Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

GGP Proposal and My Thoughts on One Aspect GGP's Presentation

GGP presented their proposal for a Zoning Regulation Amendment and a General Plan Amendment to allow them to redevelop Downtown Columbia. You can watch their presentation here.

Tomorrow at 7pm the County Council will hear economic analysis from the county's Economic Development Authority and the Columbia Association will present its plans for Symphony Woods. The Presentations will be at the Board of Education Building on Route 108 across from Cedar Lane.

Over the next couple weeks we will delve into the details in the proposal, but for know I wanted to reflect one interesting aspect of the presentation:

It was nice to see that GGP has finally recognized the extension of mass transit rail as an important part of the transit solutions. It is something I have been pushing for during the past four years, both in conversations with the county executive before and after he got elected, with GGP officials, and on this blog. GGP several times put up the proposed map of the extensions of the Baltimore Light Rail. They should also take note of the proposals to extend the DC Green Line to Ft. Meade, which is roughly the same distance north as Columbia from Greenbelt. As I repeatedly have pointed out the key to mass transit is ridership density and to maximize ridership density you want to maximize connection of where people are with where they want to go. The proposals that currently are being looked at to extend the Baltimore Light Rail and the DC Metro don't do that, but a system like this would:

The DC Metro took 15 years from the start of construction to the completion of the number of new stops that are in the above extension with roughly the same numbers of above and below ground stations.

If GGP and the County Elected officials want walkable communities, then creating a system like this with a significant portion of eastern Howard County's population within a 10 minute walk of a station is the way to go.

The previous traffic studies on Downtown Columbia show that our biggest traffic problems if they approve the development will be our local roads which will have intersections that are worse than traffic on Rockville Pike. Park and ride mass transit alone will not solve our traffic problems or allow us to manage growth pressures. A walk and ride system with some park and ride stations would relieve pressure on local roads and allow the county to absorb growth in a managed smart growth way.

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Health Care Rally Tomorrow

Move On is organizing a rally to urge Senator Mikulski to keep fighting for the Public Option to be included in the Health Care bill.

WHAT: Rally in Support of Senator Mikulski
WHO: MoveOn members

WHERE: 60 West St, Annapolis, MD

WHEN: Noon, October 14th, 2009

The rally is part of a national day of action, which will include over 100 rallies in 43 states.


Friday, September 25, 2009

CA Press Release: Columbia Archives Mini-Course on Columbia

Columbia Archives to offer mini-course on Columbia

Sessions explore the four goals of Columbia and their effect on the history and future of the city

The Columbia Archives, a service of the Columbia Association (CA), is offering a course on Columbia every Wednesday in October from 7 to 9 p.m. Each session starts at Columbia Archives and then moves to the nearby Lakeside Café for a presentation and refreshments. The free sessions examine the goals of Columbia and how they guided development of--and continue to define--the city.

The series highlights the work of the Columbia Archives and celebrates American Archives Month. Attendance at all sessions is not mandatory. Registration is encouraged, but not necessary. To register for a session or to find out more information, please e-mail or call 410-715-3103. Columbia Archives is located at 10227 Wincopin Circle in Columbia Town Center.

Columbia Archives is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Appointments are encouraged. Among the materials available are articles aboutColumbia from the local and national media; home builders’ brochures; and Merriweather memorabilia; as well as a large document collection that is available for research. For additional information on the Columbia Archives, please visit

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10221 Wincopin Circle

Columbia, Maryland 21044

CA Press Release: Party's At Courtside Supreme Sports Club

This fall, the party’s at Courtside at Supreme Sports Club

Newly renovated facility to host Healthy Happy Hours and Tailgating Parties through December

Courtside at Supreme Sports Club has re-opened and is now offering several new special events for members to enjoy. On Wednesdays, Courtside will host Healthy Happy Hour Parties featuring healthy food and non-alcoholic drinks, music and giveaways. Parties will be held September 30; October 14 and 28; November 11 and December 9. Also, Courtside is the new place to watch football games this season. Cheer on the local professional and college teams with fellow football fans at Courtside’s Tailgating Parties.

