Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election recap...

With all but a few votes counted, the question now changes from “Who won?” to “Why?”

(Except for the District 1 council seat, which could still go either way depending on those pesky absentee ballots.)

I’m not of sufficiently clear mind to have thought the “Why” question through in any great detail, but others have taken a stab at it and provided several plausible and likely explanations.

First, the Washington Post’s story about the county executive race blames President Bush (typical MSM BDS and whatnot):

The 32-year-old wunderkind of Howard County Democratic politics yesterday became the youngest person elected county executive in Maryland in recent history, cresting to victory on a wave of opposition to President Bush and Congressional Republicans.

In a near Democratic sweep that secured the party's hold on the bellwether county, Ken Ulman defeated his colleague from the County Council, Republican Christopher J. Merdon, and the Democrats picked up a fourth seat on the five-member panel.

The major local issue was how to control the unrelenting growth in Howard. But many voters said yesterday that their primary motivation at the ballot box was animosity toward national GOP leaders.

"This is a message to George W. Bush," said Julie Pogach, 50, a consultant from Clarksville, describing her votes for every Democratic candidate on the ballot. "My anger at him and the Republicans trickles all the way down to the local races."

Voters yesterday said they still cared deeply about the impact of growth on Howard, the third-wealthiest county in the nation and the site of one of the region's best-rated school systems. They expressed concern that an influx of new residents, including many from a planned expansion at nearby Fort Meade, could begin to erode the quality of life in the county.

But many residents said the wonkish debates over growth were so intricate that they could not differentiate between the two candidates. Merdon, a 35-year-old businessman, portrayed himself as the slow-growth candidate and said on his campaign signs, "Vote Slow Growth!" Ulman, a lawyer, disputed his opponent's characterization and attacked him for doing little to control growth in his own council district.

"Everybody says, 'I'm slow growth, I'm slow growth,' but I really don't know who is or who isn't," said Jason Shapiro, 45, an attorney from Columbia. "Who knows what they'll do once they get into office?"
Certainly, the anti-Republican sentiment was strong this election, but the Post’s writer seems to throw all his eggs in this basket, which I think is a bit of a cop out. As for the growth debates being “wonkish” and “intricate,” hey man, that’s what blogs are for: making wonkish accessible and fun.

The other papers posted stories about this race but offered few details beyond “Ulman leading.” The blogs, however, have stepped up to fill the analysis void. Here's Steve Fine:
Ken Ulman won (big) because:

It was a bad year to be a Republican.

The Ulman /O'Malley campaign did a fantastic job, except in the local free media.

The GOTV effort was superbly conceived and executed.

Ken was a much more substantive and sincere candidate.

Merdon's message was flawed: he had a number of pro-growth votes in his own record, while Ken lead the effort to save Meriweather and to create the Charette process.

The Growth issue didn't sway a lot of votes.
I agree with a few of those. First, the GOTV (Get Out The Vote, something I learned yesterday!) was impressive. I heard from several folks that they were disappointed with the lack of Democratic poll workers. Indeed, in my travels yesterday, the Republicans seemed to have numerous bodies at each poll, while the Democrats had significantly fewer.

Well, that is because many of the Democratic workers were out knocking on doors making sure their party-mates had voted. This is what I spent most of my day doing, and we actually had great responses from residents. How many additional voters were generated by this is hard to determine, but surely, it was more than zero.

The point about the dueling growth messages, on the other hand, only partially explains what was going on. Chris Merdon had his vote against Comp Lite as his centerpiece. Ulman had saving Merriweather. One could probably say something about the impact on voter psychology of an inherently negative message – “I’m against…” – versus a more positive message – “I saved…” – but I think that’s going too far.

Really, the success of the competing messages had more to do with the power of the symbols. Merdon voted against an arcane piece of zoning legislation that really upset a few people but failed to show up on the radar screens of most. Ulman saved Merriweather.

(Let’s not argue specifics here about what he did and did not do with respect to the fact that Merriweather remains open. Merdon never challenged this point, which I think says it all.)

Reports from several poll workers were that people did vote for Ulman because of his connection to Merriweather. Even my MoCo father met someone who said they were voting for Ulman because of Merriweather. To be sure, it is a much more powerful and understandable symbol than a zoning bill.

Meanwhile, Wordbones doesn't so much offer reasons for the way things happened as lessons learned:
What messages do I get from the election results?

1) COPE was a big NOPE. Angela Beltram and her minions were less than advertised in influencing voters. Cooler heads prevailed.

2) Democrats for Merdon were a very small group. The only ones behind those individuals who stood beneath the people tree pledging their support to Chris were the gold plated figures on the people tree.

3) We may not now who represents District One until Thursday. Tony did better than many expected him to. This is the one race besides the Governors that could be decided by absentee ballots.

4) Being a member of the Colloseum Gym on Red Branch Road in Columbia continues to be good luck for county exec candidates. Chuck Ecker is a member, Jim Robey is a member and Ken Ulman is a member. Chris Merdon is not a member.

5) The people in Howard County are more informed than I thought. The strongest evidence of that was Allen Dyer failing to win a seat on the school board.
I especially like number 4 (note to self: get a membership). Obviously, Wordbones is having a little fun with some of these, at least I think it's obvious. But he touches on a valid point; namely, the impact of small but vocal constituencies.

Reading the blogs over the last few months likely left most convinced of Republican domination. With so many outspoken critics of the Democrats -- particularly Ulman -- it seemed their loses were foregone conclusions. Which, clearly, was not the case.

As I said in my prediction post, I'm not very sanguine about the influence of blogs or local media in general. We touch only a very small portion of the electorate and the partisanship of cyberspace is considerably out of line with that of the county as a whole. We've created our own consuming reality, in a sense, which served to insulate us from more mainstream voters.

I don't mean to say the blogs are bad or anything like that. It's just that they skew our perspective considerably, something to keep in mind during the next election.

Finally, a few commenters on other blogs have floated the idea that the results of this election are a product of voter stupidity. This explanation deserves no more consideration than a mention. It is completely lacking in class and reason, and is more reflective of those who would resort to it than voters as a whole.

