Sunday, April 30, 2017


Two images used to promote local events have gotten under my skin and I can't seem to let them go.

My gut feeling is that they were chosen by well-meaning people without any sort of malice so I'm not going to focus on the organizations involved. I just want to focus on the pictures. Both images suggest nostalgia for a time gone by. I suspect the intent was light-hearted: to invoke a mood, to bring a smile.

What I see when I look at these pictures?

"Remember the good old days when we didn't have any black or brown people? Gee, wasn't that swell?"

Representation. You can't be what you can't see. I thought that quote originated with astronaut Sally Ride but, in fact, it looks like it may have been Marian Wright Edelman. In an essay for the Children's Defense Fund, she writes:

It’s hard to be what you can’t see. Children of color need to be able to see themselves in the books they read. Just as importantly, all children need to be exposed to a wide range of books that reflect the true diversity of our nation and world as they really are.

This brings to mind the data from the study by JHU which finds that having even one black teacher increases the likelihood that black students will graduate. 

Representation. You can't be what you can't see.

Word spread Friday after the work session on the school budget in Howard County that funding the position of Diversity Coordinator will be a priority. That's excellent news. As with anything that involves the school system, budgets, and political gamesmanship, I'll believe it when I see it.

But it's not just the school system that needs a diversity coordinator. When two excellent local groups use illustrations for events that completely omit non-whites, I wonder if they are looking at the reach of their organization with an inclusive eye. 

  • Who will see this? 
  • How will they feel? 
  • Would they feel comfortable at our event?
  • What does this picture say about our organization?

(As a footnote, can we take a moment to consider how oppressively heteronormative both of these images are? Sheesh.)

In closing, I'd like to suggest that, when aiming for a retro feel, it is wise to remember that the "good old days" were not "good" for everybody. 

Please direct your comments here:

Saturday, April 29, 2017


First things first. If you live in Columbia and your village is having an election, vote.


If you live in Oakland Mills you can also buy Spring plants, see an art show, and get a homemade cookie.

And of course, there's that whole concept of civic duty. The People Tree can't be passive, folks. Those people are all actively reaching for better things, right? I hate to think what a passive People Tree would look like. Seriously droopy, Wilted, even. An embodiment of community failure.

And that's not who we are. Show me that's not who we are.

I tell myself every year that I'm not going to get worked up over Village elections. And yet I do, because I feel strongly that we could be doing a much better job at getting residents involved in Columbia community building. Year after year the winners are more than happy to claim victory without acknowledging the ludicrously low turnout. We move through the cycle again and again without improving it.

From HoCo Rising, April 28, 2014:

Wouldn't it be amazing if one of these candidates humbly said "My village has nearly 10,000 residents and we only heard from about 300 of them.  I see it as my job over the next year to broaden our outreach and increase engagement." 

I take a dim view of residents raising the spectre of Rouse whenever it suits them. But really, when I look at what CA elections have become, I do have to wonder what he would think.


On another note: you are invited to the Transgender Day of Resilience Picnic at Centennial Park today, from 11 am to 3 pm. More information is here. As a teacher and a mom I have become extremely concerned about the damage that is done to transgender students when schools and communities are not accepting and supportive. I'm a big fan of transAAction Maryland and PFLAG Rainbow Youth Alliance for their work in our community.

Post comments here:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Something I Forgot

I'm embarrassed that I didn't think to say this earlier.

I wrote about the celebratory concert for Columbia's 50th this week. I wrote about what a gift it was to experience our young people as they did what they love best. But I omitted something huge in the process.

Their teachers.

Preparation for this concert was on top of the regular teaching schedule and concert commitments that our teachers are already juggling at this time of year. If you've been to any school concerts lately, you know that there's plenty going on in the Spring.

In order to stage this concert successfully, the students needed the support of their teachers. It wouldn't have happened without them. What that means is that those teachers worked additional hours after school and on the weekend. Without compensation.

