Monday, November 4, 2013

Columbia In Search of a Leader

If you haven't already, I highly recommend this piece by Arthur Hirsch in the Baltimore Sun examining the original promise of Columbia, how things may have fallen off-track, and the promise many of us see in new development planned for the area.

Columbia is as much an idea as it is a place.  As an idea, it changes from individual to individual.  Some people see it as a single unit.  Others see it as a divided group of Villages, all of which are treated differently.

Some see Columbia as complete.  Others see trapped potential.

Some see Columbia as a pair of zip codes.  Others see it as an aspirational community intended to embody an experience of living unlike anywhere else in the world.

The space in between those constructs is "politics".  How can the Columbia Association be used as a stumbling block to prevent change?  How can County Council elections be turned to focus on Columbia's density?  How can progress be re-characterized as profit?

I continue to believe that young families have a diminished voice in what happens in Columbia.  I am optimistic about the work of Bill Santos and Bill Woodcock, and all of the great advocacy people like Julia offer on their blogs.  But they will need further support, encouragement in the face of resistance, and more team members to do the heavy lifting.  The only thing that has ever surprised me about Columbia is the entrenched resistance to new ideas.  It is almost institutionalized.  Through e-mail newsletters, discrete clubs, and low-turnout elections, a small group of people have found a way to marshal tens of millions of dollars in lien-payer money.  This is done under the auspices of "advocacy for the community" with little regard of those elements of the community who do not have the time or inclination to make themselves heard.

I think that will change.  We need a little bit of courage and a lot of stubborn dedication.  We need CA's leaders to know they will have community support when they stand up for change.  We need steady advocacy; more than sporadic groups that burst and flame-out with the cause.

This all may sound very preachy, but it is offered with the best intent.  I love Columbia, want to see it succeed, and am forever dedicated to making a world-class park in the heart of downtown.  I expect, and hope, there will be future opportunities for me to help move Columbia forward.  But for right now, I'm looking to see who's going to take the lead.  And I genuinely believe, even after years of being told "we're all the boss", that this cause needs a leader.

That's all for today.  Have a great (extra restful) Monday doing what you love!