Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

I'm not one for the "guilt trip" Memorial Day messages.  I don't think that is what those that we honor would have wanted.  I honestly believe that most veterans, especially those who gave their lives, would appreciate the Americana that is stirred up by this holiday.  BBQ's, American flags, neighborhood get-togethers, parades.  That's not enough to show true appreciation, but I wonder if anything is.

Remembering is not enough.  Memorial Day is one of honor.  We honor the holiday.  We honor our veterans. 

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Saturday Stuff and Howard County Wine Lists

Normally, I would be providing my reporting on Baltimore Sun reporting this Saturday morning, but there really isn't enough meat for me to sink my teeth into.  The one article I would note is about the Sigaty/Klein race by Larry Carson.

First off, it is clear that some Republicans aren't buying into the pretense of a GOP challenger in District 4.  Joan Lancos, Ken Ulman's 2002 GOP opponent in District 4, sings Mary Kay's praises as "well-rounded" and the "best candidate."  Joan isn't exactly a party stalwart, but there really isn't much reason to believe county Republicans care too much about this seat.

Second, the tide of adjectives may be changing.  The last paragraph of Mr. Carson's article about the District 4 primary:

"But District 4 voters have shown time after time that they make up their own minds, often giving victory to lightly financed, community-based candidates."

That wouldn't jive too well with the "We are family" love-fest from about two weeks back.  Then again, there are exceptions to every rule.

This morning Indiana Jane and I listened to the And Then There's That podcast with HowChow.  I continue to believe that this is one of the hidden treasures of our county news/blog-o-sphere, and you can go ahead and call that back-slapping for all I care.  My wife is a big fan of HowChow, and every so often I can get her attention by getting something posted over there.  I would certainly agree with the assessment that for true fine dining, you need to make it to one of the metropolitan epicenters to our north or south.

Tersiguel's, for whatever reason, has fallen off in this regard.  In honor of HowChow, I will not go too negative here, but about 10 years ago Tersiguel's had the unchallenged mantle of being THE restaurant in Howard County.  The waiters made around six figures and people came from Baltimore and D.C. to our sleepy hamlet for "French Country dining."  In the interim, culinary tides changed, small plates became the new hotness, and, unless you were craving escargot, you took your $30 a plate cheddar elsewhere.

However, one of the holes in the HoCo blog scene is a Wine Blog.  I noted from listening to Brent/HowChow, and reflecting on past posts, that he doesn't seem to drink that much (or at least not comment on what he drinks).  We've got a beer guy, but no wine dude/gal.  I think Tersiguel's has one of the best wine lists in Howard County (and others would agree).  The missus and I were at Iron Bridge last night, and while I found the wine list to be good, I didn't think it lived up the standard I would expect from a "Wine Company."  Bistro Blanc's set-up is interesting, but more of a gimmick than anything else.  Ranazul is probably the closest any of the new places have to taking the wine list throne.  They have a list that is intimidating in scope with some real gems from South America (which is clearly a focus area).  I'll be going to Venegas sometime soon (Moma HCR gave me a gift certificate as payment for my resume drafting services), and hopefully they can knock this one out of the park.  I've heard the service stinks and the food is mediocre/over-priced, but maybe, just maybe, they've got a wine list that shines.

Friday, May 28, 2010

When Thunder Roars Part Deux

During my legal research today, I came across the following quote from a Maryland court decision that made me think of our fine County and the "When Thunder Roars" sign that I see everytime I run around Centennial Lake: 

"Most animals, especially we who are in the higher order, do not have to be told or warned about the vagaries of the weather, that wind and clouds may produce a rainstorm; that a rainstorm and wind and rain may suddenly escalate to become more severe and dangerous to lives and property.  A thundershower may suddenly become a thunderstorm with destructive wind and lightning. A thunderstorm in progress may escalate to produce either or both tornadoes and hail, or even a rare and unexpected micro burst ... all of which are extremely destructive to persons and property."

Kind of makes you wonder whether we are being highly underestimated in our self-preservation skills.

Super Friday (Links)

Today, ladies and gentlemen, is a Super Friday.  It constitutes the beginning of not only two days of relaxation, but also the rare third day of weekend-tastic fun-time.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of meeting up with Trevor Greene, who is more of a frequent commenter over at WB's site, but says he will occasionally read over in this neck of the woods.  We were in the first class of Howard County Leadership U together way back when (96? 97?).  Trevor is doing great things for his community (River Hill/Clarksville) and may have been the initiating force for the new efforts by Village Boards to set "Master Plans" for all communities, and not just Columbia.  People like Trevor are what make this County work.  They are not interested in squabbling.  They are not interested in calling people names.  They just want to get stuff done.

Links?  Oh yes.

If you are a state or county employee, you are most likely reading this blog from your back deck or on the beach (be careful, sand in the computer is a no-no), as today is a furlough day.  While these walk-the-plank vacation days may be bad for the check book, they are probably good for the spirit.  Enjoy the day and save a cold one for me.

Speaking of cold ones, the Department of Natural Resources has lifted the ban against alcohol in forest campsites. 

Anyone who has been to the very edge of the boardwalk in the Inner Harbor has probably seen the inch thick layer of cigarette butts on the water.  Not exactly something that makes you want to get on your floaties and swim cap.  Well Baltimore is looking to change that via ash urns along the walk-way.

HowChow suggests Turkish Cotton Candy...which looks a little like Cotton-at-the-top-of-an-aspirin-bottle Candy.

Sarah can do anything good.  (Be sure to congratulate her on her upcoming Wedding this weekend!).

Wordbones notes Courtney Watson's Referendum Reform effort.  This is a smart move on her part and I hope she is successful.

Frank Hecker takes on the contention that there isn't a supermarket in Wilde Lake.

That's all for me.  I'm going to be looking to update my election run down this weekend, hopefully getting around to the Board of Education candidates.  For now, have a great Friday, and do something fun this weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I Want My Direct Shipping Commission

One of the most famous cable advertising "movements" of the 20th Century (very narrow set of parameters) was the "I Want My MTV" call-in Campaign.  Viewers were encouraged to call their cable providers and tell them "I Want My MTV" and then presumably hang up before any further comments were made about how this would make cable more expensive.  Well, I want my Direct Shipping Commission!

As the door knocking continues, and the election season heats up, I want you to ask yourself two questions: Where is the Direct Shipping study group?  Were we tricked?

Those questions may be directed with particular emphasis to those in our legislature who premised their vote against Direct Shipping on the fact that this legislation would be studied and re-entered during the next legislative session...which will be well after November.  While I have your attention, let's see some action.

Thursday, Friday's Best Friend (Thursday Links)

Whirlwind week.  Great meeting with Hayduke at Victoria's last night.  I highly recommend the Vic Happy Hour if you haven't tried it.  Overly hospitable (if that is possible) and hoppin'.  Just going right to the links so I can get to work:

As our state's Race to the Top application sits on some federal desk next to federal pencils and pens, news breaks that Elementary School teachers and administrators in Baltimore City were trying to cheat the system in order to improve their state test scores

The Clarksville Funeral Home issue is a strange one.  There appears to be a lot of unstated resentment towards St. Louis that I can't put my finger on and can't explain.  The comment section on this article provides the real "dynamic" parts of story.

Howard gets $610,000 in snow removal costs, however it appears this money was already budgeted for.  Thank goodness this counted egg hatched.

Sarah gets some strawberries from her CSA and they look perrrrrrty.  She also comments on the Howard Transit issue.

