Sunday, September 15, 2019

All in All



A few more thoughts about yesterday.

Some friends reached out to me to recount positive things happening around town: the Wilde Lake Family Picnic, the Monarchs and More Children’s event at the Chrysalis. A look around Twitter also showed businesses coming back on Ellicott City’s Main Street: Miss Fit and the Forget-Me-Not Factory. All in all, more of our community is thriving than not. We’re not completely a lost cause.

It’s interesting to note that, while the County Seat is Ellicott City, the protest event about Howard County Schools redistricting was held in Downtown Columbia. It’s an acknowledgement that the upstart community, around only since the late sixties, has become the center of the County. Yet somehow the entire point of Columbia - - better communities through racial, ethnic, and economic integration - - seems to have been lost on the protestors.

I saw so many posts on social media yesterday about the Wilde Lake High School band that I began to imagine what might happen if the musicians (from a school that many of the opposition have smeared) intersected with the protestors. Nothing would have made me happier than a serendipitous confrontation between the anti-redistricting crowd and the Wilde Lake High School Band in which the band prevailed gloriously and the protestors dispersed in confusion.

Didn’t happen. But in my imagination it was excellent.

One more thing. It would be wise to keep an eye out for folks who appear to be using all this community controversy in an effort to raise their own personal visibility. Yes, sadly, there will always be those who just hope to profit from the exposure. If the walk had not existed it might have been necessary for them to invent it. For the photo ops.

I don’t think those photos are going to hold up well over time.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Community



At ten am today in Owen Brown there will be a celebration of the life of Jane Dembner. 

At 12 pm there will be an “Opposition Walk” in Downtown Columbia to protest the Superintendent ‘s plan for redistricting.

The painful irony of the juxtaposition of these two events is not lost on me.

The Columbia that Ms. Dembner believed in and worked for was welcoming and inclusive. She cared about community that was for everyone. Her vision wasn’t simply pools, parks, and pathways. Her Columbia, and, in relationship, Howard County, was a place where attitudes could be changed and  fair and affordable housing welcomed those who needed it.

I thought of Jane when we opened our school year with this book, All Are Welcome. Some samplings from the text by Alexandra Penfold:

No matter how you start your day./ What you wear when you play./ Or if you come from far away./ All are welcome here.

Then, further along:

You have a place here. / You have a space here. / You are welcome here.

And, most of all:

We’re part of a community/ Our strength is our diversity./ A shelter from adversity

All are welcome here.

Whatever is happening “at the Mall” today is most definitely not a message of inclusion. Whether motivated by outright racism, polite suburban “don’t say it out loud” racism, or a sense of affluent entitlement, it is a rejection of what community really means. It is an unwillingness to zoom out and see the bigger picture. 

The responsibility of schools is to meet the needs of the larger community. Today’s event shows how desperately some people want to think small, live small, be small. I take a dim view of the habit some people have of saying that Jim Rouse is rolling over in his grave. But honestly, folks, today he may actually be wincing.

Where will I be today?

Celebrating Jane. Grateful for her life. Grateful for her family and friends and colleagues with whom she did so many good things.

We’re part of a community/ Our strength is our diversity./ A shelter from adversity

All are welcome here.






Friday, September 13, 2019

Who Knew?



The change was made without fanfare, posted quietly to Boarddocs and noticed quite by accident by OMCA Board Chair Jonathan Edelson. The replacement school for Talbott Springs Elementary had been moved from first priority to somewhere on down the line. So was a major capital project for Hammond High School. The response from the public indicates that this announcement was completely unexpected.

Who knew? 

Not the County Council, if various statements of dismay are to be believed. I haven’t seen any official comments from members of the Howard Country delegation to the Maryland State legislature. I wonder if they knew. What about the County Executive?

Local and State Government officials are not in the habit, nor should they be, of micromanaging hcpss affairs. But the construction of a new school is different. It requires the coordination of local and state funding and therefore would require ongoing communication and collaboration. At least, that is what I had assumed.

So, to my mind, if the school system had arrived at the conclusion that monies just weren’t there for these two projects, it would have been done in collaboration with state and local government. And I’m not getting the feeling that this is the case. (Obviously I will correct if it turns out I am wrong.)

And what about the AAC, who were tasked with giving direction to the Superintendent’s redistricting efforts? It would have been crucial for them to know whether these projects were going to be realized or not in weighing various options. Did they know? 

I don’t think so.

So, who knew? Well, the Superintendent, obviously. The BOE. And Central Office staff, I guess. Board Member Vicky Cutroneo posted this article from HoCoTimes shortly after news broke about the change. 

