Monday, March 26, 2012

What's In a Name? (Monday LINKS)

What do "100,000", Town Center, and Don Draper have in common?  Possibly a great deal.

Last Friday, we learned that Columbia was just about to hit the 100,000 population mark.  This would certainly be a point of unmarred celebration had it not been for the reference to Columbia's original aspirations in the first line of the article:

When developer James W. Rouse revealed plans in 1963 to build a "new city" in Howard County, he predicted that it would have more than 100,000 residents by 1980.

1980?  Taking into account the compound growth that comes along with cities, one can only imagine what Columbia would look like now had it not been 30 years behind schedule.

Interestingly enough, this news was followed closely behind by another episode of And Then There's That featuring Mark Thompson, newly named Director of Downtown Development.  Early in the podcast, Dennis references "Town Center" to which Mark quickly interjects "Downtown."  Evidently, the politically correct name for Town Center is now "Downtown"...and I like it.

One would think that Columbia's growth has been held back by its apparent inability to attract jobs sufficient to sustain its population.  Just as our residents are drawn to the polar caps of Baltimore and D.C., so too are businesses.  I remember when a law firm I worked for was looking for a new office location, I suggested Columbia.  The managing partner said that it "seemed like a nice place" but that there wasn't any "heft" in Columbia (apologies to all Columbia law firms for the ignorance of my past superior).

A yet-to-be covered story around town is that "Town Center" has some of the highest vacancy rates in the region.  It seems like a lot of folks have failed to find their "heft" in Columbia.  Watching last night's season premiere of Mad Men, I wondered what Don Draper would do with a "problem like Columbia."  For those that don't watch the show, Don Draper is an ad executive that sits down at a conference table addressing the decision-makers of a company with a troubled product, tells them how people currently see their product, and then offers a new ad campaign to change the way people think.

I bet one of the first things he would say to all of us in Columbia is "Stop calling the center of Columbia 'Town Center.'  It's 'Downtown.'  You want people to imagine bustling streets, foot traffic, heck, maybe even hot dog carts.  'Town Center' sounds like some bullseye serving no other purpose than providing a geographic reference point.  'Downtown' sounds like a place of arrival."

And maybe, if Jim Rouse had spoken with fictional Don Draper in 1967, we would have hit 100,000 by 1980 with most of us driving shorter commutes.


I really appreciated this piece about race in America and how we have such a hard time talking about it.  From my own perspective, it often feels like a game of Operation, where one slight tremor can not only ruin the conversation, but also the relationships surrounding it.  I accept that it is going to be uncomfortable, but I also am disappointed in my own obtuse reactions to those looking to have honest conversations about "what we talk about when we talk about race."  This article helped me put that in perspective.

In anticipation of this week's six hours of argument before the Supreme Court regarding the Health Care Access and Affordability law, I think this primer is helpful.  Yes, there are biases at play and certainly the writer looks to defend HCAA, but it also allows for smart conversation about a law that we have allowed one another to refer to as "Obamacare" as if it is some easily compartmentalized personification of our President.

It's a dog eat dog eat dog primary in the Congressional Sixth District as eight Republicans, including incumbent Roscoe Bartlett, vie for the seat.  As they say, very few get to leave politics on their own terms.

There is a lot to like about this bill in the Howard County Council that would look to prevent property owners who are delinquent on their HOA fees from renting out their property to new tenants.  I imagine the application of this law will be where the difficulty comes in, but the idea alone is a good one.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Lisa B has some questions for the soon to be revealed Howard County Superintendent candidates.  Very good stuff.  "My biggest weakness?  I try too hard." 

That's all for today.  Have a great Monday doing what you love!  Busy week ahead!