Many teachers have second jobs to make ends meet. Musicians play gigs on the weekends. That they gave their professional expertise in order to support their students is not surprising. It's a part of who they are.

But it is a Very Big Deal.

This event could not have happened if these teachers had not worked after their contract hours, including both days of the weekend. And they worked for free. That means they essentially worked seven days straight with no day to recuperate, spend time with family, or get ready for the week ahead.

This is a BFD, folks.

If they had been allowed to bill hourly for this, you would be amazed. If you have ever booked musicians for a weekend gig, you know that good people don't come cheap. You get what you pay for. But in this case, we all got it for free. And I'm embarrassed that I didn't include thanks to them when I wrote up this concert in the first place.

This is the time of year when we often see teachers' contracts and salaries mentioned as a drag on the school budget. Sadly, some see fit to talk about "greedy teachers" when HCEA defends negotiated agreements.

I don't want to hear it.

I want you to thank a teacher. It could be one of these teachers, who deserve recognition for all their work. But really it could be any teacher. Because they all work more than you could possibility imagine.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

Now More Than Ever

In light of yesterday's post, I wanted to share this testimony presented by Deeba Jafri to the County Council on April 24th, 2017. It was written on behalf of Together We Will Howard County by Deeba Jafri and Becca Niburg. I am sharing it with their permission.

Chairman Weinstein and Members of the County Council,

I come to you tonight to testify about the HCPSS budget on behalf of Together We Will Howard County, an organization of 1200 members who reside or work in Howard County. I also have two children in HCPSS schools, in fifth grade and ninth grade.

I am here to request that the position of Diversity Coordinator be funded. Specifically I am asking you to place enough funds in the mid-level administration category for this position, about $150,000.

Last year the Board of Education created the position of Diversity Coordinator. However, when the County Executive didn’t fully fund the requested education budget, the position ended up on the cutting room floor.  

And then the current school year happened. It has been particularly traumatic for minority group students, with numerous major racial incidents and who knows how many other major and minor micro-aggressions that don’t even get reported.  We feel very strongly that we need this position now more than ever.

We can only assume that you have also seen news reports and heard from school personnel about the heart-wrenching activities that go on in our schools as listing them now would leave no time for any other testimony. It is not just the victims of these actions that have taken notice, two countywide initiatives were started as a result of what was happening in HCPSS,  OneHoward and Stand Up Howard. Both these initiatives were designed to start hard conversations about race and diversity within our community and to create a space where we could figure out how to improve tolerance and acceptance.

HCPSS should not be turning a blind eye to those actions that made these other public discussions necessary. HCPSS needs to take this issue of racial discrimination and diversity more seriously by leading the way in looking at how to improve the education experience for all students.

Now we are at school budget time again. The $572.2 million that the County Executive has proposed creates a $53.9 million shortfall in what was requested by HCPSS. That’s a huge gap and we are very worried that yet again the Diversity Coordinator will not be funded. 

In the light of all the events that have taken place in this past school year plus the very general need we have for a Diversity Coordinator in a county where 60% of the student body is minority and African American children are 8 times as likely to enter the discipline pipeline, it is imperative that the funding take place for a Diversity Coordinator.

A Diversity Coordinator could look into hiring practices and work to ensure that our students see themselves represented in the people who are teaching them. This would be a win-win for all students and for the community at large as a focus on education makes our County of choice that much stronger. 
There will always be tough decisions to make and we do not envy those choices you will need to make in the coming weeks, however the Diversity Coordinator should not even be a consideration of where a cut can be made. Currently, the make-up of our student body is American Indian/Alaskan 0.2% Asian   21.2% Black/African American 22.8% Hawaiian/Pacific Islander 0.1% Hispanic/Latino  10.4% White   39.1% Two or more races 6.2% 
In case you didn't add as quickly as I spoke, that means that we have a 60% minority student body (and that doesn’t even count our Jewish students who have faced many incidents of anti-semitism this school year).  And currently, only 11% of our teachers are minority.  This position will be a champion for 60% of our student body and improve the experiences of all our students. Don’t leave 6 out of 10 students voiceless in the current climate. 

