Saturday, September 30, 2017


As I watch the progress of the Elevate Maryland podcast I've been thinking a lot about who I would want to interview if I had a local "Talk Show".

Now this is where my brain gives to "If I had a talk show" to the tone of "If I had a hammer", and then to the tune of "If I were a rich man." Doesn't everybody?

So, without further ado, my top ten list of HoCo locals that I think would make fabulous interview subjects. This is in no particular order of value, by the way.

1. Jean Moon. She's well known for publicizing other peoples' events but I think her own personal story would be fascinating.

2. Jonathan Edelson, chair of the Oakland Mills Village Board. What makes an under-50 with kids in elementary school get involved in what has traditionally been a haven for Pioneers?

3. Bonnie Bricker, educator, writer, and community activist. I'd like to hear more about her present venture to work with parents and infants to support early language development.

4. Bryan Sears, reporter for the Maryland Daily Record. Now there's someone with a million stories to tell, especially about shenanigans in Annapolis!

5. Mindy Levene Spak, teacher of ESOL students at MHHS and mom of a special needs student in the Howard County Schools. She has a wealth of first-hand knowledge on our most vulnerable students.

6. Calvin Ball. But I'd want to talk to him about something totally non-political, like parenting teenaged girls or his favorite music and authors.

7. Nina Basu, the President of Inner Arbor Trust. I'd love to hear her stories of growing up in Columbia and her experiences as a student of color at McDonough.

8. Michael Oberman, photographer and former music critic. It would be difficult to stick to local topics because I know I would want to ask him about the time he met David Bowie and other stories from his past.

9. Candace Dodson Reed, blogger, community activist. Founder of African American Community Roundtable. I'd love to turn the tables on this Elevate Maryland cohost and talk local politics, work/life balance, and what goals we should be setting in HCPSS now that we have a Diveristy director.

10. Alan Romack. You may not have heard of him, but you should. Woodworking, 3D design/ printing, PTA and community volunteer. Sometimes it's the quiet folks who have the best ideas.

So there you have it. Of course, I don't have a talk show, but I can dream, can't I?

Who's on your list?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Spinning Plates

You may or may not be old enough to remember the man in the Ed Sullivan show who would come out and manage to keep an entire row of plates spinning atop long sticks. For some reason I found this hilarious as a child. Now it seems more like life. Keep everything going without anything falling. Steady one while another slows and wobbles. It almost seems to be the precise activity for which the phrase "teetering precariously" was invented.

The image of the spinning plates came to mind this morning as I was reading the news that Howard County intends to make a pitch for the new Amazon facility. Clearly having an Amazon facility is the new community fidget spinner. Everybody seems to want one. No matter that we're already spinning school redistricting, de facto segregation in our schools, a Downtown Plan, recovery from a flood, and APFO legislation. Let's add Amazon to the mix!

The catch, from what I can tell, is that Amazon is looking for a place with robust public transit. Howard County can boast of many strong points, but transit is hardly one of them. In fact, public transit seems to be at the bottom of the list when people talk about improving Columbia/HoCo. "Let's do all these other things, and then, um, we'll be able to look at transit."

Now, when I think of public transit in Columbia/HoCo, I'm thinking about making it easy, convenient, and appealing to get around town/county. On the other hand, most people I know think of transit as better ways to get to Baltimore and D.C.. What will Amazon be looking for? I don't know, but it's safe to say we don't have the best of either in place, nor are they in the top position for investment/improvement.

We certainly are making many improvements to our community and there has been a huge investment of effort in the Downtown Plan, for instance. And if reliable transit were solved by bicycles alone, the Open Streets people would have this thing clinched in a heartbeat. But we need to be honest that, when it comes to transit, we don't have what Amazon is looking for. And there's a reason they are looking for it.

Let's face it, Amazon understands the benefits of public transit better than we do. Will this be a game changer in how we look at transit? I'd be thrilled if it were, but I'm not counting on it.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Fête Accompli

The Columbia 50th birthday festivities are drawing to a close. This Sunday brings the official farewell event from the Columbia Birthday folks:

They'll be dedicating the Gail Holliday poster trees, located along Lake Kittamaqundi in the Kennedy Gardens. From Barbara Kellner of the Columbia Archives:

On Sunday, Oct 1 starting at 5 pm there will be special celebration of Columbia's 50th.  Starting at the Kennedy Gardens, on the path around Lake Kittamaqundi, with a dedication of the newly-installed restored poster trees that once graced Wincopin Circle. The fete continues at the lakefront with performances by Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, Misako Ballet Company, Columbia Orchestra and Columbia's own Zach Brown.  Please join me as Columbia's celebration of the 50th birthday draws to a close.

Weather for Sunday is likely to be mostly sunny, with a high of 70. Perfect weather for a walk around the Lake and some family fun at the Lakefront. It's all free. 

