Tuesday, August 31, 2010

We're Number __ Again!!

(Does this mean more ice cream and peace sign foam fingers?)

Kiplinger Magazine ranked Ellicott City as one of the Top Ten cities to raise a family!  Eden Prairie was noticeably absent, most likely due to their Craigslist killer, the fact that the team HQ for the Minnesota Vikings is in Eden Prairie, and Jared Allen eats babies.

I would be interested to hear what the Board of Education naysayers would have to say in response to the repeated recognition of "great schools" in Howard County.

By the way, what the heck is Bubbleman's Kid's Night?  Is that the store at the bottom of the hill across from Portalli's?

Central Committee Clarification

Earlier today, I posted my belief that there are two slates of candidates running for Republican Central Committee.  This is based off of a dichotomy of endorsements between the Republican Assembly and "African Americans In Howard County" (which I still think is a presumptive name for an interest group).  I did not intend for this to be a suggestion that I know exactly who is on each slate.  As an example, Chris Oxenham has worked hard to run independent of any "grouping."  Also, Dave Myers received the endorsements of both the Assembly and AAIHC.

Bottom line: There are outliers, and from my perspective, we should encourage their independence.  The worst thing that could occur is a grouping of "like-minded individuals" all being elected together and then steam-rolling their agenda through the Committee.  I am still getting a feel for what the Central Committee is actually responsible for, but I recognize it as an elected body with all the respect and attendant authority that such positions may hold.

The End...for now.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Death, Taxes, and Mondays (Monday Morning Links)

I just spent the past 48 hours with 20 of my closest college friends.  The remainder of this post should be viewed through such a filter.  This is an annual party that my brother and I put on in order to keep in touch with our friends who have moved all over the U.S.  Most of us are in our late twenties and early thirties, which means more and more are being...ahem..."picked off" by the obligations of child-rearing (and wives that say "You are NOT going down to some party while I change 30 diapers and deal with a teething child.").  Although I am happy to say that I reclaimed two such Daddies for two days of fun.

Anyhow, enough about me...LINKS:

Larry Carson writes a great article about the political dynamics of the speed camera issue in Howard County (sponsored by our own Senator Robey at the state level).  Not to be presumptive, but by waiting until the next legislative session of the Council, it may be the case where Greg Fox has more support than Courtney Watson...and HoCo doesn't install the speed cameras sponsored by its former County Executive.

When your child starts school today, there is a good chance that Little Jimmy/Sally will have at least one brand new teacher...spitballs at the ready!

The Sun covers the issue of candidates living outside of their district.  I hope they follow that up with an examination of the gerrymandering nonsense that has become the norm in this state and across the Country.

Courtney Watch: Day Two with No O'Malley Endorsement.

HowChow posts that MOM's in Jessup is getting bigger!  Normally, Mom's are quite offended by such a suggestion.

WB and Paul Skalny sit down with Greg Fox for another round of And Then There's That.  I haven't had a chance to listen yet, but hope to tap in sometime this afternoon.

No one is a better grave-dancer than 53 Beers.  Today's performance: TAG.

Frank Hecker posts a three part series on whether Howard County could become the Silicon Valley of Cyber-security (in response to a quote in on my of pieces [thanks for the plug, Frank]).  I think the final quote in part three would be informative for anyone interested in the future of our County and its ecosystem.  Most importantly: "As Steve Blank says, no successful startup ecosystem was built from local talent."  (BTW: In my own "defense" [although I don't perceive Frank's piece to be a criticism], the point of my original post is that we need positive ideas from our politicians, rather than defensive government.  It is for our electeds to think big things for our County, not necessarily our County government, and tell the electorate what they plan to do to get those things accomplished.  I don't know the first thing about Silicon Valley, how it started, or whether it can be replicated, which makes Frank's series such a great and informative read.)

I want to say again how much I missed you all and how much fun it is to be back in the saddle.  I have a deposition up in Frederick this afternoon, so I don't anticipate being able to post very much today.  Have a great Monday...and remember that your are hurtling towards a Three Day Weekend, followed by the neatly trimmed post-three-day-weekend-four-day-work-week.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Howard County Chamber of Commerce Candidate Reception: Thursday Sept. 2nd

The Howard County Chamber of Commerce is offering a fantastic opportunity for local business-people to meet and mingle with County Candidates prior to the September 14th Primary:

The event is $25 for Chamber Members and $35 for Non-Members.  Hope to see you all there!


Today's Deal on Groupon.com is a $30 VGP gift certificate for $15.  With football season approaching, I can tell you that my number one favorite thing to do on Sundays before the Ravens game is go to Victoria's for a Lobster Grilled Cheese and a brew (don't judge my 11 a.m. beer habit...and if you do, stay away from me come 4 p.m.).  I bought two of these GC's.

So take advantage of this Baltimore-centric deal site posting a HoCo deal!  Kudos to VictoriaGPub for playing!

Friday Morning (Late) Links!!

I am still technically on vacation.  Jane was a little peeved that I had the work computer out yesterday (and will again today), but I am trying to sneak up on the work that awaits me in the office.  Thankfully, the vacation appears to have gone off without "incident", which means my Out-of-Office Assistant in Outlook worked (last time, it did not...and the result was horrible) and none of the partners presumed I was joking when I said "I will be out of town next week."

Enough about work, lets get back to some links:

The Baltimore Sun is fascinated by the Dem Primary for the Baltimore County Executive Ticket...and so am I.  Bartenfelder appears to have taken on the archetype of a populist farmer in order to allow voters to impute whatever warm feelings they may have for such an individual.  While this guy certainly has an agricultural background, he's been working in some sort of legislative capacity for 28 years.  Not exactly a "I jes wanna git up to City Hawl and tewl deese boys whuts goin owne with arr peepill."  That's not saying farmers are uneducated (or talk like that), in fact, a lot of today's farmers have more degrees and education than your average professor, but Bartenfelder is certainly taking the "Good Ole Boy" approach when I don't think it should be applicable.  Run on ya dang record.

Larry Carson covers the Diversity Beer Summit...without using the word beer.  Interesting choice of language: "The lack of diversity on Columbia's governing boards is less an issue than a symptom of the racial divide, a group of about 35 of the town's residents were told Thursday night as they gathered to discuss hidden feelings and bridge cultural gaps."  Um, I think you missed the point, Larry.  I wasn't there, but I don't think anyone was "told" anything (unless the Summit missed its purpose).  This was a discussion intended to lead to some greater understanding.  Not a Diversity in the Workplace instructional video.  Now, to see how much of a HoCo Political junkie you REALLY are, there are at least two Ulman Staffers hidden in Larry's article.  See how long it takes you to find them.

Doris Russell is faster than you in the water.  And she's 90.  Congrats Doris!

No matter your party affiliation, if you don't see Ulysses Currie's continued service in the Maryland State Senate as a embarrassing symptom of single party rule in Maryland, then you and I probably don't see eye to eye on much.  Also, Maryland GOP, maybe instead of burning witches like Doug Gansler you can seek to impeach a real criminal.

Officer Salvatore "You From the Cownie" Rivieri has been fired, but residents want him back.  I expect a certain amount of decorum and professionalism from those who are asked to serve and protect.  We have seen too many examples of police officers that allow their position of authority to get to their head.  I also believe that those who serve honorably are not thanked enough for the "stuff" they have to put up with.  All that said, Officer Rivieri had to go.

You naughty snowbirds.  You should have been shoveling out the bus stops and fire hydrants!

Who put CA in charge of the Howard Building reconstruction?

The issue of the apparent non-theft from the Howard County Animal Welfare Society (from which we adopted our second dog, Baxter) reads like a Maryland Bar Exam question.  It is a true shame.  Hopefully, Ms. Levine wins her civil suit to take over the shelter.

HowChow thinks Strapazza may have closed along Route 108 (in the Palace Shopping Center).  I have not eaten there since getting sick over a round of Seafood Diablo.  (Seafood will certainly be the end of me when all the chips are counted).

Sarah is back from her C&O trip and has received her most recent CSA drop.

WB attended a business seminar at the NSA that was planned by one of my friends.  I'm glad it went off well and that they told you "nuh-sing."

Columbia 2.0 has been busy with the posts recently, so I will just link to their front page and suggest you peruse the past 3-4 posts.