Date Time Game

Saturday, September 26 TBD Rutgers vs. Maryland

Monday, October 26 8 p.m. Philadelphia vs. Washington

Monday, November 16 8 p.m. Baltimore vs. Cleveland

Monday, December 7 8 p.m. Baltimore vs. Green Bay

Newly renovated, state-of-the-art Courtside at Supreme Sports Club is the latest rental space offered by the Columbia Association (CA). The location is perfect for birthday parties, meetings or any type of event or social gathering. Features include the theater-quality, surround sound audio system with 21 speakers that complement three 46” TVs with DVD capability. The space can accommodate up to 100 people. Guests can enjoy the wireless internet access and new furniture. Supreme Sports Club is located at 7080 Deepage Drive inColumbia. Please call 410-381-5355 for more information or join the Courtside at Supreme Sports Club group on Facebook.

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10221 Wincopin Circle

Columbia, Maryland 21044

Switchboard: 410-715-3000

Fax 410-715-0389

CA Press Release Dredging Lake Elkhorn

CA selects Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. for Lake Elkhorn Dredging

The Columbia Association (CA) has awarded a contract to Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co., of Chester, PA, for the dredging of Lake Elkhorn. The proposed dredging plan follows the permitted plan and requires no amendments to the permits obtained for this project.

The Lake Elkhorn dredging project has been in the planning and development stages for several years. CA solicited the input of residents, Board members and other stakeholders to develop a plan that responds to community, environmental and traffic concerns, and presents a responsible approach to accomplishing the dredging within budget.

After canceling the first request for proposal, re-issuance of the request for proposals for Lake Elkhorn dredging was released on July 22, 2009. Proposals were due on August 18, 2009 and CA received four proposals. A five-person, multidisciplinary evaluation team was established and the proposals were evaluated. Mobile Dredging and Pumping Co. had the highest rated proposal which was satisfactory in all terms of methodology, performance time and cost, and met all of the minimum requirements of the request for proposal.

Construction of the staging area, which is located at the parking area accessed by Broken Land Parkway and adjacent grassy area, is scheduled to begin early October 2009. Active dredging and material de-watering is scheduled to occur from November 2009 and continue into the fall of 2010. This includes the hydraulic dredging of approximately 52,000 cubic yards of accumulated sediment from the forebay pond, main lake and the tail water pond. At the staging area, the hydraulically dredged material will be de-watered and hauled by truck to off-site locations for disposal.

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10221 Wincopin Circle

Columbia, Maryland 21044

Switchboard: 410-715-3000

Fax 410-715-0389

Monday, September 21, 2009

Byron Macfarlane Files to Run For Register of Wills

Byron Macfarlane has filed to run for Register of Wills. This sets up what might be one of the more competitive races in Howard County in the 2010 election cycle. Incumbent Kay Hartleb is one of the last Republicans elected countywide. She has served as Register of Wills for the past 23 years and we all know how hard it is to defeat an incumbent, much less one that has served for over 2 decades. Yet Byron Macfarlane brings to the table a specialty in wills, estates, and trusts and a vision to make the Register of Wills office more accessible:

From Byron's website:

Howard County residents deserve improved access to the Office of the Register. Whether it is in person, over the phone, or online, I am committed to Howard County residents having improved access to important information and more easily finding answers to their questions.

I will overhaul the Register of Wills website for Howard County to provide detailed explanations of the services of the office, the probate process, filing requirements, information on estate and inheritance taxes, announcements about where and when I and my staff will be in your community, and links to other resources that are helpful to residents. I have posted some of these links on this website. I will also work with other Registers of Wills around the state, and the Attorney General’s office, to explore implementing an e-filing system that would expedite estate administration, cut down on costs to families, and reduce environmental waste.

I have know Byron for a number of years and he is someone with a deep passion for service and making people's life easier. When you combine this with his vision and deep roots in Howard County and this shapes up to be a potentially very competitive election.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

CA's Proposed Design Plan for Symphony Woods PARK

The proposed concept plan begins the evolution of Symphony Woods into Symphony Woods Park. The goal for this plan is to develop the site into an attractive setting for public recreation and community events while protecting and enhancing the site's natural features. This proposed park will be a bold gateway to the woods and the Pavilion, and for the first time, a year round destination as a park.

The central focal point for the park will be a plaza to include an interactive water feature and a small café with restrooms. Green technologies will be used in the design of these structures. A place to play, relax and watch people, the park will become a destination that enhances the lives of those living and working in Columbia. Three other activity areas are proposed: a children's play area, sculptures, and future park related uses.