Freemarket is not satisfied with the resolution of the 2008 botched SWAT raid and dog killing.

According to the "Friends of Wordbones" (sounds like a group that likes Nike shoes and Kool-Aid), I missed one of the best triathlons in the world this past weekend.  Next time!

HowChow makes the argument for eating fish at a gas station.  I believe the honor of counter-argument will be bestowed upon the FDA.

That will be all I get around to today.  Another busy one, but I was able to fit in a good amount of posts yesterday despite being busy with work (as I tell my friends, some people have a cigarette habit, I have a blogging habit...both take approximately 10 minutes to assuage).

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Interview with Mike Davis in Biz Monthly

The Business Monthly has a good interview with Mike Davis posted on their website (I don't get the print edition).  While I know many in the Anonyverse don't care for Mike, I think this article shows that he is a fair minded thinker and not one to attribute bad motives.  Mike has worked very hard in advocating for the Columbia Redevelopment and is a true believer.  No matter what side you come out on this issue, the interview is well worth a read.

Give the Bus Back

You open a dangerous can of worms when you say that a government provided service is a "right."  The original definition of a right, as explained to me by my high school history teacher, was the space between the end of my fist and the tip of your nose.  A "right" is a protection from interference by another.  However, when you speak in terms of government provided services as a right, that line is blurred (if not completely destroyed).  My right is provided for by an imposition on you via taxation.  There is no longer a protection against interference, but rather the requirement that interference occurs.

So long as we are down that road, if state sponsored health care is a right, isn't the ability to provide for one-self in the same shopping cart?  It's not enough to just subsidize the services in themselves, shouldn't the county also be expected to provide all manner and means of fully utilizing this "right"? 

Shouldn't they be making sure you can still get to work?

This article makes clear that Howard County is more interested in the new hotness than the old and busted.  Public transportation is so boring when we can be on the cutting edge of state sponsored health care.  I don't know if you remember the first article promoting Healthy Howard, but it featured a leather clad motorcyclist who said his job didn't offer health care and he couldn't afford to buy it on his own.  At least he had a ride to work.

I expect those that talk in terms of "77 cents" will be tremendous advocates for "moving funding around" to find room for the $166,000 necessary to return Sunday service and/or finding a working solution to this issue.

Still "Lost"? (Finale Explanation)

In my never-ending quest to provide a multifaceted one stop shop to meet the wants and needs of my readers, here is a Lost Finale Recap that helped me move on from my "what the heck just happened" fog, which followed me around after finishing the two and a half hour finale:

Part One
Part Two

(Both are long).

Wednesday Already? (Links)

This week has been flying by.  My father, brother, and I went to the Orioles Game last night, and it was a goodie.  This brings my attendance W/L record to 2-3, which is better than the rest of the team.  The win itself was not pretty, but right now no one is asking for "wins with pizazz."  Other than that, plugging away at the new project while handling all of my old work has kept me busy. 

Link it up:

The Director of the National Aquarium is stepping down, signaling the first time in quite a while that public office has stepped down in Baltimore without a cloud of disgrace.

Does anyone remember the "slippery slope" arguments that were presented in relation to the slots referendum?  Mainly that once slots started, it wouldn't be long until we had table games, etc.?  Well as Maryland opens slots, our surrounding states are upping their game and starting down that slope.  This large scale money grab, over the long term, is going to ruin hundreds of lives.  Whether this is $1 at a time, or a $50 chip at a time, people are going to gamble money they can't afford to lose, and put themselves in situations that they can't recover from.  We don't know much about slots/gambling in Maryland, but I know that fact to be true.

Seniors in Baltimore City are using the stand-by conservative argument "we budget our money, you budget yours" to fight against cuts to recreational programs by the City Council.  "But that's exactly what we're trying to do!  Budget our money, by cutting your recreation."  This is again why spending cuts are much harder to accomplish than tax increases, and why every expansion of government services should be viewed with finality and extreme caution.  Yes, it is good for us in times of plenty, but are we going to be able to cut it in times of want?

Whoa whoa whoa, you're telling me that there is going to be a "Magic Bar" in Baltimore City?  Like a bar...where magic tricks are performed?  Shut your mouth and just sign the darn thing, City Council!

Uh oh, Maryland teachers (the only profession that doesn't have to work on election day) have some problems with Gov. O'Malley's "Race to the Top" application.

I'm 100% in agreement with Sarah that there is no reason for Ehrlich's "I'm not a candidate...yet" game with respect to his WBAL radio show.

Wordbones says that only you can prevent recycling mistakes...by using this handy chart.

53 Beers sings the praises of Healthy Howard...it is a very short song.

You can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose...and HowChow says you can also pick your own strawberries at Gorman Farms.  (Thanks folks, I'm here all week with a matinee on Sunday).

May the best of your Tuesday be the worst of your Wednesday.  Peace.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Firing On All Cylinders (Tuesday Links)

I'm feeling great this morning.  Yesterday, I received word that my firm will be allowing me to open a new practice group that will be looking to capitalize on the anticipated Cyber boom.  As a young associate, this is an exciting opportunity to make a name for myself at the firm, and in the legal community at large.  I don't much like to brag, but to the extent I share a "friendship" with my readers, this is news I wanted to pass on to my friends.

"Enough about you, let's see some links."  Ok, jerks.

Speaking of lawyers, I have to believe that some of them (also known as the no-fun-police) were behind the grease-less Herndon Climb at the Naval Academy.

In the one referendum petition effort that has been successful this year in relation to Anne Arundel slots, Cordish Cos. is claiming that about one third of the validated signatures were invalid, and the signature collectors should have been checking ID's prior to obtaining signatures.  This is like Bizarro Howard County.  I wonder if the local bloggers in Anne Arundel are telling Cordish to "move on" and calling them "nut-jobs."

Only in Baltimore City do pink slips have act like a 24-esque ticking time bomb.  I think they need MacGruber on the job.  In reality, I can't see any of these 600 workers being laid off.

GOP heads may have cooled on AG Gansler after his office ruled that Ehrlich's WBAL radio show was not a campaign contribution.  Pitchforks and torches will have to placed back into reserves.

Amityville Horror House on sale for $1.5 Million.

HowChow goes Trolling with "Kristi."

Sarah posts about this neat little...thing called Quinoa (I believe it is pronounced keen-wa, but am open for correction).  Jane and I have had this a couple times.  It is very good for your and if you season it up with some lemon juice (and maybe a dab of butter) it is amazing with seafood.

Wordbones.  Where to start.  He attends Alan Klein's event, but was not woo'ed by Alan's political flair.  He then addresses the subject of "fear mongering" noted by Alan in his speech (which, to be honest, is a tactic that has been used by both sides in this debate.  Columbia is either going to have people stacked together like sardines, or we will be dodging tumbleweeds as our proud city-town decays like an unattended pumpkin).  He tops the day off with a reference to Frank Hecker's very well written post about the TPI referendum.

Freemarket notes yet another unique aspect of our fine county: it is Rand Paul's dystopia.

Honestly, the use of the word dystopia just took all the energy I had today.  Have a great one and please involve yourself in the comment section (both here, and on the websites cited above).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Klein In Full

Unfortunately, due to my job being in Baltimore, I was unable to attend Alan Klein's kick-off speech at the Lake Front this afternoon. (I did, however, have a great lunch at Sullivan's, which is a somewhat new restaurant across from the Inner Harbor).  I read Wordbone's diligent coverage here and was in touch with Alan about his positions on some of the other hot topics in and around Columbia (believe it or not, life exists outside of the People Tree).  He sent me a copy of his remarks from this afternoon and I have included them here without further commentary.

