Separated in 1989, divorced in 1990, I spent what felt like an eternity between those years and finding and marrying my husband in 1999. And during those years I spent a certain amount of time searching for my ideal mate. I won't bore you with how painfully educational that was. By the time I was nearing the end of my search, although I didn't know it at the time, I had pretty much narrowed it down to one essential quality: willingness.
You can find attractive people, intelligent, charming, well-mannered people with whom you share values, a sense of humor, or tastes in movies. But if that person does not possess the willingness to be in a committed relationship, it is all for naught. And by willingness I don't just mean, "yeah, that sounds good to me." I mean willing to show up and do the work.
When I got the news that County Executive Ken Ulman is taking a look at the Downtown Plan as a means to improving progress for Merriweather, it reminded me of what I really like about him and his team: willingness. As much as we all laughed at the image of earnest folks gathered around a conference table pitching plans to win over Julia Louis-Dreyfus, that little glimpse of such highly energized, creative people is no joke.
These people are willing to show up and do the work. No resting on their laurels for them. Yes, the framework of the Downtown Plan is there, but how things evolve in a community are organic, unpredictable. (Perhaps like in a committed, long-term relationship?) Honest examination of what is really going on, plus astute problem solving about how things can be improved, are the qualities that will make the Downtown Master Plan for Columbia a success in the long run.
If you have ever been in an unsatisfactory relationship, you can imagine how other folks might handle this:
"I gave you a Downtown Plan, what more do you want?"
"I'm just not as into Merriweather as I used to be."
"It's not you, it's me. I'm thinking of seeing other jurisdictions."
"You know I care about your Downtown, I just have other plans for that day..."
There's a lot out there for you to read about this. And you can mark April 17th on your calendar. You'll have the opportunity to come out and support Merriweather at the Howard County Planning Board meeting. You won't want to miss the chance to see Ian Kennedy (sans beard?) whose tireless commitment to Merriweather over the years has proven that he's another one of those guys who are willing to show up and do the work for our community.
Willingness: it's what makes a relationship work.