Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Observations



Completely slept through the alarm today. This is probably a sign of something.  I do feel slightly more rested, at any rate.

The comments from recent posts have been enlightening. When I first closed comments on this page and asked people to respond on Facebook, I wasn’t sure it would work. It took a while, but the transition has been successful. Eliminating anonymous trolls has been delightful.

I do continue to find it puzzling that comments and “likes” to my blog are primarily from women. I don’t think that my blog is a “women’s blog”. (Whatever that may be in 2019.) Anecdotally, my observations from way back when still hold up. Women will “like” and comment on posts by both men and women. Men primarily interact with and show approval for posts by men.

Most of those aforementioned anonymous trolls? They were men. Hmm...

I once heard the theory that girls will go see a movie about a boy and his dog, but boys won’t see a movie about a girl and her dog, so movie makers generally make the “boy movie” as it will bring in the most money.

Interesting.







Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Columbia Question



I wish I had something fully formed for you this morning. I don’t.

But I do have a question, for those of you who are Columbia-minded. How long has it been the fashion to distrust and decry the actions of the Columbia Association? Surely it can’t always have been like this. It seems unlikely to me that it has been adversarial from the beginning.

The recent attempt to change CA’s status from an HOA to a Community Benefit Association stirred up that old familiar song.

We can’t trust CA.
You have to watch them every minute.
They’re trying to pull a fast one.

And much, much more.

Another social media disturbance centers around certain statues at the Lakefront which will be put in storage while construction is going on. People are quite heated on this topic as well. Never mind that CA has a proven track record in caring for and returning public art. For some reason that doesn’t factor in to the public response.

Correction: H/T to reader Debbie Nix who pointed out that it is the Howard Hughes corporation, not CA, that will be storing these particular statues. 

My apologies.

At any rate, at what point did the Columbia Association morph from “our association “ to “our hated overlords”? And can anything be done to change that?

I think we really must address this because, were I a new or potential Columbia resident, I would want nothing to do with being involved in the community based on the way people berate CA. Scaring people off before they even begin is hardly a Columbia core value.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Tourists



I told myself I wouldn’t be judgy. And yet, here I am.

A moment that I can’t get out of my mind from yesterday’s Solidarity Vigil at Dar Al Taqwa came at the very end, as folks were leaving. A group in front of me on the sidewalk paused as a man held up his phone to take a picture. Someone said, 

“Put your scarves back on.” 
“Yes, get one with the head coverings.”

And in that moment I felt a prickly uncomfortable feeling that these people were somehow at the mosque as tourists. They wanted a souvenir photo in native dress. 

That one little moment left a bad taste in my mouth after what was a powerful and sacred event.

The message from speaker after speaker was clear: we must come together, again and again, as neighbors. It is not just a nice thing to do. It is essential. 

Being a neighbor is not the same thing as being a tourist. Wanting a souvenir photo wearing your vaguely exotic headscarf is an act of playing pretend, dressing up, and wanting to get brownie points for your efforts. It feels really, really “white man’s burden” to me. And it made me sad.

I don’t doubt that everyone who came yesterday did so because they wanted to do something good, and that they cared about the Muslim community. But that one moment reminded me of how easy it is for those in a position of privilege to “visit” other cultures and yet not truly enter in. 

As for me, I admit I hadn’t given a thought to a headcovering at all until I walked in and realized my mistake. I  am grateful to a well-prepared UU friend who had brought extra. I noticed that that Unitarian Univeralists around me knew the proper responses to the prayers, as well. Their informed and thoughtful participation make me think.


There were many references to love last night at Dar Al Taqwa. Will we carry that love with us? Will we put love first instead of letting differences divide us? Will we learn to put others first instead of making it about ourselves?




Sunday, March 17, 2019

Soup and Solidarity



The first time I attended Soup r Sundae it was the very last time it was held in the old Rouse Building. It was a warm day and some folks wandered out on a balcony to look at Lake Kittamaqundi. The young son of local media team HoCoMoJo got up and danced, much to the delight of the crowd. A charming college student was there in some official capacity. He remembered me from checking out books at the library and I was flattered.

The Rouse Building is now Whole Foods, and that adorable dancing two and a half year old is now in Middle School. The charming young man is a college graduate and works for a legislator in Annapolis. Soup r Sundae, once a project of the local Rotary, is now put on by The Faith Partnership and hosted by Wilde Lake High School.

One important thing remains the same: it benefits Grassroots.

My daughter and I haven’t always made it every year, but we try to. She actually brought it up to me this time. “Are we going to that Souper Bowl thing? Because I like soup.”

I love soup. And I care about Grassroots, so we will be there.

