows, and according to an earlier press release, FOG causes a little more than a third of all overflows the county has experienced.  Nonetheless, FOG provides a convenient target (hell we spent money on a PR campaign just to quash this menace) and it is easier than saying "We messed up."

The "civil penalties" were not disclosed in the press release, but in addition to whatever fine the County was forced to pay, the "negotiated settlement" included the following:

• Present MDE with a draft Capacity, Management, Operation, and Maintenance Program (CMOM) within 30 days;

• Present MDE with a draft Overflow Emergency Response Plan within 90 days;

• Conduct a performance assessment audit to evaluate the CMOM one year after implementation of the approved CMOM Program and annually during the life of the agreement;

• Communicate with the public regarding implementation and performance of the CMOM Program one year after implementation and annually during the life of the agreement;

• Within 90 days, submit to MDE a report describing any work completed and a schedule for future work to implement the County’s recommendations to correct Inflow & Infiltration and any other sewer defects;

• Submit semi-annual progress reports to MDE; and

• Pay the sum of $58,400 to MDE’s “Clean Water Fund.”

A few questions:  Where are our "health" priorities when we have a million dollar HHAP program with 700 participants while our sewage treatment plants are dumping untreated sewage water into the Patapsco river?  Why didn't we already have a CMOM program?  Most importantly, how was this allowed to happen? 

While Howard County officials may down play the damage by suggesting that our County is actually the best polluter out of all the polluting counties, the aggregate that we have contributed to under their watch is disturbing.  This is on you, Ken.  All the "green" in the world isn't going to help us if we can't take care of the basics.  I can only hope the local papers delve into this further, and our representatives come up with some real excuses that amount to more than this:

Hills of Milltown 5K 4/10/10

Wordbones has posted about the Ellicott City 5K previously, but it looks like the Registration Page is finally up.  Unfortunately I will not be able to do this one, but hope a bunch of you get out for it.  If you've never done a 5K before, it is a great motivation tool for getting yourself in the mood to run.  It is incredibly satisfying to finish a race, no matter what your time may be. Plus, you normally get a nifty "I ran this" t-shirt.

Whoop There It Is (A Dose of Monday Links)

Anyone feel healthier yet?  In my own personal opinion, now is the time to hope the Dems were right, and hope this works.  Pre-existing conditions needed to be addressed, whether or not we needed an A-bomb to solve a precision target is up for debate, but at the very least, this monstrosity will be addressing a failure in the insurance industry that needed to be addressed.  Those that make more than $200,000 individually and $250,000 as a couple will see a more expensive government, but for the most part, any additional change will be gradual.  And as I heard a supporter say on CSPAN radio this morning "No one's gonna die anymore," which is a nice plus as well.

Over the weekend, the Sun posted a story about how Edible Arrangements is teaming up with Howard County schools to reward "well behaved" students.  I love it when private entities team up with the government.  Normally it is at low to no cost to the citizens, and the company benefits from the advertising and "good will."  Thumbs up to whomever thought this up.

My archeologist wife (Indiana Jane, if you will) helped work on this project, so I encourage everyone to get over to the Jewish Museum of Maryland to check out the new lower gallery exhibit.

As someone who took the train from Baltimore to Delaware three times a week for over six months, I was slightly disappointed by this story about the death of the click clack machine.

Maryland has an identity crisis.  Maybe it's because we borrow so much from everyone else?

Would this bill end the "Hey Hey Ho Ho _____ has got to go" strikers in Baltimore City? 

I think those that complain about millionaire flight out of Maryland should also consider this article about gay couples going to DC to get married.  That is, if your principles survive your party affiliation.

Incumbents are going to want to make sure the ride to the polling station is a smooth as possible come November.

Wordbones stirs up a good debate over his most recent TAG post.

Freemarket talks abou the most recent "And Then There's That" (and the normal detractors detracted in the comment section).

53 Beers talks a little more about the 12B contest.

Tell Your Neighbors tells the neighbors of Owen Brown what their options are for Village Board (including the blogger himself!  Good luck John!).