Top construction projects for Howard schools to be funded, but officials voice concern for future needs, Jess Nocera

Hmm. That article was written in May.

“We told you in May but you weren’t listening”?

While I appreciate the background information from Ms. Cutroneo, I don’t think this lets the school system off the hook for making such an enormously impactful change in a way that left community members feeling blindsided and disrespected.

So at this point I still have more questions than answers. My most pressing questions are about how the school system works in collaboration with local and state government and what kind of transparency is required. There’s simply got to be more to this story.










Thursday, September 12, 2019

Panic at the Supermarket



We all need some distraction from local cares and woes.  I present here, for your amusement and edification, a local story about a snake.


THERES A SNAKE IN MY CAR
IF ANYONE HAS ANY SUGGESTIONS IM CURRENTLY AT THE COLUMBIA WEGMANS

Sell the car immediately

Omg omg omg. Burn the car now.

Call 911 and walk home.

Call Animal control?

Fire. Fire should work.

It’s a baby snake y’all lol.

GET A BLOW TORCH AND A HAMMER AND GO SAVE HER

Yes!!!

Keep us posted!!

Burn it.

Oh hell no!

Make sure it isn’t venomous, then grab it near the head (so it can’t twist and bite you)

Have you done this before?

Lol, I worked at a state park in college, so I have picked up a snake or two (and even fed some!)

That's some Steve Irwin sort of experience right there.

I would have tried to grab its tail and slide it out of the car.

Lol! I’ve learned not to grab the tail through experience!!

Grab right behind the head and toss it out of the car.

Set the whole car on fire! It’ll definitely be covered like Cheryl’s she-shed.

No, not the she-shed!

It’s the snake’s car now.

I agree!!

SHUT YOUR FACE, seriously?!?!?  Walk home.

Maybe snakes like TastyKakes.

Should I bring my cat over?  He killed a baby snake in our basement once.

Give it the keys!!

Wheres the mom and dad?

Don’t do that to me. I might find them tomorrow!!!

Get someone brave at Wegmans to grab it for you!

I need a status report, STAT!

Oh Lord...only you!

(Snake is removed)

I’m alive as is the car.

omggggg you are brave!!!!

You’re so brave!!! I would have just started crying and freaking out!!!

I was holding my breath....proud of you for removing it.

Throw the whole car away!

Shocking!!!!!

I thought we lived in such a nice area... Little did I know stuff like this could happen!  #Shooketh

I had a snake on my desk once when I worked in Harford County. It was hiding under my keyboard...

Call Samuel Jackson.

You are unbelievably brave!

Sis, I’m so sorry to hear that you absolutely have to purchase a new car.

Can of gasoline, burn the whole thing down.

Wtf!?!?!?

Burn it down.

Whelp that is his car now did you ask permission to disturb him?

Burn it downnnnn lol

Burn it.

Aww it was a cute baby.

It looks like a little king snake, shoulda kept it for your yard, they can eat the poisonous ones.

I’m sorry for your loss. The car must be burned.

Whatttttttttt!!!!!

How did that even get in there!? 

What kind of snake was it

I would absolutely die. Like my whole entire being would simply deflate. 

So what the heck did you do?!?!

WTH! How did it get there?

Wish I saw this earlier I would’ve came to get it out for you .. snakes are misunderstood and won’t hurt you unless they feel threatened

It’s pretty.

Call  in  a  sub.    You  can't  get  to  work  with  a  snake  in  the  car.

It’s a sign of good luck!! 

Set the car on fire 

Oh hell no! You are super mom!

i would be dead from a heart attack.

Omg I’m so glad your okay hon.

Damn so sorry I’m just seeing this, I would have saved you. It was probably just a little garden snake.

We were just there a few hours before you!! Ahhhhhhh!



*****

Two things: yes, I got permission. And why does everyone think the default solution to snakes is burning things? 



Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Remembering


(First posted on September 11, 2015)



Full Circle

Fourteen years ago I was watching children play on the playground. It was a beautiful, sunny day. Then another teacher came over and said, "did you hear?" 

The rest of the day is a blur--dismissing children early, going to find my own daughter at the School for the Arts, where I learned she had led her class in prayer, at the request of a teacher. In a public school, they prayed. And in my little Episcopal school around the corner we played, had snack, waited for parents to come, and wondered if the world was ending.

My youngest was a baby in home daycare and I worried I might never see her again. My husband left work to get her and the plan was we would all meet up at home. Something as simple as that seemed in question. Everything was
wrong. The world was upside down and a beautiful blue sky might open up at any minute with death and destruction.

