The Columbia Flier today began it's full-tilt coverage of the Columbia Elections, which included a nice, long piece about my race. Although the article gets it mostly right, there's one thing that I really can't let stand.
As I've made clear, I don't think Town Center should be the defining issue in this or any other Columbia Council race. But I realize that each time I mention it -- even when brought up by someone else, like a reporter -- I'm basically shooting my strategy in the foot. My desire to keep Town Center out the race isn't because I think I'm "weak" on that issue. I just think there are many more important things we need to be talking about, particularly in Oakland Mills.
Anyway, here's the excerpt that I take issue with:
Kennedy said he is taking on Russell because he does not think she is a strong enough advocate for the concerns and ideas of Oakland Mills community residents.
He said the "tipping point" in his decision to run against Russell was a letter to the editor she wrote in the Feb. 8 Columbia Flier, which Kennedy said discredited the resident group Bring Back the Vision's support of 20-story buildings.
In the letter, Russell explained her view that Columbia planner James Rouse's original vision for downtown did not include 20-story buildings as some residents have supported.
"We all live here, and we all deserve to have a say in what we want in downtown," Kennedy said.
Russell, who knew James Rouse and saw design plans for Columbia that he presented to the county, said she was simply responding to comments made in a Feb. 1 Flier article.
"I don't think I displayed an attitude of any kind," she said. "All I was saying is the person who was describing Jim Rouse's vision was doing so inaccurately."
I don't particularly care if my opponent wants to attack and discredit another group, especially one I'm not involved with. The reason her letter was a tipping point in my decision to run for Columbia Council was its arrogance, which is also on display in her quote here.
The implied premise of the letter -- which is also evident in several letters this week -- is that the validity of one's views about Columbia and Town Center is predicated on length of stay in Columbia or proximity to James Rouse or both. Nobody, except Rouse himself, can claim to "know" what his ultimate vision for Columbia was and to think otherwise is foolish and strikingly non-democratic.
More generally, the object of our discussion about Town Center should not be to determine what James Rouse would do if he were still alive. Rather, it should be what do we, the people of Columbia, those grown in this garden, want. Rouse created a mission-driven city with high-minded principles and values, none of which are being debated (it's their interpretation vis-a-vis Town Center, silly). For many years, he steered the ship, but now the responsibility is ours. It's time to stop looking over our shoulder hoping he'll swoop in to save us from crashing into an iceberg.
More than anything, Rouse was focused on the future and looking forward. And in that respect, spending so much time debating the meaning of the past is truly how we fail to honor his legacy.