On a personal note, if you would permit me a bit: I was tidying the teenager’s room while he was on band trip. He’s in 9th grade now and in his treasured possession spot, he still has the good behavior note from his 3rd grade teacher, Mr. Biskey, the first male teacher he had. He still visits him. These things matter. They are impactful. 
Curriculum gaps. The oft-most cited problem my son has. Surprise, it started with the American Revolution and the War of 1812 where I had already given him the British perspective, which of course didn’t quite fit with what he was being taught in his American classroom. It goes on and on, a wish to more fundamentally learn about Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X and the civil rights movement from an African-American perspective rather than from a white one. The list goes on. Hiroshima and Nagasaki, from a Japanese perspective. He believes he’ll never get that in his school, that he has to search these things out for himself. But it doesn’t have to be this way.  
You have a chance to say yes to funds for the Diversity Coordinator so that our young students can see themselves reflected in their teachers. It’s a simple thing that could be so powerful.  Out of a budget of $572 million, the $150,000 necessary to fund this position is not even a drop in the bucket, but its potential for impact is immeasurable.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Schrodinger's Blog Post

There are certain topics that I have been wanting to write about that require more than the usual amount of thinking. When I wake up in the morning, I say, "Blah! I am not awake enough to do this first thing in the morning. I'll do it tonight." And, when I get home from work, I say, "Blah! I am brain dead from a day of work! I will write it when I am fresh in the morning."

And so it goes. I am able to imagine those blog posts fully fleshed out the night before, or created in the still of the morning,  But alas, they exist only in my imagination. Perhaps this is not the most accurate use of the Schrodinger meme. Perhaps it is more like Lewis Carroll's:

"You couldn't have it if you did want it," the Queen said. "The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day."

So it is with the topic of de facto segregation in the Howard County Schools and the importance of a Diversity Coordinator. I feel that whatever I write on this topic must be perfect. And so it continues to dog me day and night: I just can't do this today. I'll do it tomorrow.

One image that is stuck in my mind is that of the dog sitting surrounded by flames saying, "This is fine." I feel that there is a divide between those who want to work on this issue but are concerned about doing it "in the right way" and those whose children are in the flames and want them out NOW. It's an issue that can't just be intellectual. It's visceral.

My children are in that burning building!

If we don't feel that immediacy it is because we have the privilege to be safe from the flames.

I'm not going to write the perfect post on this. Not in the morning. Not in the evening. At the moment all I can do is say, "It's not fine."

It's embarrassingly imperfect. But it's a start.

Post comments here:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Good Team

We get excited about village elections in Oakland Mills. We probable have the largest village board in Columbia, and we actually have nine people running for seven seats. Yes, friends, we have a contested election.

I want to put in a good word for these folks:

I asked Jonathan Edelson why they had chosen to run as a slate. His answer impressed me. 

Here are some highlights:

  • First and foremost, we all agreed we wanted to be positive about OM, highlight what's good and growing, and improve on it.
  • Second, we think we all bring unique areas of interest or expertise that form a good "whole" for the board.
  • Education is another thing we realized we're all pretty passionate about.
  • We make a good team. We don't agree on everything, but we agree on the big stuff.

I've served on the OM Village Board, and I've been extremely concerned in the last few years at the direction that certain members have taken. I don't agree with their priorities and I don't agree with the reprehensible way they have treated Village staff. I won't mention them by name here, but you can rest assured that I don't endorse them.

If you live in Oakland Mills, please vote this Saturday. Remind your friends to vote. We have an opportunity to build a more positive and collaborative board this year. Don't miss out.

Post comments here:

Monday, April 24, 2017

An Unexpected Gift

I went to the Howard County Schools Fine Arts Celebration of Columbia's 50th Birthday at Merriweather yesterday afternoon. I have to admit that I went with the mindset that this was an event that my kid was doing, and I was going to support her. We do that a lot as parents. We support concerts, games, shows, bake sales, car washes...We're parents. That's what we do.