For better examples of how to deal with results that don't go your way, check out both David Keelan's and David Wissing's posts today. I'm sure they didn't want to write those posts as much as I didn't want to have to write one myself, but the fact that they did shows a lot about their character. You guys did great work.

Only three more years until the next election begins!

46 comments:

wordbones said...

Hayduke,

You make a very good point of the "Saving Merriweather" versus "Voted Against Comp Lite" pitch.

Funny, I never thought about how effective that angle was until now.

Nice post.

-wb

FreeMarket said...

I will be curious to see if Republicans, on a national level, begin to engage in rampant Bush bashing to distance themselves from the President who cost them so dearly. The president wasted no time in getting Rumsfeld out the door, probably in an attempt to head off the lynch mob. I think you are too hasty in dismissing the Post article as BDS. Even Steele referred to his party affiliation as the “scarlet letter”. I am not suggesting Ulman’s victory had everything to do with Bush, but I think even Dunbar could have beaten Merdon.

Chris said...

Freemarket:

I think you missed yet another (failed) attempt at humor by hayduke with the "BDS" comment....


How about this comment:
"I especially like number 4 (note to self: get a membership)"

So, does this mean a run at CE is in the making?

Anonymous said...

Ulman has a lot of growing up to do FAST. Otherwise it will be a painful four years for all of us.

Next question: how long will Ulman stay before he trades up to run for higher office? I say 6 years.

Courtney could have wiped the floor with either of these characters.

I hear Mo. County is nice...

Tom Berkhouse said...

I was very surprise by the results. I figured if Ulman was going to win it would only be by 2 or 3%. I completely agree with the Post article that this was all about hatred for Bush, and unfortunately that should not carry over to local candidates. As evidenced by one of the voters quoted in the article. What Bush has to do with zoning issues in Howard County is beyond me.

I'm not surprised that you don't want to discuss the specifics of Ken's bogus claim to have saved Merriwether. He did no such thing, plain and simple. In fact, GGP is still throwing around the idea of enclosing the facility - that is until they get waht Ken promised them - all that extra density to rejeuvenate the "dying" Town Center.

There were even other voters who when asked several exit poll questions, claimed that they voted for O'Malley because of the job situation in Maryland. Say what?!?! Unemployment at record lows - guess you just can't please everyone.

I knew full well that Republicans would lose big on the national (House, Senate) races, but the local candidates did not get a fair shake by the voters in my opinion. That pesky little "R" next their names.....

We'll see how the voters in Howard COunty feel about Ulman after all of the additional density he allows. It IS coming, especially true after reading the recommendations of the Housing Task Force Report (not sure of it's exact name), which essentially states that increased zoning is the way to go to provide housing for low and moderate income people. I have nothing against such a cause, but Howard County will become, as I have said many times, just like Bethesda (some nice looking buildings, but way to dense and gridlocked). I don't think people chose Howard County, or Columbia for that matter to be in a HIGH DENSITY locale.

I am very upset by Bush and several other republicans and the negative things that they did that cost so many well qualified candidates a chance at election.

Ulman was not the more sincere of the candidates either. Don't equate his victory as an vindication on his character. He lied and ran a very negative campaign against Chris - and you and the other voters gave him a free pass. You constantly maligned Chris and his voting record and distorted it to deceive the voters - something which I abhor. I never saw Ulman standing in the way of developers, or turning down their money. Forget the save MMP mantra - nothing but lies and deception again. He had to promise GGP even more development to "save MMP", and if thing tha was ok to do in order to save MMP, you are as corrupt as I believe Ulman and Robey are.

It makes me think of the line from "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", where Big Daddy (Burl Ives) says: "If there's one thing I can't stand, it's lies! Lies and mandacity!"

It's also interesting given Ulman's and Robeys margin of victory - I guess they didn't need to go negative. OR, did going negative (and lying) help their cause. Sad day if the latter is true.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Apologies for the typos - I'm not a trained typist.

Anonymous said...

I was surprised by the results too on the county executive race. It seems like the lies and distortions Ulman told about Chris's record on growth combined with the anti-war voters was key in deciding the race. It is sad that Ulman's negative campaign, last minute negative mailers and realchris.com site were effective in confusing people. Ulman's comp lite vote showed he didn't care if certain "special" properties could bypass the normal citizen review zoning process, even as citizens protested. But he likes to obfuscate the issue by saying Chris voted for than against zoning the properties. Merdon's vote against Comp Lite happened not because all the zoning was bad but because there were certain parties getting special and unfair treatment. Chris's votes on Comp Lite and his proposals to tax developers and limit infill, among other proposals, showed that he was the only credible candidate talking about controlling growth and listening to citizens. These are not the type of proposals made by candidates "in the pocket of developers." In all his comments to newspapers, Ulman "ridiculed" the idea of telling people what you will do as county executive as election year rhetoric only to turn around and copy them, holding a press conference at the last minute to announce he had a plan to control growth too - probably as he started to worry that he might lose. On the other hand, I don't think I saw Chris trying to distort Ulman's record. And when Chris could have called Ulman on his hypocrisy as Ulman introduced his own underwhelming proposals (flex-time for county employees??? - nice but so what), he refrained. I guess I tend to want to be an idealist when it comes to politics. Tuesday's election was very disenchanting - in my opinion. The candidate most adept at hypocrisy and distorting his opponent's record won. While the candidate who offered fresh new ideas, stood up for citizens and refused to go negative lost... sad.

numbersgirl said...

freemarket- re: "I will be curious to see if Republicans, on a national level, begin to engage in rampant Bush bashing to distance themselves from the President who cost them so dearly. "

I think the fact that Keelan claimed that putting "support Bush" signs near Merdon signs was a form of vandalism/intimidation would be an indication that those days are already here.

Anonymous said...

I think certain commenters on these blogs suffer from Ulman Derangement Syndrome.

FreeMarket said...

