Sunday, January 19, 2014

Gossip Girls

I will admit that there have been some mornings when I wished something truly interesting was going on in local news. When you try to write every day you don't always wake up knowing what you want to write about. Well, be careful what you wish for.

Friday afternoon, slipping into the Twitter stream without warning (for most of us) was the news that the CA Board had not renewed Phil Nelson's contract as President of the Columbia Association. A big shout-out to Luke Lavoie for starting off with a tersely written press release and working to flesh it out into something more like actual communication on a Friday night.

In the hours between the press release and the subsequent update, curious folks had nothing to do but wonder. "Inquiring minds want to know." We have an announcement and precious little information. We are only human. So, we begin to speculate.

My daughter and I were hashing out various scenarios in the car on the way to the Mall. My husband said nothing. Finally he jumped in and put an end to the conversation. "You don't know. You have no way of knowing. So, just stop this. It's gossip." I'll admit I was offended. Gossip? Gossip to me is, "Betsy is flirting with the UPS man," or "Did you hear what Bob did at the office party?"

But, we stopped. We sat in silence for the rest of the ride. Inside, though, my mind was still going, percolating. I care deeply about Columbia. I want to know why this happened. I want to know what will happen next. In my gut I worry that the whole business was not as fair as it should have been. And I know I am not alone.

Whether or not you want to call it gossip, the fact remains that if you make a big decision that affects an entire community and you try to slip it into the Friday news dump with no explanation, you are leaving yourself open to speculation. A whole bunch of speculation.

For example: Where is the transparency? Where's the opportunity for public input? What is the real timetable of how this all went down? Most importantly, what's the rush?

I find it reassuring that good, reasonable, intelligent people are discussing this on Facebook, Twitter, in blog posts, and probably over a few beers and even with coffee at the Columbia Mall Starbucks. Anyone in Columbia, really even in Howard County, has a reasonable stake in the future of this place.

Ask some questions. I have more than a few. At the top of the list--what about those members of the CA Board who demand transparency at every turn? Where do they, who claim conspiracy behind the shade of every tree, stand on a decision made behind closed doors and released without any useful explanation? And what are their chances for re-election this Spring?

Let the election season begin. Start asking some questions.


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