A bold circular walk tucked inside the woodland setting is designed to establish a 'sense of place' and provide for pedestrian circulation. This walk will define the natural topographic bowl and reinforce the visual axis connecting Town Center with the Pavilion. The center of the circle, with a modest amount of tree thinning, will be a special outdoor room for the community to gather.

More intensive activities will be located around the outside of the circle and its center will be left open for passive use. A boardwalk on the eastern side of the circle will allow natural storm water drainage and ensure that the walk will meet accessibility standards by not exceeding a 5% grade. The boardwalk will also minimize re-grading which is detrimental to tree roots.

Parking on the western edge of the park will ensure easy access for park users. The 120-space parking lot and some of the activity areas on the periphery of the circular walkway will support community events, minimizing compaction of existing tree roots. Many new trees will be planted for the park to replace those removed in park construction or due to decline. They will be located to provide shade and aesthetic appeal as well as to provide habitat and to absorb storm water.

A 'Woodland Garden' located in the eastern section of the park will showcase a variety of native and woodland plants. This special garden will be a destination by its own merits and will add to the experience of visitors to Symphony Woods Park. The Woodland Garden will link to the walkway system encircling the Pavilion grounds and to Columbia's pathways. Park visitors will be able to walk one mile by completing a loop around the pavilion.

A special gathering place for the people of Columbia and Howard County, Symphony Woods Park will add life and vitality to Columbia's Town Center. The concept for the proposed park establishes a definitive plan based upon a program of family-oriented recreation activities.

The measure of any great civilization is in its cities, and the measure of a city's greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and squares.
John Ruskin

Symphony Wood Park Presentation & Survey

The Columbia Association's (CA) "Concept Plan for Symphony Woods" is available in a narrated slide show presentation at CA’s website:

There is also a short survey posted on the site and CA is encouraging the community to give them feedback on the plan.

Community input is very important to the planning of Symphony Woods Park. Please provide feedback on the features you feel would be of greatest benefit to the community. Your feedback is greatly appreciated and is essential in designing an amenity that is representative of our community.

Happy Constitution Day!!!

222 years ago today the US Constitution was sent to the states for ratification.

You can read the Constitution on the National Archive's website.

Now who can name the two Maryland delegates to the Constitutional Convention that did not sign the Constitution?


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Columbia Association's Position on Symphony Woods

Late last year, CA reviewed plans for Symphony Woods presented by General Growth Properties (GGP) as part of their submittal for the General Plan Amendment. After review, the CA Board chose to work with independent landscape architects and land planners (Cy Paumier and John Slater) to study options for Symphony Woods. The goal for this plan is to develop the site into an attractive setting for public recreation and community events while protecting and enhancing the site’s natural features.

Columbia residents are encouraged to attend one or both of the following meetings:

Wed, Sep 16 • 7:30pm__Visual Presentation of Symphony Woods Concept Plan
* Slayton House • 10400 Cross Fox Ln • Col 21044 • 410-715-3118

Sat, Sep 26 • 10:30am-noon__Walking Tour of Symphony Woods Concept Plan
• Symphony Woods • 5950 Symphony Woods Rd • Col 21044 • 410-715-3118
Designers will then lead the walking tour through Symphony Woods to help residents visualize the possible future of the park.

For more information, please call 410-715-3118.
CA encourages residents to attend one or both presentations and provide feedback on these concept plans.

The message below appeared in the Columbia Flier on Sept 3, 2009 (Full-Page Ad)

Symphony Woods: Preserve, Enhance, Admire
A Message from CA
To Columbia Residents

The Columbia Association is aware that the Howard County Council will be considering ZRA-113 and the General Plan Amendment (GPA) presented by General Growth Properties (GGP). The purpose of this letter is to provide the Columbia Association position with regard to the area identified in the GPA as the Merriweather portion of the Town Center Redevelopment. We are aware that GGP was required by the County to create a comprehensive master plan for all of downtown, including property they did not own. To this end, GGP offered a concept for the use of Symphony Woods, and stated their understanding that it was not their property and that it would ultimately be up to CA to propose a plan.

