Monday, April 23, 2007

I just keep moving on...

Forgive me (in advance) if this post rambles. I don't have a coherent narrative about the Columbia elections yet, just a bunch of disjointed thoughts.

I guess it makes sense to start with the good. Although it's often said (and likely rarely meant), the campaign was an entirely positive experience. I met many wonderful people and learned much about my community and myself. When I said I was inspired by the energy, creativity and dedication of my neighbors, I meant it, and I'm looking forward to working with them in the future (yes, I'm going to stay involved in OM… no, I don't know if I'll run for Columbia Council again).

Also, turnout in Oakland Mills was great. Nearly 500 households voted, compared to less than 300 last year. As someone reminded me Saturday, democracy thrives on challengers. So, yes, democracy is still alive in Oakland Mils.

As for why I lost, here is perhaps the main reason why:

Years in OM:

Russell: 35+
Kennedy: 1

Honorable mention: The Tower.

Speaking of The Tower, I have a collection of thoughts about it that I want to share, but I'm having trouble with the words today. I will say two brief things, however.

I don't understand environmentalists who would rather see more growth in the west than a 22-story building in Town Center (and for purposes of this election, I think this counts as an "either/or" scenario). What about you?

That it was front page news throughout the campaign and I could not say, while maintaining my integrity, that I opposed it outright probably hurt me.

I guess that's all I have in me for now. I don't mean to sound like a wimp, but thinking too much about the election is emotionally draining and probably a bit unhealthy.

The positive comments to my "loser" post on Saturday were very much appreciated.

Although I plan to write a couple more recap posts, I want to focus on what's next (well, first I need to focus on catching up on everything I neglected over the last two months, but after that…). I've never had a problem filling up my time.

Finally, I really do owe a great debt to everyone who helped me in the campaign. Were it not for them, a small army in fact, I probably wouldn't have done a quarter as well as I did. I'll be thanking everyone individually when I get the chance, but for now, let this serve as a blanket show of appreciation. I have some great friends (some old, some new) and thinking about all they did for me is truly humbling.


Anonymous said...

Things are never as straightforward as they seem to be. I say this regarding the Tower. I heard a sermon by a minister this weekend that was about global warming in general, Americans contribution to it in particular (disproportionate) and, even more particular, how folks living in this area are responsible in their own way. One of his examples for living more simply and mitigating global warming, in a particular way, was his living ina 700 sq. ft condo in DC, using no heat (his neighbors' heat seeps into his place) and taking a tiny footprint of the land. He wasn't bragging--he owned up to lots of things he does do that are disproportionately wasteful (compared to the rest of the world). All I'm saying with this long post is that the Tower is surely environmentally friendly (not to mention spiritually friendly) in some ways. Agree?

Anonymous said...

I can't figure out how someone could possibly squeeze one more residence in Columbia. If that tower were built, people would figuratively be frozen in place after traffic becomes a parking lot that doesn't ever empty.

Have none of you been to the mall on Sat night? It's like Christmas year-round. No parking, circling vehicles hawk spots. It's nuts.

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand environmentalists who would rather see more growth in the west than a 22-story building in Town Center (and for purposes of this election, I think this counts as an "either/or" scenario)."

It wasn't, isn't, and won't be an either/or.

It sounds like you're assuming one or more of the following:
- growth is inevitable,
- the assumed growth must either occur in the west or in Town Center and not other existing brownfield places either within the County or outside of the County,
- and that 22-story towers being built without any definitively-linked set aside of open space either onsite or elsewhere is a good idea.

Other objections to the tower

1. Even though there's still residential units allowed to be added within Columbia in accord with the original New Town zoning, the proposed tower's high-end units won't provide a balance of housing. So much for affordable or "workforce housing" or even seizing the opportunity to encourage the developer to include some moderately-priced units as an offset for the unusual-to-Columbia scope/size of the project.

2. The height of the tower is far taller than any other structure in Columbia. Columbia's aesthetics are valued by plenty of its residents and this structure would present a striking discord.