We made it. Of course we made it. Our experience of the day, as terrifying as it was, was only as distant observers. We could turn our gaze away from the horrifying television coverage without the pang of knowing someone. 

How incredibly lucky we were.

Today I will be watching children play on a different playground. I will try to give my attention to them fully, be present in the moment. Memories of this day will sit like a demon on my shoulder but I'll do my best to ignore them. 

We go on. Because we can. And we have learned to see blessings in ordinary things.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Urgency Not So Fierce?



Just when you thought redistricting season couldn’t get any worse, from Oakland Mills Village Board Chair Jonathan Edelson:

URGENT CALL FOR ACTION
TODAY 
Superintendent Proposes Replacement of Talbott Springs Elementary School
DEFERRED until at least 2026 from 2021.
Dear Neighbors and Friends of Oakland Mills,
Today we discovered very disturbing news while browsing the Board of Education's website to learn about the agenda for tomorrow's BOE meeting. The construction of a new Talbott Springs ES was the top priority in Dr. Martirano's (HCPSS School Superintendent) FY 2021 Capital Budget and FY 2022 - 2026 Capital Improvement Planuntil today.

Talbott Springs ES, UNTIL TODAY, was the #1 priority capital improvement project for all HCPSS school with construction to begin in 2021 and expected occupancy in 2022.  TODAY, Dr. Martirano provided an updated Capital Improvement Plan that  recommends to DEFERRING funding for TSES new construction until 2026 and greatly de-prioritizing this project.  The  # 1 priority for construction of a new Talbott Springs ES, which was intact as recently as this September 5 capital plan, has been removed and the project now listed as future funding.  Dr. Martirano will present this plan to the Board of Education at  
5:00 p.m. tomorrow, September 10, so we need immediate action
CALL FOR ACTION:  Please email the Howard County Board of Education at boe@hcpss.org; HCPSS Superintent Martirano,Superintendent@hcpss.org; and
COPY the email to  
County Executive Calvin Ball,CalvinBall@howardcountymd.gov; Howard County Councilmembers, councilmail@howardcountymd.gov; Senator Guy Guzzone, guy.guzzone@senate.state.md.us; Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary, vanessa.atterbeary@house.state.md.us; Delegate Shane Pendergrass,shane.pendergrass@house.state.md.us; and Delegate Jen Terrasa, jen.terrasa@house.state.md.us.
Please email your message. Make it simple and to the point:
"Funding for construction to replace Talbott Springs Elementary School must remain as the TOP PRIORITY project 2021 and there be no deferral in funding.  

This project is long overdue and has been "on again/off again" for years. TSES is one of the County's most overcrowded schools and rated among the worst facility in the school system.  To have a facility with failing systems, noisy classrooms, and inadequate space is unacceptable.  It is unconscionable to defer another seven or eight years when you have the land available, the design plans, and the commitment of the school and broader community to the effort to move forward now." 
  
Please take a moment to review the letter sent today from the Oakland Mills Board of Directors:  
Attached is the HCPSS Superintendent's Capital Funding Budget showing Talbott Springs as the #1 priority on a chart dated Sept. 5, 2019 and further down in the document removed from current FY 2021 funding and recommended for deferral until 2026:

                                                                  *****

I have a lot of questions about this, and I’ll be back tomorrow to ask them. In the meantime, send a letter if this is something you care about. Time is of the essence here; the Board meets today.


Monday, September 9, 2019

Thinking Small



Truly the best thing I read online yesterday was the local, on-the-scene reporting of a colleague of my husband’s who had discovered a snake in her car. It had excitement, fear, humor, you name it. It was right up there with the HoCo goat story, in my opinion.

Probably the best thing about it was that it wasn’t about redistricting.

Frankly, if I had permission to bring you the snake episode in its entirety, I would, because it’s a story in which there is a problem, a request for help, and a response from friends. Granted, some of the suggestions - - “You will now need a new car” - - were tongue-in-cheek, but, overall, it was enjoyable because everyone was rooting for the protagonist.

This is not going to morph into any kind of lecture about how we all need to be kinder to each other, or about how redistricting is showing us at our worst. I’m simply exhausted by it all. I need reminders  of the small stories that show our humanity.

A friend had a getaway at the beach that restored her soul. A free concert at the Chrysalis by the Maryland Winds entertained community members. My husband and I enjoyed our first meal from new local restaurant Cazbar. Members of the local Buy Nothing group shared with each other all weekend long.

Give me the small stories, folks. The big ones are crushing me.





Sunday, September 8, 2019

Not for Sale



And, since I’m clearly the sort of person who likes to harp on things that divide us, let’s talk about cleavage.