HowChow experiences a Wegmans induced depression.

I hope you all had a great weekend and that you were able to enjoy the weather.  Thanks to my amazing in-laws, I now have brand new wood flooring in my basement.  This means I can finally throw parties again!  (Indiana Jane would not allow parties to be thrown with cement flooring).  Stay tuned for future events!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

HoCo Bike Group

Just came home from a good weekend with the guys.  I haven't been able to dive into the news too much yet, but I did come across this story about "The Morning Ride" group here in Howard County.  I'm currently training for a sprint triathlon, so any story like this grabs my interest.  I thought I would pass on the good word since it took me some time to find their website (and apply to join the group).

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dem View on Bailey Switch

53 Beers on Tap provides an interesting perspective on John Bailey's switch from red to blue.  From talking with John, and spending time on his site, it is clear that Columbia Redevelopment is center stage in his battle against incumbent Liz Bobo (along with a "common sense reasonable approach to Annapolis").  The people that are strongly for John normally have the redevelopment plan in mind, while those who are strongly against him do the same.  I agree with 53 that legislation which Liz did not vote on should not be the focus of this contest, but I also feel that it will be, at least in terms of fundraising and volunteer recruitment.

Even more interesting, and I think it is ok for me to post about this now, is that John contributed to Mary Kay Sigaty's campaign.  That's right, the same Mary Kay that may be facing Tom "Under Construction" D'Asto, John Bailey's (former?) treasurer, in a District 4 rematch.  There are whispers in the politosphere that Tom may be looking at a different office, but I wonder if John would "even the score" once Tom enters the race.

FRIDAY! I missed you (Friday Links)

Great comments yesterday.  Thanks, and keep it up!  It looks like I broke my first news story yesterday, thanks to John Bailey.  I made the HoCoMoJo twitter feed and everything.  Keep the news releases coming.  Add that to a 12 out of 16 bracket performance and a darn good crabcake at the Hopkins club, and I a had a pretty decent Thursday.

I will be out of town this weekend, so you will be without my "reporting" on the Sun's "reporting" in the non-web edition of the Howard section.  I may try to post from afar, but I am meeting up with college friends, with all that entails.  Before I sully my reputation any further (could this be my catch-phrase?), let's get down to some links:

This is already beginning to look like a nasty gubernatorial election, isn't it?  The Dems are up in arms (again) over perceived minor misdeeds of the Ehrlich Footsie Team (can't call them a campaign team just yet).  On top of that, the Dems have put together a parody Bob Ehrlich website, which displays just the top of professionalism in politics.  Good thing Maryland Dems don't have anything better to worry about.  Their Baltimore County councilmen are getting slapped with DUIs, their Mayor was forced to resign, their legislative members are renting police boats to propose marriage, and there's a gaping hole in the budget that their Governor and majority has provided.  BUT, hey, Ehrlich is making phone calls from his office.  That should definitely be looked into.

I didn't post about this before, mostly because I don't much care for the "filler" stories that legal reporting tends to be, but after attending an event filled with attorneys, it may merit discussion.  Basically what happened was a Defendant was before a judge on domestic violence charges (serious charges) for which his girlfriend was the State's primary witness.  At the pretrial hearing, defense counsel says he wants a continuance so his client can get married to, you guessed it, the girlfriend.  Maryland has the spousal privilege, which (in brief) states that one spouse can not be compelled to testify against the other in a criminal context, which can be invoked by either party and imposed on the other (i.e, husband can say he doesn't want wife to testify against him even if wife is rearing to go).  The judge said "don't worry about a continuance, I'll marry you right here."  Terrified girlfriend stood there and was married to terrifying boyfriend, state lost its witness, case dismissed.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, the Baltimore County judicial system.

Mayor SRB (yeah you know me) keeps it up in her budget cuts, and makes some smart moves.  Anyone who has had to deal with the administrative agencies of the Baltimore City government knows what a mess it is.  I am sure there are hard working people in those agencies, but I am also sure they are very far away from the phones and any other access point I've ever used.  Mergers often make for more efficient goverment, as long as the best, and not the "favorites," are kept.

