I came back home late last night and turned on the TV to have some background noise while I ate dinner. (Ooh, this sounds depressing already, Tom. We can't wait to hear what happens next!) I turned to the Rachel Maddow show and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was her guest. For those who are USSC geeks like me, you may not know that Justice O'Connor was one of the most influential Justices in the history of the Court. As a swing vote creating 5-4 majorities, she helped seat a President (Bush), define the boundaries between Church and State (Lemon), reign in the Commerce Clause (Lopez), and essentially write the current state of affirmative action law (Grutter). Oh, and then there's that little thing of her being the first female Justice of the Supreme Court.
But as I'm watching this interview, the first thought that popped into my head is: Who is more powerful? In the pinnacle of her majority shaping dexterity, was Justice Sandra Day O'Connor more powerful than Rachel Maddow, who speaks to approximately 1 million people a night about whatever she decides to be the most important policy issues of the day.
My conclusion was Justice O'Connor, but the analysis continues.
Was Joe Scarborough more influential as a Congressman or as a morning talk show host? Is there any way we say the former?
In 2011, who was more powerful: Glenn Beck or Speaker of the House John Boehner?
Heck, might one argue that one of the most influential political event of the last five years was Rick Santelli's rant from the floor of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange in February 2009 calling for a "Tea Party"?
Let's back this up a bit. The media's power is often not immediate. Media power is like a farmer tilling a field. Small adjustments here and there change the crop. And this also is not a rant against media bias (sorry), but rather the observation that media personalities like Limbaugh, Hannity, Maddow, and Matthews have a significant amount of unelected power. They are not deciding today's issues, but rather shaping the priorities of tomorrow's political parties. That's why I'm not wholly convinced that even Hannity's 2 million viewers per night is insignificant compared to the electorate as a whole. Just as with blogs, it's not how many listen as much as it is "who".
Then, being a self-referential 21st Century man, I thought of myself. I wondered whether my one hour in the morning, typing into a keyboard, was of greater benefit (or harm - depending on your perspective) to my community than the 4 hours I had just spent at two different meetings. I thought of the thousands of people that visited this blog in the first week of November before voting and wondered if those days were more significant than any of the votes I had cast as a member of the Columbia Association Board of Directors.
Then I felt bad that yesterday's post was really not that great.
Blair Ames writes that the Howard County Council voted unanimously to approve the zoning change to the Normandy Shopping Center in Ellicott City. WB has more on that project here.
The Council also voted to table the stormwater legislation creating a new fee to help pay for the management of stormwater that would otherwise contribute to pollution of the Chesapeake Bay. I'm glad to see the Council is willing to give this more thought. I don't see much changing about how the fee will apply to most residential properties, which would be one more in a litany of new taxes...ahem...fees that we've seen in this County over the past few years.
The Council's vote on changes to the agricultural preservation program could probably take up an entire post. Essentially, this vote modifies the program to a development rights marketplace (free-market solutions!) that would fund Ag Pres into perpetuity. From Blair's article: "the county proposed giving the Department of Planning and Zoning the ability to purchase development rights and sell them to the highest bidder creating a revolving funding source for the program." I've spoken with two different Republicans about the expansion of agricultural preservation and they've dismissed it as an unnecessary expenditure of tax-payer money. I would be interested to hear what they have to say about this mechanism of funding. I like it, particularly in the way it shifts density to the areas that can best handle it.
Featured Blog Post of the Day: WB digs into the Howard Hughes Annual Report to note that they are focused on developing the Crescent sooner rather than later.
That's all for today. Have a great Tuesday doing what you love. Buy all the milk and toilet paper you want. I'm stocking up on Berger cookies.