"Thank you all for coming.


For those who don’t know me, I am Alan Klein. I own and operate a small consulting business here in Columbia.

Today I am officially announcing that I am a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Howard County Council in District 4.

This was neither a simple nor an easy decision for me to make. To challenge an incumbent from my own party, particularly one whom I supported in the past and one who initially appeared to be a like-minded ally was not an easy decision to make.

I have been closely observing County government over the past four years. And from those observations I have come to two conclusions:

1. The people of this district, and of Columbia and Howard County as a whole, still believe in the core values that Jim Rouse imbued Columbia with over 40 years ago: inclusivity, respect for the land, and a human-scale way of life.

2. Those community’s values, in this district, have simply not been well represented on the County Council.

And so, I was confronted with what to do about those two conclusions. Do I stand by in my role as an advocate or do I leap into the fray?

For more than a year I have been asked by many people, from throughout Columbia and Howard County, to make just that leap. For a long time I was unsure as to whether I had the experience and knowledge necessary to be an effective representative of our community on the wide variety of issues that the Council addresses. However, as I reflected on my work with the Coalition for Columbia’s Downtown, the Downtown Forum, and the Full Spectrum Housing Coalition over the past four years, I realized that I have been in contact not only with planning and zoning issues, but with virtually every aspect of county government: education, transportation, housing, health, human services, budget and finance, public safety, etc. The redevelopment of Downtown Columbia is a microcosm of the issues facing the entire County. This experience has prepared me well to serve on the Howard County Council.

So, having decided that I am qualified, I had to decide if I really wanted the job; if I was truly called to it. This proved to be a more difficult challenge. Ultimately, it became clear to me that the same forces that propelled me to take on the leadership of CCD were leading me into this race.

The first is my belief in the importance of our new town, Columbia. My family arrived here in the very early 1970s. My father served as a consultant to Jim Rouse and Mort Hoppenfeld, helping them create a real and lasting sense of community here. My mother was an early member of the board of the Columbia Foundation and of WomenScope. Due to the wonderful team of social planners which Jim gathered around him and to the pioneers who blazed the trail for the rest of us, Columbia quickly became a shining example of how a well-planned community, one that embodies important social values, can flourish.

We cannot, however, merely rest on our laurels. We must pay careful attention to how we maintain, nurture, and grow those values and the vision that have made Columbia the progressive, inclusive, and beautiful place it is, cited time and again as one of the best places to live in the country.

Since I returned to the area in 1989, I have witnessed an unfortunate decline in the rigor by which we have kept our commitments to those values and in our focus on achieving the founding vision of Columbia. We are on our way to becoming just another run-of-the-mill, sprawling small city, full of disjointed shopping plazas and misplaced high-rises.

I decided that Columbia and its vision were too important for me to allow it to continue to decline. That was what first called me to pay closer attention and to get involved.

And, as I became more and more involved, something else became clear to me. Though she talks a good game and puts in a lot of hours on the job, my opponent has all too often either acquiesced to, or actively promoted, positions or policies which are furthering the decline of Columbia and of Howard County.

Just before her last election, she signed on as a supporter of the Position Paper which CCD authored. If you haven’t read it yet, it is available on our website. I commend you to it, as the ideas it contains have stood the test of time quite well. (As many of you know, those who have promoted allowing GGP unfettered and unquestioned development rights have attempted to belittle anyone who raised a question as being fearful of change. While that may be good rhetorical red meat for those who agree with them, even a cursory read of that Position Paper puts the lie to that charge.)

By signing on as a supporter of CCD and its positions, my opponent was saying that she basically agreed to the following in Downtown Columbia:

 Increasing residential density by about 1600 units

 Requiring that 20% of each lot be kept as open space

 Human scale building heights

 A full spectrum of housing opportunities

 Creating a “central park” in Symphony Woods

Instead of standing up as a leader in protecting the community’s interests, she allowed the developer, GGP, to write the rules for their own development, put her name as sponsor of the bills, and led their approval with few substantive changes.

Here is what she actively promoted and/or voted for.

 Increasing residential density by 5500 units; three and a half times as many as she said she supported

 Required only 5% of Downtown lots to be kept as open space; a 75% decrease in what she said she supported

 Building heights of 20 stories and no guarantee that the 27 story proposed Plaza Tower will not be built

 A Downtown with no requirement to provide housing for those who work there, be they fire fighters, teachers, store clerks, restaurant employees, artists, or police officers

 A plan to put major roads, buildings, and parking structures in place of the best trees in Symphony Woods. A plan that was only stymied by one important detail – neither the County nor GGP owns Symphony Woods. Fortunately, the Columbia Association, which does own it, has decided to move ahead, in the face of enormous pressure, with the creation of Symphony Park, designed by a team led by Cy Paumier, one of Columbia’s original planners and an internationally renowned park designer.

My differences with my opponent do not stop with her unabashed support for a high-density, over-built Downtown Columbia with no enforceable controls on that development.

I also join the residents of this district in supporting more specific limits on density and building heights in village centers and in requiring that certain services, such as a basic grocery store be considered required elements in a Columbia village center. My opponent promoted and helped pass a bill without those limits and requirements., again allowing the developer essentially free-rein in planning the project.

I support the right of each village’s residents to create a master plan for their own village center with real teeth and real impact. My opponent rejected that idea.

I support the Wilde Lake community in its quest for that basic grocery store. This is not merely a matter of economics or business negotiations. It is a matter of social justice. The people of Wilde Lake who live near their village center and who can’t afford or are not able to drive need access to the basics of life – food for their table, milk for their kids, diapers, etc. My opponent’s response, and I quote, “No one has starved yet.”

There are many other issues that I look forward to working on as part of the Howard County Council and that differentiate me from my opponent:

 Education: We have a nationally recognized school system of which we are rightfully proud. However, we can’t be content to simply maintain the status quo and we can’t ignore the still present gap in achievement among various populations. As a former classroom teacher of 15 years, I know how important it is to continually innovate and experiment so that we not only maintain, but we improve our schools and better reach underserved students.
It is also the responsibility of the County to ensure that available school sites stay ahead of the population’s growth. Unfortunately, my opponent missed the opportunity to do just that by refusing to support designating a site for a school in Downtown Columbia. Imagine planning for thousands of families and no neighborhood schools.

 Public Safety: Besides wanting to ensure that excessive crowding in Downtown Columbia not lead to undue increases in crime, I want to take a look at how police officers are deployed for maximum impact and integration with the communities they serve. For example, I would like to explore increasing bicycle patrols in our neighborhoods and village centers

 The Environment: The Bay and the Patuxent River are still degrading. Residential stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of that degradation. Unfortunately, all of the ideas targeted at environmental sustainability on the Downtown development bills my opponent promoted are contained in an unenforceable General Plan amendment. This leaves the Bay and the River essentially unprotected from the development planned for Downtown.

 Transportation: All of the traffic studies show that the amount of development which my opponent championed for Downtown Columbia will cause the roads to fail, including Route 29 as it passes through Columbia. In fact, I am often told by those who travel on 29 or in Downtown at the wrong time of day that they have already failed. Imagine adding all that density into our severely constrained Downtown road system.

While some ideas for transit are in the bill passed by the Council, again it is all in the unenforceable General Plan bill, which is likely to leave us facing severe traffic gridlock with no real prospect for meaningful transit in sight.