Should peoples' eyes near and far really be drawn away from Town Center's symbolicly inclusive People Tree to this tower's glowing-at-night, non-inclusive rooftop pool (while, as one candidate mentioned, some of CA's later villages still lack neighborhood pools despite paying CA liens)?

3. The Planning Board approval process for this project and the ensuing criticism of that process.

4. Wonder about how some interests' interests in having more and dense housing in Town Center to support more intense commercial development therein may be affecting the plan and the process in ways that don't jive with Columbia's plan.

mike adamle said...

anon 11:51pm

growth is inevitable. its not something we just "assume".

I think you are right to argue specific details about the tower (not enough affordable housing, lack of open space, planning board process, pools, etc) but the idea that Columbia can remain a quaint little community like it was in 1972 is absurd. Take a look at a map. Its right in between one and a half major cities (sorry, baltimore).

Im not sure im familiar with HoCo enough to know where the brownfields are, but i would guess there arent enough to "solve" the problem of growth. Maybe route 1 in elkridge??

So you could increase devlopment along route 1 in elkridge. You know what the people in Elkridge would say? There are people who have been there long before Columbia...dont they have a right to unobstructed sight lines? less traffic?

At least by builing in Town Center, you have a lot of people who could potentially live very close to where they work, where they shop and where they go to school. There is already a fair amount of mass transit available from Town Center as well.

Hayduke said...

Anon 11:51:

Environmentalists and for purposes of this election are the key phrases.

Also, while I'm obviously talking about The Tower, it's not the building itself that matters, but the height.

Anonymous said...


Upon what do you base your assertion that growth is inevitable? Read this, note Baltimore City's population decreased by a third in the past 50 years from 950,000 to 636,000, note D.C.'s population has also decreased by about a third from 800,000 to 572,000 over the past 50 years, and tell me why you believe growth is a guarantee and not an assumption.

Yes, Columbia won't be what it was in 1972. But it can be better in some ways. And, because, not despite, its proximity to Baltimore and D.C., there were and are resulting advantages.

Brownfields exist both within Howard County (such as the recent transportation oriented development zoning along Route 1 and not just in Elkridge) and nearby - Baltimore and D.C.

And I agree the people in Elkridge have rights to unobstructed sight lines and less traffic. The transportation oriented zoning incorporates details that do address those concerns to some extent, including making Route 1 greener, more aesthetic, more pedestrian accessible/friendly, and emphasizing making mass transportation more accessible which will both lessen transportation costs and lessen traffic.

Just repopulating Baltimore and D.C. to 1950 levels, would add a total of 542,000 people to those cities, in places where proximity to jobs, shopping, mass transportation, higher education, and culture already far exceed Town Center's offerings.

Thus, I'm still at a loss to understand why adding 5,500 predominantly upper-end new homes to Town Center is supposed to be a good idea, especially when reutilizing these other areas would provide more affordable housing and transportation, consume less green space, and avoid causing gridlock in and around Columbia.

The traffic study sure concluded adding 5,500 homes would generate failing roads, didn't it? And the study stated one possible "remedy" being to just go ahead and build 5,500 anyway, to make the public miserable enough to later accept the *high cost* of publicly funded construction and operation of light rail or subway transit to pursue relief.

Columbia still has an allotment of around 2,000 more new homes remaining from its original plan, doesn't it? Why don't we see that remaining allotment used first, see how transportation oriented zoning development proceeds, see how some urban renaissance happens in nearby cities, and only if needed thereafter think about figuring out what would be necessary to add additional density to Town Center? What's the rush?

Anonymous said...

It sounds like you're assuming one or more of the following:
- growth is inevitable,

Yes growth is inevitable. Columbia's location alone makes it inevitable.

Yes, in an ideal world, we would re-populate the cities.. HOWEVER..this is never going to happen at a large enough degree to have any affect on Columbia.

Anonymous said...

"Yes growth is inevitable. Columbia's location alone makes it inevitable."