But shortly after the program began it began to dawn on me. This program was a gift. These students had worked hard to prepare something that could be shared with the greater community. They gave a big chunk of their weekend to make it happen. (More than that, over the long haul of preparation.) It was so much more than my going to support them.

I was there, we all were there, to receive a gift. Their gift. The gift of young people who are passionate about what they do. The unexpected spontaneity of live performance. The joy on the faces of students who are given an opportunity to shine.

In a time when high school students are counseled by well-meaning guidance staff to drop that arts course in favor of adding more "real academics", it is heartening to see students introduce themselves by name and say, "I am a theatre student," or "I am a theatre tech student." When we are bombarded with a mind-numbing steam of test scores, the exuberance and persistence of these young people cuts through the noise.

Like the unseen characters in "Horton Hears a Who,"--

"We are here. We are here. We are here."

An event like this is conceived by adults and produced by adults. Sometimes when that happens, the voice of the students is muddied or lost. I think that this event let the students shine through. The combination of visual art, film, dance, musical performance, and theatre students as narrators put the focus on the gift of the arts. A gift meant to be shared.

Columbia is celebrating its 50th Birthday. What a great gift we have in these kids. What a blessing to share their gifts and passions in celebration of our community.

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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Empty Promises

I was on my way to have fasting blood work done when I spotted this vending machine.

"Calories Count," it proclaims. "Check Then Choose." Also, "Goodness Inside."

It struck me as humorous that on the long hallway to fasting bloodwork, even the vending machines are empty.

But why, I wonder?

The buildings where Labcorp is located have always been rather a mystery to me. Tucked out of sight around the corner from Thunder Hill Road, they have a ghost town feel to them. I know they re a part of the dear, departed Columbia Medical Plan. (I learned more about that at the Columbia 50th Storytelling Event.) A few redevelopment plans have been floated. None have gained much traction.

I have a feeling that there was a time when these buildings were the hub of much activity. Now even the vending machine is deserted.

A clarification: the buildings are in good condition and my visit to Labcorp was marked by courtesy and efficiency. One empty vending machine does not a ghost town make.

We've done quite a bit in Howard County to reduce our dependence on sweetened drinks. And we've had multiple arguments about what belongs in vending machines. So I guess when I saw this one it was weighed down by local symbolism. It may have been empty of goods, but it was full of  meaning.

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Saturday, April 22, 2017

The Big Event

Today is a big day for Columbia, and it's a big day for me. I consider myself supremely fortunate to have been a part of this community at a time when a second wave of creation was unfolding. Caring about Columbia, and becoming involved in its future, has given me a connection to my home that I wouldn't have had otherwise (without being here at its inception.)

Here's a look back at where I was two years ago, to get you in the mood for today's big event. I hope I'll see you there.


From September 9, 2015:

Stop Everything/Start Everything

I often wonder what it was like to be here at the beginning of Columbia. It must have been an amazing time. You can visit Barbara Kellner at the Columbia Archives to get a taste, or travel in a specially designed vehicle if you get the chance, but otherwise, let's face it. We missed out. 

Until now. This Saturday the Inner Arbor Trust is holding the groundbreaking event for the Chrysalis, the first piece of Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. The Chrysalis will be an amphitheater that can be used for all sorts of community events. Think music at Wine in the Woods and more. Think all sorts of events we've never had in Symphony Woods before. Think people enjoying downtown Columbia.

It's the beginning of something amazing: a park that will define Columbia for the new century. This will be the heart of a welcoming, vibrant community that celebrates nature and the arts. 

You want to be there. And you want to be able to tell people, "I was there, you know." So click on the link to reserve your free tickets. It's going to be fun, there are going to be snacks from Seasons 52, and the bragging rights on this one are going to go on for-ev-er.

