Thursday, February 15, 2007

Thursday Round Up...


How 'bout a Round Up?

As a working stiff, does it bother you that the State of the County address is always given during the day? Be bothered no more. Keeping his campaign pledge to help the working folk, County Executive Ken Ulman this year will deliver the speech twice in the same day (Tuesday, February 20). First at the traditional venue, a Chamber of Commerce luncheon, at 11 a.m., and second for the public at the county office building at 7 p.m. Although the early show will cost you, I hear the late one, which is free, gets kind of "blue," so you might not want to bring the little ones (joke!).


Speaking of things to do, Hometown Columbia would like to invite you to an informal discussion about the future of Columbia. It's this Sunday, February 18, from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at Trapeze in Maple Lawn.


Are you a distracted driver? I think at some point we all are, well, except for my college Zen Buddhism professor who claimed he hadn't listened to his car radio in over 25 years and believed this was the reason he also hadn't received a speeding ticket during that whole time. I got a speeding ticket driving through Idaho (no, you da ho) last summer and it wasn't because I was distracted. It was because I was speeding, but that's beside the point (or is it?).

Anyway, there are several bills before the General Assembly to address the problem of distracted driving, which includes all manner of things you shouldn't be doing while piloting a 2-ton hunk of metal and plastic down the byways of our fair state. One such bill -- designed to be a compromise both sides of the debate can live with -- was proposed by one of Elkridge's delegates, James Malone.

His bill would make distracted driving a ticketable offense only if the distracted driver is involved in an accident. This provision allays fears held by many -- including me and Patuxent Publishing -- that by making distracted driving illegal, police will have way too much leeway in who they pull over. Just because you're drinking a soda while driving doesn't necessarily mean you're endangering your fellow drivers.

That said, I think I agree with the Flier's editorial that distracted driving should be a secondary offense that police can issue citations for in connection to other offenses (like speeding).


Remember how Ulman said he was going to assign reading homework for his new agency heads? Well, here's (.pdf) something county officials should read. It's a report by the Center for Housing Policy entitled Increasing the Availability of Affordable Homes: A Handbook of High-Impact State and Local Solutions. Full of case studies and models from communities around the country, the handbook is a great introduction to some of the most current and leading edge affordable housing policies from around the country. The report divides housing strategies into six broad categories:

  • Expand the Availability of Sites for the Development of Affordable Homes
  • Reduce Red Tape and Other Regulatory Barriers to Affordable Homes
  • Harness the Power of Strong Housing Markets
  • Generate Additional Capital for Affordable Homes
  • Preserve and Recycle Resources for Affordable Homes
  • Empower Residents to Purchase and Retain Market-Rate Homes
I hope to write more about this soon, but you know how these vague hopes usually work out. Anyway, if you're a county official and you're reading this blog, get back to work, but be sure to send this up the line first.


Finally, the charrette. The master planning process for Town Center has taken more than its share of hits over the last year and a half. But despite all it's bad press and the missteps along the way, I'm beginning to think it was really a fantastic thing and its importance just seems to be growing. Case in point, the letters to the editor in this week's Flier.

It seems the charrette was just the beginning of a long-term discussion about Columbia's future that's really starting to flourish. More people, more voices, more dialogue, these are all good things. Eventually, of course, we'll have to make the messy decisions, but at least we'll know that everyone had a chance to speak their minds.

OK, I'm done.

YEE to the HAW!

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