Wednesday, September 28, 2005

More on Guy's surprise

Following up on this post, councilman Guy Guzzone's decision to not run for county executive has thrown a wrench into the orderly world of Howard County politics. In today's Sun, Larry Carson and others get their speculating on.

Former five-term County Councilman C. Vernon Gray has not ruled out running for the top job, nor has Del. Frank S. Turner. County Councilman Ken Ulman is seriously mulling over the opportunity -- though Dels. Elizabeth Bobo, a former county executive, and Shane E. Pendergrass are not.

And Gray wondered if someone from outside the political world, someone "who has not been on the firing line making tough decisions" might not be best. That is a view shared by others.

"I think Courtney Watson [the school board chairman] will run," said state Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat who ran briefly for governor in 1994, but said he is not interested in becoming county executive. "Ultimately, I think she's the best candidate the Democrats have."

Hmm. I hadn't thought about politicians coming out of retirement. Or having some unknown candidate, either. Clearly, I need to work on my speculation skills.

It is still very early in this process, but because of Chris Merdon's head start, I'd expect the Democrats to come up with somebody soon. That's my prediction. I'll leave it to the experts to say exactly who that will be.

Can you help?

I need someone to explain to me what this article is saying. I understand that the county has come back with a revised proposal for western development and land preservation, but I'm unclear on exactly what they are proposing, perhaps because this is the extent of the information provided by the Sun:

The key elements would:

Prohibit properties of 50 acres or more that are zoned rural conservation (RC) from receiving building rights, or density. The county initially proposed an absolute ban.

Provide property owners an incentive by allowing them to sell building rights at one unit per 2.5 acres on property of 20 to 299 acres. The ratio would be one unit per 3 acres for property ranging from 6 to 19 acres that is 40 percent surrounded by preserved land.

Beyond that, there is just a brief recap of procedural issues and the back story, though not enough to provide any context for the proposed changes. As I have admitted, though, I don't really know a great deal about this debate. But such minor details have never stopped me from expressing an opinion before. Why change now?

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Guy's surprise

Rare is the morning that I am surprised reading the Howard Section of the Baltimore Sun. This was one of those mornings. And this was the story.

Two-term county councilman and presumptive Democratic candidate for Howard County executive Guy Guzzone said yesterday he would not run for the office for personal reasons, throwing the contest wide open.

Reporter Larry Carson understates the implication of Guzzone's decision. Indeed, by next November, we could have, in addition to a new county executive, an entirely new county council.

The path to the Democratic nomination for county executive had been cleared for Guzzone. Now with him out of the race, the field is wide open and likely includes councilman Ken Ulman, school board chairman Courtney Watson, police chief Wayne Livesay, and who knows who else. While it's still early, I would say Ulman has to be the favorite, and if he runs, that guarantees four open council seats. If you throw David Rakes' seat in the mix (which I think is as good as open at this point), that leaves every district up for grabs. At the risk of overstating things, Guzzone's decision could start a massive restructuring of the county political landscape.

Instead of county executive, Guzzone has opted to run for the House of Delegates in District 13, where a victory, it seems, is very likely--it is a strongly Democratic district. The race for county executive, on the other hand, will be fiercely contested, time consuming, and potentially ugly. Therefore, it is understandable that Guzzone, whose father's health is deteriorating, doesn't want to desert his family in their time of need. For that reason, I respect his decision, which he explained thusly:

"I'm the classic sandwich generation person at this time," said Guzzone, who revealed his decision in a letter to supporters. "All we really have to give to other people is our time. I intend to do that."

Howard County resident and blogger David Wissing, who writes only occasionally about county issues and is slightly to the right of me, thinks Guzzone's decision is based on fear that he'll lose the seat.

Now a race for the House of Delegates in his district would probably be a lot less stressful than a bruising County Executive race since the delegate seat is a reliable Democratic seat, but it does make his excuse for not running because of “family” reasons a little hollow. I hate to be cyncical, but it appears of the reason Guzzone bowed out of the County Executive race was because he was scared he would lose countywide to Chris Merdon and would rather take the easy way out and guarantee himself victory next year.

Well, in addition to the increased stress of the race, the county executive position requires a year-round commitment, whereas the General Assembly is only in session for three months. Moreover, running a government, I would imagine, takes significantly more time and energy than politicking with fellow delegates in Annapolis. But, perhaps David is right. Perhaps Guzzone was looking for the easy way out. Neither David nor I can say for sure.