In one of my favorite movies, "A Thousand Clowns", Jason Robard's character Murray likes to go down to the docks to see off cruise ships. He explains, "It’s a great thing to do when you are about to start something new; it gives you the genuine feeling of the beginning of things."

The experience of being there at the beginning of things. I've been waiting a long time for a taste of this.

I bet you have, too. Join me, won't you?

September 13, 2015:


  1. 1
    a person who is among the first to explore or settle a new country or area.
    synonyms:settlercolonist, colonizer, frontiersmanfrontierswoman,  explorer,  trailblazerbushwhacker
    "the pioneers of the Wild West"
  1. 1
    develop or be the first to use or apply (a new method, area of knowledge, or activity).
    "he has pioneered a number of innovative techniques"

    synonyms:introducedevelopevolvelaunchinstigateinitiatespearheadinstituteestablishfound, be the father/mother of, originate, set in motion, create

Yesterday, at long last, I became a pioneer. Not the well-known Columbia Pioneer with the capital P, but an entirely new kind of pioneer. Lower-case, maybe, but every bit as proud. Look at that second definition above. It is Columbia as a verb. You'll see words like instigate, launch, spearhead, develop, set in motion. 

(Photo by Dave and Ilana Bittner, HoCoMoJo)

That's me with the bright green, Chrysalis-green umbrella, just right of center. Almost two hundred people showed up yesterday--in the rain--to participate in the ground-breaking event for the Chrysalis amphitheater. This is the beginning of Merriweather Park  in Symphony Woods. We have begun. 

You've heard about the Inner Arbor plan? Maybe you signed a petition to get an amazing park started for our community. Perhaps you've been to their website to see 
the plans. Or did you stop by the booth at Wine in the Woods? Yesterday speaker 
Michael McCall reminded us that progress has many parents. And in that moment I realized that I had become a pioneer.

I've been blogging about this park since at least January, 2013. I signed the petition, wrote letters to the editor, spoke at CA Board Meetings (multiple times), spoke at the Planning Board hearing. I volunteered at the Inner Arbor booth at Wine in the Woods. I say this not to boast, but to show the path by which I became a pioneer. And I didn't really even know it was happening.

If Columbia is to survive into the future, it must have second-wave pioneers. The fact that nearly two hundred people, including young children and teens, came out to celebrate the beginning of something new, says that there's a pretty healthy wave shaping up in our little town. We will not die. We will not be a footnote in the history of well-meaning planned communities.

Yesterday representatives from the State, County, and leaders from Columbia came together to make something happen. This was quintessential Village Green/Town²: where Columbia and Howard County intersect. County Executive Alan Kittleman spoke about bringing young people back to the park. County Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty talked about the importance of art within our community and as a focal point in the park. The representative from the Howard Hughes Corporation described how the park will be part of a vibrant Downtown Columbia. 

In case you ever thought that the golden age of Columbia had come and gone and that you missed it, think again. It's never too late to become a pioneer. 

Catch the wave.

Friday, April 21, 2017


When I arrived at work yesterday, it was raining. I had a jacket in the car but I made the executive decision to use it to wrap my iPad to protect it from getting wet. So I was definitely getting rained on as I walked toward the building. Not the best way to start the day.

I must have had my head down as I walked because I was surprised when a figure appeared out of the rain with a large umbrella. It was my boss, the head of the Lower School. She had seen me trudging along getting soaked and came over to walk me in the building.

Would your boss do that?

It put me in a mind of an article I read this week about leadership.

The Power of Leadership Vulnerability

The author describes the importance of leaders being able to say I don't know and ask for help.

There’s a scientific basis for why vulnerability is an important leadership attribute: Humans are wired to help one another.

And, again:

“Asking for help is the sign of a secure leader-- one who engages everyone to reach goals,” writes Zak.

Think of our local learship: CA President Milton Matthews, County Executive Allan Kittleman, chair of the County Council Jonathan Weinstein, President of PTACHC Reg Avery, Chair of the BOE Cindy Vaillancourt, Superintendent of Schools Renee Foose. What kind of leaders are they? Are they willing to admit they don't know everything? Are they willing to genuinely ask for help to achieve shared goals?