A tip of the hat to everyone who has worked on the Columbia 50th celebrations! After this weekend you can put your feet up and think about all the happy memories you created for our community.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Showing Their Colors

Seen in Howard County:

First off, I have no use for the term "Alt-right". Let's call it what it is: fascism. And it's flying it's ugly little flag over Route 70 in Howard County. (FYI: it's no longer there.)

And what about that slogan? "They will not replace us." It's easy to do a basic Google search. I found an interesting opinion piece in the New York Tines, entitled, "White 'Power' and the Fear of Replacement".  The words, "You will not replace us" and "Jews will not replace us" were chanted by white nationalists in Charlottesville. From the article:

While on some level the people who marched in Charlottesville were motivated by a perverse, exceptional hate, they were also, on another level, driven by a very ordinary desire for power. But that desire is based in an impoverished understanding of power as the replacement and domination of others.

It appears that these people have friends in Howard County, Maryland. I think that's something that everyone, both Democrat and Republican, should be concerned about. This is not a benign political viewpoint. It is poison that promotes violence. Denying its existence will not make it go away.

What is the appropriate response? Can we afford to shake our heads and say, "This is not us" and just move on? It's far easier for white people, comfortable in our own privilege, to "tut-tut" and then do nothing. It's a far more immediate threat to all those who are considered "other" by white supremacists.

I'm not in the habit of calling things un-American, but this, my friends, is it. Facsim and Democracy cannot co-exist. I doubt very sincerely that these people will come to a #OneHoward or #ChooseCivility event in the hope of "having dialogue" with anyone. If conventional wisdom holds true, they are probably home trolling people on the internet. 

This sign, though. Somebody left their home and risked losing anonymity to give these words of hate a place of prominence in our community. 

What will be next? And what do we do to protect our community and our neighbors?

Comments are welcome here:

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

What's the Point?

Destruction, pure and simple.

From Pam Watkins Long:

Hey friends, I have a very special request. PLEASE SHARE. A lovely friend, a fellow biz owner that recently reopened after last year's devastating flood, walked in to her business, Sweet Cascades Chocolatier, this morning to realize it was badly vandalized last night. Such a shame after an incredible day of celebrating our town with the Main Street Music Fest. Tables, chairs, planters, plants, umbrellas, were thrown over the balcony into the river! The idiots even ripped the lights off the walls and tossed those over as well! Without disclosing what the police already know, I'm asking if you've heard or know anything about this, please contact the non-emergency police number at 410.313.3200 or the store at 410.750.8422 ASAP. Any information is appreciated. Please be part of the solution. Thank you. 

And here is my second request. Sweet Cascades has incredible, delicious choices of pure goodness. This week, please treat your staff, your family, your friends, your neighbors, yourself, to some deliciousness and let's throw Sue's profit over and above so she can buy new patio furniture. 

Who would do this? What is the point? Was it purely destruction for its own sake, or were the vandals striking out against this business specifically? Either way, it's heartbreaking for the owner who has already been through the damages caused by the EC flood.

If you have a chance, please stop by Sweet Cascades and pick up some of their amazing specialty chocolates. You can take a look at what they have here. Any kind of recovery that involves chocolate has got to be a good thing.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Signal Boost

Have you lost a locket?

This post is about a week old. The locket looks like it probably holds some wonderful stories. It would be cool if we could help it get back home.

Have you ever lost something of sentimental value and then had it returned?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Taken from a Tweet

This statement from a Howard County parent has been burning a hole in my brain for several days.

Why don't you create some new rules? No child should have to attend a school with lower rating than their current. Stop redistricting.

"No child should have to go to a school with a lower rating than their current."

Well, wait a minute. Who do you think should go to that "lower-rated school"? My guess it that you don't really care so long as it's not your child.

Watch my brain explode.

The purpose of public school education is to benefit all children. I am strongly opposed to efforts to use the school system to protect some children at the expense of others. Solutions should be for everyone.

While searching for this particular tweet to share this morning, I ran across another, from the U.K., which is equally relevant to our situation.

The modern purpose of education is to exclude the children who might lower a school's rating.


I feel certain I've seen signs of this rearing its ugly head during redisctricting discussions. Have you?

One last tweet. I see that Candace Dodson-Reed (Elevate Maryland) has responded to the HCPSS request for a name to Elementary School #42:

Silas Craft Elementary! Please adjust the policy and name that school after a great man who left his mark on education in Howard County.

Apparently the current rules state no naming after people, but I have to say I like this one.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Guest Post: Every Right

Today's post comes from my friend Mike Lawson who has written to local authorities of his community in Tennessee about appropriate training for first responders when it comes to dealing with  citizens who are developmentally disabled and/or on the autism spectrum. I think he has extremely valid concerns and I hope to learn more about what training our officers receive here in Howard County.