Columbia's location alone? I can hardly wait to hear this one explained. Does Columbia have some kind of giant cabbage patch or is it at the endpoint of a stork flyway? Please explain how Columbia's location *alone* makes anything inevitable.

Mike Adamle said...

anon 10:12 --

Columbia is situated in a MAJOR metropolitan area...two, in fact. I think the fact that Baltimore and to an extent DC are both plagued with high crime and major drug industries makes the flight of residents out of the city more inevitable.

Yet, still some people say...we should make those who cant afford to live in Howard County (or rather those who werent lucky enough to get in before the borders were sealed) move to these blighted areas.

Anon 11:15/11:51, look back at this post by Hayduke, and more importantly, the linked article:

In it, he talks about a federal ruling that the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development "violated federal fair housing laws by failing to take a regional approach to provide opportunities for black public housing families to live outside poor, segregated city neighborhoods."

As it is now, the idea of simply moving people back to the cities is unfeasable.

Again, I agree with you on a lot of points on the tower. It should have more affordable housing in it, it should leave more open space...but im talking about the concept of growing upward in Columbia and its something that needs to be considered.

Anonymous said...

No one is making anyone move to "blighted areas". Yet, if you're going to characterize entire cities as blighted areas to disqualify their housing stock as being an option, then it seems you're saying building in brownfields can't be done, smart growth should be thrown out the window, and sprawl should continue unabated.

If living in cities is so unfeasible, then why are people of means of many age groups now doing so voluntarily, moving from the suburbs back into cities, by the tens of thousands in some cities?

As such, again maintaining growth isn't inevitable, why is it necessary to entertain the idea of growing upward in Columbia now, especially when Columbia hasn't even seen its remaining allotment of housing per the original plan consumed?

The idea of building upward to fit more density into areas, while sounding New Urbanist, only really improves things if it's tied to requiring an open space set aside and includes sufficient affordable housing. Instead, what happens all too often is no required open space set aside, all luxury housing which contributes little to affordable housing, and the first structure serving as the spore that quickly spawns similar adjacent leviathans.

Worse yet, in the absence of appropriate height restrictions, present even in New Urbanism protocols such as the Duany and Plater-Zybek Transect where the tallest structures are only six stories, the ensuing proliferation of greater-than-six-story structures from the corresponding land apprection rapidly results in cavernous Manhattanization of the surrounding area. Great if you're looking at it solely for revenue from owning the land, but not so great from a lot of other perspectives.

mike adamle said...

if you're going to characterize entire cities as blighted areas to disqualify their housing stock as being an option, then it seems you're saying building in brownfields can't be done, smart growth should be thrown out the window, and sprawl should continue unabated.

I dont mean to characterize entire cities as "blighted", but when you talk about an influx of 300,000 people to Baltimore where do you intend them to go?

Dont get me wrong here....builing in brownfields is a good idea, smart growth is a good idea, and sprawl should be contained. But your entire argument is very nimby.

You know what? People in Baltimore hate the towers they are building there too. Old time Fell's Point residents complain about the increased traffic and the less visible views of the water from the Inner Harbor East development. Federall Hill residents are particularly happy about the high rise condo and the future planned development on key highway for the same reasons.

No body wants it in their backyard and living in the city doesn't mean that you give up any claim to uncongested roads.

Mike Adamle said...

One more thing (more of a "however"),

The development of Albemarle Square (just to north of Inner Harbor East) is quite a contrast to Inner Harbor East development. Of course, it still adds traffic, but it contains a fairly large number of townhomes/condos in 2-4 story buildings. A year or two ago, i thought about buying a house there. The policy at the time was that only people who were going to live in the houses could buy no investors. This, I think was a good way to keep costs down (Although, I have been seeing a couple units for rent on craigslist) and make the neighborhood more stable.

The Hopkins Biotech park could be similiar in how it redevelops Mid-East. But already, rehabbed rowhomes that were bought for $12,000 have sold for for $850,000.

