Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Gets the Surplus?

A letter in the Flier caught my eye this week:

Dispersing surplus funds to Columbia villages’ budgets

It’s written by Tom O’Connor, who has served a number of terms in the CA Board as a representative of Dorsey’s Search. You can read it here. It describes what is to become of the $500,000.00 in the  Villages Contingency Fund:

Now, it is agreed by the villages and association [that] the VCF is no longer needed and should be disbanded. CA is proposing that the VCF should be prorated between the 10 villages, with CA getting half of the money, $250,000.

Mr. O’Connor feels that this money belongs to the villages alone.

The VCF was funded from the villages’ excess funds over the 17 percent allowable at the end of their fiscal year. These excess funds were, and are, a direct result of proper budgeting and oversight by villages’ managers and boards.

So what’s up with this? I’d love to know more. Since this is an advocacy letter, and not a news article, there’s a strong motivation to persuade within the confines of a tight word limit imposed by the paper. Are there more facts that need to be considered?  I can think of a few questions right off the bat.

If you have background info on this, feel free to message me through the blog. And, if you have opinions, feel free to comment on the Village Green/Town² Facebook page.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


There’s an old, worn out expression (used far too often) that asserts that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I clung to this expression for dear life as my quirky GPS took me on a seven-hour ride to Stamford, Connecticut that involved back roads and scenic overlooks, hair pin turns in the dark and road changes every five minutes or so. Perhaps God and GPS don’t mix. The trip is supposed to be between 4 and 5 hours and should be more or less a straight shot up 95.

I’ve made the trip many times in my life, but never as a driver alone. So, once I decided to put my trust in the GPS, I was stuck. In fact, I was so daunted by the whole ordeal that I didn't stop once. Seven hours with no breaks is a bit of an effort. The middle finger on my left hand is numb.

But, I’m here. I pulled up after midnight to a hotel that didn’t exist when graduated from high school and more or less left this town for good. When I awoke and looked out the window I realized that none of the buildings and homes within my view were here when I left. Holy mackerel.

We moved to Stamford when I was at the end of seventh grade. So it’s not truly my hometown, but it’s the setting of my adolescence. At that time there was one tall building, the FD Rich Building. No mall, one or two movie theaters, a down at the heels Main Street with a few off shoots. It was a huge deal when the main drag got a McDonalds.

There was just about nothing to do in town for teenagers. The beach in summer. The Mall came along well after we had graduated. My social life was divided between school activities and church youth group. I’m not all that sentimental about the Stamford of those years because in many ways it was a pretty dreary place.

On the other hand, it was small enough and safe enough that we could walk around town, shop, take the bus, go to the movies or the library without adult assistance. There wasn’t much to do but we could do much of it ourselves.

I wonder if that is still the case. And the world has changed. Do teenagers anywhere have the kind of autonomy we took for granted?

I guess my memories all fall into Stamford: pre-redevelopment. The old town was winding down, treading water. Possibly even then pieces the stage was being set for the huge changes to come.

You can bet that I’ll be spending the next twenty-four hours looking at my old stomping grounds while thinking about Columbia. Is the Stamford of today better? More vibrant? Do the changes make sense? Do they give this old town a better sense of place?

In the meantime I’ll need to use my GPS to find the mall. I left my dress shoes at home.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not Just Hollywood

As if the poisonous and infuriating tales of Harvey Weinstein’s victim’s were not enough, Howard County is having some reminders that criminal sexual behavior can come much closer to home.

Police: Girl Scouts leader in Ellicott City arrested on child porn charges.

HopeWorks rolls out advanced human trafficking survivor services.

Sexual abuse, assault, harassment, human trafficking. It’s a mistake to think of these purely in sexual terms. They are all examples of an abuse of power. Those with the upper hand manipulating and overpowering the weak. These are crimes that perpetuate the dominance of one group over others.

Survivors of sexual abuse are forever changed. They carry within them the damage of their violation. That damage is often compounded by people who don’t believe their story.

“He’s really a nice guy.”
“Why are you making this into such a big deal?”
“What were you wearing?”

It’s clear to me that serious change in our culture won’t happen unless witnesses of questionable behavior start jumping in every time to protest, object, step up to protect someone in danger. It’s not enough to be a good person who doesn’t participate in abuse. We need to take it upon ourselves to actively stop it.

“That’s not funny.”
“She doesn’t like what you are doing.”
“You can sit with us.”
“Do you want me to call you a cab?”

