Sunday, July 25, 2021

New Yet Familiar

The other day I stumbled upon the Twitter acount of the Columbia Housing Center. It’s fairly new. Something about the name rang a bell. I found a Facebook account.  I noodled around on their website, which is still a bit glitchy to navigate.

From the website:

The goal of the Columbia Housing Center is to sustain Columbia’s residential integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic and racial groups.

As a rental housing locator service, the Columbia Housing Center will help landlords find tenants and tenants find homes. It will also provide training and educational programming.

You can go to their FAQ page to learn more about how this will work. I was interested in the information about this particular model has been used successfully in Oak Park, Illinois.

This spring they hired their first Executive Director, Andy Masters. He comes to the Columbia Housing Center from Enterprise Community Partners, where he was the Strategic Partnerships Manager. You may recall that Enterprise was co-founded by Columbia’s own Jim Rouse.  I look a look at their Board of Directors and noticed some familiar faces. The more I read the more I was convinced that I had heard about this initiative before.

Yes. There it is:

The last time [Jane Dembner and I] spoke was at an event held on the Chrysalis stage. She was telling me about a venture she was involved in to actively promote and support racial integration in Columbia. 

In reading her obituary I noticed a request that, in lieu of flowers, people make donations to the Columbia Housing Center.  Here is their mission:

We aim to honor James Rouse’s legacy by enhancing racial integration so that all of Columbia is attractive and welcoming to all ethnic, racial and religious groups. The Columbia Housing Center will provide a one-stop locator service that helps landlords find tenants and tenants find homes that further racial integration in and around Columbia.

(“Challenges Accepted: Jane Dembner”, Village Green/Town², June 12, 2019)

I’m excited to follow the work of the Columbia Housing Center as they begin their work. To learn more you can check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.  

Saturday, July 24, 2021

Survey Results Say


At the moment I’m having my first cup of coffee of the day and enjoying birdsong and the cool morning air. The sky is blue and the clouds are thin little wisps as though they were put in place by a painter of happy little clouds. It’s seven am on a Saturday and this constitutes a very lazy morning for me indeed.

Since there’s always a story for everything, at least for me, I want to include you in this one. Yesterday I posed this question on Facebook because it was a real dilemma for me:

Suburban etiquette question: our back patio is completely fenced. Would it be permissible for me to have my coffee out there in the morning in my nightgown? I would be visible only to my next door neighbor if she looked out her second-story window. What say you all?

Columbia has rules, you know. We have rules about hanging out laundry, cutting your grass, changing your house and even when you can put out your trash. How was I to know whether there was a rule about having coffee in one’s nightclothes?

Okay, I didn’t think it was something in writing, necessarily. More like “what is within the bounds of good taste if one lives in houses that are close together?” How much personal freedom does one have? Do people who live in single family homes with more space between them and their neighbors feel an expanded sense of privacy? Or do they actually feel more exposed?

We have a variety of housing types in Columbia and that is by design. If you live in an apartment without any sort of outside access like a balcony, then this is not a question you are contemplating. But let’s consider quadroplexes, townhomes, single family homes of modest footprint and ones with more impressive square footage. Does the type of home you live in impact whether or not you would go outside to enjoy a cup of coffee in your nightclothes? 

I imagine in the more rural parts of the county one might be buffered by so much land that this isn’t even an issue. My daughter has a friend whose patio actually faces farm animals. I wonder what they’d think?

My own completely unscientific poll resulted in approximately 50 in favor of nightwear on the patio. None opposed.  One person suggested I might run it by my neighbor. Two people questioned what kind of a nightgown it was, and, my personal favorite was the person who felt I was being courteous by wearing anything at all!

Now that I have convinced myself that coffee outside in my nightgown is acceptable, I really hope that Columbia doesn’t have any such ordinances to the contrary.

What do you think?

Friday, July 23, 2021

Invisible Insurrectionists


Where are the mug shots? Where are the photos chosen to show the accused in a bad light?