You know: breasts.

After all, as my wise daughter once proclaimed in Starbucks, “Everybody has boobs or knows someone who does.”

I’ve seen several different local events promoted recently with photos that rely on “boobage” as the kids say. Big eye-roll from me over here. When I see such adverts I know that: a man is pitching to men, the male gaze is considered most important, and that I’m not the target audience for such an event.

“So what?” you say. “Not every event is meant for you, and it doesn’t have to be.” That’s true. But often such events are intended for both men and women but the pitch is default (heterosexual) male-oriented. So that message is telling me that while they may want my patronage, they don’t really care much for who I am.

Ugh.

On the other hand, if these are events not particularly meant for women the boob-centric advertising is still problematic. Why?  Because it contributes to a culture that believes that all women are essentially potential sex providers depending on the whim of the men involved. Remember this?

He was just bargaining for sex, it isn’t like he did anything without her consent.

Add to this the fact that many such promotional photos are for events that feature alcohol, and it all feels a good deal creepier. And dangerous. “Come looking for boobs and get liquored up” is a recipe for lines to be crossed and boundaries to be violated. Honestly, guys, boobs are not to be purchased, traded, hoarded, or displayed as part of a set like baseball cards. They do not exist to increase your personal status amongst other men.

If anyone reading this would like more opinions on this topic I highly recommend this Twitter thread, which begins:


@_katherine_may: A note from a very weary editor, to all male writers:


Women's breasts are not communication devices. They are not sending you, or your male protagonists, encoded messages. They are, in fact, insentient. They neither dance nor issue invitations.

In conclusion, if you are promoting local events and all you can come up with as a selling point is boobs, try again. Get a second opinion. Here’s a thought: maybe ask a woman.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

TopTen



Things that feel good:

  • Finally getting to eat at Curry and Kabob in Wilde Lake. Enjoying the Wilde Lake Village Center. Seeing the young people and families who turn up on a Friday night.
  • Lavenia Nesmith singing at the Chrysalis with an amazing group of back up musicians.
  • A hint of Fall in the air. A gorgeous night sky.
  • A link that takes me to someone fiercely defending me online.
  • Watching devoted professionals care for infants. They are amazing!
  • Seeing the Oakland Mills Dunkin Donuts move closer to completion.
  • Driving down Little Patuxent Parkway in the early evening and feeling like it’s both an old familiar friend and a new exciting creation.
  • My neighbor’s new sign.
  • People who stand up for equity and inclusion,
  • The weekend.
After a rather bumpy week on many fronts, I’m going to push back a little with some positivity. I’m not trying to block out or ignore what’s difficult. I’m determined to nourish myself enough that I can jump back in to doing what’s important.

As always, I’m interested in your own lists of Columbia/HoCo things that feel good. A shared repository of positivity can’t hurt, right?




Friday, September 6, 2019

Cease and Desist



What caring for others does not look like:

Something about the affluent parents asking the less affluent parents to step up and “tell us what you really want” feels wildly inappropriate to me.

Current redistricting is not coming about because of the agitation of radicalized “FARMs” parents. The idea of trying to placate them in some way in order to make redistricting go away is nauseating.

No one should be putting them on the spot.

It is the school system which seeks these changes because they know the status quo is wrong and bad for students and that it is their responsibility to fix it. These are system-wide changes to repair systemic problems. If parents want to put someone on the spot, it should be representatives of the school system.

“I just don’t understand why those people really want their kids to be bused to our schools” seems to be followed by a desire to find some of “those people”, interrogate them, and offer some kind of a deal which maintains the status quo. Asking “FARMS parents” to speak out as representatives of their kind is not unlike asking the few black people in a group to speak out as “representatives of their race.”

Maybe if we give them a few pieces of candy they’ll stay off our swing set.

Stop it, just stop. Watching privileged parents trying to massage the outcome of redistricting by preying upon the less privileged is like watching someone shoot fish in a barrel. Perhaps if you and your children had more exposure to people who are not like you, then you would know how disrespectful and downright inhumane your behavior really is.

I know you are accustomed to having your own way, but trust me: you don’t look helpful. You look patronizing. And you are doing actually damage by making others feel like they are required to defend their own right to exist.


Thursday, September 5, 2019

HoCo Homework



Three quotes from actual HoCo humans about redistricting:


  • I have entered the "I hate everyone" phase of the HCPSS redistricting process.

  • I must say that the redistricting talk gives me a headache most of the time. In particular, there’s one thing that kind of makes me want to stab myself in the eyeball with an ice pick...