Later today there’s another event quite different than the first. The purpose is not food, fun, or fundraising. There will be a SolidarityVigil at Dar Al Taqwa to show community support for our Muslim neighbors and friends who are grieving the New Zealand massacre of 51 Muslims gathered for prayer. It begins at 6 pm.

I have never been to Dar Al Taqwa. I have never been to a mosque. It’s easy to donate a small amount of money to a familiar charity and eat and drink with friends in a festival atmosphere. It is much harder to come to an unfamiliar place to sit with unfamiliar people in their grief.

The excuses are many. There might not be enough parking, it will be too crowded, there will be so many people it won’t matter if I am there, it will be an unfamiliar order of service and I won’t know what to do. So many reasons to be uncomfortable. So many reasons to opt out.

But here’s the thing. Even if I go and there are so many people that “no one knows I was there” it will have worked a change within me. Those small changes, from within, are the small miracles from which big miracles grow. If we are willing to be uncomfortable and venture into the unknown for one another out of love, what great things we might be able to do together.


Saturday, March 16, 2019

Emerging from the Wreckage



This has been a rough week, It began for me one week ago when friends, family, and former students gathered to celebrate the life of my beloved father-in-law. As beautiful as the service was, it couldn’t ameliorate the pain of the farewell. And that is to be expected.

The week that followed included a brutal (for me) time change, a completely uncalled-for smear of a local advocate, continuing racist jabs on the County Executive’s Facebook page, a horrific slaughter of Muslims in prayer in New Zealand, and a bout of some kind of stomach virus.

Big and small, this week wrecked me.

Into this week came the glimmer of something worth being happy about. The Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission’s Ian Kennedy announced that Darin Atwater’s Soulful Symphony will be the Orchestra in Residence at Merriweather. The announcement has been all over the news so I doubt you have missed it. But it hasn’t popped up here because, well, this has been a really. Bad. Week.

You can get a glimpse of the Merriweather event facilities at the upcoming taping of Elevate Maryland with guest Darin Atwater this Thursday. Although I’ve never been there, I understand that, since the Merriweather renovations, the space has been available to book for weddings, events, and private parties. More importantly, you can get a chance to hear from Soulful Symphony’s Darin Atwater and learn more about what’s ahead in this upcoming collaboration.

We got a taste of Spring weather this week along with the turmoil and grief. A lot of us are just looking for any kind of a sign that good will not be overwhelmed by evil. Sometimes all you get is a crocus or a bit of sun or a song.






Friday, March 15, 2019

Pain



Right now, here in Howard County, people are hurting.

People of the Muslim faith are reeling from the news of brothers and sisters in New Zealand shot down during Friday prayers. People who have made it their business to advocate against gun violence  are hurting, those who have lost loved ones to gun violence are reliving their pain.

Everywhere you go today in Howard County, you will very likely be near someone who is in pain.

The new editor of the Howard County Times, Erin Hardy, comes to us from the Capital in Annapolis. This morning she writes:

I lost five of my loved ones, family members, co-workers in the Capital Gazette shooting last June. Every mass shooting hits me like a ton of bricks that is magnified x 1000. I'm so tired and angry and sad that we KEEP DYING.

To everyone who is in pain today, most especially my friends and readers of the Muslim faith, I offer my condolences and my support. You have friends here, you have allies here, you are not alone. I will not turn my head and pretend this isn’t happening. I will listen if you want to talk. I will use my voice to speak up on your behalf.

The sign in front of my house reads, “Hate has no home here.” But today pain has made its home here. I believe we are all called to find a way to respond to that pain and ease the suffering of our neighbors.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Nine



Almost every day I see comments on the County Executive’s Facebook page decrying the hiring of so many African Americans to leadership positions. It seems perfectly acceptable for these people to suggest that, because Calvin Ball is a person of color, his hiring of other people of color is a scheme, a scam, some kind of racial nepotism. Oddly enough, when previous County Executives hired mostly whites, these people weren’t online complaining.

I wonder why.

I am put in mind of this quote from Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg:


When I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court] and I say, 'When there are nine,' people are shocked. But there'd been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that.

It has become increasingly apparent to me that many white people are just fine with an all-white world into which one or two “minorities” are slotted to show how open-minded they are. The truth of the matter is that there are enough qualified, even far more than qualified people of color to fill many many positions in the County, yes, even all of them. And they have been there, long before Dr. Ball was County Executive. 

Calvin Ball didn’t invent qualified Black leadership. It has been here. It’s not a plot, it’s not a scam. He doesn’t get nefarious kickbacks from some kind of Black people cartel. The individuals you see working for his administration have been among us all along but the systems designed for hiring have systematically sifted them out. Not because they are unqualified but because those systems were designed by white people looking for white people. 

