Saturday, October 3, 2015

Who Are the People in your Neighborhood?

I belong to a Music Teachers group on Facebook. It is an extremely active group. Members discuss ideas for lessons, instrumental questions, they look for repertoire, discuss discipline techniques, share successes and commiserate on bad days. But this week I read something out of the ordinary.

"I absolutely love my job. I have adequate prep time, reasonable breaks, small classes and only 24 classes a week. The problem is that I will soon be forced to leave because the cost of living has priced my family out of the area. I'm terrified! Are there other great jobs out there like mine? Please share!"

This didn't come from a local teacher, but it very well could have. Solidly middle class professions like teachers, police, firefighters, nurses, plumbers, and more are just about completely priced out of Columbia. All the while certain people rail about Section 8 housing and use coded language to encourage a fear of "thugs" coming to a street near you.

Yeah, thugs like me. Be very, very afraid.

I was pleased to see this article about Councilwoman Jen Terrasa's bill for affordable housing in Downtown Columbia.

"Terrasa's bill would require 15 percent of all new housing units developed downtown to be affordable to families earning between 40 and 80 percent of Howard County's area median income of $109,476."

A healthy community needs to be not only racially and culturally diverse, but also economically diverse. Perpetuating policies that drive out the middle class is just plain bad for Columbia. A big HoCo Holler to Ms. Terrasa for focusing her energies on shaping an affordable housing proposal that makes room for the people and families we need most.

Because a teacher is a person in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood...


Friday, October 2, 2015

The Traveling Show

It doesn't matter where you live, the traveling show will soon be coming to your town. If not now, then sooner rather than later. The traveling show has money to burn and the tickets are bought by people like us who think they'll never have to pay the price.

It doesn't happen here, they say.

Come one come all to gawk and stare as the ringmaster makes media statements and the ambulances pull away from the scene. Action in all three rings! You can have a front row seat. And there's always audience participation. Come early to get good seats.

New venues are always being booked. Don't worry if you missed it the last time around. It'll be back.


With love, condolences, and profound respect to the community of Roseburg, Orgeon.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wanting More

"Columbia's Grande Point decision leaves some wanting more" reads the headline. HoCo Times reporter Amanda Yeager outlines the abrupt cancellation by Tom Carbo to speak the the Oakland Mills communuty about a possibly purchase. As thorough as it is, the article itself leaves me wanting more.

How is it even remotely acceptable for two (possibly three?) members of the Village Board to hold a secret meeting with Mr. Carbo without communicating with the full board in any way? This violates everything I know about Columbia Village leadership.

Why would anyone want to run for their village board if they can see that their participation may be completely dismissed if something controversial comes up? How can we encourage a next generation of leadership when long-time residents play keep-away with community issues?

The long-term goal of anyone who truly loves Columbia should be a vibrant and involved citizenry. Instead what we have is a few self-styled power-brokers who treat any newcomers as though they belong at the children's table. And so community involvement is seen as distasteful. And eventually irrelevant.

I wish that Mr. Carbo had realized that the Oakland Mills community is bigger than the kind of people who hold secret meetings to get their way. But why should he? That's the face that we are presenting to the world. If we want it to be different we need to turn out for Village elections and change it.

Oh, but wait. Why would we do that? It's all just nastiness and useless squabbling anyway.

Wanting more? Yes, I want to know a lot more. I want to know why, in this awesome community, some people think it is their job to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Isn't it enough to enjoy the golden egg, share it, care for it?

We all know how that story turns out.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Whether Report

Foot's Forecast is practically beside itself.

"6:00 AM 9/30 - Sometimes the truth, though painful has to made known. In this case, it's the realization Maryland may be facing the most significant hurricane threat since Isabel."

The Capital Weather Gang doesn't appear to be as anxious.

You can follow for yourself at the NOAA Hurricane Center:

So, part of the story today is whether we should be taking the possibility of a major storm seriously. The other part is whether the Kittleman administration is ready to marshall its forces to deal with this kind of weather event.

