Sunday, April 19, 2015

A Bad Word

Developers. There, I said it.

Recruited by developers, in the pocket of developers, paid off by developers. Nasty accusations. And I have been on the receiving end of some of them. And so have some of my friends. Why, just in Oakland Mills alone--

Some years ago I served on the HOA Board for my community. Directly before the spring CA elections, a guest speaker came to talk to us about the issues in the upcoming election. The predictions were dire. Our visitor believed in the true vision of Columbia, but at the same time, heartless developers were going around, handpicking candidates who would do their bidding to run against the true Columbians. It was pretty convincing. This person was, by all appearances, calm, rational, and pleasant.

I found out later that what was said was completely untrue.
(Crazymakers in the Community, 8/30/12)

The word "developer", when uttered by a particular faction in Columbia, is the weapon par excellence.

When members of the community worked to replace an abandoned, boarded-up business and an overgrown lot with a Walgreens--we were obviously paid off by developers. Whisper campaigns suggested that I myself was married to a wealthy developer. (My husband, an award-winning Howard County teacher, was amused.)

We have a serious problem with the word developer--not just in Oakland Mills--but in Columbia, and in Howard County at large. You have only to peek at local listserves to verify this. In my opinion we would all be better served by acknowledging that this practice is really rooted in a desire to differentiate between

  • Projects I like, and projects I don't like.
  • People I like, and people I don't like.
  • Ideas I like, and ideas I don't like.
Case in point: I read in amazement on Bill Woodcock's blog post about his candidacy for Oakland Mills Village Board, that he is being criticized by many of the same folks for, get this:

Bill Woodcock is against development in Oakland Mills.

Insert picture of head exploding here.

Let me get this straight. Wanting a functional business that serves the neighborhood and cleans up a vacant lot is bad, but redrawing the boundaries of the village center so you can displace residents, get rid of affordable housing in the hopes of building luxury condos and/or a multi-million dollar sports complex is good?

If there's any take-away lesson from all this, I would suggest that we all stop with the foaming-at-the-mouth reaction to the words "developers" and "development" and look very carefully at the people who are saying the words.

Oh, and one more thing your mom and dad should really have told you about developers: Rouse was one.




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