Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Team

We get excited about village elections in Oakland Mills. We probable have the largest village board in Columbia, and we actually have nine people running for seven seats. Yes, friends, we have a contested election.

I want to put in a good word for these folks:

I asked Jonathan Edelson why they had chosen to run as a slate. His answer impressed me. 

Here are some highlights:

  • First and foremost, we all agreed we wanted to be positive about OM, highlight what's good and growing, and improve on it.
  • Second, we think we all bring unique areas of interest or expertise that form a good "whole" for the board.
  • Education is another thing we realized we're all pretty passionate about.
  • We make a good team. We don't agree on everything, but we agree on the big stuff.

I've served on the OM Village Board, and I've been extremely concerned in the last few years at the direction that certain members have taken. I don't agree with their priorities and I don't agree with the reprehensible way they have treated Village staff. I won't mention them by name here, but you can rest assured that I don't endorse them.

If you live in Oakland Mills, please vote this Saturday. Remind your friends to vote. We have an opportunity to build a more positive and collaborative board this year. Don't miss out.

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Monday, April 24, 2017

An Unexpected Gift

I went to the Howard County Schools Fine Arts Celebration of Columbia's 50th Birthday at Merriweather yesterday afternoon. I have to admit that I went with the mindset that this was an event that my kid was doing, and I was going to support her. We do that a lot as parents. We support concerts, games, shows, bake sales, car washes...We're parents. That's what we do.

But shortly after the program began it began to dawn on me. This program was a gift. These students had worked hard to prepare something that could be shared with the greater community. They gave a big chunk of their weekend to make it happen. (More than that, over the long haul of preparation.) It was so much more than my going to support them.

I was there, we all were there, to receive a gift. Their gift. The gift of young people who are passionate about what they do. The unexpected spontaneity of live performance. The joy on the faces of students who are given an opportunity to shine.

In a time when high school students are counseled by well-meaning guidance staff to drop that arts course in favor of adding more "real academics", it is heartening to see students introduce themselves by name and say, "I am a theatre student," or "I am a theatre tech student." When we are bombarded with a mind-numbing steam of test scores, the exuberance and persistence of these young people cuts through the noise.

Like the unseen characters in "Horton Hears a Who,"--

"We are here. We are here. We are here."

An event like this is conceived by adults and produced by adults. Sometimes when that happens, the voice of the students is muddied or lost. I think that this event let the students shine through. The combination of visual art, film, dance, musical performance, and theatre students as narrators put the focus on the gift of the arts. A gift meant to be shared.

Columbia is celebrating its 50th Birthday. What a great gift we have in these kids. What a blessing to share their gifts and passions in celebration of our community.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Empty Promises

I was on my way to have fasting blood work done when I spotted this vending machine.

"Calories Count," it proclaims. "Check Then Choose." Also, "Goodness Inside."

It struck me as humorous that on the long hallway to fasting bloodwork, even the vending machines are empty.

But why, I wonder?

The buildings where Labcorp is located have always been rather a mystery to me. Tucked out of sight around the corner from Thunder Hill Road, they have a ghost town feel to them. I know they re a part of the dear, departed Columbia Medical Plan. (I learned more about that at the Columbia 50th Storytelling Event.) A few redevelopment plans have been floated. None have gained much traction.

I have a feeling that there was a time when these buildings were the hub of much activity. Now even the vending machine is deserted.

A clarification: the buildings are in good condition and my visit to Labcorp was marked by courtesy and efficiency. One empty vending machine does not a ghost town make.

We've done quite a bit in Howard County to reduce our dependence on sweetened drinks. And we've had multiple arguments about what belongs in vending machines. So I guess when I saw this one it was weighed down by local symbolism. It may have been empty of goods, but it was full of  meaning.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Big Event

Today is a big day for Columbia, and it's a big day for me. I consider myself supremely fortunate to have been a part of this community at a time when a second wave of creation was unfolding. Caring about Columbia, and becoming involved in its future, has given me a connection to my home that I wouldn't have had otherwise (without being here at its inception.)

Here's a look back at where I was two years ago, to get you in the mood for today's big event. I hope I'll see you there.


