Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Columbia Insecure (Tuesday LINKS)

For the first time that I can remember, people are acting with uncertainty regarding the future of Columbia.  They don't know if Redevelopment will work.  They fret over the stability and dedication of our corporate partners.  They comfort themselves with the idea that a 1970's living history museum may not be that bad after all.

I don't get this.  At all.  Without one stitch of redevelopment, Columbia has outpaced Maryland's population growth by 3%.  Our median income is $20,000 over the Maryland median and our poverty level is 2.5% lower.  Our community investment and philanthropy, while not measured by any metric I am aware of, presumably also outperforms comparable districts.  We have accolades piling on our doorstep and I still have not mentioned the simple fact that drew Jim Rouse to these 14,000 acres back in 1962: We sit between two metropolitan areas approximately 5 miles off the interstate highway.

This is valuable earth we are all sitting on.  The opportunity to direct those advantages towards future growth (and related income) is a desirable one that is easily communicated to third parties.  This has played out in practice.  In the past five years, REI, Wegman's, and Costco have all seen the opportunities available in this area and opened new stores in our area.  Meanwhile, Whole Foods, a company known for targeting more urban environs, flirted with the idea of opening a store on our lakefront and remains in the background as future development is set.

This is valuable earth.  I think the reason we're all a little insecure is because the prospect of growth and change is equal parts terror and excitement.  We need County negotiators to make sure that "value" that we have every reason to be confident about is wielded to the best possible community advantage.  That means translating our community investment into future participation; maintaining the hard won advantages of the Downtown Redevelopment legislation; and being willing to walk away from the table when the other side threatens to do the same.

I spent 20 minutes at 6:00 in the morning listing the reasons why Columbia is a precious asset.  It is not a hard sell.  We have a valuable partnership with our current stakeholders, but there is no reason to ignore the prospect of outside suitors.  This is business and we need a business-like approach.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams" -- Henry David Thoreau.  Works for people.  There is no reason it can't work for Columbia.


We've talked a lot about biases, both in the news and in how we view the world.  I really enjoyed this New Yorker piece focusing on "motivated reasoning" and how it can change previously held positions based on whether they are adopted by "the other side."  I think the author did himself a disservice by choosing such a politically charged title ("Unpopular Mandate"), but the underlying case studies are non-partisan in application.

Placeshakers has become one of my new favorite blogs.  They write a lot about urban development and planning, which is a fascinating subject for me.  As with any blog, there is a slant, and this one is against anything "NIMBY".  You'll see in this piece that they are critical of our collective respect for "neighborhood representatives" over "elected leaders". --  "We are more likely to withhold our support for actions through global, national or even regional institutions that have the best chance for advancing the goals we say we believe in and more likely to invest our trust in individuals and institutions that have the least chance for leading change and may, in fact, thwart it."  I like the idea, but I'm not sure I buy it.  I think we need friction, even with the prosecution of what may be presented as "the goals we say we believe in", to fully appreciate the implications of those goals.

City Hall should not have expected their systematic shuttering of liquor stores in troubled neighborhoods to go down easy.  Korean-American owners have expressed to the Sun that they feel targeted by the new effort and will challenge rezoning in Court.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake had a bad Monday.  The Council cut $6 million from her budget and the City Comptroller met with the press to discuss the purchase of over $650,000 in phone equipment without her approval.

Featured Blog Post of the Day: HowChow realizes a dream and gets into the new Wegman's for a first look.  Click over to see if he thinks it lives up to the hype...that he may or may not have contributed to over the past two years.

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