I’m talking about Andrew Ryan Bennett, the Columbia resident who pled guilty to his actions in attacking the Capitol along with a mob of like-minded insurrectionists. First of all, how on earth do we have people in Columbia* who would do such a thing? I do tend to think of us as a hotbed of acceptance and open-mindedness, but that is clearly wishful thinking.

I do think it’s odd that we have not seen the typical “defendant in a sketchy pose suggesting guilt” photographs that we usually see in cases where the accused is not white. Mr. Bennett, of course, is white. The public has been given a screenshot from a video taken the day of the attack but that’s it. 

Now these investigations are being done by the FBI so perhaps that makes a difference. I don’t know. But I do know how often we are subjected to mug shots of Black and Brown people who have been accused of a crime and photos taken from their social media accounts which depict them in the worst possible way. It feels to me almost as though the prosecution of the January 6th insurrectionists is being done in such as way as to have as little impact on their public reputations as possible. 

Is it because they are white?

Where are the news articles delving into this man’s past, outlining his activities and asking, “where did he go wrong?” We see them all the time when the defendant is Black. A white man who enthusiastically participated in mob activity to take down the United States Government will have received so little public coverage that he will be able to slip back into ordinary existence in lovely Columbia, Maryland. He may have pled guilty to a misdemeanor but what he and others were there to do was far from misdemeanor material. 

And Mr. Bennett was there cheering it all on. 

Where are the mug shots? 

* Yes, I dug around on Facebook to see if I could find this particular person. I am neither a qualified investigator nor a journalist and so anything I found at this point would be tantamount to irresponsible gossip. So I’m not going to go there. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Guest Post: Bonnie Bricker on Talk With Me • Howard County

The recent groundbreaking for the Gateway United Way Family Center and the opening of the new Bauder Education Center in Long Reach have drawn the public’s attention to the shortage of affordable, high-quality childcare for young children in our community. Research has shown how important the early years are for physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development. I asked Bonnie Bricker, founder of Talk With Me • Howard County to write a guest post explaining another crucial way to support brain development in young children from the moment they are born. - - jam


Every child deserves the opportunity to have a good life. While we know many factors will impact that outcome, solid brain development in the early years is critical.


Imagine this dream: Children growing up here go through their daily routine seeing and experiencing interactions everywhere. Mom and Dad put their phones down at mealtimes to chat. As each daily walk unfolds, common sights are described and compared. Children learn to notice and add details to conversations. They see parents comparing the fruit in the market, the cashier exchanging warm greetings; folks are unplugged and interacting. It’s an interactive style that may seem dated, but it’s actually essential to the development of the child and later, when that child becomes a parent.


80% of critical brain development happens in the first 3 years of life, and 90% by age 5. Decades ago, we learned that some 3-year-olds had heard as many as 30 million more words in their language-rich households than children in homes that were quieter and less interactive. Those children were far more prepared for kindergarten. In 2018, we learned that toddler chats were directly related to test scores of IQ and language TEN YEARS later. Building those critical brain structures early in life matters over the long span of our children’s lives. It matters for the child and their family; it matters for their ability to hold a joband have sustaining relationships. Our communities are successful when everyone can grow and thrive; it is in the best interests of all of us to spread this critical human story of development: 


Our brains grow with our positive interactions, craving the social-emotional hook of human connections in order to learn.


Recognizing that our brains are wired for connection and emotion is essential to understanding the foundations of development being built in the early years. Your warm gaze, your gentle words, your simple adjustments to your baby’s needs in that beautiful loop of responsiveness is key to learning. Humans are not computers; emotion and connectedness are keys to brain-building.


Brain-building moments occur through our days. Whether we’re singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star as we diaper our babies or reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar for the twentieth time to our preschooler, routines provide great opportunities over the span of our children’s developing years. Narrating what we do as we go through our routines helps our children hear new words and to understand how words fit into complex sentences. Whether we chat about the spices we use as we cook or narrate the sights and sounds of our daily walk, these moments are critical to hearing language and learning about our world. Over time, we add layers of knowledge to existing knowledge which helps our children to grow their intellectual capacity.