From September 9, 2015:

Stop Everything/Start Everything

I often wonder what it was like to be here at the beginning of Columbia. It must have been an amazing time. You can visit Barbara Kellner at the Columbia Archives to get a taste, or travel in a specially designed vehicle if you get the chance, but otherwise, let's face it. We missed out. 

Until now. This Saturday the Inner Arbor Trust is holding the groundbreaking event for the Chrysalis, the first piece of Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. The Chrysalis will be an amphitheater that can be used for all sorts of community events. Think music at Wine in the Woods and more. Think all sorts of events we've never had in Symphony Woods before. Think people enjoying downtown Columbia.

It's the beginning of something amazing: a park that will define Columbia for the new century. This will be the heart of a welcoming, vibrant community that celebrates nature and the arts. 

You want to be there. And you want to be able to tell people, "I was there, you know." So click on the link to reserve your free tickets. It's going to be fun, there are going to be snacks from Seasons 52, and the bragging rights on this one are going to go on for-ev-er.

In one of my favorite movies, "A Thousand Clowns", Jason Robard's character Murray likes to go down to the docks to see off cruise ships. He explains, "It’s a great thing to do when you are about to start something new; it gives you the genuine feeling of the beginning of things."

The experience of being there at the beginning of things. I've been waiting a long time for a taste of this.

I bet you have, too. Join me, won't you?

September 13, 2015:


  1. 1
    a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.
    synonyms:settlercolonist, colonizer, frontiersmanfrontierswoman,  explorer,  trailblazerbushwhacker
    "the pioneers of the Wild West"
  1. 1
    develop or be the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity).
    "he has pioneered a number of innovative techniques"

    synonyms:introducedevelopevolvelaunchinstigateinitiatespearheadinstituteestablishfound, be the father/mother of, originate, set in motion, create

Yesterday, at long last, I became a pioneer. Not the well-known Columbia Pioneer with the capital P, but an entirely new kind of pioneer. Lower-case, maybe, but every bit as proud. Look at that second definition above. It is Columbia as a verb. You'll see words like instigate, launch, spearhead, develop, set in motion. 

(Photo by Dave and Ilana Bittner, HoCoMoJo)

That's me with the bright green, Chrysalis-green umbrella, just right of center. Almost two hundred people showed up yesterday--in the rain--to participate in the ground-breaking event for the Chrysalis amphitheater. This is the beginning of Merriweather Park  in Symphony Woods. We have begun. 

You've heard about the Inner Arbor plan? Maybe you signed a petition to get an amazing park started for our community. Perhaps you've been to their website to see 
the plans. Or did you stop by the booth at Wine in the Woods? Yesterday speaker 
Michael McCall reminded us that progress has many parents. And in that moment I realized that I had become a pioneer.

I've been blogging about this park since at least January, 2013. I signed the petition, wrote letters to the editor, spoke at CA Board Meetings (multiple times), spoke at the Planning Board hearing. I volunteered at the Inner Arbor booth at Wine in the Woods. I say this not to boast, but to show the path by which I became a pioneer. And I didn't really even know it was happening.

If Columbia is to survive into the future, it must have second-wave pioneers. The fact that nearly two hundred people, including young children and teens, came out to celebrate the beginning of something new, says that there's a pretty healthy wave shaping up in our little town. We will not die. We will not be a footnote in the history of well-meaning planned communities.

Yesterday representatives from the State, County, and leaders from Columbia came together to make something happen. This was quintessential Village Green/Town²: where Columbia and Howard County intersect. County Executive Alan Kittleman spoke about bringing young people back to the park. County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty talked about the importance of art within our community and as a focal point in the park. The representative from the Howard Hughes Corporation described how the park will be part of a vibrant Downtown Columbia. 

In case you ever thought that the golden age of Columbia had come and gone and that you missed it, think again. It's never too late to become a pioneer. 

Catch the wave.

Friday, April 21, 2017


When I arrived at work yesterday, it was raining. I had a jacket in the car but I made the executive decision to use it to wrap my iPad to protect it from getting wet. So I was definitely getting rained on as I walked toward the building. Not the best way to start the day.