Wait, so, we're going to "shame" the biggest tax scofflaws into paying?  So the tax law appears to be the only law that I may scoff, which will allow me to live freely, sans the occassional shaming.

Would you like to see our "suburban malaise" from 7,000 feet up on the back of a skydiver?

County Exec Ulman is going to have to be creative in finding different ways to say "no."  If you read the entire article, you'll see that Superintendent Cousins notes the $10 million in stimulus funding the school has received this year that will not be there next year.  The buoying effect of the stimulus has been center stage in the state budget crisis, but has been minimized locally.  If I figure out a way to look into this further, I will.  In the meantime, be afraid, be very afraid.

Here's a run-down of the acts performing at the Columbia Festival of the Arts.

Wordbones covers a live encounter between Russ Swatek and a wary petition dodger.  I have tried to find out how many signatures TAG has been able to collect, but have been repeatedly rebuffed in my attempts.  I stand by my original position that the referendum drive is a good thing, and could, if nothing else, serve as a symbolic county-wide stamp of approval (please don't post that the Council vote was a county-wide stamp of approval) for the most impactful legislation this county has seen in 40+ years.  That is, if the measures are approved...

Talk about bipartisanship!  One of the Howard County GOP Central Committee members has a Democrat's bumper sticker on his car!

HowChow posts about Tutti Frutti, which gets me excited because it is right by my house (with a Rita's in between).

Have a great Friday, and spend some time outside to remind yourself that this place is actually pretty nice just the way it is.  (Disclaimer: That wasn't a political plug, just a whimsical identification with one's hometown.  The End.)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

John Bailey Leaves GOP

In a recent e-mail to voters, it appears that John Bailey, candidate for State Delegate in District 12B, will be leaving the Republican Party:

I have come to the conclusion that running for State Delegate in District 12B against Liz Bobo as a Republican would be an extreme uphill battle regardless of how favorable the election cycle might be for the Republican Party. For that reason as well as my personal belief that residents and businesses of Columbia are lacking representation in Annapolis I am switching my party affiliation to Democrat. As a public school teacher I see the importance of job creation and having a vibrant community surrounding the schools. From everything we have seen in the past few years, Liz Bobo opposes job creation, which negatively impacts school funding as well as leads to an increase in crime and unemployment.

I'm stunned.  John is a former member of the Howard County GOP Central Committee and a well known Republican state-wide.  In fact, he will be holding a fundraiser in less than a month's time with the last Republican County Executive this County has seen.  I have to presume that John also has contacts with County Dems, and that they've cleared the path for him a bit.  Delegate Bobo has been criticized, and hailed, for her position on CB 58 and 59.

Happy Birthday Blog!

As I'm running through motions and pleadings today, I almost forgot to mention an important piece of self promotion: Today's is HoCo Rising's Birthday!!

I was a much different blogger when I started.  I was incredibly deferential and my use of "we" makes my skin crawl.  Nonetheless, I think I've stuck true to my mission statement, which has been:
to take a critical eye to the facts as they are presented to the public with a focus on Howard County politics. There will certainly be issues of national scope, but, as they say, all politics are local.
Thanks for the readership, encouragement, and occassional eye pokes.  I have really enjoyed this adverture, and all the people I've met along the way.  I (sort of) apologize to the people I've ticked off, but mostly hope you will learn to join the conversation rather than pout in dark corners.

Hold Your Horses, Carmen

U.S. Senate Candidate Carmen Amedori may have crossed a line with her most recent Facebook Status:

Carmen Amedori Let his days be few; and let another take his office. Psalm 109:8 (Posted at 8:40 a.m.)
I'm no fan of our President's policies, but the Biblical quotes being bandied about in reference to his Presidency give me the creeps.  I don't think this is professional, and it gives me concerns about her temperment.  This is disappointing since some of the other primary candidates in this race have also raised some issues.