My brother is engaged.  I wasn't going to post anything about it until he changed his status on Facebook, which I presume makes it public knowledge.  This kid has some nerve.  He is already hosting a housewarming party the day after his birthday (double rainbow) and now I also need to get him an engagement present (TRIPLE RAINBOW).  All kidding aside, I am very excited, and that's why I posted it here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

25.45 Beer Summit TONIGHT!!

At least two readers don't need a further description than "beer summit" BUT ExploreHoward has a good piece on the event, which takes place tonight at Howard Community College.  The Summit is planned to discuss "Diversity of Civic Leadership" (aka Larry Carson's July article that tickled everyone's britches).  As much as I would love to be there, I just have too much "catching up" between work, home chores, and a planned epic gathering of old college friends this weekend.

However, those of you that don't have a work computer loaded with 113 unanswered e-mails, please attend and let me know how it goes.

HCR Signing Back On

Hi Everybod-day!  I'm back from the cruise ship and am honestly happy to be home.  The vacation was great, although tainted by a brief bout of food poisoning (do NOT eat a mal-colored shrimp!  Especially if your wife tells you not to!  The latter will lead to a horrible day, paired with "I told you not to eat that").  This vacation was a "family trip" and it was nice to catch up with my brother and parents.  And, as always, it was great to spend time with Jane (without two over-anxious dogs barking at every doorbell).

I've read over a number of Trevor's posts and your comments.  I think he did a tremendous job (although I can't believe my favorite [and personal number 1] restaurant Victoria Gastro Pub didn't make the Top Ten list!!).  I know that the concept of a multi-author blog has been tried (unsuccessfully) before, but I have offered to keep Trevor's access open if he wants to continue to blog on this site.  I think he has a strong, well-informed "voice", and there is an automatic audience here for him to interact with.  No foul if Trevor decides to start his own site to experience the enjoyment of planting something and seeing it grow, but I truly appreciated his efforts over this past week, and want to keep them going.

Now, I have a lot of HoCo news to digest.  Can anyone offer Cliff Notes for the past five days?

Trevor's Top 5 Primary Endorsements

Note: These endorsements do NOT represent the opinions of HoCoRising, the River Hill Village Board or any other organization or group. These endorsements are Trevor's and Trevor's alone.

Your regular writer, HCR, will be back with us very soon. I've had a great time blogging, and in my short time doing so, have learned a great deal. What I learned, primarily, is that blogging is a lot of work! It takes a good deal of time, effort and creativity to come up with these posts. I really respect all the bloggers out there. In most cases, you are making this sacrifice without any pay or compensation.

And now, for my post. As you may be aware, early primary voting starts September 3rd. I have had the opportunity to learn a great deal about various local issues, and have had the opportunity to meet many local candidates over the last few months. I give so much credit to anyone who has the chutzpah to run for political office. It is a ton of work (a lot more than writing a blog, believe it or not), and you are putting yourself out there subject to criticism and ridicule. If you somehow go and get yourself elected, suddenly you have the added burden of governing. If I endorse you or not, I respect and admire ALL candidates for public office. To all candidates, thank you for your hard work!

These are my endorsements for the primaries, not the general election. Perhaps I'll do general election endorsements as well, we'll see. I have not followed the school board election well enough to include it in these rankings. I'll leave those endorsements to wordbones.

As I see it, these 5 races are ranked in order from least significant to most significant.

5. Judge of the Orphans' Court - Democrat - Nicole Bormel Miller

Voters can vote for up to 3 people in the Orphans' Court election. Nicole Bormel Miller is the only candidate I know, and I throw my full support behind her candidacy. Many years ago, Nicole and I went to preschool together. Nicole now has a family of her own. She is a true Howard Countyan, as she graduated from River Hill High School, and decided to come back and raise her family here. She is an extremely kind person, and I see her doing a fantastic job as one of the three Judges of the Orphans' Court

4. House of Delegates - District 13 - Republican - Ed Priola, Jeffrey Robinson

This district comprises the southern half of Howard County, including Highland, Fulton, Hammond, Laurel, Savage, Elkridge, River Hill, Kings Contrivance, Owen Brown, Oakland Mills, and Long Reach. I have had the opportunity to meet both of these candidates, and see them speak during the League of Women Voter forum. After meeting them, and learning about their backgrounds, desires, and attitudes towards our state, I volunteered to help both of their campaigns. Ed Priola is an incredibly dedicated individual. He has been working on his campaign full time. He has a great message of promoting term limits for state legislators. Jeff Robinson is incredibly kind and clearly shows great leadership traits. Both of these gentlemen preach a message of fiscal restraint, supporting small businesses, and reduced taxes. These are exactly the type of people we need in Annapolis to set our state straight.

3. House of Delegates - District 12 B - Democrat - John Bailey

This is an important race for the status of our state and county. District 12 B consists of Hickory Ridge, Harper's Choice, Wilde Lake, Town Center and parts of Dorsey Search. I am supporting John Bailey. He also is a lifelong Howard Countyan, graduating from Atholton High School. He currently serves on the Hickory Ridge Village Board, which I can tell you, is an excellent position to be educated on the issues that are important to the voters. Similar to Ed Priola, John supports term limits for legislators. If they are both elected, I could see them working together as a show of bipartisanship on this issue. John Bailey understands the needs of business owners and young people. He does not want to spend his time in Annapolis on his own personal pet issues, but rather, would prefer to do his best to make this state great for all. He is a supporter of downtown Columbia redevelopment, which leads us to...

2. County Council - District 4 - Democrat - Mary Kay Sigaty

County Council District 4 contains the areas of Dorsey Search, Wilde Lake, Town Center, Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge, River Hill, Clarksville, and Fulton. Mary Kay Sigaty is my representative on the County Council. What I mean is she represents my views, and does her best to make sure she understands my views, and the views of all the residents before she makes a decision. Prior to working towards the unanimous passage of the downtown Columbia redevelopment plan, Mary Kay held literally dozens of meetings with concerned citizens. She sought input from all the stakeholders. After reading and rereading CB-58 and 59, until I understood them well, I realized that Mary Kay really listened to her constituents, and helped pass a bill that will provide the most positive for the most people, while allowing our community to grow in the most positive manner possible. She clearly understands the issues in our community.

At a recent River Hill Board meeting at which Mary Kay was in attendance, some members of the community raised the issue that open space near their homes was being utilized in a manner for which it was not designed. Even though it was not requested of her, the very next day Mary Kay went to the area, toured it, and discussed it with her staff, so she would understand the residents' concerns. This shows her commitment to understanding our community. I do not necessarily agree with Mary Kay's stance on every issue, but I do know that before she makes a decision she will come to us, the residents, and listen, get input, and make a decision that will benefit us the most.

1. State Senate - District 13 - Republican - Jody Venkatesan

In Maryland, the Democrats in the state senate have a filibuster-proof majority. As we all know, one party rule does not usually result in good government. Do the Democrats have the correct answers to all our problems? No. Do the Republicans have the correct answers to all our problems? No. The government that governs best, is the one that governs under the principle of compromise. There is no compromise in our state government, as it is currently set up. What needs to be done is the most extreme representatives of the ruling party need to be jettisoned in favor of more moderate, forward thinking members of the other party. Jody Venkatesan is an individual that could serve to balance the power in Annapolis, and foster a sense of compromise and bipartisanship.

Jody is a family man and a military veteran. He has a wealth of experience as an auditor, meaning, he is an expert at finding inefficiencies and fixing them. This is exactly the skill that is needed right now in our state government. If you get the chance to meet him, or see him speak, you will know that Jody understands the issues that are important to Howard County residents.

It is time for a return to fiscal responsibility in our state. You cannot simply raise sales tax, raise fees on businesses, raise income taxes, raise corporate taxes, and raise liquor taxes if you expect to grow an effective economy. The only reason our state does not have a worse economy is the constant presence of the federal government in our back yard. But, the economy is not great. We need to elect individuals like Jody, who preach a message of improving the economic situation in our state by improving the efficiency of our government, and reducing taxes. For all of these reasons, I am strongly supporting Jody Venkatesan in the upcoming primary. Additionally, I will be attending his fundraiser with Kendel Ehrlich this Saturday evening. I would love to meet the blog readers, so anyone who is there, come by and say hi!