I must have had my head down as I walked because I was surprised when a figure appeared out of the rain with a large umbrella. It was my boss, the head of the Lower School. She had seen me trudging along getting soaked and came over to walk me in the building.

Would your boss do that?

It put me in a mind of an article I read this week about leadership.

The Power of Leadership Vulnerability

The author describes the importance of leaders being able to say I don't know and ask for help.

There’s a scientific basis for why vulnerability is an important leadership attribute: Humans are wired to help one another.

And, again:

“Asking for help is the sign of a secure leader-- one who engages everyone to reach goals,” writes Zak.

Think of our local learship: CA President Milton Matthews, County Executive Allan Kittleman, chair of the County Council Jonathan Weinstein, President of PTACHC Reg Avery, Chair of the BOE Cindy Vaillancourt, Superintendent of Schools Renee Foose. What kind of leaders are they? Are they willing to admit they don't know everything? Are they willing to genuinely ask for help to achieve shared goals?

I'd like to add one more thing: would they be willing to go out of their way on a rainy day to share an umbrella? 

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifted and Talented

I listened to a story on NPR which had nothing to do with education, and, to me, it was all about education.

Go here to read about it and listen for yourself:

Two Decades Later, Success for a Man Who Imagined Turning His Life Around

The piece centers on reporter Robert Siegel return visit to meet with a man he had interviewed twenty-two years previously.

Steven Mallory came from a world of poverty where drug dealing seemed the only way out. He saw friends die or go to jail routinely. Listen to the piece in its entirety to understand how he made a decision to move away from that life and try to build a better one. But I ask you not to walk away from it with that "heartwarming story" feeling about a man who makes good by sheer dint of effort.

There's really so much more to it than that.

Robert Siegel talks about how Mallory's imagination set him apart from others he interviewed at the same time. He was able to imagine a life for himself that was different from his surroundings. And the story of the past twenty two years is a journey of dedicated effort to make that imagined life a reality.

To me this is a story about a young man who is gifted and talented. His exceptional imagination combined with the willingness to work are hallmarks of what makes GT students tick. And yet Steven Mallory's education plays no role in this story. That's probably because he didn't fit paper and pencil criteria for advanced classes. I can't say this with certainty because it isn't in the piece.

But, as I contemplate the piece about de facto segregation in Howard Schools, this radio piece haunts me. As a child, Steven Mallory would probably not have been identified for extra challenges or enrichment. No amount of additional paper and pencil testing would have "discovered" him. But I truly believe he had the potential to thrive in that kind of educational environment, had the door been opened to him.

That's a lot of hypotheticals, I know. But it's food for thought. Steven Mallory's peers were dying and going to prison around him. In one year he went to seventeen funerals. If this isn't a school-to-prison pipeline, I don't know what is. The educational system did not create the crushing poverty that he was raised in. His teachers were not necessarily bad teachers. But the system was not set up to "see" Steven Mallory.

It took imagination and hard work combined along with time and other factors for Mr. Mallory to succeed at achieving his goals. How are we going to use our imagination and focus our hard work to make our schools relevant to gifted and talented students that don't present as the typical GT kids?

I'm not done thinking about this. I hope you aren't, either.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Weekend of Wow

If we could just not have all the big events in Howard County on one weekend, yeah, that'd be great.

This coming weekend is an explosion of activity. You know how students wish that teachers would consult each other before assigning big tests and projects? Yeah, well this is like that. We've got so
much going on that you'd best be equipped with that magical device that Hermione uses in the second Harry Potter book.

Friday evening you can attend the Howard County Storytelling event, or you can pop in at River Hill High School for Guitarpalooza! The storytelling event will forcus on Columbia's 50th, and tickets are  $20.00. Guitarpalooza will feature an eclectic mix including plenty of Grateful Dead and pirate music. Admission is free.

Saturday: Chrysalis Dedication and opening concert. (Tickets for the concert are available at MerriweatherMusic.com .)