 Budget Planning: By not budgeting adequately for roads, schools, and other infrastructure, and by allowing GGP to pass onto the County too much of the cost of the Downtown development, my opponent has helped dig a fiscal hole which our children and our children’s children will be left to fill in. We have seen this dynamic play out on the national and international stage and it is now playing out here in Howard County.

 Housing: I have been a consistent, strong advocate for a full spectrum of housing in our County and in Columbia. Not only is this an issue of economic and social justice, it is the environmentally sustainable approach, as well. When workers can’t afford to live near where they work, they are forced to commute from lower cost areas, clogging the roads, polluting our environment, and eroding their family cohesiveness through increasing the time they spend away from their loved ones.

Unfortunately, my opponent has been satisfied with the existing moderate income housing unit requirements which, while better than nothing, fail to address the real needs of our workforce and our population as a whole. This MIHU program requires 15% of new housing be affordable to “moderate income” residents.

Do you know what “moderate income” means in Howard County? Any guesses? It means $60 to $80,000 and above in annual income. Now I am all in favor of ensuring that people who earn that kind of money have housing they can afford, but there are still lots of jobs that don’t pay nearly that much and we need to make sure we provide housing in our communities for those folks, as well.

In closing, I won’t promise that you will agree with me all the time on all the issues facing our County and our community.

I will promise you, though, that I will be an independent, principled voice on the Council supporting legislation when it serves the citizenry and the values we all hold dear in Columbia and Howard County. You will always know what I stand for and why I vote the way I do. I will keep in close touch with the community through regular public town meetings.

In addition, I will not hesitate to ask the tough questions and have the difficult discussions I need to fully understand and address the issues that come before me, whether with the rest of the Council, the administration, special interests, or, yes, even with my fellow community members!

And so I ask for your support and your vote on September 14th. Together we can continue to keep Columbia and Howard County moving forward while staying true to our values and our roots in Jim Rouse’s dream.

Thank you!"

Monday Quick Links

I had a devastating round of Bikram Yoga yesterday evening that kept me in bed until the very latest minute I could muster this morning.  This was an experience I plan on dedicating an entire post to, however I was unable to write anything last night due to a complete and total sense of exhaustion.  (For all concerned, Lost is on the DVR).

I've got some quick links for you today that will be limited to the local blogs.  Monday ends up being a tepid news day anyway.

My universe had frequent overlaps with Wordbones's over the weekend.  First we ran into each other at Yappy Hour, then he ran into my parents at Stanford Grill.  We should really start watching where we're going.

HowChow is kind enough to link to my review of LeeLynn's (looks like we had similar experiences).  He also gives some First Thoughts on Red Pearl from a reader.  I will have to add the Red Pearl to our "Bib List."

Um Can I Just Say is now Sarah Says.  I like the new title!  Sarah also wants to tell you a bit about thrift stores.

Those are all the new posts I saw from the weekend.  I hope you all have a great Monday and are doing something that challenges you and taps into your self-actualization.  (I know, a little deep for a Monday, but that's my mood today).  Namaste!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Saturday Morning Reporting on Sun Reporting

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

Let's dig in:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, May 21, 2010

HoCo Rising Reviews: Lee Lynn's Dining Room

Last night, Indiana Jane and I went to Lee Lynn's Restaurant, which is about a quarter of a mile away from our house.  Jane had recently been on http://www.restaurant.com/ picking up discounted gift certificates for restaurants around our area and we felt like having a meal out together to "catch up" (Jane's new Yoga addiction and my apparent addiction to unnecessarily long meetings [did you know trampolines are 12 feet tall and need special HOA approval?] have kept us apart).

Anyway, I know Lee Lynn's is not "new" but it is new to us.  The last time we tried to eat there we were confronted by a 45 minute wait.  I don't do 45 minute waits.  This was round two and surprisingly, on a Thursday night, there was again a wait for anywhere but the "lounge area" (i.e., bar).  The entire restaurant gives a "local haunt" type feel, although it didn't seem like the people at the bar knew each other all that well (contrast with Dennis/WB and Clyde's...wow).

The menus came and I was confronted by my sworn culinary Nemesis: small plates.  Call me lazy, but small plates just take too much work.  Jane and my favorite restaurant (of all time) is Zaytinya down in D.C.  Zaytinya has small plates, but I am able to abdicate all responsibility to Jane who has spent 3 summers in Cyprus and can order up a feast in 5 minutes.  I also have no problem with tapas.  Something about run-of-the-mill places having small plates strikes me as pretentious...and not worth my menu searching.

I have another name for small plates: appetizers.  And that's exactly what we used these little fellers for.  We had the "famous" potato chips and chicken satay.  Both were awesome.  The chips, as described by Jane, "oh my god, just like duck fat fries at Victoria" (never said Jane wasn't a bit of a blasphemer).  The satay, as described by me, "frickin' good" (that is literally what I said -- I taught preschool for a summer and lost all ability to curse).

The entrees are where we get into the mud.  First, there's about 4 entrees and 4 sandwiches.  I wasn't really impressed with any of them.  Despite my Maryland spidey sense telling me to never ever, under any circumstances, order quote "award winning crab cakes"...I ordered their award winning crab cake sandwich.  Was it bad?  No.  Was it good? Kinda.  The thing is, if you want to roll with crab cakes, you need to come to play.  Nobody wants a mediocre crabcake.  It needs to be an enlightenment, or no one is ordering it again.  This crabcake had a good proportion of crab, but the seasoning left a lot to be desired.  It was "ok."

After the check came, I tried to use our gift certificate but we were short of the $50 minimum by $8.  Neither of us could fit dessert, so we decided to just save it for another day, which is a good summation of my experience.  We were pleased by most of the food, but I felt like I wasn't taking in everything Lee Lynn's had to offer.  We'll be back, and maybe, just maybe, I will go full bore small plate.  I will then go home and cry in the shower.

D'Asto Speaks

Cruising around over on Wordbones's comments section, I noticed that Tom D'Asto, Republican candidate for County Council in District 4, has come out with positions on Columbia Redev and Healthy Howard (and a love for exclamation points).  I thought I would share:

So, let's make this my official stance on the Town Center re-development: It's been voted on. It's a done deal. It's such a done deal that I want to be the community enforcer to make sure that the developer's actually stick to what they signed up to do! I come from a part of the district/county that has seen the developer's plan unfold repeatedly: propose a plan of high density, fight with the community, come to some middle ground, and then as soon as the equipment starts to move earth the developer puts up those familar orange signs announcing a change in plans! Well, I won't stand for it as your Councilman. In fact, I will push for completion of the plan as fast as possible. We don't need this dragging out for decades!

As for Healthy Howard, health care is no more a right than someone having a right to brand new sports car. No one goes without health care that needs it. By law, HC General has to treat anyone that walks into the emergency room. Yes, this, in part, increases our premiums that we pay for health care, but in Howard County I also have to pay a tax so that Healthy Howard can exist.

Tom D`Asto
Candidate for Howard County Council
District 4
councilman@tomdasto.org

Cause It's Friday (Friday Links)

I have a hearing in DC today, so I get to sleep in a little and work from home this afternoon.  Quite the life.  The sleep was necessary this morning, after an honestly mediocre experience at Leelynn's (I hate small plates) and a couple Long Trails back at the casa. 

You wanted links?  Well, why didn't you say something?

The Columbia Triathlon wants you to have a Lazy Sunday and stay home.

The Democratic Party goes all "we don't take kin-ley to strangers round dese parts" on Alan Klein.  Politicians are just so funny.  I imagine Mary Kay looked around that room and wondered where those people were when Ken was knocking her over in the 2002 primary.  Hmm, I wish I could remember what her platform was back then...