You know those people who say “it shouldn’t matter what color the person is, it should be the most qualified person who gets the job?”  How blissfully unaware they are that the process is set up from the get-go to make the white candidates more visible and keep those of color at the fringes. Even though many of these decision makers would claim they are not racist, the fact remains that the system and the process for hiring remain systemically racist. If we don’t challenge that, we are complicit.

The recent history of this country has been “allowing” one or two people of color to be in the same space with the rest of us and calling it diversity. How many of us stop to think how exhausting and fearful it is to be one of only one or two, day after day, year after year? As whites in the United States  we move largely in spaces that are designed with our comfort in mind. When we feel the racial balance change, we may subconsciously feel a sense of discomfort. 

I am learning that 1) that discomfort is nothing to what my colleagues and friends of color have been feeling all of their lives, and 2) it’s good to feel that discomfort. It’s teaching me something.

Although it’s unlikely, it would be completely possible to fill every position of leadership in Howard County with highly qualified people of color. And maybe that would make us uncomfortable. 

Good.

When all of them were white nobody raised a question about that.








Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Prom Possibilities



I just dropped my glasses into my coffee. Let’s do this thing.

Did you know there’s a social media group where teens can post a photo of their prom dress so no one else will get that particular dress? How is this even a thing?

Yes, prom season is upon us and I do believe I’ve written about it before. Notably:


  • It is sad that we don’t have local prom venues so our kids don’t have to go out of town.
  • Multiple staged group prom photos are silly, IMHO.
  • Prom-posals are DREADFUL

Here is something a bit cheerier in the prom department, from a group of parents at Atholton High School:

ALL HANDS ON DECK!!!!!! 

Becca’s closet has about 700 dresses in our closet at Atholton High School. The Discovery Channel is donating 200 MORE dresses. Last time we got a donation, the dresses were brand new and never worn.  

My principal is so supportive of us taking up more space because it’s such a good cause but as soon we we get those dresses in, they have to go out!!!!! 

Our “A Pretty and Polished Affair” event is on March 30 at Atholton High School. If you know if a student who is need of a dress, please send them our way! 

We not only have dresses but shoes, alterations, accessories.... anything a student needs for a successful prom. 

Please share, share, share away! If there are any questions, please email me krista_bopst@hcpss.org

This is not just for Howard county students. We will not turn anyone away!

How cool is this?

That made me wonder. Is there anything that is done to make prom more affordable for students from low-income families? Is there any kind of prom assistance?

Senior year of high school seems to be a minefield of one expense after another. Many of the fancy things one can live without. But what of the community experience with one’s peers that is Prom? Not everyone wants to go, of course.

What if you do and there’s no money? A free dress and accessories, though wonderful, wouldn’t be enough.



Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Not So Springy



There are many fascinating things going on in Howard County right now but this morning I chose to sleep in. I hope you will forgive me.The time change is not my friend.

While I have you here, I want to give a shout out to everyone who went to Annapolis yesterday to March for education funding. Recommended reading: “Maryland’s Red for Ed Moment” by Cheryl Bost.

If any of my readers have handy dandy tips on how to cope with this Spring Forward thing, please share them in the comments.


Monday, March 11, 2019

Not Again



Meanwhile, over at Mount Hebron...





The video in question has been taken down. A viewer described it as:

A student asking other students on camera what types of ethnicity they wouldn’t date and why. The responses and reasons were insensitive and straight up racist.

Over on the County Executive’s Facebook page there’s a steady stream of visitors claiming there’s no racism in Howard County. I think they may not be looking hard enough.

I look forward to seeing what kind of response the school system will taken on this. It was my understanding that a lot of work had been done to improve the school culture at Mount Hebron. This video calls that into question. This new incident reinforces the concept that addressing racism is not a “once and done” proposition. The work is ongoing.

Also, even if you change the school culture, if the way that families address or don’t address issues of race in the home remains unchanged, then the cycle is likely to continue. 

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Dragging and the Dregs



2114.

That’s the number of blog posts I have published.

20.

That’s the number of blog posts that contain the word “Republican”. Yes, I checked.

Although I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am a Democrat, I truly haven’t spent much time here dragging the Republican Party. That’s just not how I operate.

Well, there’s always a first time.

Yesterday I saw the most vile accusation, complete with photographs, printed on the Howard County Republican Party Facebook page.





Translation: here are brown skinned people in photographs together. They are not our kind of brown skinned people. Let us take one piece of information we know about one of them and smear the whole lot of them without any other facts or context. Here you see the dregs of political discourse.

Annihilation by association.

Truth in advertising: I know Deeba. She is a strong advocate for equality and social justice in Howard County. She also loves being in photographs as much as I hate them. At one event I dubbed her the “Selfie Ninja”. That’s just a part of her enthusiasm for being involved in good causes.