Also: Howard County Greenfest

Also: Ellicott City Spring Fest

Also: Earth Day at the Howard County Conservancy

Also: Breathe Deep Columbia event at the Lakefront

Sunday there's a free concert at Merriweather to celebrate Columbia's 50th put on by the Fine Arts programs of all of the Howard County High Schools.

It's free lawn seating, 4 to 6:30. Maybe after rushing around all day Saturday you can just chill on the grass for this one. You can watch a short promo here.

I don't think there's any doubt where I'll be on Saturday morning.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Small Money

The County Council will hold a public hearing tomorrow evening on CB 30, which would create a Citizen's Election Fund as a way to reduce large donations in local political races. If you support public financing, you are encouraged to attend.

Here are two pieces outlining support of this bill:

Campaign Costs Are Escalating, Larry Carson

Support Campaign Finance Reform in Howard County, Becca Niburg

I agree with Ms. Niburg that:

Public financing is the answer to the question of how to change politics as usual. Not only does public financing allow a more diverse group of people to run for office, but it also engages more people in the electoral process as they feel as if their contributions actually make a difference.

I'd love to see the difference it would make if our political races were influenced by small money instead of big money. It would make a big difference in who could run, and who could succeed.

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Monday, April 17, 2017


For some reason Milton Matthews is on my mind this morning. It struck me that it has almost been three years since he began as president/CEO of the Columbia Association.


How's he doing?

You may recall that the CA Board declined to renew the former CA president's contract because he wasn't "visible enough in the community." I suspect there may have been another reason, but, well, I'll leave that to my readers to imagine.

So, if you are the sort of person who follows CA happenings, would you say that Mr. Matthews has been "visible" enough? Do you think that's a valid and/or quantifiable requirement? How would you characterize his leadership thus far?

I must admit I don't follow CA Board goings on as much as I used to. Tom Coale's write-ups on HoCo Rising were a valuable window into the process. The River Hill rep, Dr. Chao Wu, does share some of his insights here. I really wish that there were a local blogger whose passion was All Things CA.

I'm pretty sure that there are regular readers of this blog who have valuable insights on this. I'd love to know what you think.

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Sunday, April 16, 2017

What's Happening?

I'm sending you over to Frank Hecker's blog this morning to read

 "Creating the Chrysalis: What Comes Next?"

While you are at it, take a look at what's happening at Totally HoCo.

I'll be back tomorrow to follow up on both.

Enjoy your day, whatever is in store!

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wit and Wisdom

What would I do without Twitter?

How does Ms. Frizzle get all these field trips approved by the school system? HCPSS barely approved any field trips the 9 years I was there.

It's all about risk management, I guess. Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus seem to operate with a kind of autonomy rarely (if ever) seen in most public school systems.

And what about this:

Don't be a theater kid cuz you end up dating everybody in that room.

Kind of narrows your dating pool, eh?

I learn a lot on Twitter because it allows me to search for specific terms that focus on local news and happenings. For instance, did you know that if you search "HoCoMd" the first thing you will see is Allan Kittleman's Twitter information? I wonder if that costs money to maintain?

Today's gleanings--

Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia: Our Free Little Pantry is being installed!  If you need assistance, check at 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia #HoCoMD #UU #ServiceIsOurPrayer

Howard County Police: This week is National Telecommunicators Week. Watch a story about 2 #HoCoMD 911 dispatchers during the #ECflood. https://www.youtube.com/embed/VdeDfN_8-2I

Animal Advocates of Howard County: Help out our furry friends! Donate by 4/24 and shop on 4/29 to support #AnimalAdvocates of #HoCoMD! #ColumbiaMD #EllicottCityMD #yardsale

Howard County General Hospital: Got magazines? Donate your nearly new (3 mos old or less) gently used magazines to us. #hocomd #columbiamd

Where do you get the best local news?

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Separate Worlds

I love Oakland Mills in the Spring. There's something magical about it. My next door neighbors' house has an amazing tree which bursts forth and then rains down "pink snow." There's forsythia and tulips. The grass is growing in thick and green.