This is it for my blog posting. I'll gladly hand the reigns back to HCR. I will continue to check the comments under my posts, so if you'd like to leave a comment, criticism or discussion point, I would be very happy! Thank you so much for reading my posts over these last few days.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Primary Date... Why so Late?

This is something I've been wanting to write about, and I consider it a big issue. It is a time of war. We have troops overseas fighting to protect our freedom. Just like every valid U.S. citizen, the soldiers should have the right to vote. Unfortunately, due to the date of our state's primary election, many soldiers will not be able to exercise this right.

In October 2009, President Obama signed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment (MOVE) Act into law. This law stipulates that the states must provide military and other personnel overseas with ballots at least 45 days before the general election. This year, the primary and general elections in Maryland are 48 days apart. The state of Maryland requested a waiver so they would not have to comply with this law (I wish I could ask for a waiver to not comply with certain laws... but that's a different blog topic). They requested a waiver as the election board correctly claims that there is not enough time to print ballots and mail them out to our overseas service men and women.

So, how could this problem have been solved? Simply by moving up the primary date. As it is, only one state (Hawaii) has it's primary on a later date than Maryland.

When this law was passed, O'Malley and the Democratic Majority in the State House and State Senate had months to pass a bill to move the primaries up. Why didn't they vote to move the date up? I see two reasons:

1. State law says members of the House of Delegates and State Senate cannot raise money while they are in session. The session this year lasted from January through mid-April. If the primary was held in June, that would leave incumbents with scarcely 3 months to raise campaign funds.
2. Our state is completely controlled by Democrats. They have the governor's seat, and a filibuster-proof majority in the both chambers of our legislature. It is well known that members of the military tend to vote more for the GOP. Of course, the Dems want to do everything they can to make sure they stay in power, including making it difficult for our military men and women to get ballots in a timely fashion and exercise their right to vote.

Another piece of fallout from having the primary so close to the general election is that it keeps challengers from having any real chance against incumbents. People comment on this blog that it seems like challengers have raised barely any funds relative to incumbents. There is a reason for this. People often do not want to donate money to a politician until they know they will be their party's candidate. That means they will often not donate until after the primaries. This causes challengers to face the double edge sword of both raising money and trying to get their message out to voters in 48 days.

What can be done about this? Well, hopefully Maryland can comply with Federal Law in the future, and move their primary date up to make it more reasonable for overseas personnel to vote in a timely manner. I think this will only happen if there is some balance in the parties in Annapolis, both in the legislative and executive branch.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Something happened today that perfectly illustrates why Obamacare is disastrous for the quality of our health care.

A little background first. Both my wife and I are health care workers. I am a dentist, and my wife is an occupational therapist. We both work in clinical settings, treating patients every day. I deal with many insurance companies. My wife works in a senior assisted living facility and works heavily with Medicare.

After graduating from OT school, my wife worked in several positions until she found her current job. She loves her current place of employment. Her coworkers are kind and caring, the patients are motivated and positive and she is fairly compensated for her work. At least she was till today. Today, at a company wide teleconference meeting, all of the employees were told that they would now have to work several holidays and many weekends without any additional compensation.

Why is this? Well, due to the decrease in medicare reimbursements legislated by Obamacare, the company stands to lose millions of dollars if they do not make their employees work more hours.

"So what, I don't have medicare. Why should I care" you ask? Well, you should care, and I'll tell you why. With reductions in Medicare reimbursements companies, like my wife's, will force employees to work harder, under less ideal conditions, with reduced pay and benefits. Many of the more skilled employees will quit, to work at other places that are fee-for-service, and do not have the same limitation on what they can charge patients. The quality of care will plummet as these skilled employees are replaced with unskilled, more inexpensive employees. Think this is only going to happen to seniors with medicare? Think again.

The Obamacare bill is so massive and convoluted that, over the next few years, literally every aspect of health care will be affected in a negative manner. This is a time when our economy is in worse shape than at any other point in our lives. This is a time when our population is aging, and baby boomers want to retire. This is a time when our deficit is so massive that every US citizen is responsible for $44,000 in debt. This is not a time to enact a jobs killing, health destroying, government takeover of our health care. And that is exactly what it is. Tell me one example of anything the government has taken over and done a better job of than the private sector. The only one I can think of is when we built the Panama Canal, 100 years ago.

Do I know and understand everything that is in the health care bill? Absolutely not. Did Senators Mikulski, Senator Cardin, Congressman Cummings or Congressman Sarbanes know and understand everything that was in the health care bill when they all voted in favor of it's passage? Absolutely not!. Do I, and thousands of other health care workers understand what the bill will do to ruin health care better than our Senators and Representatives? Absolutely. Did those Senators and Representatives pass this bill, ignoring the advice, wants, and needs of literally millions of Americans? Absolutely.

Do yourself, your wallet, and your health a favor on November 2nd, and vote against Senator Mikulski, Congressman Cummings and Congressman Sarbanes.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Top 10 HoCo Places to Eat

Warning! Do not read the following blog post if you are hungry... actually, on second thought, only read the following post if you are hungry.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for any gastronomic overindulgence that may result from reading the following post.

And, with that, I present to you, "Trevor's Official Top 10 Places to Eat in Howard County, MD."

10. Tersiguel's - I have only been here twice, but it still makes the top ten list. The first time I went there was for my senior prom. I was so unsophisticated, I had to ask the waiter what a tenderloin was (I saw "loin" and got really worried). My second time at Tersiguel's was with my wife for our first wedding anniversary. It blew us away with the little touches, such as the way the chef's father (and I believe original owner) greeted us at the door and made us Crepes Suzette table-side, to the impeccable service, to the way they gave us little packages of shortbread as a gift when we left. I certainly is not inexpensive, but for a special occasion, you absolutely get what you pay for.

9. Crossroads Pub - My theory with crabs is the less glamorous and more off the beaten path a crab place is, the better the crabs will be. Crossroads is way off the beaten path, and is definitely not glamorous. This has the best local crabs in my opinion. Go there on a beautiful summer day with a group of family or friends, get a few beers, and a big ol' pile of crabs, and I guarantee you will have a good time.

8. The Meadows - The newest place on the list. This is a chain, with about 15 locations around rural Pennsylvania and Maryland. The Columbia location opened about a month ago in the Hickory Ridge Village Center. Until recently, our standby for cold dessert was Rita's in Kings Contrivance or Harper's Choice. But, The Meadows has overtaken Rita's as the place to go to fulfill that sweet tooth craving. My favorite thing is The Turtle, a combination of vanilla custard, caramel, hot fudge and pecans. Be warned though, it is not easy to finish The Turtle on your own and not get in a sugar coma about 15 minutes after.

7. Clyde's - This place is a Columbia icon. As far back as I can remember, my family has been going to Clyde's to celebrate special occasions. In my opinion, it is quite possibly the best first date restaurant in Howard County. You take your date there at about 6pm, on a nice Saturday Evening. Eat a crab cake or two. After dinner, you walk around the lakefront and feed the ducks. If a band is playing, grab a blanket from your car, sit down, and enjoy. If the night gets cold, put your arm around your date. Bam! Guaranteed second date. Clyde's bonus factoid: You can order off the Tomato Palace menu at Clyde's and off the Clyde's menu at Tomato Palace, as they share the same kitchen. (Knowing this makes you an official Columbian. Congrats, you are now officially a Columbian!)

6. China Chef - Over the years, my taste in HoCo Chinese Food has changed dramatically. Growing up, my family loved the place in the Kings Contrivance Village Center. Sadly, in recent years, the quality of that restaurant has fallen. As we got older, Hunan Manor became the place to go. Eventually, Hunan Manor also declined dramatically in quality. Now, our go to place is China Chef. I am a big fan of the Chicken with Cashews. The Mrs. likes the "Hunan Chicken Not Spicy," as she orders it. We always get Chicken Creme of Corn Soup (basically Eggdrop soup with chicken in it). It is very much regular ol' Chinese food, but they are consistently great quality. If you eat there, they give you warm towels, orange slices and lemon sorbet after your meal.