  • We have now reached the “why don’t they put in a nice little cheese shop?” phase of redistricting.


Well, alrighty, then.

I’m taking a breather today and assigning this homework for my readers. If you’ve read it before, read it again.

I Don't Know How To Explain To You That You Should Care About Other People, Kayla Chadwick for Huffpost

We’ll talk tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Giveaway



In local philanthropy news,

Ellicott City family donates half a million dollars to hospital construction project

(Kelly Broderick, WMAR)

The co-founders of Tenable, Cyndi and Ron Gula, have made a $500,000 donation to Howard County General Hospital to go towards their current campus construction project. If the name Tenable rings a bell, it’s probably because of the much publicized move to the Merriweather District for their company’s headquarters.

First off, supporting the hospital is a wonderful investment in our community. Howard County is growing. Other communities outside HoCo are also turning to us for health care. So improvements to HCGH are crucial. I’m grateful for their donation, which will benefit all of us.

Secondly, let’s imagine for a moment that we are all philanthropists. If you had $500,000 to give to a local cause, what would it be? It has to be in Columbia/HoCo, and I’d love to know why you’d want to support their work.

Let’s have some fun with this. If I get enough responses this might be a future blog post.

You can probably guess what I would do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The First Day



No first day of school pictures here. Our bird has flown. I’m enjoying all the first day pics and posts, though. I’m no longer a school parent, but I still care very much what happens in our schools.

I read with some dismay that some hold the sentiment that only folks with children in the schools should have a say in redistricting. Certainly those with children in the schools will feel the results in a personal way that others will not. I have no argument there. But all of us pay taxes to support the schools. And, in my opinion, we are all responsible for supporting and advocating for the best possible schools in our community.

A friend summed it up well when he said that those seeking to exclude non-school parents are:

...abandoning the most romantic notion of public education - that the entire community is involved and contributing towards the betterment of your child. 

I don’t think my voice should mean more than anyone else’s. I just don’t think it should be excluded. Nor should the voice of an uncle, or grandparent, or a retired teacher. And while we are at it, that means we don’t exclude renters in favor of home owners, either. When you see how far some people are willing to go to exclude others in order to make their own voices louder, you see exactly the kind of obstacles we face in supporting better schools for all children.

Post your pictures today if you have them. Recount your first day adventures. Some of us may not have kids in school but your children are a valuable part of our community and the first day of school is a big deal.

Let this be a year of learning and growth for all of us.





Monday, September 2, 2019

Honoring the Day


A few words about the day.

On Memorial Day we are often reminded that we wouldn’t be enjoying a day off from work with our families without the sacrifices of men and women who gave their lives in service to our country. We are exhorted to see the day as more than a holiday for picnics and trips to the beach. And rightly so. But when Labor Day rolls around the reminders to its origins are fewer. And quieter. And they tend to emanate from one side of the political spectrum more than another.

That’s a shame. Just as any American can fight for their country, any American can be a laborer who needs fair and safe treatment in the workplace. Service to our country is honorable. So is work. We should never forget the importance of either one.

But in the same way that people are squeamish at taking a hard look at systemic racism in our country, they often turn away from the horrors which promoted the rise of labor unions. Speaking out against civil rights abuses is now called “race baiting”.  Organizing against injustice, when it has the word “union” attached, is viewed as rabble rousing, less than honorable, inherently dishonest.

Don’t forget that in Maryland we have a governor who called teachers “union thugs” and still managed to get re-elected.

We’ve probably all heard the old saying,

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

I think we need to be honest with ourselves about what that really means. Vaguely remembering a few paragraphs in a history textbook won’t cut it. We are called to get “up close and personal” with our past, face its ugly truths, engage with its lasting consequences. This is uncomfortable work. Plenty of folks would rather crumple up each unpleasant fact and toss it behind them as they go, like so much litter.

But all that trash piles up. We forget where we came from, and more importantly, we forget why. Why people fought in wars, or marched on Washington, or organized workers to form labor unions. Our desire to turn away from things that challenge us or make us uncomfortable does not make us or our country stronger. It weakens the very things that our country claims to champion.

Today, on Labor Day in Columbia/Howard County I am thinking of our teachers, preparing for the start of the new school year, I’m also thinking of the thousands of people who work in Howard County but don’t have adequate housing or have none available to them at all. I’m thinking of workers and the value of their work.

And I’m thinking of all that has come before.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sounds of Summer


Last night as I sipped a Columbia Festival of the Arts Ale by Manor Hill Brewing and the day faded into evening at the Chrysalis I found myself getting a bit sentimental, The sounds of Damon Foreman and Blue Funk filled the space and reached beyond it with guitar, saxophone, keyboard and percussion virtuosity.