I noticed on Facebook this morning that I wrote this in April of 2012:

Yesterday, driving around town, I was struck by how Springtime shows off Columbia at its best. #home

Another one of my neighbors celebrates the arrival of Spring as she documents her long walks around Columbia. First black snake of the season. First toad. She posts photos of adventures with her dogs and I'm struck by all the natural beauty.

Meanwhile, over on Route 1...

As Howard County residents wait, visions for Route 1 languish (Fatimah Waseem)

While we enjoy beautiful Spring walks in lush green neighborhoods:

"People try and die to cross the road. I'll never forget the day I saw a motorized wheelchair going down the center line of Route 1 trying to negotiat across the street," Hudson said. "I've seen moms with baby carriages walking in places where there are no sidewalks. Sidewalks alone for connectivity would be huge."

We've seen huge amounts of money focused on Downtown development. The County Executive has recently announced a new initiative for the Columbia Gateway area. But responses to long-term problems along the Route 1 corridor appear to be along the lines of, "Yeah, it's rough." "It's complicated, you know?"

It's hard to believe that our beautiful rural western HoCo and our lush, blossoming Columbia co-exist with this struggling and neglected area. Surely that's not Howard County? We never see it in the tourism photos. 

Our community rallied to bring back Old Ellicott City after the flood. We continue to see businesses reopen and we celebrate those successes. That can't have been easy. And it must have been complicated. And yet our community and our county government made it a top priority.

As I observe the beauty of Spring this year my enjoyment is tempered by the realization that, somewhere in Howard County, some folks feel like they're at the bottom of the list.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017


Some mornings I zip through the drive-through at the Roy Rogers in Burtonsville. Some days I park at the Dunkin Donuts and run in. Getting coffee is a grab and go proposition.

When I'm not in a hurry, well, it's probably not a workday. And I want a place where I can meet up with a friend or take a quiet moment to myself along with my coffee.

Where are the best places to do that in Columbia/Howard County? Great ambience, great coffee, great service. Tell me your favorite location for lingering and why. Also, if there's a place that really needs a neighborhood coffee place but doesn't have one, tell me that, too.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The conversation was between two young women, both studying EMS, talking about where to live while in Medic school. 

 All I know is that I still can't even afford to live in my hometown of #ColumbiaMD - as an Adult. Single Woman probs

HoCo is craaaaazy expensive. 

I'm guessing these two are working while studying, so they're generating some income. Medic School is not some sleep-away four-year proposition. I think you are working in your field as you go.

Do we want these young people to be able to live here? Do we have the kind of housing options that would make that possible? Right now I think it would be "live with your parents". Or perhaps one can rent a house with a lot of roommates?

I've seen statements online over the years that Howard County is a community for those who have worked to achieve affluence and, if you can't afford it, you don't belong here. These sort of comments go hand-inhand with those who claim that any attempt to introduce affordable housing is an invasion of "Section 8 freeloaders."

The discussion continues to be a polarized one. In the meantime, new housing developments going forward perpetuate more of the same and leave no room for our two young EMS students. 

I think we lose something if our kids can't live here. We lose something if young people can't take a chance on us. All the innovation in placemaking and Downtown development in the world can't save us if there's no room for those who are just starting out. 

So many young folks began their stories in Columbia. What can we do to make sure that can still happen today?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Return to Lawnhenge

In 2013 I wrote about this picture: 

In the post, "Signs of an Ancient Civilization" I talked about the futility of doing the same things over and over again without any real understanding of their purpose. 

Well, today I passed that same spot. For the first time since 2013, it looks different.

For the first time since that long departed tree was cut down, they have stopped mulching. I'm not sure if this is a step in the right right direction. I think it is. Now it can cease being a memorial to a dead tree and become a part of the lawn. Finally.

Of course, this being Columbia and all, we may soon have folks writing letters to the paper and turning up at CA meetings to complain that the public wasn't informed of this change. They will have anecdotal evidence of how Rouse intended mulch to be used. A grassroots group will be formed on the issue. Signatures will be gathered. Meetings will be held.