On Wednesday Deeba helped out a friend who needed a ride to Washington, DC, because her car was in the shop. An ecumenical group of faith leaders were presenting a letter to Nancy Pelosi in response to an upcoming resolution to condemn Congresswoman Omar for comments critical of Israel. You can read the letter here. Deeba isn’t a friend of Linda Sarsour, but she did have her photo taken with her because, as I said, she’s a big fan of taking photos at events.

What the Howard County Republican Party doesn’t tell you:

  • Ms. Jafri was present at the event standing between Linda Sarsour and Rabbi Alissa Wise. 
  • The content of the letter they were there to deliver. (Read it.)
  • The names of the other signatories of the letter, which would clearly show what an interfaith initiative this was.
  • What any of this has to do with County Executive Calvin Ball.
Oh, and one last thing. The Howard County Republican Party doesn’t publish the name of the person making these accusations. They are promoting one hundred per cent of the smear with zero per cent of the accountability. 

There you have it: the Howard County Republican Party.

Oh, but Howard Republicans aren’t all like this, you say? How would we know? After all, their policy is guilt by association. Naturally they can expect to all be painted with the same brush.



Saturday, March 9, 2019

Just Ice for Justice



Once upon a time, two excellent organizations merged and created Free State Justice.  Its parents are Free State Legal Project and Equality Maryland. From the Free State Justice website:

Equality Maryland’s primary focus was achieving legislative victories in Annapolis, and its efforts made Maryland one of the most inclusive states in the country for LGBTQ people.

FreeState Legal Project was a legal services organization founded in 2007 by a group of attorneys and law students who recognized that the specific needs of the low-income LGBTQ population in Maryland were not being effectively met. 

Their merger in 2016 created Free State Justice.

FreeState Justice is a legal advocacy organization that seeks to improve the lives of low-income lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (“LGBTQ”) Marylanders. Despite recent, incremental judicial victories for the national LGBTQ community, the low-income LGBTQ population continues to struggle with legal challenges such harassment, complex family law issues, and anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment, housing, foster care, healthcare and public accommodations. 

I was reminded of the good work of Free State Justice recently when I wrote this post condemning a Change.org petition which sought to curtail the rights of LGBTQ students in the Howard County School System. A friend suggested that those of us who were outraged take our energy one step further and donate to Free State Justice. Many of us did. 

Here is where you come in, dear readers. You can support Free State Justice tomorrow at an imaginative, family-friendly event that will get you out of the bubble and into some serious fun.



From the event page:


Join us for the first ever Ice Ball benefiting FreeState Justice
The Ball kicks off with an Ice Show, featuring performances by up-and-coming talent and professional show skaters doing their most fabulous performances for the crowd. Prepared to be dazzled!
The show is followed by a "Frozen Dance Party" - an Open Family Skate, complete with DJ Theodore Rexx and dancing (Ice will be 'dry cut' to allow for shoes and skates) - this is a chance for everyone to show their moves and vogue on the ice!
The Ball will be presided over by Baltimore's very own drag queens, Washington Heights and Anastasia Belladonna, who are sure to make this an event to remember.
Ruby Slipper Catering will be serving hot cocoa and lite fare to warm those fingers and toes following the show.
Ticket price of $25 includes admission to show, dance party (on foot or BYO skates), food, and a donation to FreeState Justice.
Skate rental is available for $3 more at the $28 price.
We hope you can join us to support FreeState Justice, watch some amazingly talented skaters, and twirl to the music to your heart's content.
This is a family friendly event and we encourage folks to attend of all ages and ice-bound abilities.
Go to the event page to get all the details.

Friday, March 8, 2019

So Much More than Fish



Unfeeling comments to the contrary, most people in Howard County seem to understand how crucial it is to address the problem of teen suicide. The new initiative, “It’s OK to Ask” is being welcomed by teachers, school officials, mental health professionals, and parents. You can learn more here.

Another initiative which aims to make young people safer online in regard to cyber bullying is Graces Law 2.0, an upgrade of the original bill, put forward by Howard County resident Christine McComas. Mrs. McComas’s daughter Grace died by suicide after relentless cyber bullying from students in her school community in 2012. The current bill under consideration increases the penalties for cyber bullying.



Mrs. McComas has been keeping the community up to date on the status of the bill in Annapolis:

I'm told that the following House Judiciary members have not yet decided to support Grace's Law 2.0.
Can you call let them know of your support?

Charlotte Crutchfield (Mont.Co.): 410-841-3485 
Debra Davis (Calvert Co): 410-841-3337 
Jazz Lewis (PG Co.) 410-841-3691 
Jesse Pippy(Frederick&Carroll) 410-841-3118

If you can politely ask Chairman Luke Clippinger to put it up for a vote, that might help too: 410-841-3488 

This bill went to Annapolis last year but never made it out of committee, so, if you support this measure, pick up the phone. The Board of Education recently sent a letter to the Judiciary Committee outlining their support.

