Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Best of What's Around (Tuesday LINKS)

Due to the numerous meetings that I attend throughout the week for CA and...CA, I try to reserve Monday night for staying around the house.  It is labeled on my work calendar as "Monday Chores" and something I try not to ever mess around with.  As such, I did not attend the League of Women Voters Forum, but watched the first half on TV.

Since I didn't see the whole slate of candidates, I'm not comfortable saying who looked best or who I plan on voting for, but I was very impressed with this group without exception.

Jim Adams noted about halfway through the first hour that one of the things Howard County government in general should be planning for is dramatically increased gas prices and the effect that will have on our valuable juxtaposition between Baltimore and DC.  For all of our focus on Downtown Columbia, this is still a commuter County.  As we learned from Chris Leinberger, it was only the affordability of automobiles that made the suburbs possible (or as he would say "sub-urban") and the converse would presumably be true.  When it is no longer affordable to drive, the suburbs will be similarly threatened.

That's a rather profound comment about something we take for granted in this County.  We are the benefactors of good geography.  I would love to say that there is something about the water, air, or "culture" that makes property values what they are, but I think most realists would have a hard time refuting that its "location, location, location."  And that's something that we (rightfully) presumed was fixed.  Baltimore and DC are not moving.  Howard County isn't moving.  We have it made.

But as Mr. Adams observed, the value of our location is not fixed.  It is dependent upon factors outside of our control.  More importantly, barring some serious innovation over the next 30-40 years, it is dependent on terms like "peak oil" and "terminal decline."

I don't mean to be alarmist and I don't want to suggest that Mr. Adams was either, but good leaders are good planners.  Downtown Columbia is only part of this plan.  If Baltimore and DC are our lifelines, we need to find a way to keep those lines open.


The Howard County Council has passed an altered redistricting map 3-2 that "will keep the Ellicott City neighborhoods of Wheatfield and Brampton Hills in District 1 and...keep the Columbia village of Dorsey's Search in District 4."  Republican Greg Fox was the deciding vote -- words that no Democrat thought they would see when the Commission map was proposed last year.  Courtney Watson and Calvin Ball voted against the proposal, noting that the adjustments only addressed the concerns of some residents at the expense of others.  As emphasized by Lindsey McPherson in her article, this legislation still must be signed by Ken Ulman before becoming law.  If he does not sign by March 15, the Commission Map will become law.  You have to wonder what it is about the map passed by the Council that Ken will like, especially when non-action effectively allows Ken to by-pass all of the weird fiefdom politics that has possessed the Council over the past three months.  Bottom Line: Republicans should be thrilled that D1 stays almost exactly the same.  Dems...well...you had a nice run.

The "Ash Wednesday" storm that almost washed away Ocean City occurred 50 years ago today.  This was one of those stories that my grandmother would tell me.  She wasn't in Ocean City when it occurred, but "the flood" would be a placeholder for whether the story happened before or after 1962 (although in my five year old head, I thought she was talking about Noah).

The "good and substantial reason" requirement for a gun-carry permit in Maryland has been ruled unconstitutional by a U.S. District Court Judge.  In law school, I was told that it was unusual for a District Court Judge to rule that a given law was unconstitutional.  Between the Health Care Access and Affordability law and this, it seems that the trial courts have been emboldened. 

The Maryland State Senate has prepared a "doomsday budget" to show what a budget balanced without tax increases would look like.  I find it somewhat garish to throw around the word "doomsday" when there are thousands of families in this state that have had to remake their household budgets with "cuts" and no "revenue increases."  Longtime readers know that I don't like the comparison between households and State budgets, but I also don't like the faux horror of having to balance a budget by cutting what can be cut and preserving the State's top priorities.  I would suggest that exercises like this are performed in a way to scare the public into accepting tax increases rather than truly prioritize important expenditures over those that may be redundant, unnecessary, or antiquated.  Notably, under the "doomsday budget", Howard County would see a cut of $23 million in education aid.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow gives another run down of suggestions, comments, and concerns of his readers, which are turning out to be some really great posts.

Have a great Tuesday doing what you love!