Soon village leadership will set its sights of Re-inventing the unsightly circle. Perhaps they al
ready have plans to redevelop it. Who knows? And if I went to such a meeting and spoke on allowing the grass to return and ceasing the endless mulching, what would the response be, do you think?

"How long have you lived here?"

The fact that I can imagine this scenario in such exacting detail proves that I may already have lived here too long.

Enjoy this Spring day, friends. And remember: don't over-mulch.

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Eighteen Tomorrow

"Not really ready to be an adult."

The sentence, from a Howard County high school student, caught my eye and drew me in. I wanted to know more. 

"Not really ready to be an adult.

When I was 13-16 I don't think I genuinely thought I'd live this long so all of a sudden I'm here but I have no real plans. I was sad all the time and not 
super motivated to do anything so it was hard to visualize my future. It was especially hard to picture it before transitioning because I knew I wasn't going to be a woman but I wasn't sure where that left me. And now what I want more than anything is my childhood as a boy but I'm turning 18 tomorrow and I'm never going to get that. I constantly think back to this tweet because it's so painfully accurate:

'to the little boy I never got to be, while everyone is grieving over the loss of a daughter, I still mourn for you.'

I just hope that one day every trans kid will be able to get the help they need at a young age so they never feel like I do right now. If I'd had any understanding of what it meant to be trans as a child, or if it had been acceptable, I would've transitioned at 8 or 9. But for now I guess I have to be glad that I am where I am now and not spend too much time thinking about what could have been."

These simple words--so beautiful, so painful--speak a truth that most of us will never know. On the eve of a milestone birthday, this young man has so beautifully related his feelings about who he is and how difficult his journey has been.*
I can't get his words out of my head.

I just hope that one day every trans kid will be able to get the help they need at a young age so they never feel like I do right now. 

Young man who speaks a truth that some folks want to look away from: I see you. I hear you. I am glad you are here. For your 18th birthday I wish you a life of love and joy.

*This message is shared here with the permission of the author.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Local Voices

I just discovered a new (to me) local blog. It's called Warren's Beer Adventures. He focuses for the most part on Columbia/EC/HoCo, but, if he goes farther afield, he takes his readers along for the ride. I loved his description of one particular beer: "The cherry and wood nose was wonderful, but the taste was all whiskey and cough syrup."

I adore beer, especially IPA's, but I just can't metabolize them like I used to. They've become a special treat activity rather than a part of life. I think I'll enjoy reading about Warren's beer adventures even though I won't be drinking along at home. I've become more of a vicarious beer-drinker. 

Friday marked the debut of the much-anticipated local podcast, Elevate Maryland. It's hosted by Tom Coale (HoCoRising) and Candace Dodson-Reed (Is This Thing On?) and produced by Ilana Bitner (HoCoMoJo). I'm tickled that they've chosen Joe's Place Deli as their home base. They'll be recording every other week and you're invited to stop by and watch the show live. (Next show April 21st.)

I started to listen to the premier episode but my daughter was working on a research paper and I didn't want to disturb her. So I went out and bought a pair of cool headphones and I'm ready to dive in today. Former County Executive Ken Ulman is their first guest. 

You can learn more about Elevate Maryland here.

In closing, a shoutout to the participants in the "I Can't Keep Quiet" flash mob at the Mall in Columbia yesterday. Thanks for bringing a spirit of resistance into the marketplace. In my opinion, we all need reminders that we have a choice to use our voice.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Election Time

Ah, it's Columbia Village election season again. You remember,  right? It's that hallowed time of year when nobody runs, nobody cares, and nobody votes. And nothing ever seems to change.

Over in Oakland Mills, though, we still get a little excited from time to time. We actually have nine folks running for seven seats on the village board. I want to talk a little about this because, well, it's my village and its about as local as politics are going to get around here.

One of the candidates is Bill McCormack, who has been on the board and is hoping to be re-elected. He sent out an impassioned campaign email this week. I didn't get one, but a friend of mine did. And since I have run for village board (and CA rep) I immediately had a question: how did Bill McCormack get those email addresses? Candidates don't have access to community email addresses for the election.