A reminder that unhealthy school hours are a significant factor in teen stress, anxiety, and depression. Parents inHoward County have joined the many communities nationwide to create a movement to Start School Later.  From their website:

Insufficient sleep in teens is associated with obesity, migraines, and immune system disruption and with health risk behaviors including smoking, drinking, stimulant abuse, physical fighting, physical inactivity, 
depression, and suicidal tendencies.

There are a variety of ways to take action to support teens in our community. As the poster for “It’s OK to Ask” states:

They might be your friend, your child, your student, or your child.




Thursday, March 7, 2019

Fish



I don’t have much time this morning so I’ll leave this here and say more tomorrow.

In response to the announcement of a new initiative to prevent teen suicide, one commenter on County Executive Calvin Ball’s Facebook page wrote:

You just can't keep yourself from spending money can you mr. Ball? There have been a grand total of 12 suicides in the last 10 years. It's a horrible tragedy, but we have bigger fish to fry. You are busy making problems to fake solve to throw our money at. It's getting pretty tiresome.

Imagine disliking the County Executive so much that you are willing to classify vulnerable human beings as nothing but collateral damage in the grand scheme of things.

Imagine that much hate.






Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Elevators’ New Spot



The closure of Lupa at the Lakefront meant that the Elevate Maryland podcast, hosted by Tom Coale and Candace Dodson Reed, was looking for a new home. They’ve been hosting live podcasting events since last Fall.

It didn’t take long before various local dining establishments were putting out feelers to offer a new home to the podcast and its fans, known as “Elevators”. In fact, they must have had multiple offers.


@PodcastElevate :  Thank you to all the restaurant owners (and friends of restaurant owners) who have reached out.  We may turn this into the Elevate Maryland Road Show!

Well it looks like the suspense is over and Elevate Maryland will be hosting its next show from new digs at Clarksville Commons. You can come out this Friday evening at six pm as they interview Mavis Ellis and Sabina Taj of the Howard County Board of Education. It sounds like it will be a fascinating show. I hope they’ll be bringing on other BOE members in the near future.

This photo shamelessly stolen from the Elevate Maryland Facebook page.




Let them know if you plan to come at the event page here. I don’t think they have announced exactly which space is being used for the podcast, so keep an eye out for further instructions. Update: it will be in the Common Kitchen.

I recently wrote about the flags at the entrance to the Lark Brown Restaurant Park. It looks as though the silo at Clarksville Commons is shaping up to be a local icon.




Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Just the Facts



Tonight the Columbia Association is hosting a meeting:

The Columbia community is invited to learn more about the proposal at an information session on Tuesday, March 5 from 7-8:30pm at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road

You may remember I first wrote about this in February. I encouraged my readers to learn more. There’s plenty of information available to the public. Take a look.


This week I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one writing about this. Both former County Executive Liz Bobo and former Oakland Mills CA Rep Alex Hekimian have released statements expressing their opinions. Both take an alarmist approach that the Columbia Association has nefarious purposes and must be stopped. 


They are certainly entitled to their own particular point of view. However, I noticed that they are basing their arguments on their own personal memories of past events. As a blogger I thought I should do some digging to find some background on their stories. 


Here’s a bit of what I found:


Ms. Bobo states that CA has been an HOA nearly since its inception. Actually, that is not true. The HOA designation was not enacted until 1987, while Ms. Bobo was County Executive. The Columbia Association was, at its outset in 1965, a private non-stock corporation. (It still is.)


She also says that the first notification CA gave on the current proposal was an ad in last week’s  Flier, thus giving residents only a few days to learn about it. Also, not true. CA  sent out an email to around 30,000 people in February. The ad in the Flier was a part of a multi-pronged communications effort to reach as many people as possible.

Later on in her letter Ms Bobo recounts her recollection of a similar bill proposed by CA:

Six years ago while I was serving in the Maryland Legislature representing West Columbia, a very similar bill was introduced and sent to the committee on which I served. During the public hearing, the committee and I had many questions and took into consideration the “Columbia Flier’s” negative editorial. Subsequently, the bill failed to receive a favorable recommendation and thus died in committee.

But that isn’t what happened. CA’s proposal was never considered by Maryland Legislators in Annapolis because it was tabled by the CA Board. At the time the proposal to become a Community Benefit Association included the ten villages, and they weren’t ready to make the move at that time. The proposed legislation never went to Annapolis. Here’s some information on that.


Since Alex Hekimian was one of those CA Board Members at the time, I expected to see him correct the record on this, but he doesn’t. Instead, he paints a wholly melodramatic picture:


CA tried the very same thing back in 2012-2013, but Columbia's residents rose up and expressed their outrage, and that proposal was emphatically rejected. 