I was thinking more along the lines of the next time Bush screws up, they will impeach him. Bush is going to have a rough time for the duration of his term. I also predict that sometime in the next 30 years, Ken Ulman will be President. He reminds me of JFK for some reason, complete with wife named Jackie. He’s just not as handsome and nowhere near as rich. Sure it’s a long shot, but I think he is lucky enough to pull it off.

Hayduke said...

Tom:
You constantly maligned Chris and his voting record and distorted it to deceive the voters - something which I abhor.

When?

I completely agree with the Post article that this was all about hatred for Bush, and unfortunately that should not carry over to local candidates. As evidenced by one of the voters quoted in the article.

One or two voters and cherry-picked quotes are evidence that this was "all about hatred for Bush?"

Forget the save MMP mantra - nothing but lies and deception again. He had to promise GGP even more development to "save MMP", and if thing tha was ok to do in order to save MMP, you are as corrupt as I believe Ulman and Robey are.

You're guilty of the same sins you accuse me of. Deception, lies, etc.

(Ulman) lied and ran a very negative campaign against Chris - and you and the other voters gave him a free pass.

While Merdon's proxies -- bloggers and commenters -- handled the dirty work for him. Say what you will about my support for Ken, but I think any reasonable reader can see that your perception of it is totally off base. While other blogs and commenters willingly became de facto extensions of campaigns and hotbeds of deception and mischaracterizations, I tried even harder to seperate my support for Ulman from the anaylsis and content offered on this site. Obviously, I failed in your eyes, but anything short of calling Ulman the worst candidate ever would have been failure.

You also make the mistake of thinking your preferences are universal, particularly with respect to density. Not everybody thinks our spread-out, low density Town Center is very good. I walk around it everyday, and I really don't like it. Having to walk through parking lots and around the blank brick walls of the mall's anchor stores is no fun and unwelcoming. The amount of pavement used to corral cars is wasteful and bad for the environment. The speed at which cars travel is way too fast. The lack of life and others walking around is antithetical to my ideal for a city. And I'm not the only one I know who feels this way.

Tom Berkhouse said...

So move to a city that meets your "ideals" and leave Columbia be - it's not dying like you and Ulman think.

You never once called Ulman to task for his illegal Comp Lite role. You only tried to paint Merdon as the bad guy for voting to approve other re-zonings, without considering the evidence in those rezoning applications.

I never said Ulman was the worst candidate ever, just the worst candidate in this race. I said he was a liar - because he lies. I said he broke the law, and I gave you concrete examples which you turned a blind eye to. Never once did you or Ulman ever provide, truthful, actual, factual representations of Chris's record.

Now you're spinning again about Merdon's proxies. You ARE funny. What do you call yourself, and the other bloggers who made insinuation afterinsinuation about Merdon? HYPOCRIT (I like it without the "E").

The artcile quoted one voter, but the exit polls covered MANY voters who echoed the same sentiment. Don't you know how exit polls work? Again, you selectively twist what was said without understanding it.

Anonymous said...

"You constantly maligned Chris and his voting record and distorted it to deceive the voters - something which I abhor."

"What do you call yourself, and the other bloggers who made insinuation afterinsinuation about Merdon? HYPOCRIT (I like it without the "E")."

I am wondering where you are getting this from. A quick search through Hayduke's blog for the word "Merdon" doesn't turn up much that I would say qualifies. Go ahead and site the examples, it's as easy as filling one word into the search field at the top of the page and reading the results. The strongest argument I can come up with is the questions he raised about his job title, which I believe are valid.

It seems that you are the one who is making insinuations without any actual facts to back it up.

I will be extremely surprised if you respond with sited "insinuations after insinuations" that are valid and not just more examples of a bitter partisan grasping for imaginary straws.

Jane said...

Sure, it was not a good year for republicans, but the local group is guilty of mishandling power in the same manner as the national group. Merdon lied about his voting record, Ulman did not put signs up all over the county claiming he didn't sign the Comp Lite item. But Merdon did deny his voting record - that's a fact.

To claim that it was all about Bush is to doom Republicans to repeat the process in two years.

Relaxed as I was at the turn of events (tho my main candidates did not win seats) and after spending the day basking in calm at the prospects of voters taking control, I experienced the reality of a cold bucket of water to bare skin (so to speak) when I returned home on Wednesday to find that my young teen-aged child had just completed a book assigned from Reading class which included "saying the F-word 10 times".

Now, I could be abstract and say that values voters liked the conservatives because of their position on issues. But I'd rather talk to the more liberal minds and ask why in the name of anything good can schools not prescribe the rich classical reading that exists? Have students already read everything else, and now must go on the more 'adult' books? What offsetting value could possibly be achieved by reading a book with disrespectful language at the very time when young people are forming and firming respect and perspective?

I rec'd a kid's camp production DVD from a friend in Ft. Worth (the land of conservatives), and the kids on stage did a skit on the connection between language and respect. Maybe I am a value-voter, maybe I'm not, but I can't stand that someone gives this to my child who I'm responsible for, and thumbs their nose at my wishes.

Does no one but me think that this is why people like republicans?

Anonymous said...

By the way

"columbia dying" didn't return any results, so I'm not sure where you sourced that information.

Jane said...

Let's not get hung up on the tangential:

For those who do like to vote republican, could examples such as this be part of the reason?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...Jane you bring up an interesting point.
However, roughly 1 out of 3 evangelical christians voted for democrats this time around. There have been several high-profile scandals that are either republican or christian conservative. I think just because republicans claim morality as their forte doesn't make it so and certainly doesn't mean that democrats are immoral.

PG-13 movies have profanities in them and adult themes. So, it seems that this is considered acceptable by the majority.

I think there are many that vote republican or democrat on the basis of just one issue, wether it is abortion, religion, gay-rights, or moral values. Would you say that is an informed decision?

You certainly do have a valid point about prescribed reading in a public school containing such language. Can I ask what the book is? I seem to remember "To Kill a Mockingbird" had profanity in it and I read that in school. The idea that you could shield a teenager from exposure to such language is laughable, but that does not mean that it should be endorsed by the school

I, for one, do not believe Republicans have a monopoly on morality.