As an aside, David, whose blog I read and enjoy daily, should know that cynicism is a choice. If one really hates being cynical, one can choose to not be so. Am I nitpicking here? You bet. But isn't that what blogs are all about?

Monday, September 26, 2005

County Charrette website

Info on the charrette (which you need to come to) here.

Bow down to my html prowess

That's right...I've got links now. Oh yeah.

A quick note on those wonderfully-linkable links, the list is surely not comprehensive, but Monday Night Football is starting soon and it needs my undivided attention. So, if you know of a group or news source or blog or anything else relevant to Howard County that has a website, email me a

In other blog-related happenings, I've changed the color to one that Abbzug prefers. If you don't like it, you can take it up with her.

Yes, I know the font is constantly changing.

Finally, though only a couple have been relevant to the post (thanks Roscoe), there have been some very entertaining comments. If you are in the market for hiking boots or vitamins, I think you'll find the comment section quite useful.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The future of downtown Columbia

More like this?

Although it doesn't look terribly original (it reminds of the new buildings in Baltimore), I think we need more buildings like this to help define Town Center.

It will be interesting to see what level of detail we will get in the finished product of the upcoming charrette. Will it include drawings similar to the one above but with a little less detail? Surely, that is what the people want and need to visualize the future we're agreeing to.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Go west

The citizens’ panel studying the intractable and intertwined issues of development and preservation in western Howard County offered an informal solution at the last meeting. Their idea, which is not at all like mine, centers on something they’ve termed a “density bank.”

The essence of the plan is for the county to spend millions of dollars to acquire building rights, or density, from property owners in the west and then to "bank" them until they are sold to developers over a number of years. Proponents of the idea said that as property values increase the county might make a profit on its investment, although that is neither guaranteed nor the motivation.

There could be multiple benefits, proponents said, some of which transcend the immediate conflict:

  • Land in the west, much of it agricultural, would be preserved and permanently safeguarded from development, which is the county's principle objective.
  • Property values in that region would be protected because the county would pay more per acre -- perhaps as much as market value -- which would provide landowners with an economic incentive not to develop.
  • Developers would not face losing over several years the ability to build hundreds of housing units.
  • The county's revitalization efforts elsewhere, particularly along U.S. 1 and the U.S. 40 corridor, would get a boost.
  • Affordable housing would be provided by creating "hamlets," or mixed-use villages, in some locations, including in the west, such as Lisbon, by transferring the density to those sites.

And everyone gets a free pony, too!

But seriously, doesn’t the county already spend money to do essentially the same thing with its current ineffective and underfunded agricultural preservation program? My understanding is that the county currently buys easements to preserve land, and in so doing, removes any development rights from the property, contingent on the terms of the easement. The beauty of easements is that they don’t cost as much as straight-up development rights because, as part of the deal, there is usually some type of ongoing property tax reduction. Or so I think.

What this proposal seems to promise are the same results but at a higher cost. If that's the case, why not just increase funding for the agricultural preservation program? Of course, because the county can recoup its costs by selling its banked development rights. I don't know. Real estate brokering is not something I like to associate with government and (dare I say) politics.

I wonder why the county has to be an active player--instead of overseer/regulator--in this process at all. Doesn't it seem eminently more sensible to have the county watch from the sidelines, thereby insulating it, at least to a degree, from what could become a very messy situation?

"It's a pretty simple idea," committee member Theodore Mariani, vice president of the architecture firm CSD Mariani, said after Monday's meeting. "It's just going to require a little finesse. The county would be able to, in a sense, barter the density and put it where it wants the density. And it gets the money back out of the development process to pay itself back for having made the investment."

Simple? How would the county objectively determine what development rights to buy and at what price? Who would decide to whom the county sold its development rights and at what price? How long would the county be required to hold these rights? Would county development rights take precedence over the rights of existing landowners? Is this legal?

I came up with these questions in just a few minutes, and I'm sure there are plenty more. Such a plan doesn't seem very simple. In fact, the only thing that seems simple about this is who benefits: landowners who would get nice payments from the county while at the same time protecting their property values; and developers who would not lose the ability to develop the hundreds of housing units.

At least county planning director Marsha McLaughlin understands the complexity of the situation, to some extent:

While McLaughlin said there are serious political, legal and financial issues to explore, she said, "buying and banking might be a more doable option" than some of the other ideas that have been suggested.