In July 2008, the CA Board of Directors approved a resolution that protects and enhances Symphony Woods by creating a park-like environment. The resolution states: “Future plans for Symphony Woods should include the following: (1) Restoration and maintenance of a vibrant natural ecosystem, (2) Provision for a gathering place for individuals and community events, (3) Merriweather Post Pavilion will be an exciting and active destination, (4) Limited roadways or buildings of a park-related scale, and (5) Connectivity and accessibility to the rest of Downtown.”

Our intent is to make Symphony Woods more attractive to residents by improving the grounds, adding walking paths, and introducing an interactive water feature and other park-like amenities. CA Staff has been working with consultants to create an exciting design plan for Symphony Woods Park. The concept plans will be introduced to the community through a communications plan over the next few months and additional input will be sought from the
community. The funding for the proposed Symphony Woods Park plan will be included by Staff in the draft FY 11-12 Budget to be presented to the CA Board for approval. CA is committed to enhancing cultural activities and opportunities in Columbia; It is our belief that these can be best accommodated in the Lakefront district, as opposed to Symphony Woods. CA’s intent to preserve Symphony Woods is reinforced by the County’s Vision Plan for Downtown that calls for preserving Symphony Woods and enhancing it with park-related features.

We ask that any Master Plan recommended by the Planning Board acknowledge CA’s intentions as owner of Symphony Woods.

For the Board,

Phil Kirsch • Chair, Columbia Association Board of Directors

Monday, September 14, 2009

Obama speaking in College Park on Thursday

What: Health Reform Rally with President Obama
Where: University of Maryland, Comcast Center
1 Terrapin Trail
College Park, MD 20742
When: Thursday, September 17th
Doors Open: 9am
Start Time: 11am

Admission is on a first-come, first-served basis, so please arrive as early as possible. There will be security and parking restrictions so plan accordingly.

All attendees will go through airport-like security and should bring as few personal items as possible. No bags, no sharp objects, no umbrellas, no liquids, no strollers, and no signs will be allowed into the venue.

Parking is extremely limited around the Comcast Center and the use of public transportation is stronly encouraged. The University will provide free shuttle buses from the University of Maryland-College Park Metro Station (Green Line) to and from the Comcast Center starting at 6am until two hours following the event.


Health Care Parady Video

Here is an article on Billionaires for Wealth Care.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

County Council Leadership

The powers of a legislator are to propose bills, amend bills, vote on bills and amendments, and if they can rally the support of their colleagues pass bills.

Thus one important way a legislator can show leadership, particularly if they were not the original drafter of the legislation, if the bill that is before them has problems is to amend that bill.

Tonight we saw the County Council show this type of leadership. They took County Bill 29 (CB-29) that came to them without a comprehensive community driven master planning process and they amended it to create a comprehensive community driven master planning process that each of Columbia's villages can undertake.

You can find the bill language and amendments here at the bottom of the page.

The following amendments passed:
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14(in revised form), 15, 16, and 18

Amendment 14 passed, but the amendment itself was amended to add "and not overwhelm" so that the version of 14 that passed read: "If appropriate, secondary residential uses to support and enhance and not overwhelm other uses in the village center."

The following amendments failed:
12 and 13

The following amendment was withdrawn:

Sometimes the community requests lots of changes and it takes lots of amendments to get the bill to reflect what the community has been asking for. As I have told a number of people more amendments can be very good, if the amendments are enacting the changes county residents are asking for and if it improves the bill.

County Council members Jen Terrasa, Mary Kay Sigaty, and Calvin Ball listened to there constituents and made sure that there was a comprehensive master planning process in this bill. This is the legislative process working as it should.

Soon we will have the Downtown Rezoning Bill to deal with. It is very important that we keep clearly communicating with our elected officials what we want. In the case of CB-29, the testimony of Kings Contrivance, which proposed specific amendments to the bill proved very effective and nearly all of the changes they requested were incorporated into the bill. I strongly suggest that the testimony on all bills focuses in on specific amendments.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Cartoon on Health Care


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Columbia Association's Goals Assigned to New President (June 2009)

Annual Strategic Issues

Describe strategic issues and include any and all expectations for the specific issue.  Identify measurements or indicators for achieving the desired outcome.