Photo credit inartrust

“If Columbia/HoCo has a sound, this is it,” I thought. I knew it was mushy as soon as it entered my head but, really, I was having a moment. Maybe it was the ale talking. Maybe it was the Chrysalis aglow with twinkling lights and full of people having a good time, sharing a musical experience.

Of course, Columbia/HoCo has many sounds. I’d never want to have to choose only one. Living in a community with so many venues both big and small for enjoying music  is one of the reasons I love living here.

Here’s a new sound to me, and perhaps for you.




Wanderlight is a band out of Old Ellicott City. I found the music video for their song “Myosotis” (forget-me-not) on Twitter. The group describes themselves on their website:

Wanderlight bridges ethereal and immediate sounds, writing indie-folk songs of sorrow and joy composed of Mell Picco’s ethereal vocals and cello, Brennan Kuhns’ twinkly guitar licks, Bryan Geiger’s steady bass, and Jesse Florida’s trunk kit percussion. Brennan and Mell, both former members of Petal Blight, founded the new project Wanderlight in 2015. The group performs original songs inspired by heartache, secret gardens, beautiful conversations with strangers, the light they find in every darkness, and the historical town of Ellicott City they call home.

Here’s where you come in. Wanderlight has an Indiegogo to get their first album off the ground and they are within striking distance of their goal. Take a listen to their music and put a little “cash in their jar” if you can. You have the opportunity to help a homegrown, local group get their voices heard and shared. 

I found their music video especially compelling because of the local settings. Maybe you will, too. You know how this works: if you like the video, share it on social media. 

Who knows? Maybe next summer we’ll be enjoying Wanderlight at the Chrysalis.





Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Reliable Source



Where do you get your local news?

I ask this question because I’ve seen a number of people complain that they don’t want to read newspaper articles if they have to pay for them. We’ve talked about that here before. Journalists need to eat, etc. This isn’t another impassioned treatise on subscribing to local papers (but, come on, you should.) It’s about where you get your news.

Journalists are highly trained professionals and they must follow a code of ethics. There are professional standards they are bound to uphold. When you are thinking about who you trust for your local news, this should be a big deal.

Increasingly it seems that it isn’t.

Many of us hang around in online social media groups like workers around the proverbial water cooler. It’s fun to shoot the breeze, as it were. But this isn’t news. These days it’s more like unchecked sharing of misinformation with a few tidbits of truth here and there in the mix. Treating that like news isn’t just inaccurate, it’s dangerous.

People are making decisions on courses of action that they will take based on something somebody said to somebody else about something they heard that happened somewhere else.

Playing telephone is a party game. It is no way to participate in a community process like redistricting, for example.

Board of Education member Jen Mallo was startled to discover supposed online experts holding forth on her position. She pushed back:

I have heard that people are claiming to have "good sources" about what Board member Mallo's position on the proposed attendance area changes is...

Strange--I have a good source that tells me that Mallo is taking her responsibility seriously to study the proposal before forming an opinion and that she doesn't anticipate taking a public position until she does. Of the 701 polygons, 98 are proposed to move at the elementary level, 27 at the middle school level and 120 at the high school level--Mallo understands it is a lot to study and understand.

My source indicates that she is actively reviewing every single polygon recommended to transition from "walkers" to 'riders".  My source also indicates that she is looking at both the current and the proposed transportation times and costs.  

My source told me that Mallo is reviewing all the feedback she is receiving and is tracking concerns of the residents by polygon.  

My source further stated that Mallo participated in the last review of policy 6010 which instructs the Board and the Administration on how to implement changes in attendance areas.  Mallo thinks following the policy is pretty important. 

That said, my source told me that Mallo doesn't anticipate arguing individual points for or against the proposal until she feels that she has done her homework--and that is unlikely to happen until all the residents of the county have had the opportunity to express their views during the scheduled public forums.

We may not always like what we read in the newspaper. But it is important to understand the difference between journalism and social media posts. The latter are not subject to fact-checking. No one is doing the research to find out whether the poster has a vested interest in a particular outcome. When people you don’t know are saying all the things you want to hear that doesn’t automatically make them truth tellers.

It gives one a sense of validation to see lots of folks sharing our point of view. But that’s not news. That’s just how social media works.

You know what else isn’t journalism?

Blogs.

Yep, we bloggers have plenty to say and no doubt we care about our communities a lot. But we are not journalists. We get to choose what we write a about and what we don’t. We may share information but more often our work is in the realm of commentary. There’s a big difference.