I remember reading in the paper (caution: anecdote) about how an older woman didnt want to leave her Mid-East neighborhood (25 homicides in first half of 2005) because she "knew" the drug dealers. She was worried about moving to another neighborhood and getting reaquainted with the dealers there. Those are the people that run these neighborhoods, and it was important for her to have an "understanding" with them...they would each leave each other alone.

Anonymous said...

If some of this info above was from a 12 year old, it would be humorous. As it is, however, it is terribly naive and narrow-minded.

YES, people should and do live in Baltimore and DC, and they live there, not dying from drug dealers. Anyone who won't move to the city because of the fear of drug dealers needs to get out more. Come on!

And if you're just starting out and demand to live as your parents currently do, all I have to say is, grow up! Your parents worked their way up to those locations and homes, so it' time to set sights on being an adult.

This is nuts.

Columbia does not have to grow into Baltimore or DC. Then what? Those scary drug dealers will move in.

Calm down, dealers are not behindevery tree

Hayduke said...

Anon 7:48: Are we reading the same comments?

Hayduke said...


And if you're just starting out and demand to live as your parents currently do, all I have to say is, grow up! Your parents worked their way up to those locations and homes, so it' time to set sights on being an adult.

Nobody's saying young people should be living their parents do now (maybe as they did when they were our age). But I do think people should be able to live in the area where they grew up or where they work. What kind of community tells its grown children they aren't welcome because they don't make enough money or they didn't buy a house soon enough?

Anonymous said...

Every time I make an honest comment, I end up going down a road on which I'm not comfortable. Now I"m put in the position of having to defend capitalism.

I didn't say people weren't welcome. Capitalism, ie., supply and demand setting prices determines who lives where. Each of us decides how much money we're willing to earn, and the resulting trade-off.

I'd like to say more about the drug dealers and living in the city, but then I'll have to go down that road as well.

I'll sum it up in this innocuous manner: There is nothing wrong with living in the city, particularly to start out! If people would rather live in Columbia as it exists, then at least they still have that option.

Hayduke said...

Capitalism, ie., supply and demand setting prices determines who lives where.

And this has largely been a discussion about determining supply in Columbia.

The housing market is a pretty messed up form of capitalism. Supply, demand, and prices are set by far more than Adam Smith's invisible hand: land use regulations, employment, drug dealers, transit, etc.

Anonymous said...

People like me have one fundamental and overriding concern regarding affordable housing (including flooding the market with housing) for non-vulnerable populations: When you remove a human being's ability for self-determination, ie., staking out and achieving one's own destiny, then you remove all hope of the freedoms we like to think we enjoy.

Mike Adamle said...


Your comment about being a 12 year olod was a real zinger. I have maintained my civility, please do the same.

You misintepreted my point a little bit. My point about the "anecdote" was really no point at all (which is why I cautioned it as being an anecdote). To me its an interesting, and singular, point of view about the redevelopment of some of Baltimore's rougher areas.

The other part of that post was to agree with you! There is a fair amount of potential in Baltimore to redevelop areas that provide for mixed incomes (like Columbia was), but most of it is not. In Baltimore a lot of the brownfields are being redevloped as "luxury" townhomes with starting prices usualy around half a million. So we are back to the same point about the tower....lack of affordable housing.

According to your viewpoint:

its ok to increase traffic in Baltimore, but not Columbia

its ok for developers to not provide open space in Baltimore, but not Columbia

its ok for developers to not include afforadable housing in their developments in Baltimore, but not in Columbia

If you want to call me out on being scared of drug dealers, not being grown up, demanding to live like my parents, you can let that go becuase I actually live in Baltimore. There is an open drug market a block down the street. You wanna live here? I dont even live in a "bad" neighborhood. Its not the same place as it was 50 years ago...which is why 300,000 people left. The worst parts of Baltimore spread out like butterfly wings from downtown. I still dont see how 300,000 people are going to move back to Baltimore without repopulating the "butterfly wings". Those parts of Baltimore are worse than Baghdad.

