Thursday, April 26, 2012

Big Things Poppin' and Little Things Stoppin' (Thursday LINKS)

Over the past few months, I've heard the phrase "For the first time in twenty plus years..." at least ten times.  Symphony Woods.  Hobbit's Glen.  Connectivity Master Plan.  Aquatics Master Plan.

Columbia is on the precipice of big change.  The "new" and the "big" are finding themselves paired at just about every turn.  That says nothing of what the Columbia Association is doing to address changing demographics, increased population, and an whole-scale re-examining of what its purpose is as an organization.

As with any great ship, it has taken a while for CA to turn to face this new reality.  I would suggest that my first year on the Board has been spent on equal parts Dashboard metrics and Lake dredging as it has been on Symphony Woods and prospective planning.  But that's changing.  The rushing motion of time and consequence of inaction have put CA squarely in a position where it must act, must act now, and, most importantly, can't screw up.

Columbia will change.  Significantly.  The most important question right now is whether CA is an actor or an observer.  The "problem of the Village Centers" will be answered, as will all other concerns about taking an infrastructure for 100,000 people and making it capable of handling twice that amount.  But in order for CA to be able to exist as a stakeholder, and not an observer, it will have to change.  It must become more flexible, more agile, and less mired in deliberation.  If it continues its practices from the last thirty years, it will be overrun, ignored, and eventually marginalized.

If Howard Hughes finds a financially beneficial long-term agreement with Bally's, Lifetime Fitness, or Gold's Gym, the Columbia Association is in serious trouble.  That's not intended to simplify this $60 million organization into a gym membership, but CA holds a privileged position in Columbia, mostly unencumbered by any significant competition.  This allows for programs like the low-income discount and capital improvements that are not predicted to turn a positive return.  I often wonder how much the dynamic would change if we lost that privileged position.

For CA to exist and thrive over the next 30 years, it will need to be "as big" as Howard Hughes in its actions.  I hesitate to say that it needs to "keep pace", but it should also recognize the dynamics of scale.  If Columbia becomes larger while CA remains the same, we have become smaller.

Symphony Woods.  Lakefront.  Splashdown.  Village Center Gyms.  Hobbit's Glen.  Aquatics.  Dog parks.  Connectivity.  Tennis.  Columbia-wide WiFi.  Event Programming.  Web innovation.  Community Activism.

The big and the new.  All available to CA for action.  For now.


Speaking of the Board, we should be making a decision about the Hobbit's Glen Clubhouse tonight.  If you are a Columbia resident and support the reconstruction of the Hobbit's Glen Clubhouse to create a new community space near the heart of Columbia, please testify tonight.  If you oppose reconstruction, please also attend.  This is an important decision and I will say that there is no clear majority.  I think the number one objective should be to come to a vote.  Enough time and expense has been spent bringing us here.

Lindsey McPherson takes a look at the hyper-local effects of the Doomsday budget on Howard County schools and the Community College.  I found it interesting that increasing classroom sizes from 19 to 20 was seen as a "big ticket item."  It makes me wonder how much school system ranking criteria, of which class size is included, directs education policy.  I won't posit an opinion as to whether this is a deleterious to educational "quality" as may be suggested, but it seemed like a "bubble" opinion that sounds serious inside the walls of the BoE building, yet appears reasonable to everyone else.

Caps win in one of the most exciting, nerve-racking games I have ever watched.  Apologies to my neighbors.  I yelled.  It was the yell that I had reserved for Lee Evans...about three months late.

A recent study of Baltimore City indicated that low-wage employment has now taken up approximately 30% of the workforce, up from 26 "a generation earlier" (no sure what that means in terms of actual years).

Baltimore County is fighting "sign pollution".  Stay way from our traffic circles, Kamenetz!

Featured Blog Post of the Day: I really enjoyed Matt Wilson's post about getting a haircut at the Wilde Lake barber shop.  This was where my Dad always got his haircut and where my Mom took my brother and I until we were about 12.  I literally cannot watch an episode of the Price is Right without thinking about this place.  As sad as Matt's piece is to read, it very well sums up the Village Center quagmire, with frequent references to the "dead Giant" that works on so many levels.  There are still places in those Centers that people should want to go (i.e., get a haircut, Splashdown).  But maybe that's just not how we live anymore.  There are so many options for buying anything you want, whether through your iPad or over a counter, that the base level presumption of "Well, they're going to have to buy it somewhere", possibly underlying the sustainability of a Village Center, is gone.  We'll still have successful Village Centers, but there will no longer be marginal ones.  Especially not alongside dead Giants.

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!