Saturday, October 25, 2014

The People Who Believe

It's Saturday morning. I just got up to make a coffee and turn on the heat. It is chilly in the house and I'm sitting in my husband's recliner under a fluffy blanket. The drapes are still closed but I can see sunlight peeking in at the edges. The house is quiet.

While I sip my coffee things are already well underway at the Democratic Headquarters on Stanford Boulevard, where they are having an Early Voting GOTV rally. There you will find energized volunteers and supercharged campaign staff fueling up with extra coffee. They will be working from now until Election Day is over. Indeed they have been working already for quite some time.


We may get tired of TV ads and Internet ads and telephone calls and mailers. In fact, as the election draws near it is hard not to want to find a quiet place where those things do not exist. But they do have a message for us. Behind all the organized outreach are people. People who care.

These are real human beings who care about community and good government. They are devoting their time to something they believe in. I keep reading that these elections don't seem to be engaging the general consciousness. I read about voter apathy. In his recent post, blogger Steve Charing points out:

The phenomenon of only a minority of the electorate choosing our leaders has a consequence. George Jean Nathan, a collaborator with H.L Mencken, once said, "Bad officials are the ones elected by good citizens who do not vote."

I once heard an occupational therapist and a speech language pathologist talking about a student in the early childhood program. He had one last year before he would move to an elementary ALS program, and they were determined that this was the year he would start to talk. The likely time window for developing functional speech was coming to an end and this was shaping all of their plans for the year. They were coordinating their efforts. They were working with classroom teachers, support staff, and the home. This was their last opportunity to make a significant difference in the life of this child, and they weren't going to waste one moment.

It all came down to this: to give him a voice, his own voice.

So why are these people over at campaign headquarters working so hard? To give us a voice. But first they must get our attention. To tell us we have a choice. To tell us we have a responsibility to be engaged and be a part of the solution. If we remain passive we have truly chosen to be a part of the problem.

If we remain passive we have no voice.

A heartfelt HoCoHoller! to the People Who Believe on this chilly October morning. It may seem like a thankless job, but don't lose heart. Over here at Village Green/Town Squared I'm thanking you big time.

Now grab your coffee and your Pop Tarts and get out there!




Friday, October 24, 2014

Advocates Speak Out

Last night the Howard County Parents for School Music (HCPSM) had their regular monthly meeting.* As a part of their goal of music advocacy, HCPSM has reached out to Board of Education Candidates since before the primary in order to share pertinent information with HCPSM membership and the greater community. Candidates were invited to attend meetings, and to complete a survey:

(1) Outcome 3.1 of HCPSS's Vision 2018 states that "HCPSS collaborates with family and community partners to engender a culture of trust, transparency, and mutual respect." How is HCPSS currently performing to meet this goal, and what specific actions would you, as a member of the Board of Education, advocate?

(2) Parents of children involved in music programs have voiced concerns about the sudden, unilateral implementation of an untested elementary model requiring schedule changes that have a negative impact on music education. Yet the strategies in support of Outcome 3.1 in HCPSS's Vision 2018 clearly promote "interactive communications" (Strategy 3.1.2), inclusion of "stakeholder groups in planning processes" (Strategy 3.1.3) and "intentional strategies to involve parents in decisions" (Strategy 3.1.5). As a Board of Education member, what specific strategies would you advocate to be more inclusive of parents?

(3) There are numerous documented connections between participation in music education and success in STEM subjects. Do you advocate for inclusion of the arts into a STEAM program? How would you address this?

(4) What do you see as the role of the Arts programs in Howard County public schools?

(5) What is your personal connection to music, and what has been your specific involvement with music in Howard County?

(6) What is your understanding of the duties and responsibilities as a Board of Education member, especially in relation to the superintendent?


Here is the opinion part, that is, my opinion. There has been an attempt in some quarters to paint HCPSM as a narrow, elitist, selfish group of parents that are merely trying to get more "goodies" for their own children.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

HCPSM owes its very existence to the deeply held belief that music is an integral part of education from early childhood through high school, and that it has benefits for every child. In fact, more and more research bears out the necessity for an arts-rich education in addressing the achievement gap in at-risk populations.

It is hardly selfish to say: music is for everyone. It is not narrow to advocate for the highest levels possible of Music and Art instruction in Title 1 schools. It is not elitist to spend a large part of every year seeking donations of instruments so that they may be refurbished and used in schools where there is the most need.

At the conclusion of last evenings meeting, HCPSM released the following statement:

Over the past year we have become increasingly aware of how important it is to have a Board of Education open to collaboration with stakeholders. For that reason, we believe that the following Board of Education candidates demonstrate the highest commitment to respectful collaboration: Cindy Vaillancourt, Bess Altwerger, Zaneb Beams, and Dan Furman. No matter who you support, please vote!

Whether your concerns are in Arts Education, STEM, the achievement gap, Health and Wellness, AP Courses--whatever might bring you to reach out to the Board of Education--you are going to need elected representatives who are "open to collaboration with stakeholders."


Please vote.

*My husband and I take turns representing our daughter's school as HCPSM representatives for OMMS. Last night he went; I stayed home with M.