I'd like to add one more thing: would they be willing to go out of their way on a rainy day to share an umbrella? 

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Thursday, April 20, 2017

Gifted and Talented

I listened to a story on NPR which had nothing to do with education, and, to me, it was all about education.

Go here to read about it and listen for yourself:

Two Decades Later, Success for a Man Who Imagined Turning His Life Around

The piece centers on reporter Robert Siegel return visit to meet with a man he had interviewed twenty-two years previously.

Steven Mallory came from a world of poverty where drug dealing seemed the only way out. He saw friends die or go to jail routinely. Listen to the piece in its entirety to understand how he made a decision to move away from that life and try to build a better one. But I ask you not to walk away from it with that "heartwarming story" feeling about a man who makes good by sheer dint of effort.

There's really so much more to it than that.

Robert Siegel talks about how Mallory's imagination set him apart from others he interviewed at the same time. He was able to imagine a life for himself that was different from his surroundings. And the story of the past twenty two years is a journey of dedicated effort to make that imagined life a reality.

To me this is a story about a young man who is gifted and talented. His exceptional imagination combined with the willingness to work are hallmarks of what makes GT students tick. And yet Steven Mallory's education plays no role in this story. That's probably because he didn't fit paper and pencil criteria for advanced classes. I can't say this with certainty because it isn't in the piece.

But, as I contemplate the piece about de facto segregation in Howard Schools, this radio piece haunts me. As a child, Steven Mallory would probably not have been identified for extra challenges or enrichment. No amount of additional paper and pencil testing would have "discovered" him. But I truly believe he had the potential to thrive in that kind of educational environment, had the door been opened to him.

That's a lot of hypotheticals, I know. But it's food for thought. Steven Mallory's peers were dying and going to prison around him. In one year he went to seventeen funerals. If this isn't a school-to-prison pipeline, I don't know what is. The educational system did not create the crushing poverty that he was raised in. His teachers were not necessarily bad teachers. But the system was not set up to "see" Steven Mallory.

It took imagination and hard work combined along with time and other factors for Mr. Mallory to succeed at achieving his goals. How are we going to use our imagination and focus our hard work to make our schools relevant to gifted and talented students that don't present as the typical GT kids?

I'm not done thinking about this. I hope you aren't, either.

Post comments here:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Weekend of Wow

If we could just not have all the big events in Howard County on one weekend, yeah, that'd be great.

This coming weekend is an explosion of activity. You know how students wish that teachers would consult each other before assigning big tests and projects? Yeah, well this is like that. We've got so
much going on that you'd best be equipped with that magical device that Hermione uses in the second Harry Potter book.

Friday evening you can attend the Howard County Storytelling event, or you can pop in at River Hill High School for Guitarpalooza! The storytelling event will forcus on Columbia's 50th, and tickets are  $20.00. Guitarpalooza will feature an eclectic mix including plenty of Grateful Dead and pirate music. Admission is free.

Saturday: Chrysalis Dedication and opening concert. (Tickets for the concert are available at .)

Also: Howard County Greenfest

Also: Ellicott City Spring Fest

Also: Earth Day at the Howard County Conservancy

Also: Breathe Deep Columbia event at the Lakefront

Sunday there's a free concert at Merriweather to celebrate Columbia's 50th put on by the Fine Arts programs of all of the Howard County High Schools.

It's free lawn seating, 4 to 6:30. Maybe after rushing around all day Saturday you can just chill on the grass for this one. You can watch a short promo here.

I don't think there's any doubt where I'll be on Saturday morning.

Post comments here:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Small Money

The County Council will hold a public hearing tomorrow evening on CB 30, which would create a Citizen's Election Fund as a way to reduce large donations in local political races. If you support public financing, you are encouraged to attend.