Despite not being the front runner, I still really like Jim Rutledge.  Somehow he has avoided the nonsense attacks that his primary opponents have latched onto.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What's the Frequency, Dennis

In honor of Dennis Kucinich's potentially nation-changing mind-change today, I thought I would share my favorite Kucinich clip:

Words Will Never Hurt Us, Well Maybe A Little

Governor Christie of NEW JERSEY, is making fun of Maryland in his budget speeches!!! 

In Maryland, they are borrowing to cover current obligations. And in doing so, they are piling one problem on top of another, reducing the creditworthiness of their state, and creating a crisis that will be larger in the future.

I have no problems with New Jersey, but I do take umbrage at their Governor using us as an example of a badly run state.  Now, if only I could take umbrage AND disagree.

Don't Call Me Patty (Wednesday Links)

You have to wonder if St. Patrick (or Naomh Pádraig) was ever called "Patty" and if he was, whether he hated that nickname.  Anyway, good on ya if you wore your green today.  If you didn't, watch out for the pinching old ladies, and remember, you can't hit them back.

If I were a developer, instead of pretty pictures of the development layout or what the "Community Center" will look like, I'm going to make sure that everyone knows where the necessary sewage plant and ingress/egress locations are.  This shoulder shrugging and "it'll be fine" just doesn't cut it, and is the cause of a lot of problems.  Also, I hope that those who wish to preserve (i.e., seize) parts of the Doughoregan Manor recognize that 75 acres have already been put into preservation. 

To test your consistentcy in propery right discussions, I suppose that those looking to protect the Carrolls are also interested in letting Ricky Bauer (that is just too close to Ricky Bobby) put a cell phone tower up on his property?  I say more power to him, but I think that some of the Carroll advocates may balk at supporting this kind of land use.

Ehrlich continues the longest game of footsie in the history of footsie (and gives a fist pound to a creepy guy with an American Flag shirt).

From the "Are you sure that's not from the Onion?" category of news, comes this article about Baltimore City's ban on plastic bags.  Why don't you ban "homicide"?  You already did?  How'd that work out for you?

Speaking of The Onion.

Old and busted: Google Broadband.  New Hotness: Verizon FiOS.

HowChow posts about local restauranteurs brought to Chuck Trucks and the best coffee in town.

Wordbones wishes you a happy St. Patrick's and serves as the local shop talk guru (there's a hole in the blog market, ladies...or fashionista males).

Hedgehog (LAHC) notes that former County Exec and Governor candidate Chuck Ecker will be at a campaign event for John Bailey, who is running against Liz Bobo.

Interesting piece about free food and giveaways (sorry, no tips on receiving free food, just a discussion).

To step into the national muck for a second, I think Congress is dancing a dangerous line here.  If they really do use this parliamentary "end-game" maneuver, they will violate the most basic premise of our democracy in order to pass some of the most impactful legislation our country has ever seen.  That's scary.

Desmond Tutu says to get over yourself and love all people regardless of sexual orientation.

That's all for now.  I'm going to go work on my bracket and figure out whether today will be a full day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

New Site Feature (Flag Status)

Thanks to Wordbones, my attention has been drawn to the Maryland flags at half-mast, and the attention due to the symbolic remembrances that half-masted flags represent.  An anonymous poster over at WB's site shared the link for explaining why Maryland flags are at half mast, and I've linked that up with the flag graphic to the left.  So now, if you need to check, you can come here (or save the link in your bookmarks).

Farm Friendly

Despite being in the midst of Farm Country, I have had a difficult time finding a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) group to join this summer.  My wife and I have never been a part of one before, but I am really interested in giving it a go this year.

Jessie X saw a recent Facebook status of mine seeking information about joining a CSA and suggested I look into Buckland Farms in Clearville, PA.  She said that if they get enough interest, they may put together a HoCo drop off.

From my own survey of CSA's, this is by far the cheapest at $350 for the year.  I say that without knowing what exactly will be in the monthly drop, but as a newbie, I'm not really willing to jump in at $550 a month, which is what most of the other farms are charging.  If you are at all interested in joining (or just want to help me get closer to my farm-fresh food dream), drop Dan an e-mail and tell him you are part of the Central Maryland folk that may be interested in getting in on the CSA.