Repetition matters; multiplication is key. If you add reading a simple book for 5 minutes each day to your routine, you are adding 35 minutes of brain-building a week. In a year, you’ll be adding 12,775 minutes of this essential interaction. By age 5, you’d have spent 63,875 minutes of valuable interaction in that one activity. Adding interactions through mealtimes, playtimes, and daily routines makes a huge difference for every child.


And yet --- while some know this information quite well, many parents, caregivers, and professionals still need this message. So,here’s the good news storyfor the last 4 years, current and former HCPSS educators and Speech-Language Pathologists, county government employees, and various community members have joined me to volunteer for Talk With Me • Howard County to help all parents, caregivers, and professionals working with young families to understand that early interactions build brainsWe built the content, training program, workshop models, and a network of community members who share this information. Our partnership with HCPSS and the vision of Superintendent, Dr. Mike Martirano has been a huge help; along with the amazing collaboration of the Early Childhood Advisory Council, more than a thousand community members have interacted with the message of Talk With Me in some way, and many are in positions to spread the message further


Now established, we are transitioning the program to HCPSS. I have spent my entire retirement since 2015 to help spread this important information, and so my next chapter will begin. You can help to spread the message too!


Visit the Talk With Me webpage:


For more information, Howard County parents can explore the Howard Basics website and sign up for Basic Insights, offered free to families here:


Explore infant and child research more with great videos for both professionals and laypersons at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. Start with this link on Brain Architecture:




Bonnie Bricker founded Talk With Me • Howard County in 2015. She is a retired HCPSS  teacher, and the author of "Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children" as well as numerous articles on social and public policy.


Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Field Trips

In my experience the position of Columbia Association President and CEO is for special occasions only. That is to say, an ordinary resident of Columbia is not likely to meet or even simply see the CA President in the flesh except at ribbon cuttings or Columbia-centric celebrations. They are like the inherited silver or the good china. You know they are there but they are far too good for everyday use, if you get my analogy. Yes, one might see them regularly at CA Board meetings but for most of us those are special occasions, too: you have to make plans to attend and it’s usually for a very specific reason.

Last week I had an opportunity to meet the new president of CA, Lakey Boyd, and I suspect she may go about her tenure here a bit differently. As we spoke it became apparent that she is putting a high priority on getting out of her office and into the community. Ms. Boyd commented that she wants to put such “field trips” into her calendar so that she is committed from the outset to making time for them. 

I think that’s a good idea. It’s a lot easier to look at the Columbia Association as some kind of distant monolith when we don’t feel its leaders are truly engaged in the community. If the only times we see the high-ranking employees of CA are when they are carrying out ceremonial functions, we lack the opportunity to learn about them as fellow humans. Furthermore, they lose the opportunity to learn about us, too.

We talked for a while about the importance of making connections and I got the sense that Ms. Boyd places a high priority on activities and initiatives aimed at building community. When I asked about how she approaches learning about a new place, she spoke not only about those frequent field trips but also about asking around to learn who the people are who are doing interesting things. Who is engaged? Who is committed to trying new things, to service, to making their community a better place?

CA President and CEO Lakey Boyd speaks at this year’s Fourth of July festivities at the Lakefront. 

I wasn’t surprised that Ms. Boyd brought up her background in change management. She described having worked with organizations that had become disconnected from the people they serve. Right now, the Columbia Association is at a crossroads as they come out of the pandemic and assess where they want to focus their efforts and resources. This looks like the sort of challenge for which Ms. Boyd is is well prepared.

Something Ms. Boyd said struck me. She said that she had come to view change as an opportunity for her circumstances to improve. As someone who grips the steering wheel and white-knuckles it through change in my own life, I found this to be quite a concept. Of course it’s an opportunity, not a guarantee, but the hopefulness of that mindset may prove to be a helpful guiding force as CA moves forward under Ms.Boyd’s direction.

Of course Ms. Boyd brings with her an admirable educational background and employment history. That is to be expected. I will be far more impressed if her intentions to get out of the office and interact with people truly translates into a meaningful part of her leadership style and a change in how CA interacts in the community.