5. House of India - I have three words for you. Meal. For. Two. Go there with more than two people, probably 3-4, and order the Meal for Two (just one Meal for Two for 3-4 people). Trust me, you will not be disappointed. The staff is incredibly friendly and the food is delicious. My favorite dish is the Vegetable Korma, which comes in the Meal for Two. With the meal for two you get Lentil Soup, choice of several different proteins, excellent bread, amazing rice, the aforementioned Vegetable Korma, and rice pudding. If you order a Meal for Two for two people, you will have enough leftovers to last for 4 more meals.

4. Coal Fire Pizza - My favorite pizza place in HoCo. Honorable mention to Pasta Blitz, Trattoria E Pizzeria, and Facci. Of all these places, Coal Fire take the pie (hehe, get it?). The pizza has a great thin, crispy crust. The toppings and cheese are clearly extremely fresh. And the sauce... man the sauce is what does it for me. My favorites are the Rustic Read, and the Margarita. We are great friends with the bartender Breina, and always sit at the bar, so I have never actually sat in the restaurant part. If you go to the bar, tell Breina I say, "hi."

3. Bon Fresco - The place to go if you want a sandwich or salad. The bread, especially the ciabatta, is out of this world. I usually get the Turkey Platter, which comes in a bowl with greens, humus, olive tapenade, Israeli couscous, turkey breast and a nice loaf of ciabatta. Delicious and healthy. Well, it's healthy until you get one of their fudgy, thick, chocolaty brownies. I am so happy Bon Fresco appears to be growing in popularity quickly, because I hope it stays around for years to come.

2. Sushi King - The runner up for best place to eat in HoCo, but the winner of my absolute favorite dish in HoCo. My favorite dish in HoCo is the Vegetarian Delight Roll. I love classic raw fish sushi as much as the next guy, but something about the Vegetarian Delight Roll just makes me so happy. I'm not sure if it the awesome combination of textures, crunchy, soft, and smooth, that you get in each bite. Or perhaps it is the unbelievable dipping sauce that comes with it. Often, the Mrs. and I will each get our own Vegetarian Delight Roll, because they are just too good to share! Really though, all of their special rolls are excellent. For an entertaining culinary experience sit at the sushi bar and watch the chefs create edible works of art right in front of you.

And now, the winner of my favorite place in HoCo to eat... drumroll please....

1. Maiwand Kabob - I have seen Maiwand grow and mature over the last few years, and I feel like it has reached the HoCo culinary peak. There are many places that do kabobs well in HoCo, but none do them as well as Maiwand. My favorite meal there is the chicken kabob. I usually get the pumpkin appetizer to replace the salad in my meal. It costs a dollar more, but I feel it is a dollar well spent. I also really enjoy the kofta kabob. Everything is great about Maiwand. The kabobs are always perfectly cooked. The bread is always extremely fresh (as in, they took it out of the Tandori oven about 20 seconds before they hand it to you), and the rice is soft and flavorful. I give Maiwand a lot of credit for taking the risk and opening up in the Harper's Choice Village Center when it was still relatively blighted. Along with Rita's and the renovated Safeway, Maiwand is probably responsible for much of the revitalization of that Village Center.

There are many more awesome places to eat in HoCo. I could probably do a top 30 list if I really tried. I am excited, because I know many new places will open in the future. Perhaps I'll have to come back in a year, and update this list.


Links, please. Why not?

So, I woke up this morning, turned on my Iphone, and popped on HoCoRising for my usual morning activity of looking at the links to get the day's news. I realized I was having a "moment" as I AM HoCoRising this week, and unless I sleep-blogged the night before, there were not going to be any links waiting for me.

I decided it is my duty to at least put some links, with some commentary. Here goes:

The George Howard Building renovations are almost complete. It looks like the current council will meet there September 7th. The current members of the council will have at least a little while in their new and improved permanent home before the election. An interesting quote, " The entire project cost about $40 million, Irvin said. The sale of surplus county property will leave an estimated $7 million debt to resolve in the 2012 budget."

One piece of county property the county is in the process of selling to fund the George Howard Building renovations is the Gateway School Site, across 108 from the River Hill Village Center. I often wonder about the logic of selling that prime real-estate right in the middle of one of the most depressed real estate markets of our lives. On the other hand, I am excited to see what gets built at that site. Everyone involved has been very hush-hush on the sale, and will continue to be so until everything is finalized. Some details have leaked out. The group negotiating with the county is called "GreenStone Ventures." There was a lengthy bid process, where a group of citizens appointed by Ken Ulman heard different proposals, and picked the GreenStone Ventures proposal. What is interesting about this proposal is the emphasis on "Environment Sustainability." I'm not exactly sure what that means, but it sounds pioneering

The redevelopment of the Gateway School Site, the passage last year of CB-29-2009 (the Village Center Redevelopment bill), along with meetings we had with Mary Kay, pushed the River Hill Village Board towards forming a Master Planning Committee. This committee, comprised of an amazing group of talented and involved River Hill residents is seeking to make a Master Plan to help guide future development in the River Hill area. The committee is meeting this upcoming Wednesday to decide what area to focus on. My hunch, is that the focus of the Master Plan will be along route 108 from Trotter Road (near RH High School) down past Ten Oaks Road (around the St. Louis Church and the proposed Funeral Home). I could go on and on about this master plan committee, but suffice it to say that the committee is planning on doing everything it can to obtain advice, commentary, and suggestions from the residents of the River Hill and Clarksville communities, the business and property owners along 108 and any other interested stakeholders.

In a race that will become very interesting as we get closer to the election, Watson and Flanagan traded barbs at each other. I think those involved in local politics will see Watson as somewhat of a moderate. It was quite smart of her to vote cut funds to the Healthy Howard Access Plan. Those not involved in politics (which is probably at least 75% of county residents) will see the D next to Watson's name and think twice about voting for an incumbent.

Anyone who reads this blog already saw all the numbers that HCR posted a few days ago, but here it is again in Baltimore Sun form. Basically, the article is saying that incumbents have alot more money than challengers. It is really shocking, just how little money some challengers have. Some challengers are having fund raisers very soon, though. Jody Venkatasen is having a fund raiser with Kendel Ehrlich this upcoming Saturday. As you know, I gave Jody my "winner of the Night" award in my famous (infamous?) LOWV Forum review. I was not involved in his campaign before that night, but I am now. If you are at all interested in local politics, and would like to help get someone elected that will be great for the small business community, great for jobs and great for fiscal responsibility, I strongly urge you attend his fund raiser. If you go, tell them you decided to go because you read it here.

That is it for this morning. Perhaps someone with blogging experience can help me. I can't get discus to work. I can't even find anywhere to turn it on. Any Suggestions?


Saturday, August 21, 2010

HoCo blogging and me

So, before I get into meatier issues, I would like to tell the story of how I got interested in local blogs. In order to tell the story, I'll have to give some biographical details about myself. I've noticed many of the local bloggers are quite secretive with their identities. You already know my first name, and with other info I'll tell about myself, it shouldn't be too hard to figure out who I am. In fact, at some point, I think HCR posted a link to my businesses webpage, complete with a picture and personal biography.

In 2007, after graduating from our respective grad schools and getting married, my wife and I decided it was time to buy a townhouse. We were living in Owen Brown, getting used to life together. My wife grew up in Hickory Ridge, and I grew up in Long Reach and Kings Contrivance. Our parents still live in Columbia. Many people, upon getting married, have a tough decision to make. "Should we live near his parents on one side of the country or her parents on the other, or should we live in between?" My wife and I had it easy. It wasn't a matter of where in the USA we were going to live, it was a matter of, "Where in Columbia are we going to live?" We settled on River Hill, a decision I am proud to say, we do not regret in the slightest bit.

I felt we were so lucky to live in such an awesome place that I decided I had to give back in some way. I decided to join the River Hill Village Board, and try to do my best to help our community continue to maintain its status as a positive, great place.

I am the type of person who goes into nothing half-hearted. Before I do a fantasy football draft, I study players for literally weeks. Prior to joining the Village Board, I wanted to make the same commitment to understanding Columbia. Even though I am a life-long Columbian, I still needed to study more.

My first step was reading "Better Places, Better Lives: A Biography of James Rouse." This book is the most comprehensive, in depth, and well written book on both Rouse and the development of Columbia. I feel this book should be required reading for any HoCo Politico from a Village Board member, through a local blogger, up to the County Executive and state representatives.