Columbia has approximately 100,000 people. No more than several dozen came out to express an opinion on this at the time.


Mr. Hekimian also assures his readers that he has read the draft for them and they should just trust him that it’s bad. Based on his other factual inaccuracies I think his readers would be better served by reading the legislation themselves.


Why am I guiding you through this today?


Well, it’s important to me that the community is able to make up its own mind on this proposal based on the actual facts. It’s clear to me that Ms. Bobo and Mr. Hekimian are attempting to sway public opinion based on very strong opinion, but hazy recollection. Let’s face it. Our memories aren’t are as clear as they used to be. In the absence of documented facts, strong emotion may dominate the narrative.


I encourage you to look at the available information, attend the public presentation, and do your own assessment. An informed and involved citizenry is at the heart of what makes Columbia special. 


Do your part. 

Monday, March 4, 2019

Here and There



After the difficulty I had online thisn weekend with devotees of Jim Rouse, I was a bit startled to read this random Tweet:

2022 James Rouse emerges from his cryochamber to declare his lordship over “the former line state”

That’s what you get for eavesdropping on other people’s Twitter conversations. It was a completely lighthearted thread, by the way. But it certainly leapt off the page to me.

A few dribs and drabs around Rouse-world:

1. Lap Corp, located in the old Columbia Medical Plan campus, has instituted a new check-in system where you can handle everything in advance on your smart phone and then scan a QR code when you show up. Judging by the number of people sitting there, waiting, on a Saturday morning while I got seen promptly, I think there are many people in our community who don’t have access to smart phones. So the system doesn’t work so well for them.

2. As exciting as Clarksville Commons is in the River Hill community, it was good to see the Bagel Bin buzzing with activity yesterday at lunchtime. There’s certainly room for the old along with the new. 

3. Steve Charing has written a new blog post about LGBTQ equality and I highly recommend it. 


No, it’s not strictly “Columbian” and I have no idea what Rouse would have thought of it. But it’s timely, touches on specific local issues, and it’s well-organized and well-written.

A shout out to the reader who responded to yesterday’s blog as follows:

Intriguing Blog this morning.  While extremely far removed, I find it akin to discussions people have around the Constitution and what the Framers must have meant/wanted.

You really got me thinking!

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Burned



It began like this:

Jim Rouse would hate what has been done to downtown Columbia. 

It went on:

...if Jim Rouse was in charge...

And so I wondered. And then I asked:

Were you a close personal friend of Jim Rouse?

My reasons for asking were two-fold. First, I’m fascinated by stories about early Columbia. If someone has personal experiences to share, I’m interested. Second, I am legitimately curious as to whether people who invoke Rouse’s name actually knew him. Do their convictions come from a first-hand relationship or from a strong gut feeling? That makes a difference to me.

The person I asked took my question at face value and responded in kind.

I met and had conversations with him several times. I moved to Columbia in 1973, and at that time it was not uncommon to have closer contact with the developers and leadership of the community.

It was going along just fine until a third party stepped in.

What an unnecessary, snarky comment.

My assurances that my question was sincere were rejected.

You know exactly the intent of your question.

I do know my intent, though this person did not. I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand the relationship between being sure one knows what Rouse would have wanted and knowing the man himself. Not to mock or to discredit, but to understand.

But this person felt the need to call me out for having bad intentions. They weren’t interested at all in seeing things any other way. This was a discussion in which the good guys and the bad guys had already been predetermined and I had dared to challenge the boundaries.

Ah well. It’s not all sweetness and light in the New American City.

I don’t think it is unnecessary or snarky to want to know if people actually knew the person they are invoking to pass judgement on Columbia of the present day. I think it should be a part of the conversation.

Here is another question that should be a part of the conversation:

Why is it even necessary to invoke Rouse at all?

But I’m not going back to ask that question. Once burned, and all that.







Saturday, March 2, 2019

Farewell Lupa




Sorry about the delay. Fasting bloodwork waits for no blog.

The big news around town is that Lupa, the restaurant owned by the Foreman Wolf group, will close this weekend. As you may recall, Lupa replaced Petit Louis. So, after five years in Columbia, Foreman Wolf is calling it quits.

I’m kicking myself at the moment because I know I have a photo of former County Executive Ken Ulman making the announcement at a press event directly in front of the restaurant space.

Wait! Here it is.


The photo is dated February1, 2014. I remember thinking how good it was to see Mr. Ulman smiling that day. The community was still reeling from the January 25th shooting at the Columbia Mall and Mr. Ulman’s job had been heavy with the day-to-day responsibilities surrounding shock, grief, public safety, fear, and the swarm of out of town news stories that didn’t seem to care if they got the story right.

It was a bright spot in a dark time.