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Caught in the Act

It all started when I vented my frustration on Facebook:

Parking your political van and trailer plastered with your signs in the right hand lane on Oakland Mills Road with the flashers on is not only rude and illegal, it is also a serious hazard, Mr. Colavita...How many times do I need to report this to Tell HoCo?

And it went on from there:

It's even worse when he does it on 95 North, like he did yesterday at 6:45 am!

This has got to stop.

He was on Tamar the other day. I didn't realize he was doing it all over the place.

So far have seen this on 175, Thunder Hill Road, Ducketts Lane, and Oakland Mills Road. It is illegal.

I've seen it on Stevens Forest frequently and somewhere else off a main highway where I was surprised to see it.

Ugh ugh ugh

He visited me here in Elkridge driving a golf cart. I haven't seen his van/trailer combo.

Yup - I've seen it so many times in so many places now I'm ignoring it altogether. Perhaps that's the point? LOL

I called the cops on it last week.

He illegally placed signs in the yard of one of my family members... never asked.

He is a hard worker. You gotta give him that.

I am not going to say what I am thinking about that...

He did it on 175 West right at the entrance ramp to 29 North the other day. too! I also see it parked on our street - is he our neighbor?!

NO. I don't think so.

Right! he has been all over!

I think he needs a motorized scooter on the golf cart. Why stop there?

Jet packs!

Caught in the act! Not one of the main lanes but still a travel/turn lane:

Getting a visit from long arm of the law as we speak. Just smiled as I drove past.

Yay! He just abandons it like this.

I took a picture too today if any one needs it.

I saw Mr. Colavita receive a ticket on Monday as well. This has been an expensive week for "campaign costs".

He parked in front of my house as well and I spoke to him. At first he said he would change the law when he was elected. I told him it was illegal and unethical now. He eventually moved his car.


It is just my opinion, but I don't think you want to have your name become synonymous with things like "breaks the law", and "traffic hazard". Name recognition is only going to work for you if people have something good to recognize.

Food for thought on this first day of early voting.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Know Your Words

I read a critique of my blog, in the comments section of another blog, no less, describing me as being "in the tank" for a particular candidate.

Okay. Stop right there. "In the tank"?

I do not think that expression means what you think it means.

In the Tank:

  • "self-interestedly involved; surreptitiously supportive" and in extreme cases "corruptly influenced." And, later, "bought and paid for". From NYT, "In the Tank"
  • "...the meaning of go into the tank gradually shifted toward working on someone's behalf, often with the hint of backroom deals or at least inappropriate devotion." From Slate, "Explainer Goes in the Tank"

At the very least, "in the tank" suggests being supportive when you ought to be impartial.

No. Just--no. This is a blog. I am not a journalist. Having opinions and expressing them does not violate my Prime Directive. Disagree with me all you like, but for heaven's sake, don't cast aspersions at my motivation.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Page from my Notebook

I've been taking notes throughout the campaign for County Executive. When I sat down last night to put them into some kind of shape for a blog post, they stubbornly resisted the usual treatment. So I'm just going to give it to you straight. These are the qualities that keep coming up when I examine Courtney Watson's candidacy:


Willing to listen

Sound judgement

Grounded, Good roots, yet

Reaching upwards and outwards

Willing to invest

Risk and balancing risk

Willing to work toward creative solutions that mean good policy--

good policy that lifts up everyone.

Open to helping others,

Open to taking risks.



I think that balance is key in my support for Courtney Watson. In Howard County we are blessed with many riches, but not all are blessed. We need someone whose policy will be inclusive. We want to encourage new business, wise stewardship of the environment, support for young families, quality of life for seniors. We want our schools to be places of meaningful learning for all students. We live in a world where we must reach out at the same time to police and first responders and those whose lives are touched by mental illness. We want to spend our tax monies carefully, but we must not be afraid to take risks to invest in and support our quality of life.

It's all in the balance. And that means listening and collaborating, and being willing to bring others into the process. It also means confident leadership and creative thinking. As we work towards our future together in Howard County, Courtney Watson brings the right qualifications to the job of County Executive. If I may leave you with the words that matter most to me on my page of notes--

Willing to work toward creative solutions that mean good policy--

good policy that lifts up everyone.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Recommended Reading

I read this post from Bill Woodcock of The 53 last night, hoping to see what I had missed at the PTACHC County Executive Forum. It was not what I expected.

Please take the time to read it today. No matter who you plan to vote for, it is worth the time to think about what we stand for in Howard County and what is important to us as we elect a County Executive. We are more than the struggle for one election. We're a community of citizens.

I agree with Bill that "this is not Howard County." Do you?


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Were You There?

Yesterday morning, from 8:30 to noon, Columbia Association hosted #ColumbiaSpeaks. Were you there?

If you weren't, you can see some community input by searching the hashtag, #ColumbiaSpeaks, on Twitter. There's also some discussion on the Columbia Facebook account as well.


I'm doing a completely non-scientific survey. If you live in Columbia, and you weren't there, what were you doing?


Dear Columbia Association, between 8:30 am and 12 noon--


I was hanging out at home with my husband--our daughter was at her grandparents. Time with spouse, without parental responsibilities--priceless.