Anonymous said...

"Let's not get hung up on the tangential:

For those who do like to vote republican, could examples such as this be part of the reason?"

I don't believe the comments to be tangential at all. Tom was making a lot of claims and resorting to name calling without any basis. So it is ok for him to accuse Hayduke and Ulman of thinking columbia is dying without any evidence? I would much rather discuss the issues, but it seems every post is about accusations and name calling.

And I would love to hear how Democrats are prone to tangential arguments and Republicans aren't.

Anonymous said...

Jane -

I'm sorry for contributing to the negativity. I got drawn into an argument because I hate when insults and personal attacks are used and it seems to often come from one person.

So...

Read any good books lately?

Anonymous said...

I wish Howard County the best in the next four years. I hope all the outcomes will be good, and people will work together, because that is what is in the best interest of the people that live in HC.

Partisan politics shouldn't be an issue, since there is only one "R" on the council. I hope the CE and council members work well together, and egos are put aside.

Anonymous said...

I wish Howard County the best in the next four years. I hope all the outcomes will be good, and people will work together, because that is what is in the best interest of the people that live in HC.

Partisan politics shouldn't be an issue, since there is only one "R" on the council. I hope the CE and council members work well together, and egos are put aside.

Jane said...

Thank goodness, a sane string.

No, conservatives do not have the monopoly, but in conservative states the children are not reading gratuitous F-word filled books at the levels of the blue states, if my friends are any indication. Also, I lived in Texas, a very different world, there.

To Kill a Mockingbird had a redeeming value, this book did not. I knew if I approached the teacher I'd be taken to task for wanting to prohibit books (I have a older child, and experience in dealing with these issues). At the same schools, my child would be suspended for using the language that the students were responsible for reading.

On the other hand, I certainly don't want books banned and crusades against particular publications scare me. I just don't know why we have to have this stuff at all. I was quite incensed.

Yes, Tom can be a, well, I'm not allowed to say, if "barbarian" is name-calling. It wasn't really in defense of Tom, but just why can't we all be sensible and stop the extremes, like requiring 13 year olds to read books like this.

Certainly did not mean to write as thought I claimed liberals or dems were more prone to tangential arguments. In fact, it would be quite honestly the opposite in my experience. I wanted to stay on-point.

Numbersgirl said...

Jane,

You have me really curious as to what book you are referring. Without knowing more, I can't argue as to whether there are redeeming qualities to this book, if the language is meant to serve character development, or if it is just trash.

My first argument is I'd much rather have my child read those words than hear them on TV. I know, it shouldn't come down to that choice. But flipping through the channels on any afternoon or evening, through a selection of sitcoms or your standard primetime but not late-night fare, you'll find just about every word but the F word used. And, again, without knowing which book, it is very possible that there is some redeeming value to the book other than picking up names to call a younger sibling.

My second point is that is a great opener for a conversation on appropriate language and inappropriate language. Given our society's lax view on curse words, chances are good that kids hear these words from the moment they venture out into the public. They could be sitting at McDonald's next to a group of teenagers throwing the words around. You could be at the bank behind an irate customer. Confronting the words used in the book allows you to open the discussion to why there are better words to use, and how many people who use them show lack of sense and a short grasp on word selection.

The good news is that there really aren't that many obscene words that your child will pick up from reading books like this one. Maybe a handful at best. But, it is the love of reading and the practice of doing so that will introduce your child to a wide range of other words and will help him or her master the art of written communication.

Jane said...

Oh, and I've been reading a few really interesting books, probably old news to some: Chris Matthews' Hardball, and the new Spitzer book by someone who went to Harvard and retired as an author at what looks like 12 years old if the photo is any indication, and read the Anderson Cooper book which is a good quick read. Read mostly non fiction, but for fiction: Love anything Steinbeck and re-read his greats: East of Eden and Grapes of Wrath over again. Like Amy Tan because of her poignant, insightful, and simple observations about relationships.

If I could recommend two books to this group which would surely make a stir, it would be The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan, and even more so, The Gate To Women's County by Tepper. Both fiction, so for non-fiction only readers this might not look interesting, but still, I'd ask to give a try; the resulting comments here would be great reading.

David W. Keelan said...

Numbersgirl,

Yes, you are correct.

Otherwise I am cautiously cautiously optimistic.

Ulman is going to have a tought 6 years (yes he is going to run for Gov in 2014.

Anonymous said...

My 13 year old brought home an exercise she was supposed to complete with me for her health education class. Talk about an eye opener! She had answered questions first about dating and sex and abortion and birth control. She asked me to answer them and then read the answers she had completed. I thought I had done a pretty good job of brainwashing her to my way of thinking but we were very far apart on teen age pregnancy and abortion. I kept saying, "You said what?!! Are you out of your mind?!" and she kept saying... "Mom, you can't say that, it is MY mind, after all!!". Great. So she's RIGHT on that issue. Dang kids. I also learned that my eldest had registered as an unaffiliated voter. I am failing misearbly on creating clones of myself.

Anonymous said...

"I am failing misearbly on creating clones of myself."

Dont feel bad anon, it probably just means you are succeeding at being a parent.

Anonymous said...

"Not everybody thinks our spread-out, low density Town Center is very good. I walk around it everyday, and I really don't like it."

The spread-out part can be solved without adding density. Ride a bike more often. It'll grow on you. Maybe CA should start a community bike program, like many European cities, having freely available bikes waiting all over town.

"Having to walk through parking lots and around the blank brick walls of the mall's anchor stores is no fun and unwelcoming."

Yes, the mall's parking lots aren't green. They're very utilitarian. Inexpensive surface parking on nonpermeable surface. Could the mall's anchor stores' walls be unfun and unwelcoming for a purpose? A store owner typically wants you inside where you're more apt to buy, not freely enjoying the ambiance by the dumpster. With the exception of a few recent additions, the mall's exterior never seemed to be purposefully meant to be overly aesthetic. GGP could, if they wanted to, make the Mall property much more green, pedestrian friendly, and welcoming. But it doesn't take new zoning for GGP to do that.