The Downtown Plan was really going to take off and this was a sign that businesses were going to be eager to invest in Columbia. It was exciting news.

Well, the Downtown Plan is taking off and businesses are eager to invest in Columbia, but this particular restaurant, after two separate dining concepts, did not make it.

I can tell you one thing I’m not going to analyze here: why it didn’t make it. Because a quick glance online tells me that almost everyone I know (and many I don’t) have a boatload of reasons why. You probably have your own theory. I am hoping that one of my readers will share the litany of restaurants that have been in that particular space over the years. My memory doesn’t go back far enough, and it’s quite a list.

So, what to do with that space? Well. former Columbia Compass blogger Bill Santos once pointed out that, no matter what other restaurants were available at the Lakefront, Clyde’s always had a wait. Even with other options to chose from, people would still wait for a table at Clyde’s. He suggested, tongue-in-cheek, I believe, that what was needed was clearly: another Clyde’s.

What do you think?

Friday, March 1, 2019

Hard Truth



I’m a Democrat, and I grew up believing that a key feature of being a Democrat was that you didn’t do things like Mary Ann Lisanti.

I was wrong.

That makes me angry, it makes me sad, and it embarrasses me. I try not to use the expressions “that’s not who we are” or, “we’re better than this”, but in this case I wish that I could.

But I can’t.

Ms. Lisanti appears to be taking a page from Virginia Governor Northam’s playbook as she unrolls her multi-step response to racist speech:

1. Sure I said it. Everybody does.
2. Oh, I am so sorry that inebriation forced an awful word from my mouth, one that isn’t even in my vocabulary.
3. You can’t prove I said it.

It defies credulity, but it worked in Virginia. Will it work in Maryland?

It’s true that I don’t want to believe that Democrats can be racists. But adulthood is full of many hard truths that one must face. Looking the other way just won’t cut it. If we screw up, we need to take ownership of that and fix it.

Ms. Lisanti may be hoping that the controversy will die down and attention will soon be focused elsewhere. Her defiance shows a kind of selfishness that is completely at odds with the purpose of public service. But if the Maryland General Assembly allows that to happen it will taint everything they do this session. And it will hang over the governing body in perpetuity.




Thursday, February 28, 2019

Follow the Links



This link takes you to Ovetta Wiggins, the Washington Post reporter who exposed the story of Maryland Delegate Mary Ann Lisanti using a racial slur to refer to residents of Prince George’s County. Perhaps you’ll want to give her a follow on Twitter.

This link takes you to an article by Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood in the Baltimore Sun about where things stand on this issue right now.

This link takes you to a Change.org petition calling for Lisanti to resign.

Using the word that she used disqualifies her from public service. Regardless of her stage of inebriation, that word would not come out of her mouth if it hadn’t already been in her head and in relatively common usage. It shows that she does not view all constituents equally. Period.

And now her constituents know it. And the citizens of the State of Maryland know it. And if we do nothing we might as well endorse racial slurs ourselves. We must not be silent.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Smackdown



I read the news a bit wistfully: the old Durgin-Park Restaurant was no more. Back when I was in high school and our class visited Boston on the American History trip, a visit to Durgin-Park was a must. They were known for classic New England dishes and for their waitresses who were, to be blunt, rude.

That’s right, people flocked to Durgin-Park to be insulted by the waitresses. They wouldn’t bring you dessert unless you cleaned your plate and, even then, might give you the once-over and ask if you really needed it. And people just adored it.

Somehow there was a market for humiliating people in a social setting. Durgin-Park was the best of the best. Now it’s gone. So, too, is the humor of comedian Don Rickles who made quite a successful career out of insulting people. Whatever will we do without them?

Don’t fret, though. I’ve found a local joint where you can go to get insulted and it won’t cost you a cent. No cover charge, no tipping a surly waitress.  Just pure, unadulterated disrespect.

Here’s what you need to do. Just go to the Facebook page for the Comptroller of the State of Maryland and disagree with one of his views. It’s that simple. One differing opinion is all it takes and you will receive prompt attention. The Comptroller’s social media staff will spring into action and put you in your place. Even better, they’ll even throw in a patronizing tone, gaslighting, and general, all-purpose sexism absolutely free!

If you want the deluxe, VIP (Very Insulting Package) just persist in defending your point of view beyond a sentence or two. As if by magic, two of  the Comptroller’s staff will appear and play with you like a cat plays with a small rodent. They certainly spare no expense at demeaning the taxpayer over there. If you stick around you can see the two of them practically high-five eachother after each cringe-worthy encounter.

Ordinary social media accounts for ordinary elected officials have it all wrong. They try to be respectful, entertain the views of supporters and detractors alike, and take the high road when things get unpleasant. But what kind of fun is that? Don’t you just get a rush seeing guys tell it like it is with no filter and no consequences? Isn’t it exhilarating?