Republican candidate for County Executive for Harford County, Stephen Wright, was killed in a car accident last night.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his friends and family.  I never met Steve, but knew him to be a hard fighting candidate with frequent Facebook posts about his campaign.  He was clearly well liked and well respected.  That is just about all we can ask from this world.

Both gubernatorial candidates agree that juvenile justice reform is necessary, which unfortunately means it won't be addressed anytime soon.

Broccolino (HoCo State's Attorney) gets called for jury duty...and is quickly excused.  Attorneys typically don't want any of their "kind" to sit on juries, mostly because we have a hard time blocking off our own knowledge of the law, which is one of the instructions that the jury is given prior to verdict.  Technically, our SA could have served without a problem, but it makes sense to give him the boot.

Wordbones went to Mary Kay Sigaty's fundraiser last night...which was also attended by Jen Terrasa, who WB thinks is unsuited for the position...awkwardness ensued.

Tell Your Neighbors wants you to brave the Triathlete traffic (fun to say, give it a whirl) and head over to River Hill on Sunday for their annual flea market.

I didn't get much traffic from my wife on this site as it is, but now that there is a Cupcake blog in HoCo, according to HowChow, I can't expect that traffic to drop to zero.

Freemarket continues his "how to place a value on a human life" debate with Hayduke (or his ghost..."remember me") over at his place.  I'm going to find a way to use "but how do you place a value on a human life" as my show stopper in arguments from now on.  No matter what the subject may be, I am going to find a way to work in "but how do you place a value on a human life."  If my wife wants to go shopping and I want to stay home and watch TV: "Honey, do you know how many lives are lost on the roads every year?  I know we need a new dish washer, but lets have it delivered.  Shipping and handling is expensive, but how do you place a value on a human life."  Ta Da!

That's all folks.  As noted above, I will be out and about today so the posts may be less frequent.  I've also been having a hard time commenting on my own blog (!!!) so that's why I haven't been as frequent with my responses to your pithy, witty, and wise commentary.  But, as always, it is truly appreciated and cherished.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Burrowed

The Hedgehog appears to be leaving the HoCo blogosphere for the more prestigious stage of national politics.  Dave has a very popular main site with a national audience and it was clear that the "Looking At Howard County" off-shoot was not long for this world.

I remember about a year ago when I was still puttering around talking to myself on this website, I asked Dave whether I could do a "guest post" on his site in order to direct some traffic this way.  We never got around to setting that up, but it was around that time that Dave posted a comment on one of my posts, and officially qualified as my first non-anonymous commenter.

I agree 100% with his reasoning as far as the Central Committee is concerned.  It is very difficult to maintain relationships with individuals involved in the party while keeping a credible local blog.  It would not be hard to win the favor of Committee members and Club leadership by posting about how Obama is a socialist and that Democrats are trying to destroy our country, but that kind of talk would provide for a short-lived website of questionable viability, and I honestly don't feel that way (does that make me a...gasp...RINO?).  Somehow Dave was able to keep his blog going all this time without tickling the many tempers that involve themselves in Howard County politics.  This is quite a feat, as I know that achievement will never be hanging on my wall.

So thanks for the posts Dave and good luck with the Central Committee race.  You are one of the great guys in the HoCo GOP and I hope you can be a role model for others in your display of professionalism and common sense.

Thursday Cometh (Thursday Links)

Nothing much of interest to note for me.  It doesn't look like I'll be able to do the Beer/Bar Crawl this Saturday.  I have a friend coming in from out of town and we will probably be going up to Balmer Cownie to visit my brother, who recently bought a house.  Should be a good time.

Anyhow, on to the links:


Have any of you heard the anti-bottle tax commercials?  They make it sound like everyone in Baltimore City is going to have to turn in their first born as soon as the measure is passed by the Council.  I don't like tax raises more than anyone else, but to the extent they occur, sin taxes get my "okey doke."  Well, the four cent tax on bottled beverages is "canned" (pun attributable to the Sun).  What's most interesting about this article is the general discussion of whether to tax or cut in the face of tight revenue.  The reason most governments choose additional taxation over government down-sizing is that the latter is tedious and must be done piecemeal while additional taxes produce a bucket of (our) money in one swipe of the pen.  This makes me think that what our local governments need, instead of a food czar, are Efficiency Czars.  This individual would spend their Monday through Friday reviewing public systems and programs, as well as budgets and expenditures in order to see where the fat can be cut.  When budget time rolls around, the Efficiency Czar has their Executioner's List and, with one swipe of the pen, the County has a big bucket of its own money.  Said Czar would most likely have to eat their lunch by themselves, but it would be a small price to pay for streamlining government and lessening the convenience of tax hikes.

The Governor, NOT AG Gansler, has directed that state employees in same-sex marriages will be able to enroll eligible dependents under their job benefits.  Oh the humanity!!

"Grandpop wants me to tell you that you are on his turf and that he is going to pop a cap in your fizzle.  You dig?"

Scum of the earth get 12 months for rigging tax lien auctions and making millions of dollars.  Meanwhile, a drug user gets five years for his own habit.  What a world.

Columbia Talk raised some questions about this yesterday, but why is an anonymous out-of-county non-profit donating $250,000 to the Symphony Woods project?

HowChow takes an awesome looking picture of the good grub you can get out of a barrel grill in Jessup.

Jessie X posts about "The Most Interesting Man in Howard County Blogosphere" (He once touched his computer and accidentally posted a comprehensive resolution of agreement between TAG and NCA.  He then deleted it) Frank Hecker, and his recent post about anonymous commenters.  She also gives this humble site a shout out (which I appreciate).  I think we all can agree that the issue is not so much with anonymous commenters as it is the hide-in-the-grass pot-shots.  The real humor in all this is that if there was an Anonymous creed, it would include an entry about avoiding the wrath of the powerful, yet it is quite clear that the "powerful" will often use the anonymity of the comments to attack those who criticize their positions.

Freemarket wants you to do something nice.

Just like Liz Bobo, Wordbones has not made his endorsement in District 4, but there will be no suspense here.

Tell Your Neighbors vants to suck your blood...and donate it to your friends, neighbors, and country-men.  Should I get a break in the clouds on Saturday (another busy one), I will be pumping out some life juice.

UCIJS (sorry Sarah, too long to type out) has a gif that gives me motion sickness...and is getting married next weekend.

Late again.  Have a great Thursday.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Council Rubber Stamps Budget

I don't think there was much suspense here, but the Council passed the budget proposed by Executive Ulman 4-1, with Councilman Fox being the only dissenting vote.  Greg did win one contest, that being the "quote of the day":  "As we ask others to do more with less, Healthy Howard, Inc. continues to seek to do less with more."  Bang-a-rang, Ruffio.

Honorable mention goes to Mary Kay Sigaty for: "Health care is a right, not a choice."  She lost points for not making sense.

The budget passing is good news for Ken Ulman on multiple levels, most significantly the continued employment of his police officer drivers.  Sadly, the furlough of county employees may affect his transportation options between Christmas and New Years.

Keep Your Thumbs to Yourself

I have not yet posted about Board of Education candidates in my Election Run down, but I can tell you that I am already disturbed by the tenor that one candidate appears to be setting.  David Thalheimer has a link on his campaign website noting "Other Candidates" with the explanation that "Like Prudential Insurance, I want to provide you with all your options so you can make an informed decision."  Mr. Thalheimer takes the somewhat aggressive approach of assuming he can not only convince you to vote for him, but also two other candidates that he has found worthy to serve on the Board with him (note: the "good" candidates are noted with a smiley face and a thumbs up, lest their be any confusion).  That part I don't so much have a problem with.