Perhaps you've hit upon the crux of Town Center's best improvement potential - stick all of it inside the Mall loop, where any green change to this blacktop wasteland would be an improvement, also adding affordable higher density housing on top of the Mall and its adjacent buildings.

"The amount of pavement used to corral cars is wasteful and bad for the environment."

I agree. I will be glad when the roadways are converted back to contiguous greenways, interconnecting natural areas and serving as parkland and wildlife movement corridors. Allowing high density development to encroach on these rights-of way, however, will prevent that from happening.

"The speed at which cars travel is way too fast."

35 mph on Little Patuxent Parkway is way too fast? If it's the speeders that concern you, this can be resolved with speeder cams punishing just the guilty. Using speeders' transgressions to rationalize narrowing Little Patuxent Parkway (which just happens to create additional development space along it) or blanketing downtown with a gridlock-creating mesh grid of narrow streets and red lights galore will both punish the innocent (including emergency vehicles) who would like to navigate Town Center politely, safely, and without delay. Having lots of cars idling at red lights isn't too ecofriendly, either.

And how will further traffic delays be avoided on this grid of narrow streets when Johnny is too busy learning F-words in school to avoid becoming a parallel parking-challenged dunderhead? Jane, I'm amazed that exercise is included in the curriculum for pre-teen 10 year olds. At least our forests are still safe. Please take that assignment to our next Board of Ed meeting, recite it, and ask them why more age appropriate and literary content isn't being used.

"The lack of life and others walking around is antithetical to my ideal for a city. And I'm not the only one who feels this way."

I see just the opposite in Town Center. With more trees and greenspace, life is all around when walking there. Eye of the beholder perhaps? Most people living in Columbia didn't move to it to feel like they lived in a city. So, why pursue trying to make it feel like something most people here obviously didn't want? If they did, they would have moved to adjacent dense cities.

Jane said...

Hayduke's assessment, Steve Fine's assessment of the reasons for the big (huge) dem win are accurate. But there may be more.

Republicans are very good at organizing, each voting R across the board. Democrats less so. But this year, the Democrats did what the is more in line with Republican voting, and many did vote D across the board. I still maintain that this had more to do with voting against Republican behavior and culture than Bush.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Anonymous,

Hayduke frequently comments on other bloggers's pages too. Ken Ulman actually said at a forum that Town Center was only vibrant three days of the year (I don't remember which three days, but July 4th was one them). His statement illicited BOOS from the audience. Hayduke supports Ulman and the development plan for Town Center, which is premised on their view that Town Center is not full enough of life (eg: it's dying/dead).

I already have cited factual evidence of Ken's record and his involvement in certain development projects around the County. I provide Hayduke with plan numbers and even suggested he talk to the neighbors of those developments. Since he never bothered to research it the way he researches other things, I believe that qualifies him as a hypocrite (refer to Webster's definition of said word). I don't believe that albeling him as such makes me a name caller, just like calling someone who lies a "liar" is not name calling. It's stating the obvious.

Hayduke defended the contents of the smear website against Merdon, which completely distorted the facts. Like, many of the bills that Chris was being criticized for voting for were alse voted for by Ulman and Robey. More lies and hypocrisy.

I'll be watching Ulman every step of the way, and believe me, he's going to mess up because he can't control his ego and temper.

numbersgirl said...

Tom- perhaps you should look up "hypocritE" in Webster.

From Webster.com:

hypocrite
One entry found for hypocrite.


Main Entry: hyp·o·crite
Pronunciation: 'hi-p&-"krit
Function: noun

1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings
- hypocrite adjective

Note: No mention of your version "never bothered to research it the way he researches other things"

If you are going to throw insults, you should at least know what you are saying.

Hayduke said...

Anon – 1:05 am:

Your response to my problems with Town Center are well taken, but fail to really address the problems. Riding a bike more often does not solve the systemic, pedestrian access issues, and is not a viable solution for those who don’t wish to ride bikes. Town Center – as currently construed – is simply not built for pedestrians or even cyclists. It is built for cars. A little more balance is in order.

GGP could, if they wanted to, make the Mall property much more green, pedestrian friendly, and welcoming. But it doesn't take new zoning for GGP to do that.

They could, but why and how would they pay for it? It’s completely unrealistic to expect a private business to invest in socially-beneficial projects – greening, pedestrian stuff, affordable housing -- if they get nothing in return.

I will be glad when the roadways are converted back to contiguous greenways, interconnecting natural areas and serving as parkland and wildlife movement corridors. Allowing high density development to encroach on these rights-of way, however, will prevent that from happening.

We both know this is unrealistic. But even still, it is in response to my comment that we use too much pavement to corral – as in, park – cars. We still need roads, but what’s preventing us from building parking garages with green roofs? Contiguous greenways should be a goal of ours, but there are better ways of achieving this then proposing to eliminate existing roadways.

If it's the speeders that concern you, this can be resolved with speeder cams punishing just the guilty.

I do not support traffic cameras, for a variety of reasons.

The problem with Town Center’s roads now, however, is that there are only two of them and they’re both highways: Gov Warfield and LPP (the other roads are basically parking lot connectors). The lack of pedestrians, parking and other activity on the street fosters and environment where speeding presents no real repercussions for the speeder.

Because of our limited road network, traffic is concentrated and delays are exacerbated. Creating a system that allows for greater dispersal – I’m not sure it has to be a grid of narrow streets – can serve to increase capacity and decrease waiting at lights, if undertaken properly. I don’t understand the tendency to simply assume that a redesigned road network will bring traffic to a crawl and endanger citizens (emergency vehicles). Do we really have that little faith in planners and engineers?

Most people living in Columbia didn't move to it to feel like they lived in a city. So, why pursue trying to make it feel like something most people here obviously didn't want? If they did, they would have moved to adjacent dense cities.

