Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday Round Up: Oscars Edition...

To cynics, tonight's the night when a bunch of rich people get together to pat each other the back.

But, I'm not (usually) a cynic.

Although we have only seen a couple of the nominated movies, watching the Oscars is not just tradition in the Hayduke household -- it's an anniversary celebration. Back when I was just out of college and she was still in it, Abbzug and I moved into our first (tiny) apartment together the day of the academy Awards. Neither of us had a television, so we went out and bought the smallest, cheapest one we could find just in time to set it up (with rabbit ears) among the boxes and disorganized furniture in our new home and watch the broadcast. Today I can't recall which movies or actors won awards, but these aren't the details worth remembering anyway.

Okay, enough with the sentimentalizing, on to what you really came here for: a News Round Up. All today's stories come to use courtesy of the Sun.

A popular, successful program for middle school students at the East Columbia Library is out of money. The program, known as Teen Time, is so popular among students that there's a waiting list full of others wishing to get in. With all of its support coming from one-time grants, Teen Time will have to close down in June unless more money can be found. The programs total cost is slightly more than $33,000, which I guess is more than we can spare in our $1 billion plus 2007 budget. Instead of allowing this program to end, we should be starting them all over the county.

After an unsuccessful attempt two years ago, it sounds like the mega-grocery store Wegmans is still trying to find a suitable site in Columbia. The focus is on a parcel across from Apple Ford, an area that could easily absorb a 140,000 square foot grocery store (I already refer to that area as the Snowden River Parkway Big Box District). However, as was the case last time, there is still some concern about the impact a Wegmans would have on our village centers. But as was not the case last time, the Rouse Company is gone and its successor, General Growth, does not own the village centers and therefore does not have a financial stake in what happens to them. What's most interesting about this story is the amount of secrecy -- anonymous quotes, "neither confirm nor deny"-type statements. It's a freaking grocery store, not national intelligence. Sheesh.

How do you feel about the Wegmans? Tell me in comments or the Sun to have your opinions shared with a (slightly) larger audience.

Me and you, and you and me. No matter how they toss the dice, it had to be. The only one for me is you, and you for me. So Happy Together. See? That wasn't hard.

Look, I'm no sissy, pinko Communist, though I do love universal health care as much as the next wild-eyed, Che Guevara worshipping, capitalism hating socialist. I'm a big fan of property rights -- maybe not as much as this guy, however, who, like Communists, is really just a Utopian. (Turning everything into private property will not solve all the world's ills. T. S. Eliot pretty much sums up the problem with Utopians: "It is impossible to design a system so perfect that no one needs to be good.")

Anyway, it's not my intention to turn this last bit into a diatribe against Absolutists, Utopians, Communists, or Extreme Libertarians, including HoCo Exile. Rather, I'm writing about Sen. Allan Kittleman's ill-conceived attempt to change the state's constitution for local purposes. Thankfully, his bill, which would have limited the eminent domain powers of Howard County by amending the constitution that applies to every county, failed to win approval from the delegation. As it should.

I know people are hypersensitive about eminent domain following the Supreme Court's ruling last fall. But this is not the right way to address it.

The General Assembly is considering 43 bills on the subject, but Republican state Sen. Allan H. Kittleman was pushing a state constitutional amendment that would apply solely to Howard County.

Kittleman's bill, if approved, would have prevented county government from ever taking land for "urban renewal," even if the county, for example, wanted to acquire a vacant lot on U.S. 1 to aid a redevelopment project.

"Someone has a right to have a vacant property," Kittleman said at the delegation meeting in Annapolis Wednesday. The bill -- the delegation's last piece of local legislation -- failed, with support from only the 11-member delegation's four Republicans.

Democrats, led by Del. Elizabeth Bobo, who heads a House subcommittee working on land-use issues, said that with all the bills submitted on the issue, it would make sense to see what legislation emerges from committee before trying to amend the state constitution just for Howard County.

"Our goal is to get uniformity throughout the state," Bobo said, and that would be better done by changing state law through the legislative process than by amending the state constitution.

County Executive James N. Robey, a Democrat who attended the meeting, also opposed Kittleman's bill.

"We rarely used [eminent domain], but I think any jurisdiction would want the tool to use in unusual circumstances," he said.

Kittleman's reacting to an emotional issue, which is usually the best way to come up with bad policy. I'm in favor of more controls and clearer, stronger definitions on when and where eminent domain is appropriate. Let's see what comes out of the 43 other bills first before we start changing the constitution.

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