Once I understood Columbia's past I needed to understand Columbia's present and it's future. I started a quest to read local blogs. The first blog I found was Tales of Two Cities. From Wordbones, and frequent commenters on his blog, I learned about the passionate and heartfelt debate that has been going on for several years on the topic of the downtown Columbia development. I also learned about the local HoCo political scene, such as which local politicians are working hard to make our community better and which politicians are working hard to make people want to vote them out of office.

After finding Tales of Two Cities, I came across HowChow. I freakin' love HowChow. It has changed our lives for the better. My wife and I consider ourselves foodies. We have been so many places now because of recommendations from HowChow. We joined the Gorman Farms CSA this year. I eat at Bon Fresco once a week or so. I have become friendly with the owner of Bon Fresco, Gerald, as we commiserate together about the travails of being new business owners. I would support any of the small, family owned businesses HowChow recommends over the big chains any day. Thanks to HowChow, I can now easily find these smaller places, and enjoy their offerings.

Third, I came across HoCoRising. HCR, is my one shop stop for all the local news. Rather than going around finding local news on various websites or in the paper, I know I can go to HCR every morning on my Iphone, and get all the news I need for the day. Thanks to HCR putting this post on his blog, I have met several great individuals that I believe will improve our State immensely if elected, and I have volunteered my time to help their campaigns.

There are several other blogs of note that I read at least once or twice a week. Freemarket offers an interesting take on local issues. This video of Trent and Ken is hilarious. Because of Freemarket, I now know to keep my fingers away from any desks when Shane Pendergrass is around. Frank Hecker offers incredibly in-depth and thorough commentary on today's issues. To be honest, Frank clearly spends more time researching his discussion topics than any other blogger around. Sarah Says provides another perspective on local topics, with a more lighthearted and practical view. I appreciate her CSA reports, as it gives me some ideas of things to do with our produce from Gorman Farms.

I have learned so much from the HoCo blogging community. There are those out there that say that bloggers have no influence. I strongly disagree. It is because of the hard work of all these HoCo bloggers that I have become more involved in our community, and have worked to make Columbia and Howard County continue to be a great place to live. Keep up the good work!


Hello, nice to meet you.

As you now know, our usual captain on this ship we call HoCoRising is off this week. I will do my best to fill in his stead.

Have you ever gone to see a Broadway show, and at the beginning of the show an announcement is made along the lines, "Tonight, the part of Big-Huge-Broadway-Star will be played by Newcomer-Understudy?" Usually the entire audience lets out a collective groan at the likely beating their ears will take over the next couple hours. This is how I imagined the hoco blogosphere feels right now. I will tell you, though, a few times I have had this happen, the Newcomer-Understudy actually went out and did the show in a new and interesting way, and by the end of the show, had completely won over the audience.

I will not do morning links, or wax poetic about Larry Carson's latest offerings. I will offer something different. Call it a chance to try something new. Over the next few days, I plan to write a little about my thoughts on local blogging, local food, local politics and why I LOVE living in HoCo!

The way I see it, the internet has three levels of human interaction, ranked from least impact to most impact:

Level 1: Email
Email is something one sends to just one other person, or perhaps a few other people. The sender has to know the people he/she is sending the emails to, or at least know the receivers' email addresses. If the receiver decides to respond, the response only goes back to the original sender.

Level 2: Facebook and Twitter
Now, we are getting more interactive. On Facebook and Twitter one posts one's thoughts about the world and links to interesting pictures, videos or articles. Facebook and Twitter require other's to "Friend" or "Fan" you in order to read what you post. This is more interactive than email, as one can post a comment, and all of the friends can see the post. Then, if they decide to comment on the post, all of the friends can see each other's comments.

Level 3: Blogs
This is the current (until something else comes along) height of interactivity on the internet. I can post anything I want on this blog. Anyone who has internet access can easily read what I post. If anyone in the audience wants to comment, they can relatively easily write a comment to the blog post that, again, literally anyone with an internet connection can read, and comment on, in turn.

I am excited to say that I have finally reached Level 3! I look forward to having a conversation about HoCo and Maryland issues with you, "The Broadway Audience", over the next few days. Hopefully, by the end of our time together, I can win you over.



It seemed almost appropriate that my Sun Paper hold was scheduled a day too early, leaving me without the Carson Funny Pages on this fine Saturday morning.  The world is telling me "Stop.  Everything.  Now."

Trevor has oriented himself to the command station and should be posting something in the next couple days (or even today?).  I wish all the candidates luck as we head down the home-stretch.

One final note before blue seas and cool drinks:

By the letters to the editor in the Columbia Flier, it looks like the Sigaty/Klein match-up has taken a turn for the "mean."  I will only say this to the Klobo crew (knowing it will be ignored): when you go negative, you are wasting time tearing down, which could be spent building up your candidate.  While I don't agree with the letter, and believe the author to be slightly disingenuous in saying her vote has recently been "swung,"  Ms. Jacobson uses her soapbox to say why Alan Klein would be a good candidate.  Seems like every other letter that references Klein is prefaced by "At least he's not that mean evil horrible despicable corporate lackey Mary Kay Sigaty."  While it may "feel good" to be on the "bully side" of the bully/target dynamic (probably for the first time in your life), it will continue to hurt your cause.

That is certainly hypocritical of me to say in light of "Klobo," but I don't write what I write on behalf of a candidate.  I just think Klobo is funny, and above all things, I try to make this site entertaining. The Letter to the Editor battalion is clearly writing on behalf of Alan Klein.  When you ramp up this level of vitriol, it is very hard to pull back.  If I were Alan, a man who has taught "peace" and "mutual understanding" and "cooperation", I would pull some of my folks aside and say "Hey, if you all like me so much, why don't you tell them why?"

Or is it possible that Alan is just a token.  Maybe that set is just so angry at Mary Kay that they would support anyone.  Maybe anger is all they have.  If someone tells you that you are the messiah enough times, I'm sure you start to believe it.  I think Mary Kay is the victim of a wanna-be political machine, that builds people up, and turns on them in the blink of an eye.  That's why I thought I saw genuine hurt in Mary Kay's eyes at the League of Women Voters Forum.  I wouldn't be able to say who, but there was probably at least one person in a "Alan Klein, He's In It For Us (When He Doesn't Have a Previously Scheduled Engagement)" T-shirt that may have previously chanted "Hot diggity, Vote for Sigaty."  I'm sure that at one time, someone in that room helped flood the Columbia Flier with letters tearing down her opponent.  They probably told her that she was the "one independent voice" that would save Columbia.

Sound familiar Alan?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"You and I Speak Up"

Listen, I really really don't like Keith Olbermann.  This is only because my Mom told me when I was four that it was impolite to "hate" anyone, and that you could "strongly dislike" them instead.

HOWEVER, when you rabble rouser righty rightists raise your fists over the "empty issue of the day," yet have no idea about the practicalities of government, you bastardize a cause that is otherwise legitimate and worthy of respect.  You also open yourself up to someone like Keith Olbermann making a fool of you on national television.

So if you've railed against the "Cordoba House" or suggested on Facebook that this mosque is all about a petty game of capture the flag, you should take the 12 minutes to watch this video.  Unfortunately for you, it is supported with facts, facts that would have been available to you if you had done one or two simple Google searches instead of eating up whatever the talking heads would like to feed you.

Stop giving pompous a-holes like Keith Olbermann the easy outs.

Delegate District 13 Fundraising Numbers

Interesting numbers...

Delegate Guy Guzzone
Prior Balance: $130,567.26
Total Receipts: $26,636.06
Total Expenditures: $27,569.78
Cash On Hand: $129,633.54

Delegate Shane Pendergrass 
Prior Balance: $80,467.09
Total Receipts: $22,673.15
Total Expenditures: $23,639.98
Cash On Hand: $79,500.26

Delegate Frank Turner
Prior Balance: $29,939.56
Total Receipts: $15,010.89
Total Expenditures: $17,932.32
Cash On Hand: $27,018.13

Loretta Gaffney
Prior Balance: $1,310.02
Total Receipts: $2,290.00
Total Expenditures: $2,846.71
Cash On Hand: $753.31

Ed Priola
Prior Balance: $2,546.14
Total Receipts: $14,578.30
Total Expenditures: $6,964.62
Cash On Hand: $10,159.82

Jeff Robinson
Prior Balance: $4,438.12
Total Receipts: $8,528.34
Total Expenditures: $7,391.04
Cash On Hand: $5,575.42

J’Neanne Theus 
Not yet reported online

Explore Howard & You

If there is one thing we can all agree upon it is the value of conversation.  While some may use the comment section below to call me a Snarkapatamus (still my absolute favorite), a back-slapper, a lackey for Wordbones, a co-conspirator with GGP, a co-conspirator with TAG, a RINO, or whatever may cross your keyboard, I have to accept these things because I have chosen to put something out for public consumption.  I have deleted one comment in the past year and a half, and that comment was clearly written by a drunkard who was accusing random people of gang-rape.  I just didn't think that should stay.

