Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday fun...

I've been struggling with a mean cold the last few days, which is my excuse for not writing more. But what's yours. Seriously, the local blogosphere seems to have shut down. Are we all just too busy shopping for the holidays or attending parties?

Well, some of silence might be related to the fact that there's not much going on.

With that in mind, let's throw fuel on a smoldering situation.

Ulman got an earful from 32 speakers at his first charter-required budget hearing Wednesday night at the George Howard building in Ellicott City, including a continuation of the argument over a proposed community center building at the planned North Laurel Community Park.

A small group of residents who live near the park site, behind Laurel Woods Elementary School near U.S. 1, oppose plans for a large community center there similar to one recently opened in Western Regional Park in Glenwood.

Debbie Clark, the group's leader, said she was notified only recently of the $13.3 million center and suggested that Ulman could use money intended for the park to satisfy some of the other requests.

"We actually came here asking you to withhold funding," Clark said. The proposed building would be too big and would replace woods that buffer her Heather Downs community off Whiskey Bottom Road from the "criminal element" in the area, she said.

If the parkland is developed as planned, "the criminal element will have a paved way to our homes," she said. "I implore you to at least postpone funding."

The story, ostensibly about a recent budget hearing, goes on to provide feedback from several residents who support the community center. But why highlight reasonable arguments, when ones based solely on fear are so much fun?

Granted, I don't know the whole backstory, but I do know that appeals such as these are a good way to make me tune out the rest of what you have to say.


Anonymous said...

Making fun of a community group's public statement of fear of crime in their community and their plea to not have their tax dollars spent in a way that might increase crime? Is that your sentiment?

My guess is you're not too familiar with Whiskey Bottom Road. How about a follow-up with crime statistics for that area? That should shed some light on the veracity of the group's stated concerns.

Additionally, it would be good to see what other public buildings already exist in that area that could instead house the facilities that Parks&Rec wants to build new, destroying park greenspace/wildlife habitat to do so.

wordbones said...

It seems that there is more than fear of crime at play here. There is the fear of "those people."

This was a quote from Debbie Clark in an article on December 13th.

"Clark said she and her neighbors fear development of the park will lower their property values and attract people who will sell drugs and loiter. She referred to nearby apartment dwellers as "riff-raff."

Anonymous said...

Skip the labels. Getting beyond the hyperbole, again, what are the actual crime statistics for the area and what other already nearby developed public lands/structures could house the facilities Parks&Rec wants to build on forested parkland?

If existing neighboring facilities or developed lands can house these new facilities, then why consume parkland? Perhaps the degree to which the Board of Ed. and Parks&Rec can and should collaborate to provide community services should receive more scrutiny. Or are there turf wars at play, each building their own fiefdoms?

Hayduke said...

I don't think I was making fun of them as much as I was pointing out that I enjoy exposing such statements and then ignoring the rest of what they have to say.

I'm very familiar with the area and the crime problems it has faced, but these are seperate issues from the community center. The community group's concerned that the new center will "pave" a path for criminals to their houses. I wonder how a building with a lighted parking lot is a more inviting passage than an unlit patch of woods.

Anonymous said...

Try walking through a patch of woods on a moonless night. It's far less inviting than a paved, lit path or parking lot.

More traffic, pedestrian or auto, to the neighborhood, will bring more crime. Pretty simple. Obviously, not everyone's a criminal, but there is a small percentage who are.

Nighttime illumination of areas also can increase frequency of grafitti vs. unlit areas (taggers can't see what they're doing in the dark).

Lighting is not a panacea. Quoting a U.S. D.O.J report to Congress,
"The problematic relationship between lighting and crime increases when one considers that offenders need lighting to detect potential targets and low-risk situations (Fleming and Burrows 1986). Consider lighting at outside ATM machines, for example. An ATM user might feel safer when the ATM and its immediate surrounding area are well lit. However, this same lighting makes the patron more visible to passing offenders. Who the lighting serves is unclear."

Lit parking lots not only facilitate parking cars, but also breaking into cars, as evidenced by similar past situations at CA facilities. And putting elevated area illumination in a park is just one more transgression against the park's natural habitat.

Hayduke said...

I think this thread has gone a little off topic. If you or anyone else honestly believes that a community center will increase crime, I think the burden of proof falls on you. Community center = more traffic = more crime = pretty simple is not proof of anything. Also, increasing crime in the general area or in the parking lot of the center specifically do not seem to be conerns of the group.

Rather, their concern is that it will spread an already-present "criminal element" to a nearby and presumably, at this point, low-crime neighborhood, theirs. And I continue to believe this is backwards logic.

To you and I, a patch of woods at night is uninviting, but to a criminal it seems like the perfect escape path. Why would someone who has just burgled a house or mugged a resident rather abscond through the lit parking lot of a community center than through an unlit patch of woods that they've probably run through before? Have criminals become that brazen that they no longer enjoy the cover of darkness or hiding spots?

Anonymous said...

It's not that offtopic, discussing if changes will increase crime.

Paths facilitate movement. Perpetrators prefer flight to hiding, wanting to quickly and stealthily leave the area of the crime to avoid arrest. Try running a couple blocks along a lit paved path and then try running the same distance through unlit woods. See which allows achieving greater distance while making less noise and avoiding a lot of trips, bruises, and cuts, too.

I expect adding recreational facilities such as these to this community will decrease crime for the wider community overall, but that neighborhood's concern is that they will see a localized increase. The OM CA Teen center comes to mind.

That's one more reason I inquired as to existing public facilities in the community that could be upgraded to house these recreational facilities, thereby both spreading the localization impact and conserving parkland.

Is there public visibility (perhaps a web-posted report) of the rate of utilization of public buildings' facilities (fields, courts, rooms, etc.)?

Anonymous said...

It's really sad that in Howard County people don't want recreation oppurtunities because it might bring more of those people.

Maybe Howard County isn't the place for that type of person.

Tom Berkhouse said...


You are wasting your time trying to convince Hayduke to understand or accept any viewpoint or thought process other than his own. In his mind, anyone who opposes anything is a fear monger, a racist, a snob, and so on.

Hayduke - thieves would much rather be able to burglarize a house, and then jump into a waiting car and speed off. WHen the Metor station in College Park first opened (weel lit and paved access), crime jump significantly. That should be proof enough for you, although you will no doubt find a way to dismiss it.

Anonymous said...

Is TB's pot/kettle complex apparent to anyone else but me?

Tom Berkhouse said...

Pot/kettle complex? When someone engages me in a discussion or debate, and they offer counter points, I offer counter points back. I call it the way I see it, not through rose colored glasses, and I make no apolgies for it. If someone doesn't like me pointing out their incosistencies or hypocrisy, then they simply need to improve their presentation. And, I haven't always disagreed with those certain bloggers or commenters, but I don't seem to get much "credit" for that. I have always offered factual information based on experiences I have personally been involved with, or by information acquired first hand, not through gossip. I don't think you want me to get into my reasons for my "vitriol" directed to certain bloggers and certain commenters.

Anonymous said...

"It's really sad that in Howard County people don't want recreation oppurtunities because it might bring more of those people.

Maybe Howard County isn't the place for that type of person."

Again, skip the labels and how what was stated was posed. Isn't it legitimate for a neighborhood to speak up if they perceive crime/safety issues?

If there are numbers to back up the claims, the County should take such concerns into consideration when locating and designing facilities and access to them.