I emailed this letter to the City of Fairview, TN's mayor, vice-mayor, three commissioners, city manager, police chief, fire chief, and copied my contact at The ARC of Williamson County, the local paper and a TV station. I hope I get a good reply:

Dear Mayor Carroll and Fairview Government;

What specific training do our police and other first responders get in recognizing and interacting with the autistic and others in the developmentally disabled community here in Fairview?

 Is this training mandatory for new recruits, and is it an ongoing continuing education refresher course for existing workers?

We spend a lot of time, money and effort to teach our LEOs and others to recognized behavior causes by “people on drugs” that can if applied to the developmentally disabled, can lead to false assumptions and sometimes, tragic results.

I have no clue about what our city does to protect these vulnerable citizens by training our government employees. Please help me understand.

This story, small town like Fairview, untrained LEO:

This was a 14-year-old autistic child, “twiddling” with a string, or as he told the officer, he was stimming. The child told him he was stimming, which is kind of impressive that the kid knew to call it that.

The officer’s first thought, he must be on drugs. He never heard of stimming. Not a clue that he was talking to a disabled child. None. Whatsoever. It escalated quickly. Fortunately, he was not seriously harmed. But that child was terrified and tackled.

Critics say, “well the kid walked away.” They say, “Where was his caretaker?” They say, “He should have been taught not to walk away from a cop.” They say all manner of ignorant things, because they don’t comprehend the autistic mind. They are not trained.

This could have easily been my 24 year old adult daughter Kelly walking in Bowie Park.

This child in AZ had no complaint called in on him. This was an untrained officer using his drug training to make a wild leap to conclude the child must be on drugs. This child did nothing wrong except stand there and dangle a string and look “weird” doing it. Imagine the tragedy that could have happened and nearly did.

My daughter still stims when she is excited. And when she was a child, she did something similar to  this child in AZ, with a coat hanger and a tank top hooked over the hook end of the hanger, which she  would dangle and shake and stare at. To the untrained LEO eye, or any eye looking to blame  “drugs” this could have been her, too.

This story from Miami: 

where an unarmed, still and on the ground caretaker, was hit by a bullet from an assault rifle fired by a North Miami police officer. "Kinsey said when he asked the officer why he fired his weapon, the cop responded, “I don’t know.” This could easily happen at the Rec Center far from the Waves side if a client decides to bolt on them. When my daughter went to Waves a few years ago, she did something similar when she was having a bad day.

This from the NYT in reference to the recent AZ incident:

Nothing scares the hell out of me more than the thought of my 24 year old daughter having a minor meltdown at a store here, or anywhere for that matter, and having an untrained LEO interact with her and escalate the situation into a tazing, or physical altercation, or worse, her getting shot because that officer thought she was on drugs or “fear for their life” and pulled their service revolver.

You must know we have a very large population of developmentally disabled adults and children in Fairview, with the multiple WAVES homes, and the Waves center, and the unseen population of them like my daughter and her friends. There is nothing to stop one of my well-meaning Kingwood subdivision neighbors who don’t know Kelly, from calling FPD if they see her walking in the neighborhood, talking to herself or singing loudly, and “acting like she is on drugs:” And FPD’s response is going to be to send a car out maybe with lights flashing, maybe multiple cars, try to stop and question her, and all hell could potentially break loose. But yet, Kelly has every right to walk down the street, even acting, “weird” as long as she isn’t hurting anyone or herself. Every right. And every right to not be stopped for doing so in spite of a call to the contrary.

I almost feel like I need to post a sign at my home stating an autistic adult lives here, just to keep untrained emergency responders from going to their go-to training of “she must be on drugs, get the handcuffs taser, gun out…” and it is extremely worrisome. We parents have enough things to worry  about over our child’s lifetime.

So, how is our city training our first responders to deal with this very real issue here in our little town?


Mike Lawson is a professional musician, the Executive Director of TI:ME, and the Editor of School Band and Orchestra magazine.

Comments are welcome here:

Friday, September 22, 2017

Is it Friday Yet?

So tired. Like, fall asleep sitting up in a chair tired.

Let's make this brief.

Go see Dune, the Ballet tonight at the Chrysalis. It's free. 7-9 pm.

Here's the event page on Facebook.

Bring blankets to sit on or chairs. And bring your appetite because there'll be food from  and .
Celebrate the arts in the park with a cool science fiction ballet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017


Last night I started hearing private rumblings that something was up with the MSDE appointment of Dr. Renee Foose. Had she withdrawn her name from consideration? What was up?

I reached out privately to a few people I know to have reliably good information. I was looking for confirmation. I had a lead on a great story but I didn't have enough to be sure.

So I waited.