What if we came to believe that the head of CA was one of “us” and not one of “them”? I know this may have been true in Columbia’s distant past but not in recent memory as far as I can tell. That’s the kind of change that I would see as a significant opportunity to improve our circumstances. 

It’s a big challenge. I wish Ms. Boyd well as she begins her time with us. 

Tuesday, July 20, 2021


Update: tonight’s Elevate Maryland event is being postponed in deference to the observance of Eid al-Adha. I’ll let you know when they have a new date. 


Tonight, live and in person, the return of local podcast Elevate Maryland to their fashionable digs on Grantchester Way. Their guest is Brooke Leirman, who is, by far, the most promising and interesting candidate for Maryland State Comptroller. From the Elevate Maryland Twitter account:

First live show is 7/20 at 6:30pm with @BrookeELierman! 

Guests, please note: you must wear a mask while indoors unless you’re actively eating or drinking. (Elevate rules.) Thank you!

If you are interested in attending, Elevate does their live shows in Downtown Columbia in the Howard Hughes event space across from Cured/18th and 21st. Parking is right there and keep an eye out for signs guiding you to the exact location.

Alas, my doctor says no indoor events for me right now so I will be there in spirit only. I’ll just have to make do with hearing the show later. I have been very impressed by Ms. Leirman and look forward to seeing what she has to say.

An event that is near and dear to my heart is coming up Saturday night. The Inner Arbor Trust is holding a Fundraiser/Friendraiser for Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods at the Chrysalis. You can learn more at their website. Here are the basics:


Saturday, July 24, 2021

7:00 PM  11:00 PM

The Chrysalis at Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods 

Welcome back!!!

Help us fund free performances as we celebrate returning to the Chrysalis at our pay-what-you-wish Friendraiser.

The Board of Directors of the Inner Arbor Trust invites you to become our Friend as we celebrate the return of performances and raise money for our free-to-attend 2021 performances. 100% of these free performances are funded by generous donations, sponsorships, and grants.

Music by FireKite, cash bar, and food available for purchase.


As with most events at the Park, you will need to reserve your tickets through eventbrite. I will definitely be there. I hope you will, too. As you know, I’ve been a friend of the park since it was but a twinkle in the eye of its proponents. Every new friend that the park makes is another person committed to a park for all in Columbia/HoCo. Come on out and meet other people who are excited about supporting Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods and who believe in its mission of bringing free arts performances to the community.

And for Heaven’s sake, let’s just kick up our heels a bit and have fun in the park!


Monday, July 19, 2021

Hellscape, USA


It’s true that I spend a lot of time scanning Twitter for local stories. As you know, sometimes I come away with what I call “Other People’s Tweets.” Today’s is a doozy.

Was in Columbia, MD yesterday and it was a total car-dependent hellscape, best place to live in America?  Totally nuts that people see that and like it

Bulldoze and start again

include beavers on the planning team

Give me a city or give me a cabin.

Tell us how you really feel, Mr. Out-of-Towner. Don’t hold back, now.

For some contrast, I hopped over to the Columbia Association website to see if I could find some descriptions of Columbia’s original intent and what we say we are proud of. Silly me. The website has changed. I knew where I was going on the old website. If you are interested in Columbia history you get one page with links to go somewhere else. (The Columbia Archives.) Well, heck.

I’ll just have to speak for myself for the moment. The truth is, I agree with what Mr. OOT writes, and yet I also love living here. It’s complicated. We absolutely are too car-dependent. Now, where I live, one can easily walk to the Village Center, the Walgreen’s, Blandair Park, the pool (when it’s open) and schools. Do I avail myself of these opportunities? Rarely. 

I’m pretty sedentary and driving is just easier. And, let’s face it, Columbia reinforces that frame of mind. Yes, we have the lovely pathways but they are largely for enjoyment, not to take you places you need to go. 

I find myself in the awkward situation of saying, yes, it’s a car-dependent hellscape and yet somehow I love it here. It’s quirky and earnest and comfortable. I do love all the grass and trees.

Do we need to bulldoze and start again? Sometimes I wonder. No matter what, I’m definitely intrigued by the prospect of including beavers on the planning team.