Here are two pieces outlining support of this bill:

Campaign Costs Are Escalating, Larry Carson

Support Campaign Finance Reform in Howard County, Becca Niburg

I agree with Ms. Niburg that:

Public financing is the answer to the question of how to change politics as usual. Not only does public financing allow a more diverse group of people to run for office, but it also engages more people in the electoral process as they feel as if their contributions actually make a difference.

I'd love to see the difference it would make if our political races were influenced by small money instead of big money. It would make a big difference in who could run, and who could succeed.

Post comments here:

Monday, April 17, 2017


For some reason Milton Matthews is on my mind this morning. It struck me that it has almost been three years since he began as president/CEO of the Columbia Association.

How's he doing?

You may recall that the CA Board declined to renew the former CA president's contract because he wasn't "visible enough in the community." I suspect there may have been another reason, but, well, I'll leave that to my readers to imagine.

So, if you are the sort of person who follows CA happenings, would you say that Mr. Matthews has been "visible" enough? Do you think that's a valid and/or quantifiable requirement? How would you characterize his leadership thus far?

I must admit I don't follow CA Board goings on as much as I used to. Tom Coale's write-ups on HoCo Rising were a valuable window into the process. The River Hill rep, Dr. Chao Wu, does share some of his insights here. I really wish that there were a local blogger whose passion was All Things CA.

I'm pretty sure that there are regular readers of this blog who have valuable insights on this. I'd love to know what you think.

Post comments here:

Sunday, April 16, 2017

What's Happening?

I'm sending you over to Frank Hecker's blog this morning to read

 "Creating the Chrysalis: What Comes Next?"

While you are at it, take a look at what's happening at Totally HoCo.

I'll be back tomorrow to follow up on both.

Enjoy your day, whatever is in store!

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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Wit and Wisdom

What would I do without Twitter?

How does Ms. Frizzle get all these field trips approved by the school system? HCPSS barely approved any field trips the 9 years I was there.

It's all about risk management, I guess. Ms. Frizzle and her Magic School Bus seem to operate with a kind of autonomy rarely (if ever) seen in most public school systems.

And what about this:

Don't be a theater kid cuz you end up dating everybody in that room.

Kind of narrows your dating pool, eh?

I learn a lot on Twitter because it allows me to search for specific terms that focus on local news and happenings. For instance, did you know that if you search "HoCoMd" the first thing you will see is Allan Kittleman's Twitter information? I wonder if that costs money to maintain?

Today's gleanings--

Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia: Our Free Little Pantry is being installed!  If you need assistance, check at 7246 Cradlerock Way in Columbia #HoCoMD #UU #ServiceIsOurPrayer

Howard County Police: This week is National Telecommunicators Week. Watch a story about 2 #HoCoMD 911 dispatchers during the #ECflood.

Animal Advocates of Howard County: Help out our furry friends! Donate by 4/24 and shop on 4/29 to support #AnimalAdvocates of #HoCoMD! #ColumbiaMD #EllicottCityMD #yardsale

Howard County General Hospital: Got magazines? Donate your nearly new (3 mos old or less) gently used magazines to us. #hocomd #columbiamd

Where do you get the best local news?

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Separate Worlds

I love Oakland Mills in the Spring. There's something magical about it. My next door neighbors' house has an amazing tree which bursts forth and then rains down "pink snow." There's forsythia and tulips. The grass is growing in thick and green.

I noticed on Facebook this morning that I wrote this in April of 2012:

Yesterday, driving around town, I was struck by how Springtime shows off Columbia at its best. #home

Another one of my neighbors celebrates the arrival of Spring as she documents her long walks around Columbia. First black snake of the season. First toad. She posts photos of adventures with her dogs and I'm struck by all the natural beauty.

Meanwhile, over on Route 1...

As Howard County residents wait, visions for Route 1 languish (Fatimah Waseem)

While we enjoy beautiful Spring walks in lush green neighborhoods:

"People try and die to cross the road. I'll never forget the day I saw a motorized wheelchair going down the center line of Route 1 trying to negotiat across the street," Hudson said. "I've seen moms with baby carriages walking in places where there are no sidewalks. Sidewalks alone for connectivity would be huge."