UPDATE: HowChow was kind enough to provide the link to his own efforts at collecting all of the local CSAs available to Howard County peeps.

Milk-a-what? (Tuesday Morning Links)

Many Columbians may feel like the "Lindsey" baby from the new E-Trade commercial when they see this article from the Chicago Tribune, noting a "mishmash of office buildings in Columbia, Md" as some of the "bad assets" that GGP may look to put into its "bad company."  I'm going to be naive and say that this mishmash is not the Columbia Town Center, but regardless of how you cut this cake, it puts some tarnish on all the pretty "partner in the community" talk that GGP throws around.  I also acknowledge that this article may be the product of lazy journalism, but that's not exactly how the Tribune made it to where it is today.  "Greg, you got some 'splaining to do."

This is what happens to community groups that stray from their mission into the political arena.  ACORN actually had done a great deal of good, in places like New Orleans, before they were whipped up in the firestorm of the 2008 election.  This was stirred up by Obama campaign staff, who then washed their hands of the entire thing once ACORN "stepped in it."  It is truly a shame.

This is the most attention "bullets and white powder" has received in Baltimore City in quite some time.

"We're from the government, and we're here to help."  Eeek!

Senate Panel made about $150 million in suggested cuts to O'Malley's $13 billion spending plan.  Sorry gents, but that ain't gonna do it.  Most estimates say that they will need to cut at least $1 billion to avoid having the state fall on its ass once the chair is pulled out next year.

Sheila Dixon has no shame.

Wordbones discusses an upcoming CA election.

HowChow takes a tip from the tourism bureau on strip-club-esque fried chicken (and hopefully some Tums as well). 

TellYourNeighbors covers the new twenty.five forty.five (did I do it right?) event at Union Jacks on Thursday May 6th (mark your calendars because you WILL forget).

Have a great Tuesday, and if you're free tonight, step over to ShadowLand with your kids for Anthony Jordan's fundraiser.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Virginfest is BACK

Looks like one of Ken Ulman's biggest donors will be back in town this summer.  In all seriousness, this is clearly good for the county and I give kudos to whomever or whatever office is responsible for pulling in these events, which formerly have been held at the Timonium Fairgrounds.  As a fan, I hope they get some better music thank Blink 182 and Weezer this year.

2009 Planning Board Recommendations

In light of the discussion stirred up by my post about conversations had with Alan Klein, I also wanted to see what the thoughts, concerns, or criticisms might be with regard to this Planning Board Report and Recommendation.  It would seem to me that the Board represents a lot of the concerns that Alan had, but with some different phrasing. 

Looks Like There is PLENTY to Talk About

Right after I put up a self-centered post about my new personal race time, I stumble across multiple items worthy of discussing.  This next one may raise some hairs, but I am simply offering it up for discussion.

For those that participate in Facebook, you probably have noticed the new "Howard County Maryland" group.  I still don't know whether this group is run by the HoCo Government, the Chamber of Commerce, or some other community group looking to connect those interested in Howard County news and events.  I do, however, know which side of the CB 58 & 59 debate they are on:

HowardCounty Maryland: We invited you all to become fans of New City Alliance, an advocacy group fighting for the revitalization of downtown Columbia, MD.  New City Alliance seeks to revitalize the city of Columbia, MD. Together, we can transform Columbia into a vibrant economic center with creative spaces and amenities for families and professionals. Make sure to visit our website to tell us how you'd like to change the landscape of Columbia.Non-Profit:1,245 fans

I have no issues with New City Alliance and a good number of their members frequent this blog (thank you for your readership).  I would, however, find it somewhat "untoward" if our government, using government resources, was promoting NCA, TAG, or the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown.  I am hoping, and assuming, that the HoCoMD Facebook group is a project of the Chamber, but if it's not, do we have a problem with this?