This Guide to BoE Candidates then goes on to paraphrase the positions of his opponents based on whether or not he agrees with them, including the counter-intuitive position that teachers and school administrators will make bad board members (again, to avoid confusion, there are sad faces with thumbs down for those whom Mr. Thalheimer disagrees with).  There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason as to whom he supports, as Brian Meshkin (thumbs up) and David Proudfoot (thumbs down) are both complementary of how the current board has taken care of the school system, yet receive different reviews from The Great Decider.

The question is not so much whether we have a problem with this, as much as it is "do we want our Board of Education candidates attacking one another?"  Mr. Thalheimer has some very interesting ideas and I would have been impressed with him if he didn't show this kind of insecurity in the inconsistent criticism of others. 

If you're reading this, David, you're better than that.  A retired Colonel in the United States Air Force, a multitude of academic degrees, do you really need to put down your opponents in order to distinguish yourself?  Is that what you want from the individuals overseeing our childrens' education?  We expect this much from the Council candidates, but please don't bring the Board elections into the muck.

Oh, and keep your thumbs to yourself!

Hecker Takes on TPI

Those that were over on WB's site the other day saw a flury of comments by Hecker with regard to TPI.  He fleshes out his arguments on his own blog and I would strongly encourage those who disagree with him to keep the conversation going over there.

Ahem...Forgetful Folks (Wednesday Links)

I've become tired...downright exhausted with the behavior of some people as this election season heats up.  There is no doubt, nor do I contest, that this blog ticks some people off.  I'm not necessarily all that good at taking criticism just yet, but I think I'm getting better.  However, all that I say, for better or for worse, is public.  Expectantly, this has led to a good number of people talking about me in private, which comes with the territory.  What I object to is that these same people will come back to me with smiling faces asking for favors.  Before this mini-header-that-I-write-before-my-morning-links-about-my-daily-life turns into rant, I would simply ask that before anyone else feels compelled to ask me for any favors with regard to introducing them to other people or posting something on this site, please think to yourself "Can I trust his stupidity over the gossip-mongering that has surely already floated my nasty words back to his ears?" 

Links:

This book by Mohammed Yunus will definitely be going with me on my vacation in a little over two weeks.

Baltimore City could save $93 million by adjusting the retirement age and pension benefits for police and fire employees, however the unions have something to say about that which starts with "h" and ends with "ell no."

Arlen Spector's gamble did not pay off.  Welcome back to the citizenry, bub.

O'Malley and Ehrlich appeared to have been playing a game of capture the flag yesterday.  Sadly, neither team was able to find the flag, nor free the respective blue and red team captives.  This game is expected to continue until November.

Barring a complete malpractice by Ernie Grunfeld, the Washington Wizards will be selecting Kentucky freshman John Wall with the first pick in the 2010 NBA draft.  Yes, Washington fans, it is safe to watch the NBA again.

Is Rand Paul the first Tea Party candidate?  I still think Scott Brown just found himself riding the Tea Party wave and the next thing he knew he had Ted Kennedy's seat.

Call off the hounds, Wordbones has been found unharmed.  I just presumed he was working on the monster of all "Alan Klein is a Candidate for County Council" posts.

Sarah would like to help Mark Souder write his "I have been irresponsible with my private parts" apology letter.

HowChow posts about West Friendship coffee (I know, you don't make it out there...not many people do).  There is also a good post about the Examiner's "weird strange trip" to Victoria's Gastropub.  What kind of mushrooms did they put on that burger?

Tell Your Neighbors tells everybody about the HoCo Tourism Soiree.

I hope you all have a great Wednesday (man this week is going fast).  Tuesday clearly wasn't as busy as I expected (as can be seen by my many posts), so today will probably come on strong.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

HFStival Returns to Merriweather

When I was 15 years old, I went to the HFStival with a group of friends at RFK Stadium.  It was probably one of the most surreal days of my life.  There were 30 bands on three different stages with plenty of free schwag, including many many stickers, which found their way onto my bedroom wall (infuriating my mother).  On top of everything else, one of my friends literally passed out because water was being sold for $9 a bottle, which was a bit steep for 15 year olds.  I had to carry her to the first aid station that, thankfully, was not charging for life sources.
I'm pretty stoked to see that the HFStival will be at Merriweather this year.  Not only that, but due to the bands that are lined up (Billy Idol, Third-Eye Blind, Fuel, Marcy Playground and Better Than Ezra) I can expect the exact same people at that concert as I could expect to see at the HFStival from 1995.

Tickets go on sale May 28th for a September 18th show.  Hat tip to the people in the Ulman administration, possibly those who formerly ran blogs and ran Save Merriweather campaigns, that are working to make these events happen.

Sun Posts About Klein Candidacy

Larry Carson has an article about Alan Klein's declared candidacy for County Council in District 4. 

Cliff Notes: Mary Kay is not surprised.  Bobo is not taking sides (but says she is siding with Klein).  Calvin Ball is on Larry Carson's speed dial.

Welcome Sarah!

The site-meter feature for blogs should just be re-named "narcissism meter."  While my main intent in checking it is to look into what draws interest, I also get a charge when I have more readers than I did the day before.  A certain level of narcissism is involved in any public endeavor, I just think I am all the better for admitting it.

"Me me me" aside, I noticed that a reader was recently referred by the blog "Um Can I Just Say," which I had not heard of before.  Turns out, commenter Sarah (who is more often spotted at WB's site) has a blog!  I'm always excited about new voices in the blogosphere, especially from writers around my age.  I have duly added UCIJS to my blog-roll and hope you will check it out.  Sarah's site is more in the vein of the true intention of blogs (i.e. web-logs) and should be a good site to visit for those that think all HoCountians talk about is wine and sidewalks. 

Busiest Day of the Week (Tuesday Links)

Something about Tuesdays make them my busiest day of the week.  I would imagine it is common for most associate level professionals no matter what the field.  Monday, the partner/principle members get their work straightened out, all the while making a pile of things for the associates to do.  Tuesday, boom goes the dynamite.  I love being busy, so Tuesdays are not so much feared as "prepared for."  I hope you all are prepared for your Tuesday and are closer to the position of dynamite giver than that of receiver.

Let's get linky with it:

It's just about "Baltimore Sun Goes for the Pulitzer" time, during which the Sun will pop out its 10 page news stories about some tragic aspect of Baltimore living.  These are normally incredibly well written pieces, with my only reservations being 1) clear biases; and 2) clear good guy/bad guy dichotomies.  Nonetheless, here's Round One:  A story about lien auctions and how they result in people losing their homes over hundreds, rather than thousands, of dollars in unpaid bills.  (Interestingly, this story appears to have been supported by the "Huffington Post Investigative Fund."  The Huffington Post is a notoriously liberal blog.  I wonder if the "low bar of respectability" applies when they are writing big checks.)

The Supreme Court expands the bounds of Congressional authority.  In related news, the falcon cannot hear the falconer.

In their attempts to put Healthy Howard on a weight loss program, Courtney Watson and Greg Fox are targeting the health coach component of the program, which most likely is in accordance with popular sentiment on this topic.  I don't understand why the rest of the Council is treating HHAP like a sacred calf.  Some have suggested that the only way physicians will be willing to offer discounted health care is if there is some preventative care.  Well, where's the beef?  If that is the case, let's see at least a letter from Dr. Gov saying that this is the situation.  And if it is, what is so wrong with telling people "If you want this discounted health care, get moving and drop the fast food?"  Simplistic view of a complicated problem?  Yes.