If you read my link post this morning, I addressed the fact that our own WildeLakeMike had posted a comment on an ExploreHoward Op-Ed piece by Doug Miller, criticizing the paper for failing to post certain letters to the editor, and editing others to distort the message.  There were no profanities.  No names were called.  Those that know Mike know that it would be completely out of character for him to post such things anyway.  If you click on the link above, you will see that comment is gone.  This criticism was continued under another "article" titled "Letters," which is also now gone.

In response, I posted the following on Twitter:  "@explorehoward What's up with the censorship? First LTE, now comments? Bad form."

ExploreHoward responded: @hocorising DM us or call to tell us more details on your concern. Our number is on our twitter page ext 1262

For some reason, I couldn't DM them, but before I could call, they posted again: Explorehoward.com reserves right to edit letters to editors & please read our Terms of Service on removing comments. http://bit.ly/axDsoO

I followed: @explorehoward You certainly have that right, but the comment at issue was not offensive in any way. It just criticized the paper...curious.

Look, I don't like criticizing the one publisher that gives a rudy patootie about the HoCo blog scene, but I don't get how they will allow just about any public figure to be called everything in the book, but yet a couple comments criticizing the paper get waxed.  Certainly, letters like the one sent by Ms. Hayes about a grammar goof should be appreciated, but Mike was talking about larger issues of "directing the conversation," which is much more important to me than Eats Shoots and Leaves.

County Council Fundraising Numbers

This has been a work in progress for the past couple days, but I'm not going to wait on the late filers any longer.  As more numbers come in, I will update and repost.

Council District 1

Courtney Watson
Prior Balance: $76,886.48
Total Receipts: $27,302.00
Total Expenditures:  $32,657.64
Cash On Hand: $71,510.84

Bob Flanagan
Prior Balance: $1,218.58
Total Receipts: $16,531.00
Total Expenditures: $11,189.31
Cash On Hand: $6,560.27

Council District 2
(Calvin Ball has $56,956.73 to throw the coolest Primary Results party of all time.)

Council District 3

Jen Terrasa
Prior Balance: $50,407.02
Total Receipts: $4,210.00
Total Expenditures: $1,476.51
Cash On Hand: $53,140.51

Dennis Schrader
Prior Balance: $9,800.00
Total Receipts: $35,066.65
Total Expenditures: $10,913.32
Cash On Hand: $33,953.33

Council District 4

Mary Kay Sigaty
Prior Balance: $13,729.59
Total Receipts: $23,060.00
Total Expenditures: $7,261.33
Cash On Hand: $29,528.26

Alan Klein
Prior Balance: $0
Total Receipts: $9,218.00
Total Expenditures: $1,895.56
Cash On Hand: $7,322.44

Tom D'Asto
No 2010 Candidacy Entry.  (??)

Council District 5

Greg Fox
No report

Zaneb Beams, M.D.
Prior Balance: $0
Total Receipts: $5,780.00
Total Expenditures: $110.07
Cash On Hand: $5,669.93

Thursday Links

The good thing about a week "coming on strong" is that the clumsy son of a gun can't help but also come on fast.  This week is blazing by and I can only hope that I am taking care of everything I need to take care of before I coast into the vacation. 

Trevor has agreed to guest post a few times while I am away.  Frequent readers know that Trevor is a strong writer with some interesting ideas and is not one to just "tow the party line."  He is a little bit right of me (which will be a relief for some), but his comments and my conversations with him indicate that he will be fair.  I will leave any further introduction, as far as biography, profession, etc., to him.  Most importantly, he will add to the conversation and I hope you all take advantage of that.  I look forward to seeing how this goes.


When you are an earlier buyer for luxury condominiums in a down economy, you almost have to expect that you will be undersold before the complex is full, right?

Despite being close in amounts raised, Ehrlich had more donors at smaller amounts than O'Malley.  Ehrlich's average donor contributed $169.  O'Malley's average donor: $342.  Kinda messes with the whole "rich guy" paradigm of the Republican party, huh?  EVEN BETTER, with all of O'Malley's "lobbyist" attacks, it is interesting to find out that he has taken in $600,000 in out of state money, to Ehrlich's $351,827.  I guess all that money is from your grandparents who moved out of state, eh Martin?  You don't know a Rafael Valez-Dominguez, do you?  (I don't plan on giving up on Mr. Valez anytime soon, so if someone knows the scoop, please pass it on.)

Bernstein has raised a lot (x 5) more money than Jessamy.  Maybe the police commissioner does get to keep his job...

I didn't think you had to be a lawyer to know that "Giant Homemade Slide" was a bad idea.

Charges in the Bear Bear case have been filed...and they aren't much.  I think the bigger penalties will be on the administrative side when people decide whether this nut-job gets to keep his job after firing his weapon in a dog park and killing a family pet. 

This story about Candidate Matulonis's (no website?) phone and firearm being stolen from his truck sounds incredibly suspicious.  So you're telling me that Mr. Goods saw nothing of interest in your truck...yet broke the window, and continuing to find nothing...somehow got into your locked "concealed compartment" where your department issued firearm was held.  Riiiiiiiiiiiight.  How about this: You left your firearm and your phone on your passenger seat.  He broke the window.  Took it.  Ran.

It appears that Patuxent has an issue with comment deletion.  Frequent reader Wildelakemike posted a comment on this op-ed yesterday, criticizing the paper for not publishing letters to the editor on the web version of the site.  I know he posted this comment because I read it and was like "Yeah, jerks."  Today, the comment is gone, and the letters are still not published.  Hmm.

Sarah posts about her most recent CSA drop and our "interesting" lunch (yes, a big lady did rip upon us one epic fart.  I don't mean to be crass, but that happened and you have a right to know).

HowChow finds another gas station that serves tasty fish.  You know, HC, you keep down this line and you may be running yourself right into a Darwin Awards nomination.

That's all for today.  I expect to have some time to breathe today, so I may get to post this afternoon...but I doubt it.  I hope you all are enjoying this wacky weather and are ready for Fall because it is a-comin'.  And with it brings footbal.  Duh-nuh-nuh  Duh-nuh-nuh.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Onward and Upward (Wednesday Links)

It figures that the biggest political news day for the past month is the day that I have to run around our great state to take and defend over six hours of depositions.  That was exhausting.  I posted a little link set yesterday with a run down of some of the most interesting fundraising numbers. 

For those who are e-mailing me tips, please keep them coming.  I can't promise I will post everything, but I will try to get as much relevant information as possible out for conversation.


Seems as if SRB is blaming the landlord at Madison Park North (i.e., Murder Mall) for its current state.  I'm not sure if that's the reason MPN is being shut down.  Lexington Terrace was another structure that ended up being the embodiment of crime in Baltimore City, so it was razed.  Now we have another structure that can be pointed to as the source of Baltimore City ills and blow it up.  I have a hard time saying this is the landlord's fault as much as one more symptom of Baltimore's larger problems.

The Baltimore County Executive Race is a Battle of Millions.  Better hope you don't have to run against them when you shoot for higher office, eh Ken?

Congratulations to the Howard County police for busting a car theft ring that was responsible for the theft of at least five vehicles.  Most interesting is that five of those facing charges live in Columbia.  Normally, the presumption is that car theft involves the mean nasties coming down from Baltimore to steal our stuff.  Now, it's in our backyard.

Only one conviction for Blagojevich?  One?!?!  They had him on tape saying that a Senate seat is a very valuable thing and that he wasn't going to give it away for nothing.  He was convicted of lying to the FBI, which has a maximum sentence of five years, but is essentially perjury (and we all saw how severe that punishment can be).