And then there's this claim in his literature:

  • ·         Co-Chaired, with Ginny Thomas, meetings with approximately 25 private/public investors to encourage their involvement in the redevelopment of the Oakland Mills Village Center area.
As an Oakland Mills resident who tries to stay informed, I was truly surprised to read this. Here are my questions for Mr. McCormack:

  • Who were the 25 developers?
  • Did the rest of the board know of these meetings in advance? 
  • Was the rest of the Board invited?
  • Did Ms. Thomas and Mr. McCormack report back to the Board on these meetings?

My experience with the OMCA board under the leadership of Ms.Thomas and Mr. McCormack is that they have held meetings, made decisions, even made contact with local media outlets without consulting the full board. Not once or twice, but over and over again. 

I've served on a Village Board. That is definitely not how they are supposed to operate. If you live in Oakland Mills, anyone who behaves like this or endorses this kind of behavior should send up big red flags for you. And if you get an email from them and you don't know how they got your address? That's troubling, too.

Let's not forget that Mr. McCormack is a big proponent of "Re-inventing Oakland Mills". Is this the direction we should be moving in?

The good news is that we have some better choices. More on that later this week.

Election Day is April 29th. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

One Teacher

Today's reading assignment:

One Black Teacher Can Improve Outcomes for Black Students

How you respond to this article probably has a lot to do with how urgent you think the problem is. I need to read it a few more times before I write about it. I'll try to get something up this weekend.

Thanks to Candace Dodson-Reed for the suggestion.

In the meantime, if you want to comment, go here:


Thursday, April 6, 2017


Headed out at the crack of dawn today to drive my son in law at the airport. While I don't have time for a proper post, I do have time for a request.

What local topics would you like to see me writing about? Do you have a Columbia or Howard County issue that you think deserves a broader audience? There may be "eight million stories in the Naked City" but closer to home it can be hard to find several dozen, if you don't know where to look.

Have suggestions? Tell me here:


Wednesday, April 5, 2017

None Left

Odd experience yesterday.  I received a very weird, defensive, and somewhat arrogant email from someone I don't know. It was probably not the best day for me to fire a response right back. But I did. Most days I would've tried to make sense out of the situation and do all the emotional labor necessary to smooth things over. But yesterday was not one of those days.

Dear Sir,

I don't believe I know you, nor is it clear from your letter why you are writing to me.

Best of luck with ***** You certainly have your work cut out for you.


Julia McCready
Village Green/Town² 

Another letter I didn't write, but maybe should have:

Dear Person Who Deals With the Public,

It would be helpful if, when you write to a complete stranger, you were to explain who you are and why you are reaching out to them. 

It is highly recommended that your email not be a blatant hodgepodge of other emails that have been cobbled together through cut-and-paste techniques.

It is essential that you show basic respect for someone whose opinion you hope to influence, and that you make at least an attempt at being interested to learn that person's point of view.


The Blogger with no *** left to give.

What can I say? "Public relations" has that "relationship" concept embedded right there in the title. There should be give and take. Without it your message will very likely bounce off or miss the mark altogether.

My goal here is not to name names but to pass along a bit of advice:

You'll never waste your time if you treat human beings like human beings. It's a remarkably good investment. And it's just the right thing to do.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Chrysalis Views

                                         Chrysalis Viewshttps://youtu.be/EJPLcSXGXQ8

A chrysalis is still. And yet it is alive. Glistening, silent. Holding mysteries: beauty yet unseen.

The Chrysalis in Merriweather Park is still, and green, and silent amidst the trees in Symphony Woods. From afar it is a sculpture, a work of art that seems to grow from the earth like its natural surroundings. As one approaches it arches upward, like a cathedral.

It is holy. It is playful. It is welcoming.

There is nothing in Columbia like it. The Chrysalis will forever transform Columbia by changing how we engage with the Symphony Woods land around Merriweather. It will host performances of varying sizes and gatherings of all kinds. Some will take place directly under its outstretched arches. Some will spread out into the surrounding landscape--picnics on quilts, children dancing on the lawn.