What about my idea? Let the county create the framework for the system and then let free market principles take over. Granted my plan's not fully thought out, but I could come up with a couple of bullet points, too. And, I could even guarentee a pony.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Traffic troubles redux

Continuing on this story, the local residents, now known as OC-29, held a very well-attended meeting recently to discuss how to deal with the their traffic troubles. Among the attendees were:

...Howard County Executive James N. Robey, County Council Chairman Guy Guzzone, Councilman Charles C. Feaga, and all four District 13 legislators (State Sen. Sandra B. Schrader and Dels. Shane E. Pendergrass, Neil F. Quinter, and Frank S. Turner). In addition, Steve Sharar, division chief for transportation and special projects of the county Department of Public Works, and four representatives from the state Highway Administration, also attended.
Wow. That's a pretty good line up for a meeting about a pesky intersection that affects a relatively small constituency. Don't get me wrong, though. I think the residents have done a great job mobilizing, and its always good to see the public officials earning their salaries--especially those interested in pay raises.

Further down, writer Jody Vilisck, author of the always fun Traffic Talk column, provides the moral:

But this is not a story of solutions -- those are still to come -- but of how community activism can possibly change the roads on which we drive.
And the schools our children attend; the parks we play in; the government we pay for; and many other things about the community we live in.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

They (finally) got the scoop...

After telling you the news on Saturday, the local papers have finally gotten around to it:

A Howard County Circuit Court judge's ruling affirming the Zoning Board's denial of the Rouse Co.'s petition to increase Columbia's density is essentially moot 20 months after the two bodies were at odds over developing the planned community's downtown.

The story is definitely right. Just a few months ago, when it became clear that the only way new development would occur in downtown Columbia was through the charrette, General Growth gave up on this case as well as the more commercial request it submitted to the county planning board last September.

I guess there is some comfort to be taken in the fact that General Growth has to pay the court fees.

Meanwhile, in the same story, Ken Ulman thinks we have “moved past the adversarial days into a time of cooperation.”

"I'm hopeful that property owners and the community will work together in a renewed sense of cooperation toward this upcoming charrette," he added, "and we will hopefully agree on a mutually beneficial vision for Columbia's Town Center.”

I, too, am hopeful. Unfortunately, I don’t think there has ever been an occasion where citizens, developers, and politicians all agreed on something. Then again, we’ve never viewed planning as inclusive, democratic, or holistic before now. I guess, and hope, there’s a first time for everything.

For the last word, for now, here’s community activist Mary Pivar’s perspective on the charrette:

"It gives residents the validity to express far more inclusive, vibrant visions for the crescent [property] to produce a truly singular city," she said, "instead of another ordinary, prosaic residential-focused development."

Transportation troubles...

Oh, what to make of this

The state's Mass Transit Administration is trying to negotiate "a new kind of service" for Baltimore residents who need transportation to jobs in suburbs such as Howard County, state Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said yesterday.

A system of passenger vans, financed by tax credits for employers and fares paid by employees, could help workers who depend on lightly used, inefficient bus routes, Flanagan said, though no deals have been struck.

This may be a good approach to transportation problems in the interim, but it won’t work for very long. Indeed, without any significant action, our public transportation needs are going to become dire in a few years, and not because of increasing gas prices.

For a suburban community, Howard County has a lot of jobs, over 130,000, and that figure is surely going to rise. However, only 38 percent of county residents work here, while the rest commute to DC or Baltimore. Why? Because that’s were they have to go to earn enough money to live in this county, with its median household income of over $82,000 (almost twice that of the US as a whole).

Almost 80,000 people commute into Howard County each day to work. Many of them, presumably, fill the low-wage jobs that our community needs to function properly. I’m sure some prefer to live elsewhere, but a large portion of these inbound commuters would surely like to live in this county, if they could afford to, which they can’t. And, with housing prices rising and not likely to fall (ever), we will rely more and more on residents of neighboring counties to fill the jobs Howard Countians can’t afford to take.

So, we need to find a better way to get an increasing number of commuters into this county. The approach proposed by Secretary Flanagan might be a temporary solution, but as Howard County employment grows, we’ll need something better.

I don’t think extending subways or the light rail are viable options. Nor are scattershot bus routes. Instead, we need a more integrated approach to transportation, and it starts at home.