From that same article:
Fox also proposed amendments to slash $4 million in funding for court house renovations and $150,000 from the county executive’s budget, which is money he said should be cut to offset the salaries of two sworn police officers who serve as the executive’s drivers and security, but are paid through the Howard County Police Department.

“I think the chief of our police department should make (the) determination what methods of security (are necessary),” Ball said. “That amendment is an attempt to cut the public safety budget without cutting the public safety budget.”
Res Ipsa Loquitur.

 Big primaries across the Country today.  I suggest checking Hedgehog's main site throughout the day, as he normally covers these types of things very well.

Wordbones touches on the Taxpayer Protection Initiative again...and again is less than positive.  Bloggers and citizens alike want an evidence based case for why we need to amend the County charter to prevent tax hikes.  I'm actually more in the camp of thinking we will need an increase in county taxes due to unanimous votes of the Council and the expected shift of teacher pension costs, and that any measure taking an arrow out of the quiver of our elected officials is irresponsible.  I've been told that I spoke without "knowing all the facts" on this issue, so I will reserve any future judgment until such a case has been made.

I MADE THE TROLLING SERIES ON HOWCHOW!  I'm famous!  (HowChow also posts about the Pub Crawl this weekend, which I hope to partake in...but need a drinking buddy).

Whoops.  Had too much fun with my morning post and now I'm late.  A big Howdy to all the visitors from HowChow.  Please post your thoughts, positive or negative, below.  Feel free to come back round now, ya hear?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Alan Klein: Candidate for County Council District 4

Breaking news: Alan Klein is running for County Council in the District 4 Dem Primary.  I had it on good information that he was considering a run, but didn't want to speak out of turn (for once).  This primary should be a good bellwether for the discontent presaged by TAG and CB 58 & 59 opponents.  This will be no small feat, as Mary Kay Sigaty is very popular, however the threshold fund-raising needs are very low.  Mary Kay is known for not seeking out a lot of fund-raising and running more of a elbow grease style campaign.

I have had some very positive experiences with Alan and look forward to hearing how he frames his campaign (although the big issues can be predicted early on).  I have not had a chance to meet Mary Kay, but she seems like a very pleasant woman as well (sprinklers aside).  The one certainty is that Alan draws out strong emotions from both sides.  If you want your referendum, here it is.

(Thanks for the tip noone)

Travelin' Blues (Monday Links)

Just got back from New Jersey visiting the in-laws.  I had a great trip, ate some clams off the grill (they live by the ocean), and drank some amazing beer that is prejudiced against states south of the Mason-Dixon line (and bootlegged some for my personal beer fridge).  Despite having a great trip, the traveling weekends tend to take it out of you and leave you exhausted for the oncoming work week.  I hope you know me to have an overall chipper disposition, and there is no exception here, but man, am I tired.

Links:

Want free stuff?  Head to the Baltimore Free-Store.

If you have too much money, and are downright offended by your neighbor's inconsiderate canine droppings, call CSI: Dog Poop.

In case you missed it, the Baltimore Sun has an article about Central Maryland's 9-12 group, which met at Elkridge library last week.  It is unfortunate that Glenn Beck is such a caustic personality, because I think this initiative could do a lot of good.

Wordbones has some destructive ideas and hates the same Starbucks as Courtney Watson.

Freemarket chats about loopholes (and trust me, don't mention the Amish in PA...there is a rant a-brewin' in each and every citizen).

Jessie X has a feva, and the only prescription is more sidewalks in better places.

Hedgehog breaks some news with regard to a new District 13 State Senate candidate.

Hopefully better posts will follow today as I wake up and shake off the Travelin' Blues.  I'm going to the baseball game tonight (and have extra tickets if anyone is interested).

Friday, May 14, 2010

Murphy Wins a Dog (?)

Brian Murphy, candidate for Governor, was in our County earlier this week for the Lincoln Day Dinner.  One of the fundraisers was a Puppy Auction, which Candidate Murphy dropped $1,000 into for the "purchase" of a new best friend.

The article from the Maryland Reporter addresses the fact that the HoCo GOP is showing clear favoritism for former Governor Ehrlich, when they technically are not supposed to endorse any candidates until after the primary.

Rules schmules. 

Think Globally, Act Locally

From the Day Center:

Sober House Volunteer Opportunity


A proven housing concept for persons in recovery is the model of self-supporting, self-governing, drug-free living known as a sober house. There are over 1,200 sober houses nationwide serving more than 24,000 people a year but only one in Howard County serving 4 people.

We can start more sober houses here with your help. A church has donated the seed money for one house and we are seeking volunteers to perform some of the start-up and ongoing oversight functions.

One of the most inspiring experiences of serving at the Day Resource Center is seeing persons suffering from addiction decide to enter a rehab program or start outpatient detox. Sometimes it is a repeat attempt at recovery and sometimes it fails again but there is always the hope that they will eventually succeed. One thing is clear, returning to a life in the woods and exposure to both the elements and the drug and alcohol use of companions reduces the odds of anyone staying clean and sober. There needs to be a supportive place for them to go after rehab and detox.

Starting a sober house requires finding a suitable house to rent, selecting residents, setting the policies for operating the house, and collecting donated furniture and supplies. After the house is started, there needs to be oversight to ensure that it remains true to the purpose of housing persons in recovery.

If you are interested in learning more about the volunteer role, email Joe at jwillmott@verizon.net. An information and organization meeting will be held in a few weeks.

Enjoy the Free Food, Don't Drink the Kool Aid (Friday Links)

The title is in reference to something someone said to me about the "Building a Better Columbia" event that I will be attending tonight, put on by the Columbia Association.  I doubt that this individual would want this quote to be attributed, so I will leave it stand at that.  After this dinner, I will be jetting off to the Jersey Shore to see my in-laws.  Not many people can say they are headed to the beach to see family, so I am incredibly fortunate in that regard.  I'm hoping that I will be able to post from there, but very long time readers may recall that my father-in-law has set a password for his wireless Internet that he cannot recall.  I don't bring this up to him anymore because the last time it was an issue, he spent approximately 46 of the 48 hours we were there cursing and banging any number of secret words into a keyboard.

Rosebud:

If you have some time on your hands, or need an essay to read on your next 3 hour flight, I would strongly suggest checking out this article about a man from Pennsylvania who has dedicated his life to God...and the death of a Ugandan war lord.

I read this article about a new slate of taxes put forth by the Baltimore City Council Finance committee and wondered whether HoCo's TPI would address all nature of taxes, or be limited to income and property.

Folks from Baltimore formed the world's largest smiley face...involving a police helicopter that was threatened by budget cuts earlier this year.

Healthy Howard takes another $500,000 bite out of County finances.  In light of the quote "I haven't heard a good rationale on why we should decimate funding for a service so badly needed," I hope to write a post over the weekend addressing all of the rationales for decimating funding.

Let's get Ralph Jaffe elected!

This letter to the editor shows that the referendum issue is too hot to touch for any candidate.

Wordbones endorses Schrader.

Freemarket revisits the dog-shooting issue.  If there is an open forum for this executive contest, I hope Ken has a canned response. (FM also has a great post about Al Gore's new crib)

HowChow tells you about a "secret roll" at Sushi Sono.

Jessie X wants you to eat beets (and join our CSA).