If I were you I’d pay a visit to this establishment before it goes the way of the old Durgin-Park. This kind of good, old-fashioned fun just can’t last forever.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Fix It



I have a drying rack that I use for those items that  shouldn’t go in the clothes dryer. The last time I took it out I noticed that one of the joints/hinges is just not right. It won’t open all the way, so the entire rack doesn’t open and sit properly anymore. My husband and I both fooled with it to see what the matter was but: no dice.

Then I saw this announcement about the free repair event at The Barn (not The Other Barn) in Oakland Mills this Saturday: 



What great timing! I wonder if they can fix my poor drying rack? 

Dubbed  “SkillShareFair & Repair Cafe”, the event is a joint venture between the folks at Columbia Time Banking and Transition Howard County. In addition to individual repairs, there will be mini- workshops presented by area Time Bankers on topics such as:


  • Patch a Hole in a Wall 

  • Hang a Heavy Picture

  • Homemade T-Shirt Bags 

  • Sock Darning 

  • Bugs that Bite 

  • Screen Repair 



This all takes place at the Other Barn in Oakland Mills this Saturday from 1-4 pm. Not only does it sound like there’s lots to learn, but I think it would be a great opportunity to learn more about Time Banking and Transition Howard County. And you might discover that you have a skill that can help somebody else.

FYI: If you have something you’d like to have repaired, pre-register it here.

Monday, February 25, 2019

CA Goes To Annapolis



You may have seen that the Columbia Association is proposing a change in status, through state legislation, from an HOA to a Community Benefit Association. What does that mean, exactly?


Old Columbia, circa 1979

I haven’t had the time to get into this in detail yet, but I will tell you what I do know. The HOA act doesn’t adequately apply to the Columbia Association. It’s never been a good fit. For instance, there are lienpayers of CA who are businesses, and constituents who are not lot owners. One of my knowledgeable sources put it this way:

CA should never have been a homeowners association. It is so much more than a homeowners association and quite frankly a lot of the random bills regarding homeowners associations really shouldn't apply to CA or, for that matter, the villages. CA spends a fortune in lobbyist fees to exempt CA from these regulations.

It seems to me that, in this context, CA is moving to correct its status to one that fits better with who they are. An important note: this legislation applies to CA itself. The Villages will need to make their own decisions on this change.

If you want to learn more you are invited to the following events:

The Columbia community is invited to learn more about the proposal at an information session on Tuesday, March 5 from 7-8:30pm at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center, 10431 Twin Rivers Road. There will also be a CA Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, February 28and a CA Board of Directors work session on Thursday, March 14.

In the mean time, I have some work to do in learning about Community Benefit Associations. 

CA appears to want to get this accomplished during the current legislative session, so I guess we need to put this one on the front burner. MDGA2019 has already passed the halfway point. All in all, I don’t find this announcement something to fear or get angry about. I do think it’s important to learn more and get a good handle on what this would mean going forward.

In the mean time, I have some work to do in learning about Community Benefit Associations. 
.






Sunday, February 24, 2019

Physician, Heal Thyself II



One of the local notables I follow on Twitter is Matthew Winner, a librarian/media specialist in the Howard County Public Schools. In addition to his day job, Mr. Winner hosts a podcast about children’s books and maintains an active social media presence. Yesterday I noticed a discussion in his feed about Dr, Seuss. It starts here.

You will see a discussion between Mr. Winner and an account called  @TheTinyDiplomat about Dr. Seuss and Read Across America. It contains a link to this piece:

A Critical Race Reading Of Dr. Seuss

Now, you may have already known about this; I hadn’t. But as I read it I knew it to be true. Dr. Seuss books are completely centered in whiteness and view anything that differs from this norm as exotic, humorous, less competent, sometimes malevolent. He has a history of wearing blackface in minstrel show activities, and, try this on for size: there are absolutely no girls of color in any of his books.

@TheTinyDiplomat is the Twitter account of student Havana Chapman-Edwards. (I’m guessing she has some adult guidance/support here.) Take a look at her video:

The Power of a Girl with a Book.

I was happy to hear from reader Sarah Russo, herself a school librarian/media specialist, that Read Across America has moved away from centering the works of Dr. Seuss in their literacy celebrations. But individual school systems may still be using that old tried and true Dr. Seuss framework. Havana Chapman-Edwards’ school in Virginia is. She’s trying to get them to make a better choice that takes into account all of their students.

I highly recommend that you read A Critical Race Reading of Dr. Seuss and watch The Power Of a Girl with a Book. Once you do I think you’ll understand why Ms. Chapman-Edwards is advocating for a whole lot less Dr. Seuss and an intentional increase of Black Girl Magic.