Our current county bus system is about as inefficient as it gets. Yes, it’s fairly inexpensive to ride, but most buses I see are empty, probably because of poorly-designed routes (I live and work in Columbia—about an eight-minute commute—but by bus it would take me almost an hour). Creating a better transportation system in the county would, I think, go a long way to making the commute into this county easier. One way would be to create more centralized hubs and efficient express routes to all of our primary employment centers, which would allow regional transportation systems to better integrate into our local one.

Or, we could try expanding our affordable housing opportunities, but that’s a story for another day.

Are you threatening me?

Everyone knows an ounce of land in Howard County is worth more than an ounce of gold (well, maybe not exactly, but it’s pretty close). Since the majority of undeveloped but developable land left in the county is in the “rural” west, the area has become a center for competing visions about what it should be: farms or houses.

The State of Maryland is threatening to cut funding to the county’s land preservation program if it doesn’t do something to stop the rapid loss of farms to development. Howard County, it should be noted, has one of the worst records for land preservation of any county in the state.

Like a good local government that relies on money from above (pennies from heaven?), it formed a committee to study the issue and floated some proposals, which immediately incensed land owners, who felt increased restrictions on development—in the form of decreased allowable density—amounted to stealing.

Accordingly, they hired a lawyer to issue threats, like this one:

"People are not going to wait around for the next blow to hit," Richard B. Talkin, whose clients include some of the largest developers in the state, told a citizens committee that is trying to forge a compromise on new zoning proposals for the western region.

Talkin, a member of the 19-member committee, said large-property owners will either develop their land or sell it for development rather than risk losing millions of dollars.

"People are going to commit because they are not going to sit around for the government to change the rules again," he said. "We are not going to have uncommitted property five years from now."

While I’m certainly sympathetic to landowners relying on their property to fund their retirement, having a pit bull attorney issue threats doesn’t seem like the best way to help one’s cause. At least one prominent landowner, Randy Nixon, had something sensible to say.

"There is a way to do it, but we just don't know the way," Randy Nixon, owner of Nixon's Farm, which is not a farm but about 130 acres from which a catering business operates, said after Monday's meeting. "We all want to preserve the Howard County way of life. To some extent, that way of life has already left us -- it's already gone. But to the extent that it still exists, we want to try to preserve it. ... There's a certain overarching belief that we should both maintain land values and preserve as much open space as we possibly can."

There’s hope yet, I suppose.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a concrete, well-articulated answer to this, but neither does anyone else. However, I’ll take a stab at it.

My approach would involve the transfer of development rights, perhaps through the creation web-based markets where land owners could buy and sell rights. Development, however, would only be permissible on certain parcels, namely those of poor agricultural or ecological value or those close to existing population centers. I’m not sure if the best way would be to restrict these development rights transfers to western Howard County, or make them exchangeable throughout the county. Either way, I would add a provision that requires landowners to hold a pre-determined minimum number of development rights before they could develop. This, it seems, would maximize the land available for preservation by restricting development to clustered spaces.

There’s a lot I haven’t thought through about this. But, there’s also a lot that others haven’t thought through either.

Feeling gassy?

Gas prices have gone up significantly in recent weeks, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve long felt that we pay too little for gas considering the untold billions (trillions?) in costs it imposes on our world each year. I’m a big believer in paying the full price for something that destroys our air and water, our infrastructure, and our health. Sadly, no one has really come around to see my view on this.

Rising fuel prices are inevitable, and the recent surges in costs are only the beginning. Eventually, we won’t rely on oil for energy, and rising prices only serves to speed up the necessary innovations to wean us off the stuff. That said, I share Rev. Rick Bowers' concern for those whose lives are most affected in the short term by increasing energy prices.

"I can see a situation where a family is going to ask: 'Do I fill my oil tank? Do I fill my car? Or do I feed my family?'” Bowers said. “Which one has to suffer?”

I’m more concerned, though, by the fact that we’re fooling ourselves into a false sense of energy abundance. The better approach would be to slowly transition away from our dependence on oil (from all countries)—through better pricing and incentives—while accommodating those who will suffer the most from these changes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Them's fightin' words

Howard County Democrats throw one mean picnic. Literally...

Remarking on reports that Republicans have targeted some local Democrats for defeat next year, Robey laid out a call to arms intended to rally Democrats for battle.

"When are we going to get off our asses and start targeting some of them? You can't just play defense. We have to play offense," he told the crowd.
So, when is the election? Right. November 2006. The campaign never ends, I guess.