Issue 1

Columbia plans and enhances the health and safe living environment of the community

o   Improve accessibility and affordability of programs for all age groups in Columbia.

o   Use existing and future results of surveys to better understand what Columbia’s residents want or need

o   Work with the County and other related agencies to recommend that new subdivisions in or within the watershed follow regulations that prohibit sediment flow or other agents that are harmful to the environment

o   Work with the State Legislature to initiate and place into effect a new law that would give Columbia jurisdiction over its own zoning and platting matters while giving village boards a prominent recommendation role in such matters.

o   Make CA a leader in implementing green initiatives by working with Howard County to develop high standards that promote green policies in land use planning, transportation projects and building construction.

Issue 2

Columbia Association provides programs and projects to promote community and environmental sustainability

o   Work to initiate and strategically implement the recommendations of the Watershed Management Plan using grants from outside sources to the maximum level possible.

o   Refine and develop the approved Symphony Woods Concept Plans and provide a timetable for design, financing and construction phasing of the plan.

o   Explore and recommend alternative energy sources for CA facilities such as solar, geothermal, etc.

o   Continue and enhance the existing recycling programs for all CA facilities, even those owned by outside firms

o Initiate, with the condition of state and federal permitting approval, progress on dredging of community lakes.

Issue 3

Columbia utilizes available means and policies to foster financial stewardship that will require refocusing resource management

o   Develop a multi-year business plan that provides greater explanation and coordination of resources, the use of “best practices”, and equipment and priority needs

o   Develop a short-range capital improvements program based on the Board’s goals and objectives.  The plan should include but not be limited to projects such as: Symphony Woods, the Lake Front development and CA infrastructure.

o   Initiate structural reorganization that coordinates resources with the highest priority needs of the community, both current and future.  Make CA more cost-effective, productive, and responsive to changing demographics, and right-size CA in a competitive environment by focusing CA’s services on Columbia’s residents.  Ensure balanced CA budgets with spending levels that are realistic, and show how CA can improve quality of services, minimize costs, practicing cost containment, and making services for Columbia’s residents more affordable.

o   Prepare a successor to CA’s long-range Financial Management Program.

o   Assist the Board in distinguishing between budget centers that should be subsidized versus unsubsidized by the annual charge.

o   Initiate for Board review and approval short and mid range fiscal policies document that will provide the Board with the realities of CA capabilities for financing programming.

Issue 4

Columbia Association encourages community engagement, satisfaction, connection and individual development

o   Implement the CSS software system no later than May 1, 2010, and show that actual progress has been made at several checkpoints between now and then.

o   Implementation of a Residents Solution Coordinator to provide a source of information and answers to residents/property owners and to supply answers and information within specified timeframes.

o   Implement the Communications Plan to provide general project and/or program information to the community at initiation of the program or project.

o   Develop various information pieces using available resources to let Columbians know what they get for the assessment dollars.

o   Implement a process that ensures transparency in all CA operations.

Issue 5

Columbia Association utilizes interagency partnerships to develop the best programs possible for the residents of our community

o   Work with Village managers and boards to help determine their needs to plan for the future.

o   Work with Columbia “stakeholders” to develop information conduits that will assist in project and program development. 

o   Utilize community intelligence to develop pathways to the future through the development of focus groups and/or citizen roundtables.

o   Work with Howard County and the State of Maryland to share responsibility and funding for programs that are responsive to inevitable changes i.e. demographic, environmental, and advocacy that will directly impact the Columbia community.

o   Develop partnerships with the Columbia Foundation, the Chamber of Commerce and other agencies to provide input and resources into the second renaissance of Columbia.


The Columbia Association Planning & Strategy Committee (Aug 09)

ü  Working on the following:

o   Approximately 17 trees need to be cut down in Symphony Woods (SW) because they are unsafe and/or dead or dying.  Considering the implications of tree removal in SW, the PSC will host a meeting on August 20th at 6:30pm to allow the public to see the trees that will be taken down.  These trees were identified as dead or dying by a consulting arborist who provided CA with a report on which tree should be removed.  The public will be able to see which trees have been identified as they be marked with ribbons until they are taken down in approximately 2-3 weeks depending on weather conditions.  The committee will discuss the tree replacement plan with the CA President, consultants and staff. 

o   Budget Planning is being aligned to the strategic plan.  The President is developing a operational plan & business plan that will be presented in October.

o   If the Board approves, the Financial Advisory Committee will begin to develop a new Financial Management Program that will be benchmarked with best practices to help the organization create other tools beyond the current ratios that have been used exclusively to determine if CA is fiscally sound.