You’re assuming that everyone shares your preferences, but that’s not the case. I like Columbia because of the balance of open space and city-like features that it has, and I know many more people who feel the same, many of whom are anxious for the master plan to be finished and get the Town Center transformation underway.

You present false choices by saying if people wanted a city experience they should move to Baltimore or DC. All cities are not like Baltimore or DC. Look at Boulder, CO, or Madison, WI. Both provide a city experience without sacrificing open space and other typically suburban amenities. To say we have to be only a suburb or only a city fails to acknowledge that there is balance, that we can actually have the best of both.

Jane said...

On with the analysis and implications for future elections:

If dems can offer a place for all people to go, we may not see a resurgence of isolated, esoteric power accumulation by a few Repubicans in the future.

But if the democrats insist on forcing their own way of life on those those who may be values voters, for example, who choose not to have their children exposed to F-words in printed 'literature', then we'll see history repeat. Voters were smart this time, and took control. It's dangerous to assume they'll save the country next time.

People need a place to go where all lifestyles are respected, not just the more liberal lifestyle. I see a great opportunity for Democrats, but I'm not seeing anyone paying attention.

FreeMarket said...

Hayduke- you make good points about the road system in Columbia being less than ideal. I heard someone make a compelling argument about much better a “new urbanism” style of community organization would be. The ideal streets would be grid shaped with parking alongside the streets to signal motorists to slow down. Instead of bubbles of residential/commercial/other areas all linked by relatively few connector streets, traffic, as well as the commercial and residential areas, would be more evenly disbursed in the grid with many road travel options of how to get from one place to another, instead of everyone hopping on 175.

The idea sounds good, but hasn’t Columbia missed that bus? Columbia is built for cars, and that is a fundamental design feature that cannot be easily changed.

numbersgirl said...

Columbia certainly hasn't missed the bus. The older parts (i.e. most) of Columbia are walkable with plenty of sidewalks, pedestrian overpasses, and village centers. Whether our car-obsessed culture chooses to utilize those benefits is another story.

The problem is the advent of all the big box stores off of 175 and Snowden, and the spread out nature of the unofficial village of Town Center.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Numbersgirl,

I didn't say that "not researching" is the definition of hypocrite. And, wow, what a zinger about me mizspeling wurds. You and Heyduk are reel clevver.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Hayduke,

Why are you asserting that anon 1:05 a.m. does not share the predominant stance of most Town Center or Columbia people? Are you asserting that YOUR position is the predominant one? Is zoning and development now supposed to be based on a majority vote on each proposal?

I think Anon 1:05 a.m. was simply stating the obivous, that if people didn't like Columbia the way it is, they would not have chosen to live here. If you like how Boudler CO and Madison WI are designed, then you and the other people who want that type of city should move there. Don't redesign Columbia to suit YOUR desires and impose your prefereneces on everyone else.

It would be different if Columbia was not already existing. Then I wouldn't necessarily oopose a lot of the ideas being pushed right now.

Numbersgirl makes a good point that society is dependent on cars. You can try to re-design Town Center to be pedestrian oriented, but that does not in any way mean that people will ditch their cars.

Hayduke said...

Freemarket: I think on the whole, Columbia's streets can't be reordered to be more walkable. But in Town Center, where the vast majority of pavement is set aside as parking lots, there's considerable room to create a better road network. As I said, I'm not sure a true grid system is perfect or even feasible, but something that can better disperse traffic and can present compelling reasons for people to walk (storefronts along roads, better connections between areas, etc).

Berkhouse: I never said my view was the predominant one. But honest interpretations aren't your cup of tea.

I'm not imposing my preferences on anyone, either. I'm stating them in an effort to engage in a dialogue about the future of our city. Whether we want them to our not, places change. I'm trying to be involved in that process, rather then fighting it.

Spare me the "if you don't like it here move somewhere else" crap.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Hayduke,

You're a joke. If you can't take a concrete stance, then you leave yourself open to interpretations. How is my interpretation "dishonest"? You ARE pushing for the redevelopment of Town Center to suit YOUR preferences? If not, then what are you pushing for and why?

Hypocrisy is certainly your cup of tea.

Anonymous said...

While many of these points were made by others through the day, I'll respond to the entirety of your response.

"Your response to my problems with Town Center are well taken, but fail to really address the problems. Riding a bike more often does not solve the systemic, pedestrian access issues, and is not a viable solution for those who don’t wish to ride bikes. Town Center – as currently construed – is simply not built for pedestrians or even cyclists. It is built for cars. A little more balance is in order. "

My suggesting your use of a bike was specifically responding to your comment of Town Center being "spread out ... not being very good" for expediting your non-automobile journeys around it. Addressing the pedestrian access issues on public land is very doable via more pedestrian overpasses and via improved technology for at-grade pedestrian crossings.

"They could, but why and how would they pay for [making the Mall property much more green, pedestrian friendly, and welcoming and add affordable housing above]? It’s completely unrealistic to expect a private business to invest in socially-beneficial projects – greening, pedestrian stuff, affordable housing -- if they get nothing in return."

Completely unrealistic? Nothing in return? I think Columbia has been pretty socially beneficial. From its inception, it was a much "greener" development than many. The return to be gotten from such investments is higher revenue from the property. Columbia's "greener" (I'm saying greener due to the open space set asides, etc.) properties sold at a premium compared to surrounding less "green" developments. A "greener", more pedestrian-access friendly, mall property with affordable housing above would provide similar results. And having a few hundred residences to lease/sell on top of the Mall would also be far from nothing in return.

So, I don't buy the position that we have to grant some extra special return on investment via significantly increased density throughout Town Center just to improve pedestrian access and to make it more aesthetic than it already is or could be through other means.

"I do not support traffic cameras, for a variety of reasons.

I'd like to hear the reasons. I like them much more than speed bumps that punish everyone and slow down emergency vehicles, too. What sense does it make to purposefully make it take longer for an ambulance to get to the hospital when a punish-the-guilty-only-camera could be used instead? It's a public space and a record is made only when the law is broken. If it's a fear that technology in public spaces can be used for nefarious things not in the public or invidividual's interests, that can be addressed through regulatory and procedural safeguards.

