Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wednesday Round Up: Simple Things Edition…

It’s the simple things that make life great, right? That’s what I hear, at least. By those standards, today must be a great day. I spent lunch today sitting on a bench behind the Rouse Building (it will not be referred to as GGP HQ anymore in this space) talking to an old friend about plans for his move back to the area (and the celebratory softball game). It was good to see lots of walkers and cyclists enjoying the day. Even saw some sunbathers/nappers lounging on the grass.

While on talking on the phone (no doubt, disturbing the serenity of the day), I watched as an Osprey circled over the lake -- on the lookout for lunch, I supposed. Sure enough, after a couple minutes of searching, the fish hawk hovered for a second, tucked its wings back and dove almost straight down, splashing and disappearing momentarily as it hit the water.

Though enjoyable for me, the acrobatic display worked out for the bird, too, as it surfaced with a bluegill clenched in its talons. After a few more circles (to build up sufficient height), it turned west and flew over the Rouse Building.

Although DDT reduced the birds’ numbers in the middle of the twentieth century, Ospreys certainly aren’t uncommon in Maryland. However, if I’ve seen on in Columbia, I can’t recall it now. And I know I have never seen a nest.

So what was this one doing here? Is the Bay getting a little too crowded? Should we expect to see more of them patrolling our lakes? One can only hope.

Well, that’s enough bird talk.

A bill passed Monday by the county council will make it cheaper for police officers to live in Howard County. In exchange for discounted rent, officers will be expected to provide some level of additional security in their communities, but the exact terms of such arrangements will be determined by the landlords and officers.

Having lived next to a police officer for a couple years, I think this is a great idea. Even just the presence of a patrol car in the neighborhood is probably enough to ensure your car stereo won’t be stolen any time soon. What’s more, if the high cost of living in this county is driving law enforcement workers away, shouldn’t we do something to correct that? Don’t we want those charged with protecting the safety and welfare of citizens to have a personal (as well as professional) stake in their duty?

Of course, not everyone thinks the idea is a good one. Councilman Charles Feaga claims it is "absolutely the wrong way to go," but offers no alternatives to finding affordable housing for officers (he does say landlords should hire security if crime is a problem, but that is the lesser of two benefits this bill provides, I think). Instead of proposing how he would address this issue, Feaga just writes it off because it would create “"more bureaucracy than we need.” A more tired excuse for voting against something I have not heard.

Too Much Tower, Part II: The 22-story Tower of Anguish is again making news, this time as part of the appeals process. As you may recall, The Plaza Residences – a 160-unit condo tower planned for Town Center – was approved by the Planning Board a few months ago, despite persistent calls to the contrary by citizens.

That approval was challenged, and the first hearing occurred…I’m not sure when – the story makes no mention of a date. Oh, well, that part is immaterial. And, for that matter, so was the first hearing, which seemed like a 4 ½ hour argument over legal minutiae (isn’t it all minutiae?).

Irrelevance notwithstanding, there was one part of the story that kind of made me chuckle:

But opponents also are expected to argue in the hearings that approval of the tower is illegal, and that the Planning Board ignored its discretion by not restricting the height of the structure.
Isn’t it the Board’s discretion to decide whether it should ignore its discretion?

Howard’s Most Endangered List: Preservation Howard County just released its list of the most endangered historical sites in the county, and not surprisingly, Doughoregan is at the top with Belmont in the second position. For more information, visit the group’s website.

With the CA elections a distant memory, there’s no need to comment extensively on this story and the whole non-issue of “openness.” But I would like to highlight just one part, towards the end, where a current board member (finally) speaks Truth to Truthiness.
Patrick von Schlag, representative of River Hill, said his skepticism about of the board's open-meeting guidelines when he started his tenure last year were unfounded.

"People hear that we have a closed meeting and they wonder why," von Schlag said. "We have closed meetings for the purpose that any homeowners association would have -- to discuss legal and personnel matters to take care of our fiduciary matters." Von Schlag said he discovered that there wasn't anything alarming happening in the closed meetings.

"We certainty welcome [the new members], and we expect them to give much input. With these deep fears about the meetings ... they will be let down by the amount of stuff that is actually there."

It’s been a while since I let one of those go. Feels good. Very cathartic.


Anonymous said...


Great post. Although I have not witnessed the osprey in downtown, I have recently seen plenty of fox in my neck of the woods, and have also heard murmers of coyote out near Beaverbrook. Do you think nature is trying to tell us something with all these somewhat recent arrivals of predators in our midst? OK, loaded question, but I could not resist.

Issue 2: Spot on regarding officer housing, 'nuff said.

Lastly, the open meeting issue surfaces again!

Peace and Love My Friend


hocoblog said...

I always wanted to witness an Osprey fishing for its food since I saw it on National Geographic as a kid. Lucky you.