I love, love, love having people read and engage with my blog. Under no circumstance would I want to be mistaken for “the news”. I have way too much respect for local journalists to want anyone to get that impression.

So when it comes to local news, make sure it comes from a reliable source.



Friday, August 30, 2019

Free Parking



It’s amazing how working from nine in the morning until almost nine in the evening clouds your vision. Such is the life of a teacher on Back to School Night. The next day should really be a day off, but it never, ever is.

On my mind this morning: crazy local parking. Two of my friends posted rather hilarious photos yesterday of people who clearly think that the rules of parking don’t apply to them. Now, I try to have mercy on bad parking because I have been known to be a bit off-center myself. But seeing these particular photos put me in mind of a slightly different topic.

Are there places in Columbia/HoCo that you find it difficult to park? It could be that there’s not enough parking, or it is not close enough to where you want to go. It could be that folks who shouldn’t be there hog all the available spots. Or perhaps it’s not well enough lit at night?

Have you ever thought, of a local place, “I’m just not going to bother because parking will be impossible “?

Extra credit: share your ideas on how you would go about fixing this.

Have a great Friday and don’t forget Damon Foreman and Blue Funk are at the Chrysalis tomorrow night!





Thursday, August 29, 2019

Missed Connections



I decided a while ago that Howard County needs its own Dan Reed. In case you don’t know, Mr. Reed writes the blog “Just Up the Pike” about goings-on in Montgomery County. To be more precise:


New restaurants? Old restaurants? Real Estate? Bikeability? Politics? Schools and redistricting? Mr. Reed covers it all. For those in Howard County who say we should simply do things the way they do in MoCo, you might be surprised to learn that they have many of the same challenges and they are struggling just as mightily as we are.

When local podcast Elevate Maryland was asking for names of possible guests, I immediately suggested Mr.Reed. The good news: he’ll be the guest tonight. The bad news: I have Back to School Night for work.

Please go on out to La Palapa on Main Street in Old EC this evening and show Mr. Reed a proper HoCo welcome. (You know, the kind without protest signs and matching t-shirts.) This is going to be a fascinating episode. Being there in person while they tape truly adds to the experience. Get some dinner, maybe a margarita or two. It starts at seven.

But don’t miss it. And tell me all about it tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Same Old, Same Old


Today’s post hails from way back in 2016. It might as well have been written today.


The Face in the Mirror

Meanwhile, back at the Board of Ed...

The numbers are in for the Jump Start program and folks are concerned that it will not reduce overcrowding in a meaningful way. Overcrowding is a serious issue. Parents are right to have concerns.

However...

I’ve seen quite a bit of online posturing about how the Superintendent and BOE “caved” when it came to making the tough decisions on redistricting.

Oh, please.

We spent a summer of protest: sign-making, t-shirting wearing anger and rabble-rousing. Post after post dripping with thinly veiled racism. NIMBY-ism at its finest. People waving their property values around. Members of the community impugning the intent of the AAC.

In short, our foray into possible redistricting showed a truly ugly side to Howard County that many of us are still trying to shake from our minds.

Throughout this entire debacle, the saner voices suggesting we should all pull together and make this transition work for our children (and everyone’s children) were drowned out by echoes of anger, discontent, and privilege. Not my kids. Not my neighborhood. That’s not what I paid for.

Well, congratulations, folks. You got what you asked for. We wanted a Superintendent and BOE that were more responsive to the community, remember? And while redistricting may have been the best solution for the problems we are facing right now, the community fought it tooth and nail. I find it to be the height of hypocrisy to look back on this and say that “they” should have made the tough choices.

It’s like a child with a belly ache from too many sweets blaming the parent for giving in to their whining and wheedling. “You gave me the candy I asked for. You should have held out and said no. You should have known better!”

If the community had come together in a positive way around redistricting, then that is what we would have. If the Superintendent and BOE are working on alternative plans to overcrowding and we don’t like them, then let’s place the blame where it belongs.

Look in the mirror, Howard County.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Coffee, Conversation, and Community



I read in the news that Howard’s of twenty-two businesses were affected by the gas explosion in Columbia on Sunday. I’ve seen several laments about the loss of Riverside Coffee. While I’ve been there several times over the years, it’s never become my “go-to” coffee hang out. But it’s clear that it was a a special place for many in our community.

Losing Riverside brings to mind other beloved coffee places that are no more: Anna’s Coffee Roastery, Bean Hollow. Are there more I’m not recalling? What happens when you lose the space that has become your “third space”?

