Thursday, April 13, 2006

Thursday Round Up: Low on time, low on thoughts...

Here’s a quick rundown…

Master plan loses momentum: Is my concern that the Town Center master plan is drifting further and further from the charrette and citizens valid? Looking at this timeline, it certainly seems so.

Thunder Hill housing plan draws criticism: I have no real comment (for now) on this story other than to say that the term “mixed-use” should not be applied to developments that are solely residential, regardless of whether they offer a mix of housing types. We have enough moving targets; language should not be one of them.

Openness, accountability for CA are common goal: The Flier issued endorsements today for the Columbia council elections. There are three contested races – Harpers Choice, Town Center, and Wilde Lake – for which the Flier endorsed Cynthia Coyle, Jud Malone, and William Santos.

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, Evan Coren has beef with Malone and endorsed his opponent, Gail Broida, while David Wissing, a Town Center resident, thinks Malone has done a good job and should be reelected.

Evan's problems with Malone stem from, among other things, a vote he cast that would have closed some CA meetings dealing with the formation of a downtown partnership. In addition, Evan, after calling Malone a “very smooth, well practiced politician,” goes on to say:

I can see that if I had not 1) sat through the CA meeting where I watched with my own eyes Jud trying to close the public out of the Downtown Partnership planning meeting when there was no personnel or legal council reasons to justify the closing of those meetings, 2) sat through all of the focus group meetings where Jud has repeatedly preached how we must trust the developers and the county officials, 3) watched him preach our need to trust the developers and county official at the downtown Columbia public meeting on February 27th, I might have fallen for his smooth talk.
I’m not sure what he’s getting at here, but I can guess. Usually when someone mentions another’s “smooth” talking, the implication is that the person isn’t being entirely honest and likely has ulterior motives. What, I’m wondering, does he think Malone’s ulterior motives are?

Moreover, it seems to me that attacking Malone simply because he believes we should trust developers and county officials is highly cynical. Alas, such cynicism, which is a product of our screwed-up development system, is all too prevelant.

A reasonable goal of the charrette was to build consensus, and not just among citizens. It was supposed to be a way for us and them -- developers and county officials -- to have a dialogue about our future, rather than having us endlessly scream at each other.

At some point, we need to start trusting again. If we don't, we'll never have an acceptable master plan. What's more, if past generations had such a reflexive aversion to trusting developers, Columbia would not exist.

Evan ends his endorsement with this:
Town Center and Columbia needs CA reps like Gail Broida who helps find solutions so the redevelopment plan serves both the developer AND the community.
Meanwhile, in the open meetings post linked to above, he says:
And while we are at it I think a lot of credit is due Ken Ulman for opening the whole downtown Columbia redevelopment process up by pushing to have the charrette.
I don’t want to take any credit away from Ulman for making the charrette a reality, but if I am recalling things correctly, it was actually Jud Malone and Josh Feldmark who really got the charrette movement going. If you remember back to December of 2004, CA took the lead on this issue by deciding to fund a preliminary study and (I believe, though I could be wrong) the charrette itself before the county, a few months later, took over. I know this so well because I attended the meeting where CA debated whether to fund this project and offered testimony in support of it.

It is fine with me if Evan wants to claim that Malone is too secretive or too much of a smooth talker, but saying he hasn’t worked for solutions that serve “both the developer AND the community” is flat out wrong. If it weren’t for Malone’s leadership on this matter, there might be a Wal-Mart on the Crescent property today, and there would almost certainly have been no charrette or master plan.


Evan said...

Your concerns that "the Town Center master plan is drifting further and further from the charrette and citizens" is not valid, because the drifting occured when the consultants proposed a plan at the end of the charrette that didn't reflect what the community said at the charrette and the effort by those seeking to fix the plan is to get the plan to "better reflect" what the community said at the charrette. It is about returning the process to the citizens.

Evan said...

As for the Town Center election I will post a fuller reply this weekend, but for now:

1) You are right that Jud was involved in getting the charrette to happen, as was Ken and Josh, but I think it is his poor record since then that troubles me. It is only after watching Jud at the Focus Group and the Feb 27 Public Meeting that I have concluded that he is not representing Town Center well. I started out trusting the county officials (this is the subject of a rather long post I started writing last night and ran out of time and will finish this weekend), but the behavior of DPZ since the charrette has sadly destroyed that trust. Jud has become along with development lawyer Dick Talkin one of the loudest, most frequent preachers of trusting the developer. In Jud's actions on the focus group his confidence in the developers seems to have colored his willness to stand up and be a strong advocate for the community. I find this all rather sad. Jud is clearly very smart and has had moments of using his political skills (such as helping kick start the charrette process) to do good things, but recently Jud seems to have lost his way. Now I think he needs a reminder of who elected him and I hope he will take that lesson return to the old Jud. Sometimes people when elected lose sight of being a voice for those they represent. And sometimes people get so committed to a process that they fail to recognize that a process has been hijack and is no longer being used in good faith. I wish we could all work together to get this process back on track to what the community said at the charrette, but as long as Jud continues to be a cheerleader for trusting those who have demonstrated they are not trust worthy I feel it my duty as one of few observers who has been to everyone of the focus group meetings to tell people the truth about Jud's record.

2) To your quote "A reasonable goal of the charrette was to build consensus, and not just among citizens. It was supposed to be a way for us and them -- developers and county officials -- to have a dialogue about our future, rather than having us endlessly scream at each other." Yes, and it might have been if the county officials and developers had behaved worthy of trust, but instead they chose to repeatedly not have the plan reflect what the community has been saying. As I said I will write more on this this weekend, but it only takes one side to choose not to have a dialogue. I think the record is very good that I and many others who have participated in the process have tried to have a dialogue, but sadly the plan as of yet doesn't indicate a dialogue has been occuring. I will say again I don't care when the plan is approved as long as it is fixed before it is approved.

Hayduke said...

I don't really have time to get into a full-on debate over this now (I know, I'm lame, but the house won't paint itself), but I don't think that trusting developers is intrinsically bad, as you suggest. Maybe I've been drinking too much of the kool-aid, but I think GGP has taken great strides to work with the community and instead of pushing them away we should be drawing them in. Painting them as liars doesn't seem to be the best way to accomplish that. I'm not sure, moreover, what GGP has done to become untrustworthy, other than being a developer.

As for the charrette, saying the plan presented doesn't reflect the collective view of citizens is a highly subjective value statement, one that is empirically impossible to prove. The fact is there were people who were trying to discredit the charrette from the beginning (charrette/charade comments), means that to them any master plan would be ojectionable.

If we really want to return the process to the citizens, we need to host another charrette. The focus group, whose work I applaud, cannot fully represent the views of all citizens, especially if it is not truly representative of citizens.