(By the way, give it up for Larry Carson and The Sun. Keep those profanities coming.)

Aside from Robey's fiery call to arms, there was no news to report. Reticence prevails among potential candidates for county office, except Councilman Chris Merdon who announced his candidacy for county executive in 1994, I believe (disclaimer: just kidding).

One thing is for certain, there should be some fun races next year.

More than a suburb, not yet a city

I haven't paid enough attention to the Columbia Association governance reform to comment extensively on the issue, but this seems like a good idea.

The council will ask a state elected official to request a formal opinion from the attorney general's office on the legality and effects of eliminating the council.

The council voted in July to disband - and the 10-member group will act only as the board of directors for the Columbia Association - with the decision being contingent on the board approving changes to the Columbia Association charter.

This whole process has been complicated by the fact that CA is a very complicated animal--not a government, not a homeowners association, certainly not something that is easily defined or, for that matter, governed. From the little I know of the governance reform movement, it seems like a lot of paper shuffling and hand wringing, although I hear the end result might make CA less confusing (a good thing, obviously). However, I think Barbara Russell is correct in proceeding cautiously.

"This is a serious issue that deals with changing the basic governance process of the Columbia Association, and I think it's important that we as an organization get a formal opinion from the attorney general's office ... because we will have to live with this in the future," Russell said.
Governance aside, I think the real issue CA needs to address is its role. Governance changes seem like an attempt to get at this, but in the end they will only scratch the surface. A proactive council, excuse me Board of Directors, like the one we have now, may be just what the organization needs to help it find its course and place within the county.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I got the scoop...

General Growth's appeal of Zoning Board Case 1031M--the one involving a density increase for the "Crescent" property in downtown Columbia that started the entire Town Center/ Merriweather/charrette imbroglio--was denied by the Howard County Circuit Court. I've got no links to any stories because the papers haven't written about it yet (the ruling was handed down late in the week). Maybe tomorrow.

In the coming weeks, I'll be writing extensively about the Columbia Town Center Charrette, which is scheduled for October 15 -- 22. If you'd like to help craft a plan for future development in the county's urban center, you should plan on participating.

The continuing saga of David Rakes

More problems for the beleaguered councilman from District 2...

It all started back in November 2004 when Rakes inexplicably voted to approve a liquor license for someone who had, in Councilman Chris Merdon's words, "the worst record I've ever seen." Of course, the license was for a new restaurant in Oakland Mills Village Center, the ailing shopping center in Rakes' district, and the vote could have been construed as one for Oakland Mills revitalization. How it looked in reality, though, was that he was trying to help out a friend. From the same story linked above:

Rakes' troubles began in November, when, as chairman of the county liquor board, he failed to tell other board members that a license applicant for a restaurant in Oakland Mills Village Center, Haluk "Alec" Kantar, had been his campaign treasurer. Howard County council members also serve as liquor board members.

...Rakes said later he had replaced Kantar as treasurer months before the liquor board hearing, but he acknowledged an error in judgment for not informing the other board members of his relationship.

But Kantar did not submit his resignation as Rakes' treasurer to the state election board until February 2005.
Despite the ethical gaffe, he was cleared of any wrong doing by the county ethics board. But more problems arose when his campaign finance reports were released in early 2005 and they included several errors. The cause of these errors, in Rakes' words at the time: "I've got somebody working on this who doesn't know what they're doing." Nice.

I have never been very impressed with him (and we share a political party, although I think on the local level, parties are borderline useless, despite great efforts by politicians to the contrary). I always thought Rakes was someone who looked out for himself by making sure that at least his constituents were happy; that is, he made decisions solely based on what he perceived to be in the best interests of District 2 and not the county as a whole, which I suppose is understandable. Generally not a good politician or legislator, but pretty harmless.

Then in July of 2005, he provided the deciding vote against a bill that would have increased the availability of affordable housing in Howard County--a strange move given that he represents some of the county's lowest-income neighborhoods.

Map of Median Household Income by Census Tract (from US Census Bureau). Click map to enlarge.

District 4 Councilman Ken Ulman rightly questioned Rakes' decision:
"(Rakes) doesn't understand the legislation," Ulman said. "His constituents should be embarrassed for him."

Rakes said Ulman's comments were "a put-down and a slap in the face."

"I take it very personal," Rakes said of Ulman's statement. "I'm a very independent voter."
Such poor ethical, managerial, and political decisions are not those of an "independent" legislator. Rather, an inept one.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Traffic troubles

So how about that dangerous intersection...