You insular Columbians may not be aware of this, but there is a war going on along Route 40.  A tart frozen yogurt war.  Over the past five years or so, we have seen one, then two, then three, and now apparently FOUR tart yogurt (it's not just frozen yogurt) spots along the "place you don't talk about at parties" (aka Route 40).  HowChow breaks it down.

Sarah is proud of her alma maters.  Since Jane went to UMBC for grad school, I am proud too!  (This means Jane gets paid more money, right?)

Oh Liz.  Why oh why would you embolden our dear Wordbones by clearly citing his blog in response to questions by reporters?  Do you have any idea how happy you've made him?  Even more interesting to me is that despite Liz saying that she was brought to this endorsement partly due to a post on a blog, Larry Carson did not deign to mention it in his article.  Methinks the reporter doth protest too much.

Anyone interesting in guest blogging next week?  I love you guys, but 35 cents a minute to use the Cruise Ship WiFi just isn't happening for me.  I would really like to see Trevor take this on...

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We're Coming To Execute (Tuesday Night Links)

(That's right, Tuesday Night Links)

You think Ken had murder on his mind? -- “We’re executing a plan to execute our vision,” he said, refusing to elaborate on his plans to spend the money.  Violence inherent in the system, that's what I always say.  Ken: $713,424.  Trent: $23,295.

Here's Larry Carson's spin on the Bobo endorsement of Alan Klein.  So can we think of a Brangilina type name for them?  I propose Klobo.  By the way, as someone who has paid way way too much attention to local politics, you have to love the subtitle (is that what real journalists call it?): Downtown Columbia redevelopment becoming major issue in race.  In other news, Gay Marriage is becoming a major issue in California.  This endorsement is said to have "formalized" the support she's been giving Klein all along.  Apparently none of our HoCo journalists had the intestinal fortitude to ask "Why the secret?  Why just come out now?"

Genuine Question: Does this article say that Alan Klein moved to Columbia in 2004

Either way, Alan should be congratulated for raising a significant sum of money.  His campaign reports raising $9,218.00 from 48 contributors in the most recent 2010 report.

Mary Kay Sigaty, however, has raised $23,060 from 153 contributors (unclear what she may have already had in the bank).  This includes $2,500 from the firefighters PAC (looks like sprinklers work for some) and $590 from the Realtors PAC.

(No report for Tom D'Asto [that I can find]).

Liz Bobo reports raising $17,231.08, which includes $2,400 from unions.

John Bailey reports $3,840.70.

Bob Flanagan reports $16,531, including $500 from Builders and Contractors PAC and $250 from WMDA (?).

Courtney Watson reports $27,302, including $750 from the police and firefighters unions.

The rest of the campaigns have not had their reports processed (at least not on both sides).  Frankly, I don't even know if I'm reporting these numbers correctly (I'm using "total contributions"), but you are more than welcome to check my work.

SURPRISE! Liz Endorses Klein

Being accountable to nothing more than a "low bar for respectability" I can tell you that the word on the street is that Liz Bobo endorsed Alan Klein for County Council at a press conference held this morning at her home.  Reportedly, Larry Carson was present, so we can expect a story from him as soon as he maneuvers around his much higher bar for respectability.

In a completely unrelated and non-connected occurrence, campaign finance contribution reports will be released TODAY.

UPDATE:  Columbia Flier coverage here.  Looks like she's talking about you, Wordbones.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Enter The Dragon (Monday Links)

This week will be tough.  I am going to try to continue with the daily posts, but I know that at least for tomorrow, that will be very difficult.  The following week I will be on a short vacation.  This is the first time in my life I've taken two vacations in one summer...and yes, I feel guilty for it.  Have no doubt that I will be "paying" for my luxury before heading off for Mai Tai's and sandy beaches.


Normally, crime waves can be associated with heat, but this weekend wasn't even that bad...didn't stop the shootings.

This is becoming quite formulaic: Government approves development.  Community group seeks appeal through referendum.  It seems that this all relates to the false idea that our municipal and county governments are permitted to adjust the progress of "development" like a dial.  For instance, GGP Redevelopment of Downtown Columbia, whether you agree with it or not, fit the definition of being collaborative, as far as the County having some say in what is being done.  GGP could have unilaterally developed the property under the previous zoning scheme without ever seeking approval.  It may not have been as profitable, but it would have been development nonetheless.  As much as I might wish to keep my hometown of Highland exactly how it was 10 years ago, we can't.  Private property owners may sell their land.  Private property owners may buy that land.  Private property owners may work to make their land as profitable as possible.  Certainly zoning laws must be followed, but those laws may not be applied arbitrarily under the justification of "restricting development."

If you work in Baltimore like me, we can expect some messy commutes.

Baltimore County has a slightly more active County Council primary than we do.  Maybe the GOP can borrow one of the Dem candidates to run in HoCo District 2.

WaPo covers a federal lawsuit filed by a man who was denied a permit to carry a concealed weapon.  This should be interesting.

Wordbones posts about Liz Bobo's new campaign video.

Speaking of St. Michaels, that's where Sarah was this weekend.

Columbia Talk covers 25.45's "Drive-by Donation" event.

HowChow found fresh Ginger Ale at the H Mart.  I'm not so sure I like my Ginger Ale fresh...but I won't know until I try it.

Since I have some extra time before heading to work (and probably won't have time AT work), I wanted to bring up an issue that has been brought to my attention with regard to the Cradlerock Community Advocacy Group Candidate forum to be held on August 31st.  The CCAG sent an e-mail out over the weekend noting that Cindy Vaillancourt donated an iPod Shuffle to be raffled off at the candidate forum...that she will be participating in.  The campaign finance rules for "Giveaway Items" are vague at best, but this would clearly not be within the gambit of nail files and yo-yo's.  I just want to put this out for digestion and conversation to see what you all may think.

Have a great day. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

Beams Bogus Bluster

After looking behind the curtain on the "$800 Million Unfunded Mandate" proferred by the Republicans, I think it is time to look into the second big splash of the LWV Candidate Forum: Dr. Beams's accusation that Greg Fox has the highest expense reports on the Council.

Just as with OPEB, the statement is true, but not as it seems.

Council members are reimbursed for mileage.  That's it.  Not meals.  Not hotels (except MACo).  Not hourly driver fees.  If a council member drives to a constituent event or community meeting in their District, our County code permits them to seek reimbursement for that mileage.  The appropriateness of this reimbursement may be debated, but what is not up for dispute is that Greg Fox's District is three times the geographic size of any other District.  Seeing that mileage is the only thing that Greg could seek reimbursement for, it would seem unfair to single him out for having the largest number of expenses (and from what I hear, the difference is slight). 

I think this was a cheap shot.  Maybe you see it differently.

Howard: Unaffiliated

I stumbled across this article from 2006 about the extraordinary number of unaffiliated (i.e., independent) voters in Howard County.  Since most of our local campaigns do not have enough money to hire consultants or conduct much in the way of polling (not talking about you, Ken), they generally have to "guess" about what message will resonate with voters.  In light of this article, you can sort of see why TPI was like selling a ketchup popsicle to a woman with white gloves.  While we don't have polling on the issue, you also have to believe that for your average voter, they may not be too thrilled about HHAP, but generally don't care due to its low cost (relative to the rest of the budget).

I hope challengers and incumbents alike will remember the unaffiliated as they get ready to pass into the General Election on September 15th.  We have no need for your ketchup popsicles.  Keep it practical, stupid.

Governor's Race & Civic Equality (Again)

Here is another clip reviewing the Gubernatorial candidate positions on gay marriage and civil unions.  It may break my Republican heart to vote for O'Malley, but I just don't think I can see past the prospect of a veto hanging over any progress our State makes in this arena over the next four years.  Despite a number of conservatives that read this site, and have tussled with me in the past on this issue, I've yet to see a public policy argument for maintaining the ban on gay marriage and/or civil unions (if semantics is your game).  It makes me sad to see a candidate that I would otherwise support being inexplicably (other than throwing the party faithful a bone) obstinate on this issue.  Expect a run down of the candidates who oppose civic equality in the coming months (certainly before the election).

