Thursday, April 12, 2012

Suburbia: The People Weed? (Thursday LINKS)

Where one lives would appear to have been one of the last freedoms mostly unhindered by government control.  As a Country, we romanticize the idea of buying a plot of land, building a house, and passing that land down to the next generation.  But that opportunity may soon be a thing of the past.

Baltimore's Urbanite Magazine has a fascinating piece by McCay Jenkins looking at the downsides of suburban living on our environment and State budgets, entitled "The Era of Suburban Sprawl Has to End.  So, Now What?"  Jenkins notes that State and local governments across the Country are implementing policies to curtail this outward expansion and encourage population density where there is already housing capacity.  The right and opportunity to live wherever one wants may always exist, but you may have to fund your own road to get there, dispose of your own trash, and find yourself otherwise "off the grid."

This is all the more interesting in the context of another piece I read (hat tip: Bill Santos) about Generation Y's migration from the suburbs to the City.  Anyone who heard Chris Leinberger speak will hear a lot of the same themes and concepts echoed in Nathan Norris's article.

I think there is value that will always be preserved in Howard County.  It is too perfectly located to ever be a ghost town that people talk about when they reference the failed experiment of suburbia.  But the new importance of cities and dense populations leads to two questions: Was the New Downtown Legislation just in time?  Was it too late?

What some of us prefer in terms of density and population growth is becoming more irrelevant by the day.  Gas prices fluctuate, but now that it seems unlikely Newt Gingrich will be winning the Presidency, our last great hope of seeing $2 gas is gone.  Joking aside, this may be the new normal.  Mass transit will become correspondingly inevitable, as will "local living", where one works, plays, and lives within a five mile radius.

In fact, the Jenkins piece would suggest we're already living anachronistically:

Marylanders spent more than 700 million hours commuting in 2009. The state's average commute time is now nearly thirty-two minutes, longer than both New York and New Jersey and one of the highest numbers in the country. If current trends continue, by 2035 those "miles traveled" will grow from 56 billion to 84 billion per year, and the state will need nearly 15,000 new miles of road, at a cost of $110 billion.

In Howard County, thirty-two minutes would seem just about average, if not a slight bit lower than what most of us spend commuting, yet this is "one of the highest numbers in the country."  The world is contracting, with or without us.  It will be interesting to see how our leaders respond.


I thought it was Christmas in April when I saw and unexpected episode of And Then There's That pop up on my iPhone.  It is another great one, with the General Manager of Merriweather Post Pavilion.  I particularly like the picture paired with this episode, which shows locked up stores behind Paul.  Don't expect this link to go on the HoCo Tourism website.

Despite the Doomsday title, I've heard from some that Howard County may not be all that worse off in a budget that is projected to cut $9.6 million from HoCo coffers.  Those keeping up with the math may recall that Howard County was projected to take on a $12 million share of teacher pensions, most likely paired with inevitable cuts, if the State had been able to get the less Armageddonish Budget passed, so $9.6 million without teacher's pensions is just fine by us.  Call your legislator and tell them "Stay Home!"

Transparency Trans-shmeracy.  O'Malley says he won't call a Special Session until Senate and House leaders have a deal.  Why not just turn your pen over to the lobbyists.  It would save everyone a lot of time.

After snow and hail were reported in the region yesterday, "How bout this weather?" has officially become an uncomfortable subject of small talk, and should be avoided at all costs.  Less controversial introductions may be "Do you support Obama?" and "Stem cell research is awesome, isn't it?"

On a personal note, I attended the unveiling of the William H. Johnston U.S. Postage Stamp yesterday at Morgan State University.  My wife works at the James E. Lewis Art Museum and has been working on this unveiling and the paired exhibit all month.  The stamp has a hidden meaning behind it that I think is very cool.  Johnson's art was out of the mainstream.  As a post-impressionist African American in the early twentieth century, he was looked down upon by the "art elite" and scholars of his day.  He painted a simple vase of flowers to prove that he could paint in the traditional style as well as, or better, than his contemporaries, but chose not to.  That, my friends, is pretty bad ass.  (If you're interested in going to the opening exhibition this Saturday, drop me a line and I can see about getting you VIP tickets.  I have an "in.")

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Since I could not attend the HoCo Bloggers party, the next best thing is 53 Beers's run down of who was there and what was discussed...ok so maybe he limits "what was discussed" to his blog, but it is still nice to know that it was well attended.

Have a fantastic (not just great) Thursday doing what you love!