Monday, July 17, 2006

We're Number Four! We're Number Four!

Although we just missed the podium (no doubt because of Tom Delay and his Sugar Land cronies), Howard County’s nebulous population center, apparently known as Columbia/Ellicott City, ranked fourth in Money Magazine’s list of Best Places to Live.

This is surely good news for tourism, economic development and real estate groups. For the rest of us, it’s not really news. After all, we live here.

Of course, just because objective, outside verification that We’re Awesome isn’t “news,” it doesn’t mean the praise is unwelcome. Sometimes it’s fun to bask in your awesomeness, especially when it comes at the expense of places like Rockville, which at number 26 is the next closest Maryland town on the list (take that, Dad!).

Of course, it’s also fun to know what others see as our most flattering attributes. Here, in its shameless entirety, is Money’s blurb about Our Town(s):

In 1772, the Ellicott brothers began turning a tobacco-country outpost into what would become the new country's largest flour-milling center. Almost 200 years later and not five miles down the road, legendary developer Jim Rouse began to develop Columbia as an improved alternative to cookie-cutter suburbs. Today the 160,000 residents of the neighboring communities reap the benefits of the old and new visions: Ellicott City has grand homes and a charming downtown. Columbia has park space totaling more than a third of the community's 14,000 acres, a wide selection of townhouses apartments, and a mall that's got everything.

Because the cities aren't incorporated, they share in the bounty provided by Howard County. Kids are schooled in Maryland's top-performing district, where they continually score up to 50% above average on state tests. There's a major music venue, the Merriweather Post Pavilion, in Columbia, and the county runs a 30,000-square foot arts center as well as a center for African-American culture, both located in Columbia.

There are ample employment options for residents: About a third of them work within the county at companies such as Verizon and the Johns Hopkins-affiliated Howard County General Hospital, while the remainder commute to Washington, D.C. and Baltimore. "These communities offer pretty much everything you need to create quality of life," says Marion Berman, 55, who opened her art gallery at the Mall in Columbia in 1981. When it came time to expand, she moved Gallery 44 to Ellicott City. "It's a great place to work, and an even better place to live."

Columbia, one of the most racially diverse cities on our list, is 20% African American and 10% Asian. Alma Gill, 42, says she and her husband chose to move here 10 years ago, even though their old home in Alexandria, Va. was closer to her job at USA Today. "We wanted our son to grow up in an area where there are people from everywhere," Gill says, "in a place that is accepting of everyone."
Now, not to sound like a one-trick pony or anything, but how about the mention of Merriweather, huh? Music to my ears. Of course, highlighting our schools, open space, jobs and diversity isn’t bad, either.

Here’s a link
to Money’s data snapshot of Columbia/Ellicott City, a nice little feature that gives you all the relevant demographic data for your city and the “Best Places” averages, which we beat for almost everything (I particularly like the Public/Private school breakdown).

The one place, it seems, where we fare less well is median commute time – ours is almost six minutes longer than the Best Places average. Considering that the whole Baltimore/DC area is characterized by lengthy commutes, this statistic isn’t particularly noteworthy. But, still, it got me thinking.

Does anyone actually value their commute? That is, do you enjoy living a half hour or more away from work? Is the daily travel enjoyable or useful? Do you seek a clear spatial separation between work and home?

Or is a longer commute simply an additional “cost of living” you are willing to bear in order to call Columbia/Ellicott City home? To be sure, much of what makes our community desirable also makes it unique, but we’re not so different that one couldn’t similar neighborhoods closer to their work (I think).

I’m not asking these questions to be flippant. I’m honestly interested in how people decide where to live and where to work.

For me, the decision of where to work was based significantly on proximity to Columbia, where I knew I wanted to live. As such, after finishing graduate school I didn’t even consider working in DC, home to more jobs in my field – public policy – than any other place on earth.

(Although I made it through this entire post without rehashing the Columbia vs. Ellicott City debate, I would be remiss if I didn't say, on behalf of all Columbians, "you're welcome" to our northern neighbors for doing all the heavy lifting in this contest.)