That's all folks.  Have a great Friday.  If you'll be at the CA event tonight, give me a holler and we can meet up.  I already expect to see John Bailey there and maybe some other familiar faces.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Proudfoot on Cradlerock

Constant readers know that I have been impressed and excited by David Proudfoot's candidacy for Board of Education.  He recently attended a meeting addressing the issues of Cradlerock ___ School, the only K through 8 school in the county.  David contacted me to see if I may be interested in posting his thoughts, which I clearly am.  David Proudfoot:

On May 11, 2010, I attended a community meeting for the Cradlerock School in which the county proposed a plan to separate the schools in to two smaller learning communities. Much discussion was held about the model and the upcoming timeline for approval. However, a very important question was posed several times that inspired me to provide a response for the Cradlerock community.” What are we going to improve student achievement?”


As a school administrator, I believe that creating smaller learning communities has the potential to improve student achievement. By creating smaller communities, leadership can empower staff members to create a common vision and goal that is differentiated and centered on elementary or middle school systems. Separating in to smaller communities will allow for each school to take steps to clarify what students are expected to learn and how they should act in order to maintain a safe and orderly environment. Also, schools, like any organization that seeks to improve, must have a common vision shared by all. Everyone must be committed to shared goals to measure success, and staff must have the same perspective as to what is important in the organization. There may be differences of importance in the K-8 model as students in the middle school can demonstrate different needs than those in the elementary school.

To elaborate, the following questions can be answered through school-wide collaboration in order guide the school improvement processes. These questions may be difficult for middle and elementary schools to come to consensus. Therefore, it may be more effective to the school improvement process if each school operated independently and used these questions for a stepwise data collection and analysis process to set up specific measures for setting goals and monitoring progress.

How to you identify school success?

How do you describe an “educated student” in your school?

Does your school community have a way to measure success? Is it the same way others measure your success?

Are state tests the only thing that matters? If not, what else does?

How do you focus your school community on the needs of students?

Another concern that the current Cradlerock School community has is on behavior and discipline. Strong positive relationships are critical to the education process. Students are more likely to make a personal commitment to engage in rigorous learning when they know teachers, parents, and other students care about how well they do. They are willing to continue making the investment when they are encouraged, supported, and assisted. Building good relationships complements rigor and relevance. For students to engage fully in challenging learning, they must have increased levels of support from the all stakeholders around them.

Most students will not do their best in classes when they feel that school staff do not have an interest in them or care about their future. Students can sense whether a staff member cares or is simply “going through the motions.” Students show increased effort in classroom activities when staff members take an interest in students as individuals, get to know them by name, and talk to them not only in the classroom but during other activities in the school as well. Smaller learning environments have the potential for different groups of students to be celebrated and acknowledged for their hard work and achievements in different ways which can improve their self-esteem and self-worth. Students will have a better chance of feeling included in the school family.

In conclusion, there is still much work that needs to be done at Cradlerock. The school staff and leadership is incredible and should be proud of their daily efforts that they have made to improve student achievement. The restructuring of the school should not be viewed as a result of incompetence or lack of passion for creating an effective learning environment for students. Even though the proposed model change has the potential to be effective on improving student achievement, I got the feeling from some meeting audience members (parents, community members, and school staff) that proper input from all stakeholders and the timeline to implement this change are concerns at this present time.
 
The school community needs to have continuous opportunities for shared decision-making, collaboration and input as changes and improvements are made in behavior and instruction. During this time of change, the community of Cradlerock, central office personnel, and the school board need to work collaboratively. As a candidate for school board, I believe that a school board must be responsive and receptive to parents, staff, students and the community at large. I encourage open dialog as the board must take input from all groups and must build public understanding, support and participation. 

Note: David also tells me that he may be having a Raven-centric fundraiser in the near future.  I won't blow the lid on the special guest, but I can tell you that I will try to be in attendance.

Wine In The...Wherever You Want

Ken Ulman found my soft spot.  According to this press release, Executive Ulman plans to submit an amendment to current zoning regulations to make it easier to grow grapes and open wineries in our county.

I've said it before, I'll say it again, Maryland wine is not high on my list.  It is either chapitalized to Hi-C consistently or tastes like asphalt.  This is mostly because of our weird wet Springs and cold Falls (if you are ever at my house, I can show you a map of what I'm talking about).  However, wine always tastes a little better the closer you are to the grapes.  By that I mean, winery wine rarely tastes bad, not because the wine is different, but because the experience is different.

So kudos to you, Mr. Ulman.  This is a smart, easy, idea that will be over-whelming popular and will not cost the county a dime.  Please send a missive to the politicos in Annapolis about how smart, easy, and popular this was so that they may think over the Direct Shipping bill a bit more.

Now that THAT's Settled

My case "resolved."  That is what lawyers are told to say when a case settles.  I was honestly excited about taking this case to battle (and think we would have won), but am happy for both the other side and our client, who probably dreaded the idea of going to Court.

The good news is I get my life back (at least until the next tidal wave).  What I would hope to do with that time is meet more of you.  One of the best things about this site is getting to meet people (despite what may be suggested by the risque sheath of anonymity that is my moniker), and would like to do more of that.  If you would ever like to meet up for a beer/coffee/run around Centennial (if you work in Baltimore -- lunch), drop me a line and we can look at our schedules.  Despite the common notion among Anonymi, I am not sexist, and only show preference for interesting people.  If you are boring, and you know it, please spare us both the awkward beer.

In the meantime, I have some (now) useless paperwork to clear out.  After that, I have a bottle of bubbly set aside.

He Who Smelt It

Bad news for HoCo GOP stategerizers...TPI is going over like a fart in church on the interwebs.  To quote some of the commenters over at WB's site:

"The GOP Council candidates have no issue to run on or against this year. So, they are trying to create one."

"So, only the republican candidates, including Fox and the 2 swing districts launch a 'campaign' during their annual republican dinner in an election year. Doesn’t sound like election year rhetoric to me :-)"

"This stunt is straight out of the Karl Rove playbook."  (Many would consider this a compliment)

"I expected as much from the other two yahoos, but Fox seemed, over the last 4 years, to be more focused on service and policy than politics."

Commenters over at ExploreHoward seem to be more 50/50 on the proposal:

"If this is the only way to keep the tax and spend libs in check, sign me up!"

"I'm just curious - how come its the republicans that create all the deficits, screw up the economy, and make their rich buddies (such as developers) even richer at the expense of everyone else, but they blame democrats for their screw ups - the only thing Democrats and Liberals are guilty of is caring for ordinary citizens and getting damn tired of having to clean up the mess left for them by hypocritical Republicans!"  (Nice to know that politics is so easily divided between "good guys" and "bad guys")

"Time for pragmatic thinking on spending --I am an 'ordinary citizen' and have a simple request of my govt ---keep within spending limits and I keep my spending below my earning level shouldn't the govt??"

I, personally, am not in favor of this initiative.  I don't think the GOP has displayed an ability to properly support their candidates as it is, much less a county-wide referendum campaign.  In addition, I am concerned that the petition promotes a simplistic view of the policy choices that our elected officials make.  No one wants higher taxes, and none of the electeds want to pass higher taxes, but if teacher pension costs come crashing down on Howard County heads, tax increases may be the only choice.  As Courtney Watson acknowledged, while "taxes" may be a nice buzz word, "fees" will keep the cost of government constant.  You can't plug all the holes.

I am open to being wrong on this, but I would rather just trust the people we vote into office than hamstringing them into a California-style government.