We've seen huge amounts of money focused on Downtown development. The County Executive has recently announced a new initiative for the Columbia Gateway area. But responses to long-term problems along the Route 1 corridor appear to be along the lines of, "Yeah, it's rough." "It's complicated, you know?"

It's hard to believe that our beautiful rural western HoCo and our lush, blossoming Columbia co-exist with this struggling and neglected area. Surely that's not Howard County? We never see it in the tourism photos. 

Our community rallied to bring back Old Ellicott City after the flood. We continue to see businesses reopen and we celebrate those successes. That can't have been easy. And it must have been complicated. And yet our community and our county government made it a top priority.

As I observe the beauty of Spring this year my enjoyment is tempered by the realization that, somewhere in Howard County, some folks feel like they're at the bottom of the list.

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Thursday, April 13, 2017


Some mornings I zip through the drive-through at the Roy Rogers in Burtonsville. Some days I park at the Dunkin Donuts and run in. Getting coffee is a grab and go proposition.

When I'm not in a hurry, well, it's probably not a workday. And I want a place where I can meet up with a friend or take a quiet moment to myself along with my coffee.

Where are the best places to do that in Columbia/Howard County? Great ambience, great coffee, great service. Tell me your favorite location for lingering and why. Also, if there's a place that really needs a neighborhood coffee place but doesn't have one, tell me that, too.

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Wednesday, April 12, 2017


The conversation was between two young women, both studying EMS, talking about where to live while in Medic school. 

 All I know is that I still can't even afford to live in my hometown of #ColumbiaMD - as an Adult. Single Woman probs

HoCo is craaaaazy expensive. 

I'm guessing these two are working while studying, so they're generating some income. Medic School is not some sleep-away four-year proposition. I think you are working in your field as you go.

Do we want these young people to be able to live here? Do we have the kind of housing options that would make that possible? Right now I think it would be "live with your parents". Or perhaps one can rent a house with a lot of roommates?

I've seen statements online over the years that Howard County is a community for those who have worked to achieve affluence and, if you can't afford it, you don't belong here. These sort of comments go hand-inhand with those who claim that any attempt to introduce affordable housing is an invasion of "Section 8 freeloaders."

The discussion continues to be a polarized one. In the meantime, new housing developments going forward perpetuate more of the same and leave no room for our two young EMS students. 

I think we lose something if our kids can't live here. We lose something if young people can't take a chance on us. All the innovation in placemaking and Downtown development in the world can't save us if there's no room for those who are just starting out. 

So many young folks began their stories in Columbia. What can we do to make sure that can still happen today?

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Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Return to Lawnhenge

In 2013 I wrote about this picture: 

In the post, "Signs of an Ancient Civilization" I talked about the futility of doing the same things over and over again without any real understanding of their purpose. 

Well, today I passed that same spot. For the first time since 2013, it looks different.

For the first time since that long departed tree was cut down, they have stopped mulching. I'm not sure if this is a step in the right right direction. I think it is. Now it can cease being a memorial to a dead tree and become a part of the lawn. Finally.

Of course, this being Columbia and all, we may soon have folks writing letters to the paper and turning up at CA meetings to complain that the public wasn't informed of this change. They will have anecdotal evidence of how Rouse intended mulch to be used. A grassroots group will be formed on the issue. Signatures will be gathered. Meetings will be held.

Soon village leadership will set its sights of Re-inventing the unsightly circle. Perhaps they al
ready have plans to redevelop it. Who knows? And if I went to such a meeting and spoke on allowing the grass to return and ceasing the endless mulching, what would the response be, do you think?

"How long have you lived here?"

The fact that I can imagine this scenario in such exacting detail proves that I may already have lived here too long.

Enjoy this Spring day, friends. And remember: don't over-mulch.

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