Anonymous said...

Holy cow. My apologies for the 12-y-o writing/idea comparison. Didn't realize it would strike so deeply. Pls accept, it wasn't personal, but more about the idea.

I must, however, maintain my position, as you've failed at changing the direction.

The worst part of the above is the comparison to Iraq. My God, man, (person), have you no perspective? I wouldn't dare ask a veteran or God forbid, an active duty to respond to that.

...Which underscores my point about determination and personal growth.

Mike A said...


are we going nowhere?

You are right its probably unfair to say "parts" of Baltimore are worse than Baghdad. I probably shouldnt have said it. You win. I hate to make an issue out of this, but here was my perspective (since you say i have none):

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) gave a speech on the House floor in May 2006. He based his speech on this :

According to 2004-2005 FBI statistics...

DC 45.9 violent deaths/100k people
Baltimore: 37.7 violent deaths/100k people
Iraq: 27.7 violent deaths/100k people

The Comgressman was spinning the above statistics to say Iraq is not that bad off, just poorly portrayed by the media (for context, his speech was picked up on by the likes of Rush Limbaugh.) But i would "spin" the statistics (what else do you do with statitics but spin? :) ) to make the point that our American cities are suffering badly. Apparently, you think they are fine and dandy?

Again, let me stress, I shouldnt have made the comparison, but i have talked about it to a friend who is an iraq vet and we both agreed the worst of baltimore and baghdad are seriously messed up places, regardless of which one is "most" messed up.

Moving on from there...

My apologies for the 12-y-o writing/idea comparison. Didn't realize it would strike so deeply.
I wasnt struck "deeply" (was that another insult?), I simply asked that we leave insults out of the debate.

I must, however, maintain my position, as you've failed at changing the direction.

so is it your position that it is good in baltimore, but not columbia, to build as much housing as the developers want with no regard for affordability, open space, sight lines, or traffic?

...Which underscores my point about determination and personal growth.

Isn't this point contradicted by the fact that some of your opposition to the "tower" is based on a lack of affordable housing? I will admit, Im not sure I completly understand your point about personal growth (I guess I do have the mind of a 12 year old). Are you saying you would not want any sort of assistance provided to low income people to find housing because it deny's them the chance to earn their way into a house? If thats right, why be so concerned at all about affordable housing in the tower? Is there more than one anonymous posting?

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is more than one anon posting. Mea culpa somewhat, as I'm the anon (11:15) who was posting prior to the "12-year old" comment. Someday we'll figure out a better way to indicate a change in anon commenters.

Rewinding back to your 9:14 & 11:29 comments, I'm not suggesting Baltimore *should* grow by 300,000 people. Instead, by mentioning that Baltimore's population had declined that much I was pointing out that Baltimore and D.C. both could easily absorb repopulation at amounts far exceeding the additional amounts now being proposed for Town Center, without causing therein the same traffic level failure and open space consumption issues we know would happen in Town Center.

I don't think my argument's nimby. I'm saying Baltimore and D.C. both have considerable vacant housing stock right now and about 2,000 homes still have yet to be built in Columbia to consume the original plan's allotment. Shouldn't some of Baltimore's and D.C.'s vacant homes be reoccupied and shouldn't Columbia's remaining allotment of homes be built before approving a considerable density increase to Town Center, a density increase that will cause roads to fail congestion tests? Doesn't that qualify as SIEBYIGRH (some in everybody's backyard if growth really happens)?

I'm not too fond of the towers being built along Baltimore's waterfront either. Some municipalities, I believe, do have build codes that protect scenic views from being so hindered.

Digressing for just a moment about violent death numbers, per , there were possibly 98,000 violent deaths there in the 18 mos. after we went in. Normalizing that to a 12 mo. period is about 65,000. For a population of 26.7 million, that equates to 2427 deaths per 100,000, dwarfing the 37.7 for Baltimore and 45.9 for D.C.