Ken Ulman and his team had the emergency weather thing down to a science. And an art form, if that's possible. They were good at coordinating people to get the work done, and keeping the community informed every step of the way. Veterans of the "Emergency Operations Center" (or whatever if was called) are probably glad that they never have to do that again, but the rest of us benefited from the grueling hours they spent, hunkered down, answering constituent calls and getting services to the correct locations.

I would assume it's not easy to get all this in place. It's a multi-faceted operation. So far we have seen the Kittleman administration responding to snow as best as might be expected for beginners. What was lacking, in my opinion, was the communication piece. If we have to go through a major storm I hope that we'll see much more outreach and interaction on social media.

I also hope we don't lose power, rendering that kind of communication impossible.

Knocking on wood over here. The Oakland Mills Fall Festival is Saturday, rain or shine. I'd like the best weather possible for this annual awesome event.






Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tug of War

So what's up with the Harriet Tubman Building? It's owned by the Howard County Public Schools. But it has historical significance to the community. Tonight there will be a celebratory event marking the 50th anniversary of desegregation in Howard County. Despite years of advocacy by Delegate Frank Turner and others to turn the Harriet Tubman Building into a museum, it remains in use as office space for hcpss maintenance staff.




It's true that the school system is using the building. But I would think that they would have bent over backwards to honor the desires of the community on this one. Surely there's some other-out-of commission building they could put to use?


I don't have all the answers on this one. But I do think we could be making more progress on this if we really put our minds to it.



Monday, September 28, 2015

Sticks and Stones

Following up on yesterday's post in which I expressed my horror at anonymous online comments--if you are interested in the dynamics of what makes people feel free to say these things you'd probably be interested in the upcoming Choose Civility Forum: Would You Say That To My Face? And Other Questions of Online Citizenship.

The African Amercian Community Roundtable is having its Fall Forum this evening in conjunction with HCPSS. I would imagine they have a good bit to talk about. The public is invited.

If you are interested in going a step further and connecting with other people in Howard County (and across Maryland) actively working to overcome racism, a great place to start is this Facebook page: Black Lives Matter: Maryland.

You can support Penn North's new youth center in Baltimore City by attending a benefit concert this Saturday night at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia in Owen Brown. More about Penn North here. This promises to be a fun event for a good cause, featuring well-known local talent.

Many more opportunities to light a candle than to curse the darkness.









Sunday, September 27, 2015

Racial Divide

Lisa Philip's article for the Howard County Times, "Report points to racial divide in Howard County school suspensions" presents some disturbing numbers.

"According to a report issued to the African American Community Roundtable by the Howard County school system, black students in the county were 7 times more likely to be suspended than their white classmates during the 2013 to 2014 school year, the most recent year included in the report."

Seven times more likely.

I'm equally disturbed to learn that AACR asked for this information three years ago but only just received it this past June. That doesn't feel very responsive to me.

I'm not going to focus on the article itself today. Instead, it's the comments that floored me. HoCoTimes puts up articles on many different aspects of community life and often there are no comments whatsoever. Maybe just one or two from those diehards who just cannot restrain themselves.

But watch what happens when they talk about a racial divide. Suddenly everyone's an expert. There are 98 comments. Whether or not you believe that the suspension rate is a sign of institutionalized racism, reading the comments will make it painfully clear that we have a problem in Howard County.

It is beyond my comprehension that so many of these people think they are experts on African American students: their behavior, culture, family life, speech, potential, value to society... The comments section is home to Howard County's own Donald Trump wannabe's. And it's scary. And disgusting.

All these people are able to post under pseudonyms. I truly wish that every single one of these people had to use their own names. It would be lovely if their comments were printed on their clothing, or followed them around In floating speech bubbles over their heads. Everyone should know who these people truly are--employers, businesses they patronize, their friends, family, pastors, co-workers, fellow members of social organizations.

There is a whole mess of invisible racism hiding in the shadows of Howard County. We need a lot of light shining on this. Letting it fester in the darkness and pretending it's not there is no solution at all.