The Columbia Association Performance Oversight Committee (Aug 09)

Working on the following:

o   Customer Services System Update: The committee received an update from Steve Sattler on the Customer Services System  (CSS) to ensure that the project remains on track for a May 1, 2010 go-live.

o   Lake Kittamaqundi and Lake Elkhorn Dredging Projects:  Chick Rhodehamel gave an update on the dredging projects for Lake Kittamaqundi and Lake Elkhorn, the permit for the latter has been issued on July 9, 2009.  The RFP for Lake Elkhorn has been sent out and bids have been received.

o   CA’s Monthly Financials:  The POC monitored CA’s monthly financials as provided by Rafia Siddiqui to ensure that CA remains on track financially. 


The Columbia Association External Relations Committee (Aug 09)

ü  Working on the following:

o   Process for regular Village Roundtable Discussions

o   Environmental Sustainability, including Transportation Improvement and discussion of the Berkeley initiative

o   Village Revitalization, including Engaging the Business Community and Public Safety.                

o   Watershed Advisory Committee’s Watershed (WAC) Protection Framework document was reviewed.  The document will come back to committee for another review in October.  It was stated that the WAC members need to work with the Village Board’s to ensure that the Villages are beginning to move toward environmental sustainability.

Presentation of New Vision Plan for Symphony Woods

CA will host two public meetings to present the vision plans for Symphony Woods.
  • First meeting is on September 16 at Slayton House at 7:30pm featuring Cy Paumier and John Slater who will present a visual on plans for Symphony Woods.  
  • Second meeting on September 26 at 10:30am also featuring Cy Paumier and John Slater will include a walking tour of Symphony Woods permitting attendees to compare the plans to the actual landscape.
Residents are encouraged to attend both meetings, but will be encouraged to view the presentation and provide input via a survey on line if they’re unable to attend.  The on-line presentation and survey will be available after both meetings.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

MD moves ahead with the DC Purple Line and Baltimore Red Line

Governor O'Malley sent out the following email Tuesday afternoon:

Three years ago we came together united by a statewide vision for transportation that includes mass transit and roads -- and today I've got some great progress to announce in our work to make Maryland smart, green, and growing.

This morning I announced our plans to move forward on the construction of the Purple Line, a light-rail line that will run between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County.

The Purple Line won't just help us reduce traffic congestion and the air pollution that comes with it. It'll also give Marylanders an inexpensive, reliable, and environmentally friendly way to reach the places where they work, play, and worship.

How will the Purple Line affect your daily life? I want to hear what you think -- please share your thoughts here:

At 16 miles, the new line will connect major employment and activity centers to residential areas. It'll also link up three MARC commuter rail lines, Amtrak, and local bus services.

The Purple Line project will now be submitted to the Federal Transit Administration as we seek approvals to begin engineering work and secure $1.5 billion in federal funding to complete the project.

Along with the Purple Line, we're also moving forward this week on the Red Line -- a light-rail project in Baltimore that will better connect East and West Baltimore to each other and to regional transportation lines.

These investments mark the beginning of the next generation of Maryland's transit system, and it's a new era that will yield benefits for commuters and non-commuters alike.

Take a moment now to share your thoughts on how the Purple Line will affect you:

I look forward to hearing your comments!

Thank you,

Gov. Martin O'Malley
This is a major step forward in improving our regional transportation infrastructure. The next step will be to connect the two metro systems. A couple years ago I laid out on this blog one example of how this could be done to maximize the ridership density needed to bring in revenue to the system, reduce congestion on local roads and enabling managed growth in already developed areas, and protect and improve the county property tax base for many years into the future, while staying committed to being a mixed income community.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Netroots Nation Panel on Local Blogging

I will be moderating a panel on city and county blogging at this year's Netroots Nation. Though I took a hiatus from posting on this blog while I served on the Columbia Council and I have only slowly been getting back into posting since my term ended, I think I bring to the panel both an understanding of the pros and cons of posting while serving in elected office and the challenges of trying to build a group blog. All the longtime readers here have seen the waves of guest posters and know of my strong desire to try to build a sustained group blog. I also think Howard County has had an interesting mix of local blogs of varying styles and I hope to contribute that perspective.

The panelists that will join me in this discussion come from all over the country and have had a wide range of blogging experience at the local level and all have been more successful than I at establishing strong local blogs.