"The lack of pedestrians, parking and other activity on [Little Patuxent Parkway and Governor Warfield] fosters an environment where speeding presents no real repercussions for the speeder.
You want to use endangering pedestrians and on-street parking hazards as a means to mitigate speeding? That sounds kind of bizarre to put it mildly.
Those roads were designed for 35 mph and, in some places now, higher posted speeds. One of the repercussions of turning these higher speed roads into secondary roads with more intersections and red lights would be noticeably further increasing the commute and everyday traveling times in and out of Wilde Lake and Harpers Choice. One obvious destination to which the drive time would be increased would be the hospital. It's bad enough seeing drivers on multilane roads' red lights inept at quickly clearing a path for an ambulance. Imagine how much longer the delays will be on narrower streets, repeated at more red lights for each ambulance's transit.

Speeder cams can fix speeding on these roads, just as red lights have at some of their intersections. Addressing speeding by using pedestrians, on-street parking, and the unmentioned additional development facilitated along these roads by narrowing them is quite a stretch.
"Because of our limited road network, traffic is concentrated and delays are exacerbated. Creating a system that allows for greater dispersal – I’m not sure it has to be a grid of narrow streets – can serve to increase capacity and decrease waiting at lights, if undertaken properly. I don’t understand the tendency to simply assume that a redesigned road network will bring traffic to a crawl and endanger citizens (emergency vehicles). Do we really have that little faith in planners and engineers?"

Without seeing any other plan for revising Town Center other than the one that's continously shown a grid of narrow streets, I'll continue to address how a grid of narrow streets is not an improvement. Seeing the review of the transportation plan for this revised Town Center zoning come back from the external consultants saying it wouldn't work, congesting roads too much didn't increase my faith in the planning. Many lay people knew the transportation wouldn't work just by looking at the map and the increased density numbers proposed. Having the consultants say a way to deal with the plan's transportation not working was to relax the criteria for labeling the resulting traffic congestion unacceptable (allowing higher density zoning to pass) and then subjecting the public to the resulting traffic congestion to thereby increase public support for mass transit funding didn't increase my faith in the planning or the external consultants reviewing it either. What kind of a crazy plan says "lets build in a problem that won't have a design to resolve the problem until development has occurred, the development then constraining what kind of solution could be provided to address the problem created?"

Short of seeing a validated-by-third-parties-with-no-vested-interest online simulation of traffic flows for any revision to Town Center, I'm very, very skeptical. Trust, but verify. The tools do exist to perform these simulations and present the results.

Quoting myself - 'Most people living in Columbia didn't move to it to feel like they lived in a city. So, why pursue trying to make it feel like something most people here obviously didn't want? If they did, they would have moved to adjacent dense cities.'

"You’re assuming that everyone shares your preferences, but that’s not the case. I like Columbia because of the balance of open space and city-like features that it has, and I know many more people who feel the same, many of whom are anxious for the master plan to be finished and get the Town Center transformation underway.

You present false choices by saying if people wanted a city experience they should move to Baltimore or DC. All cities are not like Baltimore or DC. Look at Boulder, CO, or Madison, WI. Both provide a city experience without sacrificing open space and other typically suburban amenities. To say we have to be only a suburb or only a city fails to acknowledge that there is balance, that we can actually have the best of both."


I said "Most people", not "everyone", thus acknowledging that others were not of the same opinion as the majority of people who moved to Columbia for its less dense development. I, too, like Columbia's balance. That a smaller set of the population is anxious to have Town Center's balance "transformed", "renovated", "revived from the dead", or "made vibrantly urban" when it certainly appears thriving, healthy and the heart of the #4 place to live, doesn't make me want to foresake the balance, rushing to accept a plan that is far less than Columbia deserves.

And I didn't say "if people wanted a city experience they should move to Baltimore or DC", I said people who had already moved to Columbia did so because they were attracted by it being less dense than adjacent dense cities.
Yet, to expect that majority to have their home now accept increased density (despite commitments years ago that no more density increases would be sought) to accommodate those who are now looking for a "city experience" place to live and would like that "city experience" to be built for them here when it already exists elsewhere seems unfair or wrong. And giving up some open space and some suburban (which isn't a bad word) amenities are both indeed part of the currently proposed plan for changing Town Center.

Five minutes before showtime on the lawn and the late arriving crowd squeezes inbetween everyone who waited patiently to spread a blanket at the front of Merriweather's lawn. 'You didn't really want to see the show, did you?' Stay off my blanket, you muddy-footed antsy-pants hippies. :)

Also, I said "adjacent dense cities", not "Baltimore or DC". There are other adjacent dense cities - Annapolis, Rockville, and many others. And where did I say "we have to be only a suburb or only a city"? Again, labeled as a city and ranked #4, we're pretty much near the best of both already. Interesting to see #2's two listed cons: "Congestion in town and on surrounding roads".
Grid road systems run counter to Columbia's use of neighborhood-feel-promoting non-through roads and cul-de-sacs, replace non-connected roads' coexisting ecofriendly, non-habitat isolating, contiguous wildlife areas with broken up smaller parcels of open space that force wildlife and pedestrians to risk crossing roadways, introduce a mesh of red lights, and result in longer transit times crossing the area.

Change Town Center for the better? Great. We're just waiting for a plan that actually does.

Eddie Stolancer said...

Tom Berk louse,

YOUR TEA IS CRACKED

Tom Berkhouse said...

Eddie,
I really don't drink much tea. I prefer a good bourbon and coke.

Tom Berkhouse said...

Anon 12:18,

Great points. I think you did a great job pointing out Hayduke's flawed rationales.

I have one more counterpoint to one of Hayduke's assertions about having to offer incentives to private companies since they won't do something without something in return. If pedestrian safety and more landscaping is what Hayduke wants, then I think the County should take the money that would have been wasted (I mean spent) on upgrading the waster treatment facility, upgrading the Route 29/Route 175 interchange, and whatever else they were going to do for GGP anyway, and use those funds to construct more pedestrian overpasses and install more landscaping. Problem solved, no need to dole out more density for GGP.