Straight out of Wikipedia:

In community building, the third place is the social surroundings separate from the two usual social environments of home ("first place") and the workplace ("second place"). Examples of third places would be environments such as churches, cafes, clubs, public libraries, or parks. In his influential book The Great Good Place, Ray Oldenburg (1989, 1991) argues that third places are important for civil society, democracy, civic engagement, and establishing feelings of a sense of place.

Where is your third space? Do you have one? For a while Wegman’s in Columbia offered a place where folks could gather for meetings and discussions, but, alas, that is no more. Roggenart appears to be winning the hearts of many, especially those saddened by the loss of Anna’s. 

It’s interesting to note that the Wikipedia entry lists public libraries as examples of third spaces. Our own library system offers a variety of options for people who want to get together. Coming up September 21st is the return of their popular event The Longest Table. Go here for more information.

I’m interested in hearing your stories of Riverside Coffee and anything you have to share on local coffee shops and third places. Do we have enough? Do we need more? Does the success of national chains make it too difficult for mom and pop places to survive and thrive?

Let me know







Monday, August 26, 2019

Personal and Public



I received an email from a reader yesterday. I’m sharing it here because this isn’t the first time this has come up and I’d like to lay this subject to rest once and for all.

I also don’t have a child in school system any longer, but don’t you think it is a bit hypocritical to berate others? I heard from several friends that although you live in the OMHS district (which you often defend in blog and tweets) you chose to send your own child to RHHS - the most socioeconomically/racially segregated in HCPSS. You had a choice because of your husband’s position at RHHS but few others do.

My response:

I don’t berate others. I do speak strongly but there are very few people I would be moved to berate.  Only those who are outright racist or mean-spirited, I would think.

As far as my daughter is concerned, the choice we made as a family was very specific to her particular needs. Because of this, it is her own personal story to tell and I don't get to blab it around so that the general public understands why we made that choice. It would be a lot easier for me if I could. I respect her too much to violate her privacy in order to make things easier on myself.

Both OMHS and RHHS are excellent schools. The decision we made was due to my daughter’s individual situation and had nothing to do with affluence or race or ethnicity. I cannot control whether people believe me. I can only tell the truth and move on from there.


So there you have it.

Make up your own mind. I’m officially done with this particular topic.


Sunday, August 25, 2019

Public and Personal



The Superintendent has released his plan for redistricting. It’s a comprehensive plan that addresses both overcrowding and issues of de facto segregation in our schools. This is the beginning. A time for public response will follow. The Board of Education will work with the Superintendent’s plan while taking into account community input and their own knowledge and judgement. 

That’s the process.

Truth in advertising: I have no children left in the schools so my opinion is, necessarily, different than that of someone whose children stand to be moved. So take it with a grain of salt, if you will. 

So far my response to the plan is hopeful. I imagine there are some bits here and there that may have to be tweaked. But I do think that we are long overdue for redistricting and that this plan attempts to meet some important goals for the system as a whole. 

Of course it is human nature to feel change in a very personal way. How will this plan affect me, my child, my immediate neighborhood? Change can be difficult and even frightening. Some responses to the plan are angry. When you make decisions that will impact people’s children, you have to expect some pushback. 

One particular online response from a Howard County parent struck me yesterday. I am sharing it here with permission. Many thanks to Ginnie Gick for allowing me to bring her words to a wider audience.


Not that anyone asked my opinion, but here are a few thoughts I have about this process.  And, by no means, am I minimizing the inconveniences or actual challenges that some may suffer from changing schools, however...

1) VERY few people want to change schools.  Most people LOVE the school they’re in and don’t want to leave it.  Which means that EVERY SCHOOL IS LOVABLE.  What makes our schools  exemplary is the commitment and involvement of the families, the students and the staff.  

2) Please don’t make the mistake of generalizing or stereotyping people from any particular school.  Everyone from XX school does not feel the same as a vocal minority.  No school is made of all elitists or racists or whatever.  Some people actually welcome any new students who enter our doors, and hope the same will be done for our children if they go to a different school.

3) Children are resilient and take their cues from their parents.  If you don’t freak out, neither will they.  And they won’t experience nearly the level of anxiety that they could if you’re able to take it in stride and teach them that change is a normal part of life that they will have to deal with and adjust to.

Again... just my thoughts.  Go ahead and pile on and pummel me, because that’s what we do now.  I just prefer to take a positive approach to this process and try to help my son make it through as easily as possible.

Wow. There it is. “Every school is lovable.” If there were to be a rallying cry for the changes we’re facing right now, that would surely be it. I can even imagine it on t-shirts.


Who knows? It could be coming to a polygon near you.