The other panelists are:
Dan Urevick-Ackelsberg of Philadelphia blog Young Philly Politics
Paul Hogarth of San Fransisco blog Beyond Chron
Josh Kalven who covers Chicago on Progress Illinois
Eli Ackerman of the New Orleans blog We Could Be Famous

It will be a great discussion and if you can make it to Pittsburgh on August 13-16th I encourage you to register for Netroots Nation and come join the discussion.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

CB-29 Amendments Online

One of the great things the County Council has done to promote good dialog with county residence is put the draft language of the amendments they are considering online, so residence can read them in advance to help them prepare testimony for the County Council hearing on Monday, July 20th at 7:30pm at the Board of Education Building on Route 108 (near Cedar Lane).

I hope to post my thoughts on the amendments in the next day or so.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Party Party Party is Closing

Party Party Party a longtime Columbia establishment in Dobbin Center is closing. I have always appreciated having this high quality party supply store in our community and am very sorry to see them closing. The initial notice they sent to longtime customers was that their lease was not renewed. If anyone knows the full story, I would be interested in knowing more. When the lease in Dobbin Center was not going to happen, did they try to get a lease in other space?

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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fourth of July Open Thread

What are your favorite things to do in Howard County on the Fourth of July?

While we all enjoying time with friends and family, it is also a good time to reflect on both the courage of our Founding Fathers and the courage of other people who stand up for the right to select who governs them, such as the Iranian people have been doing for the last two weeks.

The National Archives has a transcription of the Declaration of Independence online.

Howard County is the home of some of the descendants of Charles Carrroll, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Come meet the New CA President Tonight

The Columbia Association is hosting a Meet and Greet with new CA President Phil Nelson.

Come by tonight from 6-7:30pm to Historic Oakland Manor at 5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia, MD 21044.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Local Voices in the Health Care Debate

As the nation dives into the health care debate a number of Howard County residents taking part as well.

First up, what you can do:

There is free event at Amherst House, in the Kings Contrivance Village Center this Saturday, June 27, 10:30 – 11:30 AM where you can whatever your health care problems/concerns, and regardless of your political affiliation stop by and write letter to your elected officials expressing your views on the critically important issue of affordable health care for all Americans.

A Kings Contrivance resident is organizing this event and will provide the tools: paper, pen, envelopes and stamps,, as well as, a list of addresses for U.S. Senators and Representatives elected to Congress by Howard County residents. And conveniently there is a mailbox right outside the door to Amherst House.


ABC News’ Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer moderated a conversation this evening with President Obama about health care. A special edition of Primetime “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” will air on Wednesday, June 24th from 10:00-11:00 PM ET on the ABC Television Network. The conversation with the President will continue on “Nightline” at 11:35pm ET. President Obama will answer questions in the East Room of the White House from an audience made up of Americans selected by ABC News who have divergent opinions on the health care debate. One of those selected is local businessman Brian England, owner of British American Auto Care.


Two friends of mine, Adam Green and Stephanie Taylor (who are not Howard County residents, but I still thought there effort might interest Howard County residents), are organizing an effort to advocate for the inclusion of a Public Option within the Health Care Plan. If you also support the inclusion of a Public Option then you can sign up to have your name listed as a supporter in an ad they are putting together. Click here to go look at the ad and find out how to sign up.

I personally would like universal health care and think the current health care system is inefficient and a drag on our economy. The more our elected hear support for either universal health care or the public option, the more likely we will get a workable health care system that isn't just another bloated give away to insurance companies. As Adam and Stephanie's ad makes clear special interests are pouring huge amounts of money into trying to block meaningful health care reform.

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Monday, June 22, 2009

County Council Work Session

How did the County Council Work Session this afternoon go? Share your thoughts.

And please remember that in order to have a productive conversation it is important to use usernames. Posting as Anonymous means you do not want to have a constructive dialog on the important issues facing our county.


School Board Member Allen Dyer Speaking at DFH Tuesday

School Board Member Allen Dyer is speaking at Democracy For Howard County (DFH), which is the local chapter of Democracy for America, this Tuesday, June 23rd at 7pm at the Locust Park Neighborhood Center in Long Reach just off of Route 175. Locust Park Neighborhood Center is at 8995 Lambskin Lane in Columbia.