Law enforcement officers have a job. Groups like HopeWorks have taken on a mission. What about us?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Show Your Spirit

Today is Spirit Day. Learn more about the goals of Spirit Day here and take the pledge. From the GLAAD website:

Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to "go purple" on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.

It’s appropriate that HCPSS has chosen this day to unveil a new PSA about bullying prevention. You can learn more about today’s event here. Worth noting: the participation of Christine McComas, mother of late student Grace McComas, in these new efforts to combat bullying. What a transformation has taken place within the school system. Even one year ago such a partnership would have been impossible. 

While fighting bullying is so much more than what you wear, supporters of Spirit Day are encouraged to wear purple to show their support for LGBTQ youth and their pledge to combat bullying. I image that, here in Howard County, some folks will be wearing blue for Grace.

There’s never a good reason for bullying. But there many good ways we can work together to stop it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Win in Wilde Lake

I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at a choral rehearsal and I decided to pop in to David’s Natural Market to pick up some dinner. I was hoping for some of their delicious curried chicken salad. I can’t remember the last time I went to the Wilde Lake Village Center. Maybe a year ago.

The first thing I noticed is that the long-awaited Starbucks (formerly KFC) is really and truly open. Must go back another time to check that out. Then I realized how different the visual elements are as you turn off the main road. One’s view used to go straight back across the parking lot to the tennis courts. Now Alta Wilde Lake rises up, at a bit of an angle, to fill the sky. Out of the corner of my eye it almost looked like a hospital with a centrally located Emergency Room drop off.

A second look makes it clear that it is nothing of the sort. There’s a deliberate variety in the facade, giving the impression of more of a block of related rowhouses, giving it a sort of urban neighborhood effect. Altogether, an entirely different vibe as you come in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

It turned out that there was no curried chicken salad to be had. However, I was able to find am amazingly good Greek Salad instead. As I waited in the check-out line I heard a voice behind me.

“Mrs. McCready?”

I turned around. It was my (older) daughter, picking up something to drink before her art class at Wilde Lake High School. Quite the coincidence. Not quite sure why she called me Mrs. McCready. Perhaps she wasn’t altogether sure it was me (guessing from the back) and didn’t want to look foolish calling “Mom!”if she turned out to be wrong.

At any rate, I always feel that whenever I run into someone I know when I’m out and about around town that it’s a win.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Little Slyce of Heaven

I recently rewarded myself after a particularly long work week with a trip to HomeSlyce. I wasn’t there for the pizza, though.

Baba ghanouj. Food of the gods. That heavenly roasted eggplant dip I used to get regularly at Egyptian Pizza in Baltimore. Quite rare locally. Wegmans sells something they call baba ghanouj which looks more like hummus and has mayonnaise as an ingredient. Sacrilege!

Back to HomeSlyce. I arrived well before the dinner hour and had my choice of tables. I received excellent service. Sometimes a woman alone can feel less than welcome in a restaurant. Not so here. Service was helpful and attentive but not over-solicitous.

The beer? A Dogfish 60 minute IPA. My appetizer was the aforementioned baba ghanouj. It could have easily been a main course in my point of view. It makes your tongue tingle with garlic. Nothing shy about it. I ordered a Homie Salad for my main course. While there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, the ingredients just didn’t hang together in my opinion. The chopped steak on top is some kind of “steak-um”-like ingredient, which I somehow wasn’t expecting.

On the other hand, the ingredients were so fresh I was able to eat my salad leftovers the next day. So there’s that going for it.

A couple came in with a young child and a sleeping infant in a carry seat while I was there. As I was leaving another such couple was wheeling their stroller up to the entrance. It seems that HomeSlyce is a destination for the early dinner with babies and toddlers crowd. Cool. So five o’clock isn’t just for the silver-haired or the middle aged women dining alone.

Have you been to HomeSlyce? What do you recommend?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Parks and Malls

Today’s recommended reading:

How a mall-turned-public park saved downtown Columbus

I especially like this quote, describing green spaces:

They are an experience you cannot get online,” Dunham-Jones said. “It’s that direct experience with nature. It’s that direct experience of social activities,” she said.

Of course the revitalization of the Symphony Woods land as Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods comes to mind. The response to programming at the Chrysalis has been overwhelmingly positive. But this article looks at what happens to failing Malls in the middle of a Downtown area. Ours is doing fine right now, but what would happen if it weren’t?

What if Columbia were not a city built around a mall? What then? I certainly don’t wish for the Mall’s failure. But surely there are folks out there somewhere who have to consider what would happen if it did. That’s a whole lot of land and a boatload of challenges. 

How important to Columbia’s well being is the continued success of the Mall itself?