Dave Wissing said...

To be fair to Ellicott City, they did make it to #20 last year all by themselves.

Of course, we could always say that Ellicott City needed Columbia's help to crack the Top Ten....

Addi said...

I am not a Columbia resident (living in "Lower East Columbia" - Jessup) but I ended up choosing to live out here because I am not a city person and when I was looking to buy this was more affordable than Montgomery County. At the time the fact that it only 15 minutes from where I grew up (and my parents still live) in Gambrills was a negative but as they have aged, I really appreciate being closer to them.

As for my commute, I take the MARC from Savage to downtown DC everday. The total commute door to door is 1hr, 15min but I actually love it most of the time. It is a great transition period where I leave the stress of work behind or slowly wake up on the train on the way in. I would take it over a 30 minute drive any day. Now I might be persuaded by a 20 minute bike ride...

David W. Keelan said...

Dave, your are right. Not only did EC place 20th all by itself, Columbia was a no show.

This only shows how well we work together.

mary smith said...


We return to read the lyrical posts
From the premier local celebrity host
But he went out to Montana, or some hamlet, to play
And though he’s returned, the music stayed away

What was once a full range of musical hues
Is replaced by flat and agreeable news
We try to support in hopes he’ll compose
The great symphony of words everyone knows

We look, search, interpret innuendo
But find nothing on which to base a crescendo
Sharps are now flat but we look toward a time
When Hayduke returns with his wonderful rhyme.

-thankfully I had the foresight to use a Nom de plume
-Inspired by Keelan agreeing with my post, making this a day to celebrate each year at the level of St. Patty's

Hayduke said...


That's great. I agree that I've been slow to recover from vacation and dive back into the more controversial issues , though I though the post about the traffic study might ruffle some feathers. Without ducking responsibility, I think I have some good reasons for the lack of exciting posts. And since this is the comment section, I don't feel bad about bringing them up. Thus, my lame excuses:

--Sickness: I'm plagued with a pathetically weak stomach (pretty much everything I eat causes indigestion of some kind), and last week was particularly bad. After a three-day diet of saltines and popsicles, I'm feeling somewhat better. During my "bad" periods, I try to keep stress at a minimum and this includes avoiding thinking about things that cause stress -- usually finances and zoning reform.

--Music: It's interesting that your ode made so many references to music, as I've spent almost every night since returning from vacation practicing for a couple of shows this weekend. On Friday, my regular band is playing for the first time in over a month, while on Saturday, I'm playing with another band at a benefit concert in DC.

The one-time band, known as These Charming Men (a reference to the fact that we're covering songs by depressed 80s rockers The Smiths), is part of an annual event known as Run For Cover, where a bunch of local musicians get together and impersonate others, with costumes and everything. Since the decision of who we were going to be wasn't made until the end of June and practices started only last week, we've had a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

--Finally, Birthday preparations: This one is by far the lamest, but, whatever, it's my birthday (almost) and I'll be lame if I want to. We're having a Kickball party at the Hayduke house on Sunday -- the 29th anniversery of my birth -- and there is still a lot of work to do around the house -- mainly stuff left over from the move, like hanging pictures, placing knick-knacks, and such. Now, you may say that we've lived here almost three months and much of this stuff should be done. And, you may be right. I could give you another list of excuses for why we aren't finished, but I've done enough whining for one day.

I'm going to try to write something now about the zoning stuff, but I'm not sure if I'll finish before I have to leave for West Virginia, where my guitar -- an essential piece of this weekend's plans -- is resting comfortably at my mother's house (Arrgh, another excuse!).

Anonymous said...

Sardines and popsicles? No wonder you're stomach's upset.

Shara said...

it sounds good, outsource is good for me.
I like some links of google:
corporation outsource.

Anonymous said...

I guess HRD (and now GGP)have not done such a bad job with the planning and development of Columbia after all.

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