This shared community space speaks to what Columbia was meant to be, what it is, and what it can be. As time goes on, our memories will become peopled with recollections of times we spent here. The Chrysalis will become as intertwined with who we are as fireworks at the Lakefront or summer concerts in the shadow of the People Tree.

It will be Our Place.

"I'll meet you at the Chrysalis," we'll say, knowing that good things await us in the woods.

The Chrysalis opens on Saturday, April 22nd with a Dedication event in the morning and a Music Festival from 2:30 to 11:00 pm. Follow this link to get more information and to get tickets.

As we celebrate Columbia on its fiftieth birthday and remember its spirited beginnings, we are also invited to be present for the birth of something new. Something still and silent, yet alive with promise.

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Monday, April 3, 2017

Big Change Coming

This video turned up in my Facebook feed over the weekend. It's a perfect introduction for tomorrow's blog, so take a minute to watch it.


Pretty amazing, isn't it?

As Spring unfurls itself all around us, stop and really observe all the beautiful changes. Visit the Howard County Conservancy, the Robinson Nature Center. Take to Columbia's pathways and explore your local Open Space. Or just spend some time in your own backyard.

Tomorrow: the big reveal.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Arts and Leisure World

If the town doesn’t start attracting a younger population soon, it runs the real risk of looking like Leisure World in 10 years. --Dennis Lane, Business Monthly, April 2, 2013

Last night at the Rouse Theater felt a bit like Leisure World. It was a sold-out crowd, or close to one, for Judy Collins. The event was a kick-off event for this year's Columbia Festival of the Arts, which is celebrating its 30-year anniversary. While I saw a few folks my age or younger, by and large it was a senior citizen crowd.

A brief backstory: My older sister, born in 1950, was a devotee of folk and protest music. We had songbooks for the Weavers, Judy Collins, Joan Baez. She had all of Phil Ochs' record albums. (I had one of Peter, Paul & Mary.)  So I can say truthfully that I grew up on Judy Collins. I wanted to grow up to be Judy Collins. The clear, pure, achingly-resonant sound of her voice was imprinted on me at a very early age. 

Last night I looked around at the silver-haired audience members and remembered my teenaged sister with her long, shiny hair, blue jeans and loafers, and wondered what happened. Middle age does that to you. You look around and wonder how everyone got old. (And then you go home and look in the mirror, but that's a story for another day.)

The president (chair?) of the CFA Board welcomed the crowd with a bit of nostalgic information. Judy Collins had first performed in Columbia in 1973 when "the most expensive tickets went for the outrageous price of four dollars and twenty five cents."

Now, you Millennials out there might be surprised to learn that...

The crowd erupted In mirth. There was a significant buzz in the room, drowning out what he had to say.

You think we don't have any Millennials here?  

Laughter. A lot of it. Maybe some applause.

Okay, if you are a Millennial, please raise your hand. We want to see where you are, so these folks can see what a Millennial looks like.

Nothing. At this point I'm in a full-on social anxiety meltdown and have covered my face with my hands and am shrinking down in my seat.

Not admitting defeat, or perhaps relishing his moment in the sun, the speaker called out,


And somewhere close to the front, on the right-hand side, a young woman stood up, almost cringing, and waved a hand, weakly.

And the awful moment was finally over. 

The concert proceeded and was amazing. It was a fulfillment of childhood wishes and dreams. 

And yet.

They always give you those audience feedback surveys at CFA events. I threw mine in the trash. The arrogance of the MC, his patronizing "humor" aimed at singling out those of a younger generation was so mind boggling that I didn't know where to begin. Do we want the Columbia  Festival of the Arts to survive? Who do we think will bankroll it? Who will come to the events? Who will volunteer?

Probably not someone who remembers when dad or granddad dragged them to some event and they were publicly humiliated and treated like an exotic find in a circus menagerie.

Is it the goal of the founding generation to be buried with all their treasures, like Egyptian Pharaohs? Is their desire to take everything with them and leave nothing behind?

Last night it seemed likely.

I want to be proven wrong. I want to love you, CFA, I really do. But while your fan base may be ready for Leisure World, Columbia isn't. In the grand scheme of things, Columbia is only just beginning. 

So, let's act like it.