Monday, April 28, 2008

More than a lot...

So, yeah, how ya been? Anything going on? I've been (not literally) away for a couple weeks. Did I miss something?

Oh, right, there was the whole Columbia Council election thingamajig on Saturday. He didn't win, but I'm happy to see my neighbor Phil Engelke put up a good fight, losing by only eight votes to Alex Hekemian. I'm also happy to see my friend Bill Santos win a seat on the Wilde Lake Village Board. There were some other races, but you can read about those here.

Is that it? Just the elections? I think I'm missing something.

Lookie here.

Yes, that's it! Tonight (Monday) General Growth will be releasing its plan for more "sidewalk caf├ęs and whatever" in Town Center. (By the way, "Sidewalk Cafes and Whatever" – great name for a band).

I guess this is kind of a big deal. As such, feel free to share the love/hate in the comments. Me: I'm withholding any opinion on the plan until I'm assured of an adequate balance between whatever and cafes. I'm told their plan is far too heavy on the whatever.

I know. I'm taking it too far.

Really, I have a serious point to make. Thanks to the playfulness of providence (or the wicked sense of humor of the Puppet Master), Columbia is in the midst of a rather eventful week. There are a lot of important things happening now, many of which will have impacts on our fair city for years to come.

A big player in this ongoing saga is the Columbia Council. As in all groups, the interpersonal/political dynamics of this assemblage of individuals will factor heavily in the policies it passes. Over the past several years, we have seen the Downtown-specific partisanship of this board reach a point where members are now generally perceived, for better or worse, as pro-Downtown-development or anti-Downtown-development, largely to the exclusion of their positions on other matters. Now, I know that at least one board member would scoff at this distinction, but when lines are drawn – and, boy, are they ever – you can't straddle them; such is the nature of these kinds of lines.

Unfortunately, Downtown ain't the only name on Columbia's dance card. Also vying for the board's eye are environmental and open space issues, financial and assessment cap considerations, and the persistent aging (is there any other kind?) of our shared facilities and community resources, among other things. On these matters, board alliances will be drastically different than the One Alliance to Rule Them All.

My fear is that the Town Center groupings – however tenuous their foundations – may carry over into completely unrelated matters, especially as the Downtown issue really starts to sizzle again. This wouldn't be good governance and probably wouldn't yield the best outcomes. This is one of the reasons why the debates about Town Center and the role of the Columbia Council in the process need to be reframed and taken to a more positive and (yes) opportunistic place.

I am, however, hopeful that board members will find common cause with those on the other side of the Town Center debate and work towards shared goals in other areas; indeed, we have already seen this happen on several issues, but I'd still like to see more. Since I'm making requests, I'd also like to see the artificial Downtown distinctions dropped in favor of a truly open dialogue.

Never hurts to ask, right?


Anonymous said...

Your description glances off Tolkien's Ring starring Town Center as the Shire.

I guess that makes GGP Golumb, and CC the group charged with destroying the "precious" (unbridled growth/runaway greed).

"What's this? A Ranger [CC rep] caught off his guard?"

I amuse the heck out of myself.

Hayduke said...

I'll freely admit to not fully thinking through things that I think sound good, like "One Alliance to Rule Them All." Also, I'm not much of a Tolkien guy, but wouldn't the One Alliance = the "precious" ring, or the thing that needs to be destroyed?

Maybe, I'm over-thinking things now and should just appreciate your amusing comment. Or maybe I should actually read the LOTR series before writing something that implies knowledge of it, not that a lack of knowledge has ever stopped me from writing about something before.

Anonymous said...

Yes, take it lightly, the observations are from the movie.

I'll always remember that line, "What's this? A..." because after watching the movie during Halloween timeframe, my cape-clad and plastic sword carrying ~12 year old son walked up behind a carved pumpkin and said, "What's this?! A pumpkin caught off his guard?!"

I still laugh about that. And I almost missed it, as it happened while I was rounding a corner outside of the house -- he was ever so serious. Apparently he was 'caught off his guard' too!

Ok, ignore me. I'm still amused, though. I would never have come close to understanding the male of the species had I not had this son. Yes, this one in particular.

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