Anyone know Brian Murphy's position on this?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Way Back Machine: 2006 County Elections

I stumbled across this incredibly thorough and statistically supported analysis of the 2006 County election (focusing on the County Exec race) from the often replicated, but never duplicated Hayduke, and felt it would be a shame if it was not revived for 2010 analysis (kinda like that favorite shirt that you put on for "Date Night," but didn't get that wrinkly, so you put it back on the hanger when your wife isn't looking...like that).  I was in Baltimore, spending time with the Baltimore City GOP Central Committee, for this election, so I don't have much context to use it in conjunction with a 2010 analysis.  Unfortunately, our spirit guide from 2006 has since been silenced, at least in terms of blog analysis, so I will leave it to the 2006 vets to add their own observations.

Get Back to the Source

Being the "campaign website guy" I couldn't help but notice that Alan Klein's campaign website was incredibly similar to Liz Bobo's.  I did a little searching in the source code for Alan's Today page and found some humor in the tags:

<LastAuthor>Alan Klein</LastAuthor>
<Company>Liz Bobo</Company>

UPDATED NOTE: Alan has since commented below that he wrote Liz's website, which is why they are similar and share code.  If that were to be the case, I'm not quite sure what the campaign finance implications would be, other than an in-kind donation from Alan to Liz from however many years ago it was that this website was first created.

Villages Candidate Forum - August 31

Now THIS is a Candidate Forum you should be attending:
I get all tingly just thinking about it.

Is CA doing a good job?

In light of this post over at Columbia 2.0 about the non-shovel-ready status of the Symphony Woods project, and the brouhaha over in the comment section of WB's post opining that CA is Careening Out of Control, you have to come back to the question of whether anyone can say that the Columbia Association is doing a good job.  I think there is room to defend the current Board, as Mary Pivar has done in her comments, but I don't think anyone can credibly say that the CA board is doing a "good job."  In fact, I think the most positive thing anyone can say right now is that they are "in recovery," which is something that many would disagree with.

I don't post much about CA, because I don't know very much.  However, I do pay my fees and expect those fees to go up next year due to bad bids that CA has accepted on things like lake dredging and software programs.  CA deserves the same scrutiny as any other government organization, despite being a private entity.  When it comes time for the next CA vote, you can expect to hear a lot from this "fogging blogger" (as Mary P. called us) because I think we need to "vote the bums out" and get some fresh blood in there.

Purple Thursday (Links)

Ravens Preseason starts today.  I will be going to the game tonight, and although it won't "count," I'm pretty excited to see the new Ravens on the field.  For new readers, I am a bit obsessed with the Ravens.  If they win, you will be able to tell by the tone of my Monday post.  If they lose...well if they lose I probably won't post on Monday morning because that's good crying time (joking about the crying...at least on Monday morning).  Football seems to align itself perfectly with the emotions of man (and a good amount of women) in a way that none of us can explain.  And that's all I have to say about that.

Had a nice chat with Jane last night about what exactly this blog is all about.  I hate those conversations, because I don't really know. 


Two-hit Complete Game.  O's Win.  8-1.

Bealefield took down his lawn vote.  It is about time.  As I said yesterday, I don't think this was appropriate, no matter how much he wanted Jessamy out of office.  None of us have the opportunity to post signs on our cubicle saying "Lucy In The Mail Room Got To Go" or "Frank for Pink Slip."  That's because, while funny, it is unprofessional and will interfere with our ability to work with Lucy and Frank, no matter how much they suck.

18 Months for skipping out on the tab?!?  In case you weren't paying attention, that's the same sentence David Erbman received for manslaughter in the drunk driving death of a River Hill football player (5 years, all but 18 months suspended).  What a messed up world.

Hey Dr. Beams, turns out that Centennial Lane Elementary School kids are already eating healthy.  One less child to save, right?  (My take: it is ridiculous that children at my old Elementary school can't have cupcakes or cake for birthdays.  Maybe I expect too much of parents...you know, the people that are in charge of raising these kids.  Otherwise, I think it is great that they have healthier options available).

City Pools reopen due to $400,000 in private donations.  Geez Jack, you got some nice friends.

Federal Dollars say "Dance."  O'Malley puts on his tap shoes.

Can the CA do anything without going at least $1 million over budget?  This is one of those situations where if you aren't furious, you aren't paying attention.  The sad thing is that a lot of the triathletes that have participated in events at the lake this year have said that they won't do it next year due to all the "crap" in the lake.  These events are good for CA and good for the County.  The problem should have been nipped in the bud, and not retroactively.  Maybe we should send someone to India to see what their algae solutions may be.  (WB covers the CA incompetence)

HowChow orders take-out from House of India...and it looks glorious.

Sarah gets her CSA drop.

There were a lot of articles I saw when putting the links together that I want to get to later, so expect another post or two this afternoon.  Peace.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Great Hunt for Indys

Check out this Pew Research Data.  Despite the fact that I think Howard County voters are an entirely different animal, I also believe we are settling into a post-party politik world where the battlefield is the independent voter.  In light of that, the Republicans seem to have the most to gain by having a message that is accessible to your average independent (i.e., one that does not require a completely changed world-view, whereby you must view President Obama as a socialist looking to destroy America).

Republicans can have accesible themes of private over public; cuts over taxes; smaller government over enlarged public services.  It is amazing to me how these bedrock themes have become buzz words with little meaning for those that champion the Republican cause.

Before I let Dem's off too easy, your party is alienating independents as well.  The reason Healthcare took so long to get to the table was because Clinton knew his "third way" did not allow for Healthcare reform and was unpopular to independents.  With Healthcare being the greatest accomplishment of the Democrats over the past four years, the poll results above give an indication of where that has left you with the independent voter.  Dems are banking on the fact that once their plan is implemented, people will see how great it works and come back to the blue camp, but for now indy's (not all, but most) are showing a little concern with the radical remake of that area of our economy.

Independents, I've got love for you too.  Rather than work on the product, you would rather wait until the candidates are on the shelf and pick which one you like best.  Whether you like it or not, you have the least amount of control over the direction of this Country's politics.  I would like to think that I am an example that you can be uncomfortable with the direction of your party, but still do what you can to "make some noise" about how things could be better.  You don't have to be a radical to have a party affiliation.  Despite all the warnings of the Federalist papers against the "oppression of factions" and the like, our poiltical parties have become as ingrained as the Congress and Senate.  I've got nothing against spectators, but this is a game we should all be in.

OPEB, GASB, FASB, and Statement 45

(Geez, Tom.  You really know how to market an interesting post.)

The whole "unfunded mandate" issue from last night really stuck in my head.  I thought to myself, "Self, if we have an $800 million debt on our books, how the heck did it get so big so fast?  And why isn't the mainstream media talking about it?"  So I did a little digging.  I have to be honest and say that after TPI, my immediate presumption was that it was a gimmick (see what happens to your credibility when you try those things?).  It turns out that it is somewhere in between.

Bottom Line: There is an unfunded obligation for County retiree health benefits, but it is not as it appears.

In July of 2004, the Government Accounting Standards Board issued Statement 45, which requires that government employers measure and report the liabilities associated with other (than pension) post employment benefits (or OPEB) "during the years that employees are providing services to the government and its constituents in exchange for those benefits."  However, and here's where it gets tricky, GASB 45 does not require governments to fund OPEB.  It is only a measure to more accurately report the finances of a government's assets and liabilities.

In fact, according to the FAQ linked above, the Ulman and/or Robey administrations may have knowingly opened themselves up to criticism by reporting retroactive OPEBs (also termed Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability [UAAL]), instead of reporting prospectively, which is allowed under Statement 45. 

Prior to Statement 45, retiree benefits had been paid per retirement, also known as pay-as-you-go or pay-go.  Statement 45 did away with that.  Our County continues pay-go, but now must fund this liability in order to balance assets and liabilities.  The County could ignore OPEBs, continue with pay-go, and leave the liability on the books without jeopardizing the solvency of our County (or our libraries), so long as every County employee does not retire at one time.

This then leads to the follow-up question of "Is our County work-force 'graying'?"  I don't have information on that, but I would agree with the GOP candidates that OPEB is a true concern if we are about to be hit with the tidal wave of Baby Boomer County workers.  It won't be the tsunami that the Chicken Little's would have you believe, but it may add to a perfect storm of Columbia redev costs, pension shift, and OPEB obligations.