UPDATE: The Howard County Maryland profile (not group) is also a fan of these other Facebook interest groups:  Clark's Elioak Farm, First 3 Million Get a Free Smiley T-Shirt!, Knowing You're going to Get Shocked before you touch something, Youth Howard County.  Unfortunately, MY SISTER SAID IF I GET ONE MILLION FANS SHE WILL NAME HER BABY MEGATRON did not make the cut.

I fibbed

Ok, so there is ONE thing worth commenting on (or at least posting).  Columbia Compass has a very interesting, and thorough, review of a few of TAG's assertions in relation to CB 58 & 59.  One of the responses I received from the TAG crew when soliciting participation in the ill-fated Discovery Project was that the "people's right of referendum is not up for debate."  That may be true, but that does not obviate the people's need to debate some of these peripheral issues before signing on the dotted line.

Five Ks of Glory

I haven't really found anything to comment on today, so I think I'll make another running entry.  Frequent readers will know that I completed a half-marathon last Sunday (with my bud Bob) and that I had a 5K race yesterday.  I am very happy to say I set a new personal record of 26:29 for the 5K, which is nothing spectacular in running circles, but is great for a new runner like myself.

Receiving the results, it brough me back to the individualism narrative that I left off on in my half-marathon post.  One of the best lessons my father ever told me that as long as you hold yourself up to the highest personal standards, outside judgment is irrelevant.  I try to incorporate that ideal in everything I do, and have found that if you are honest in what standards you hold up for yourself, you will often exceed the fiercest of critics.  It is especially critical in matters of morality and ethics, when achievements are normally put ahead of "standards."

I was shooting for a sub 27 minute time on Sunday.  That was the personal goal set for myself.  After a while, the time was no longer relevant, and all that mattered was my effort.

Let's Do The Time Warp Again (Monday Morning Links)

Welcome to an early dark Monday morning.  I hope you all had a good weekend and we able to reset your sleep clocks as well as your microwave.  My race went very well and I set a new personal record, which means I am in a great mood.  Pie day was also a lot of fun, but as the host said, I clearly made the rookie mistake of having too much too soon.  I had one slice of sawdust pie (my favorite) and one of apple (both made by my wife).  At that point, I was stuffed

Here are some links to start your week:

Between leg aches and apple pie, I tried my best to keep up with the great interchange over the post on CB 58 & 59.  I really appreciate David, Mike, and Alan keeping pace with one another in their arguments, and really opening up the issue.

Frank Kratovil, Jr., may be voted out of office simply because the people of District 1 never want to see another burning effigy for as long as they live.  I think the real issue is that Kratovil is going to be moved out in the same wave he rode in on.  It just isn't as cool to be a Democrat as it used to be.

Looks like the arrogance of power even reaches our school principals.  The same question always comes back "How did they think they were going to get away with this?"

I think a Baltimore County Executive race between James Smith and Pat McDonough would be fun to watch.  I have always been impressed with Smith, but McDonough is an experienced politico who is very well liked in some heavily Democratic areas.  They do a little sparring over the county budget here.

Here's that "We are Sparta!" article I told you about.

Interesting op/ed, at least to me, on the attorney-client relationship between GTMO prisoners and their attorneys.

The Washington Post had a profile of AG Gansler over the weekend.  The man is slowly becoming a caricature of himself, but I still think he is not afriad of pushing for what he believes is right.  Whether or not he pushes outside of the bounds of his office is a different story.

Please keep the comments rolling.  As I always say, you all are much more interesting than I am.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Happy Pi Day

I've been invited to my first Pi Day party, and am actually pretty excited.  My wife has prepared our "offering" (Sawdust Pie) and all I have to do is show up (with an afternoon 5K between me and Pie Bliss).

I don't have much in the way of links for you today, but hope that my busy Saturday will give you plenty to read and comment on.