If you live in Howard County, you probably know the intersection in question; it's the southernmost along Route 29 at Old Columbia Road (and the one that provides access to the wonderfully kitsch Rocky Gorge mini golf course). Never was it particularly easy to navigate, but over the last few years, things seems to have gotten worse, due in large part to new development in the area.

"The road's design problems have become more glaring as traffic volume has increased, residents say. Old Columbia Road is now home to nearly 600 houses near the intersection."
I don't wish to blame the local residents--I'm all for their efforts to improve the intersection, especially if it makes it easier for me to get to mini golf. What I'm wondering is how new houses could be approved in the area--many of the 600 homes were built in the last five years--seemingly without consideration given to the horrible intersection? I know projects are approved only if sufficient infrastructure is in place, and I'm sure this intersection was somehow deemed "adequate" by planners.

But why? Because "on paper" it can handle the additional traffic? Do local planners and government officials ever physically look
at the projects they review? If they had in this case, surely they would know that the sight-lines have always been horrible, the acceleration lane too short, and the flow of traffic too fast--on top of the ever-present threat of errant golf balls from the driving range.

Well, maybe they did look at the intersection. Maybe they knew it was a problem. Maybe they have a plan to fix it and accommodate for additional traffic flow.
"State Highway Administration officials say they can't begin construction of an overpass until the county places such a project on its priority list and the project is included in the state's budget, a process that normally takes years."
Maybe not.

All things considered, this obviously isn't the biggest issue we face as a county. But, I think it is indicative of how well we plan our community and how well we accommodate for growth. Which is to say, not very well.

Local papers, national stories

So, I haven't really given this blogging stuff much thought. Before today, I was thinking that I would mainly post column-length entries one or two times a week, depending on my time and available subject matter. However, I started to question that approach today, probably because there wasn't anything in today's papers worthy of a lengthy exposition. I guess what I'm saying (at this point, only to myself) is let's just see what happens. For a couple of months, at least, posting may be highly irregular. On to the news, but first, some background...

Howard County's news cycle is basically on a weekly basis. The Baltimore Sun runs local stories on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, with the majority of the juicy stuff saved for the weekend. The Washington Post runs local stories on Thursday, the same day our local weeklies (the Columbia Flier, Howard County Times, and Laurel Leader--all published by the same company, Patuxent Publishing) come out. While I'm not enamored with any of the papers, I think Patuxent does the best job covering the community, the Sun has the most interesting stories, and the Post has the best writers. This week, however, Patuxent let me down.

Local papers all do it, but Patuxent has elevated it to an art form. "It," of course, is giving extensive coverage to national issues that, however poignant or tragic, have no real relevance to our county. This week, Patuxent pulled out all the stops, going so far as to send a reporter to Mississippi. See more stories here, here, here, here, here, and here. Yes, Katrina has had an impact on our lives in Howard County, but couldn't these impacts and our responses have been summed up in a single story? Patuxent tries to connect us to the tragedy, but in the process only cheapens it, as though the significance of the situation rests on how it affects our community. To be sure, county residents are doing what they can to help, but so are hundreds of millions of others throughout the world.

With as much time, energy, and emotion as I've devoted to watching the storm and its aftermath, I still don't want to write about it, and when I open my local paper, I don't really want to read about it.

I like local papers because they write about local issues, like dangerous intersections and a TV show being filmed in our community. And really, who doesn't love the crime log (unless you or your property is in it)? Without question, there is a tremendous need for local papers. They are vital to the strength of our community, covering stories other papers don't and providing an unparrelled forum for discussions of local issues. It's all the better when papers play to these strengths, instead of trying to be something they're not.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


If every blog must have a niche, than mine is Howard County, Maryland, or what I like to call, the heart of the state. Actually, not really, but we're certainly in the middle--the only county in the state surrounded entirely by other counties. So, we've got that going for us.

Anyway, I'm planning to focus on Columbia and county issues, with occasional rants about state and national politics, Baltimore sports, and whatever else sparks my interest. Because of Howard's position between Baltimore and DC, we tend to get neglected by the media from both cities. Our local weekly papers do what they can, but with Columbia being the second largest city in the state (that is, if it were incorporated) and the county home to an educated population, there's certainly a need, I think, for more information and dialogue. Thus, with the free and easy tools at my disposal, I figured I'd take a crack at it.

That's why I'm here.