Hayduke - I will send you a bill more my consulting services:)

no name said...

anon 12:18:

thank you for fostering RESPECTFUL DIALOGUE in the comments section. Other people (really just one person) should take note (the recent, mostly good natured, joking a pleasant exception).

Hayduke said...

Anon:

Just a few points and a couple questions…

So, I don't buy the position that we have to grant some extra special return on investment via significantly increased density throughout Town Center just to improve pedestrian access and to make it more aesthetic than it already is or could be through other means.

You’re right. We don’t have to. But if we want them, somebody has to pay for these things. We can use tax revenue or GGP can dedicate part of their profits from development for improvements. I don’t think we can ask GGP to fund them without any incentives of some kind, however.

You want to use endangering pedestrians and on-street parking hazards as a means to mitigate speeding? That sounds kind of bizarre to put it mildly.

When you say it like that, yes, it does sound bizarre. See downtown Annapolis for a sense of what I mean about “active” streets and their impact on traffic speed. What I’m advocating for doesn’t endanger pedestrians, but grants them equal access and rights throughout Town Center.

Grid road systems run counter to Columbia's use of neighborhood-feel-promoting non-through roads and cul-de-sacs, replace non-connected roads' coexisting ecofriendly, non-habitat isolating, contiguous wildlife areas with broken up smaller parcels of open space that force wildlife and pedestrians to risk crossing roadways, introduce a mesh of red lights, and result in longer transit times crossing the area.

Town Center is not and was never meant to be like the rest of Columbia’s villages. It is also already developed and is therefore pretty poor wildlife habitat. I’m not sure if its possible to create wildlife areas within the existing layout, and I’m almost positive GGP won’t be converting its already-developed holdings into open space any time soon.

Change Town Center for the better? Great. We're just waiting for a plan that actually does.

So, what is better? What changes would you like to see made to Town Center? Please share your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

"I don’t think we can ask GGP to fund[pedestrian access and aesthetic improvements] without any incentives of some kind, however.

Improvements not on GGP land should be funded by either the public and/or CA. CA doing so is consistent with original Columbia plans. For improvements on GGP land, their incentive to do so is the increased revenue they'll receive as a result of the improvements, just as when the Mall's brown tile was replaced with white tile as part of the deal to land Nordstrom.

"What I’m advocating for doesn’t endanger pedestrians, but grants them equal access and rights throughout Town Center."

But Annapolis doesn't have 20,000 people (Harper's Choice, Wilde Lake, and Clary's Forest)and a hospital that lie beyond Ego Alley out in the harbor. Replacing the parkways that access those villages and hospital with a street system like downtown Annapolis isolates those villages and endangers those needing immediate medical care.

At the same time you've promoted this idea that isolates those villages, you've floated ideas to improve road access to Oakland Mills. Plans to improve parts of Columbia shouldn't be to the detriment of other parts or endanger the community as a whole.

Providing pedestrians equal access to downtwon doesn't require a grid of red lights. Other means do exist.

"Town Center is not and was never meant to be like the rest of Columbia’s villages. It is also already developed and is therefore pretty poor wildlife habitat. I’m not sure if its possible to create wildlife areas within the existing layout, and I’m almost positive GGP won’t be converting its already-developed holdings into open space any time soon."

I'd like to see that part of the original plan that says Town Center will be less respective of nature than the other Villages. Just because it's at the heart of Columbia, don't fall prey to old thinking that city centers have to be dead zones to nature.

Within Town Center, Symphony Woods, a significant portion of the Crescent, the Lake area and the Little Patuxent River, both upstream and downstream from the Lake, are all good examples of areas where, while not ideal due to existing light and noise pollution, viable wildlife habitat exists. HCC's grounds also still include a significant amount of viable habitat, both forests and fields.

And up to a few years ago, prior to construction along the Mall's border with Governor Warfield, there was significant viable habitat that was contiguous with Symphony Woods and a very short distance from HCC's grounds.

It's not just in wildlife's best interest, but ours, too, to maintain green where possible and 'green' developed places that haven't been for a while. Urban heat island effect contributes to climate warming, heat-related deaths of the elderly, cooks NOx and SOx emissions to create asthma-exacerbating ground level ozone, and causes airconditioners to be run more day and night, in turn generating more COx emissions to further accelerate climate warming. A dense grid of streets' pavement contributes to urban heat island effect, too, removing COx-consuming plant life and absorbing heat during the day that is slowly released at night. Stuffy hot city air, doesn't that sound vibrant?

The plan also has another part of this road grid going from near Toby's, along the river through what appears to be stream buffer to connect to the proposed extended Wincopin Circle. Why? Isn't this supposed to be protected sensitive wildlife habitatat/movement corridor? County regulations say it is supposed to be protected. The General Plan does, too.

And the proposed transportation plan does not set aside or detail where a mass transit link to Town Center would be. This is supposed to be a 30-year plan.

One diagram from the Charette shows where a rail line would parallel Route 29 and then hit a terminal near the Rouse Building. This path encroaches on both the stream and stream buffers. Why??

Without the plan detailing now where a mass transit solution will occur and setting that corridor aside, I fear development will be permitted that would then force sacrificing these supposed-to-be-preserved sensitive environmental areas.

What changes would I like to see to Town Center?

A couple more pedestrian overpasses (Mall to Symphony Woods would be a good one for concert and festival safety) with mostly public and some private funding.

A 30-year plan that goes into much more detail about the environmental aspects.

A better public transit system.
- Short term: more buses, more routes to increase their convenience and use until we can deploy a better system.
- Long term: a transit system that is faster, more convenient, and cleaner than cars and is also faster, more convenient, more energy efficient, less damaging to the environment, quieter, less inhibiting to pedestrian and wildlife movement, and less expensive to build and operate than light rail or Metro.