If you're in the neighborhood this evening, I would strongly recommend getting over to the St. Louis Spaghetti Dinner.  I can tell you from experience that there are "real Italians" in the kitchen and you will not be served "noodles with ketchup." 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Alan Klein: Where You Sit Is Where You Stand

This afternoon I had coffee with Alan Klein.  After almost two hours of conversation, I can say that he may be one of the most genuine men I've had the pleasure of meeting.  Despite the characterizations and unfair school-yard insults he has endured, Alan refused to impute anything but benevolent motives on all of his detractors.  He repeatedly said "I am sure that they have nothing but good intentions" for just about every individual he disagreed with.

This differentiates Alan from my previous experiences with both sides on this issue.  Many proponents of the new plan use the term "crazies" as if this was a recognized political party, and that anyone who disagrees with the plan must be a raving lunatic.  On the other hand, I've seen some of the most acerbic, hurtful, and unfair comments written by those that oppose CB 58 and 59 directed at people that they have determined to be "the enemy."  Alan is none of the above.  He wants to talk about the issues.

As such, let's get down to it.  The Coalition for Columbia's Downtown is not anti-development, anti-redevelopment, or anti-density.  They have proposed an executive summary that, per Alan, was originally signed onto by Ken Ulman, Jen Terrasa, Courtney Watson, and Mary-Kay Sigaty.  They want to see a revitalization of downtown, and hope that all of the promises made come true.  The pivot point, and where the debate should be held on these bills/laws/subjects of great gnashing of teeth, being the enforceability of GGP commitments in the Master Plan.

Alan, and I assume CCD, believe that rather than making one-stop-shopping full-scale residential rezoning all at once, the changes to downtown zoning in accordance with GGP's requests should be effectuated by way of multiple phases, which would allow the Council multiple opportunities to ensure commitments have been met.  If this development is going to be staged over 30 years anyway, why not have the plan proceed with corresponding check-points so that the Council has the opportunity to approve the next stage/village in accordance with GGP's ability to meet its commitments on the previous stage.

The concern is that 5, 10, 15 years down the line, GGP (or its successor's successor) holds its hands up and says "we can't meet our obligation for (fill in the blank) due to (fill in the blank), but we are going to push through with the remainder of the redevelopment" as said traffic/sewage capacity/infrastructure need festers and causes additional issues for the County.  If Mr. Davis is correct, and the provisions of the Master Plan are legally enforceable, should such a hang-up occur, the choices will be protracted litigation with the county's largest and most powerful developer, or acquiescence.  Litigation is expensive, contentious, and long.  As such, my money would be on acquiescence, making the enforceability of this Plan in a court of law irrelevant.

There is another option for ensuring that GGP's commitments are enforced.  Staged development has the benefit of leaving "carrots" in the hands of our elected officials.  With the current plan, Alan does not believe the County has much to hold GGP to their commitments, other than the unrealistic prospect of litigation addressed above.

When staged developmetn was originally presented to GGP, they claimed that they could not get funding for such a proposal.  Alan said that if this is going to be the excuse the Council hangs it's hat on, GGP's books should be opened, and proof should be provided to the public that Columbia redevelopment is truly "all-or-nothing."  That would change the paradigm, and we really would have to decide whether the County is willing to take the risks presented above.

I listend to And Then There's That this morning and must say that Dennis and Paul really do put on a great podcast.  They are engaging, have good on-air voices, and know their stuff.  We are fortunate to have people willing to donate their time for something we all can enjoy.

All that aside, one of the things that was discussed is that the town center property at issue was previously zoned "commercial" before the present legislation the proposed, and that if GGP had wanted to, they could have put in miles of unsightly "box stores" instead of the "walkable communities" that they now will be able to provide.  I brought this up to Alan, and he smiled.  "Well then why didn't they?"

The title of my post is in reference to something Alan said repeatedly throughout our conversation.  It stands for the principle that your world view is shaped by your position.  In this case, there is no reason to fault those that may benefit financially from CB 58 & 59 simply because of their ability to profit.  Profit is good (to paraphrase Gordon).  The important thing is to look at where people "sit" in this debate, and understand that their position colors their "position."  

To close out, here's a video for HoCo MoJo from when CCD (led by Alan) was able to meet with some of the Council to discuss their concerns.