Shortly thereafter, the Baltimore Sun posted their article, followed by the Maryland Daily Record's account.

Ah, well. So, I didn't get the scoop. I got excited for a few minutes there. And then I remembered that I'm a blogger, not a journalist.

Journalists are trained to do this job. They follow a certain protocol and are bound by journalistic ethics. Whether it's a story about an appointment to the MDSE, or efforts to repeal healthcare, journalists are doing the unglamorous work day in and day out to keep the public informed. We need them.

I love having this blog and that I have been able to forge relationships with people in the community who are willing to reach out to me with information. I try to behave responsibly. I am very fortunate to have this platform for sharing ideas.

I may occasionally have the opportunity to "break" stories. This does not make me a journalist. I endeavor to be informative but my bailiwick is commentary and interpretation more than headlines and bylines. Perhaps last night I needed a little reminder of that.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Well This is Awkward

Governor Hogan:  There’s a palpable loss of trust between many parents and the county school system, and in particular with the superintendent.

MSDE: You're hired.

Me: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Disaster and Soup

Let's have a disaster.

A great, big natural disaster that brings out the best in everyone.

Because apparently it's the only thing that causes folks in our OneTrueHoward to care about other peoples' neighborhoods and other peoples' children. Somehow a disaster reminds us that the condition we are in is the human condition, and it is meant to be shared.

Not so with redistricting.

Our community has been splintered into an odd assortment of factions, including, but not limited to: the no polygon people, the t-shirt people, the "we paid a lot for our house" people, the "they're out to get us because we're poor and under-represented" people, the anonymous Twitter account people,  the people who are afraid of The Next Town, the "developers are in league with the Devil" people, and probably more. We did this to ourselves. We have no one to blame but ourselves. It is human nature to be fearful of change. It is also human nature to lean toward selfishness.

How can the same foolish creatures who accuse perfectly ordinary fellow citizens of nefarious intent when it comes to school attendance boundaries have within themselves the ability to spring into action when it comes to floods, tornadoes, fires, and hurricanes? How is this even possible? Why can't we turn on that switch of unselfish cooperation to work with community members to make our schools the best they can possibly be?

When I was little I remember being both fascinated and perplexed by the story of Stone Soup. I couldn't understand why none of the villagers would share anything, not even a crumb. Why were they so distrustful? Why were they convinced that they must hide all that they had, that there was not enough to be shared?

And how did they come to be transformed by the unfolding vision of the soup made from stones? What was it that convinced them to let down their guard and risk a bit of the little they had? Whatever it was, we need some in Howard County. Because natural disasters are not something to wish for, no matter how well we respond to them.

What we really need is trust. Trust that no one is trying to steal our tiny piece of the pie that we would fight rather than surrender. Trust that the soup made by neighbors who share is better than a hoarded crust alone.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Time Travel Returns!

We all know that person who wants to go back to "the time when things were better." Heck, most of us have moments when we wish we could return to a kinder, gentler world. I'm happy to announce that the Chrysalis is offering a one-night time-traveling experience which will take your mind off politics, world events, and day-to-day woes. 

On Tuesday, September 26th, (that's tomorrow)  the Inner Arbor Trust will present Stary Olsa in concert at 6:30 pm. Admission is free.

An evening in the Middle Ages could be just the thing to clear your head of twenty-first century stress.

About Stary Olsa:

Belarusian band Stary Olsa occupies a unique position at the intersections where past meets present, tradition mingles with innovation, and contemporary creative expression has demanded the cultivation of skills that date back to the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Much like their namesake (a wandering brook in the Mahilou region), Stary Olsa's path has been full of twists and turns, and is inextricably linked to the traditional culture, history and music of Belarus and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

The band has recorded twelve albums of traditional Belarusian ballads, martial songs, and canticles in addition to popular European songs from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Their most current album Medieval Classic Rock, is the result of YouTube postings of informal rehearsal videos in which band members played their favorite rock tunes.

As they kick off their second tour of the states, Stary Olsa's aim is to not only introduce U.S. audiences to the beauty of the Belarusian culture and the richness of its age-old musical traditions, but also show how much it has in common with modern rock classics as they bring living history to the stage!

You can learn more about the band and view performances at their website.

I know Tuesday is a hard time to add something in to your schedule, but this is going to be fun and well worth your time. How often to you get to venture outside "the Bubble" without driving miles out of your way?

When the concert is over, you'll feel refreshed, and you'll return to all of the conveniences of modern day living with an extra spring in your step.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Creative Vision

I was driving home from yesterday morning's event at the Chrysalis and a sign caught my eye. It went by quickly and I only had a glimpse in my peripheral vision.

Reuse Parkway

"Re-use Parkway?" I thought, trying to make sense of it.


Rouse Parkway

Funny how a bit of "creative" vision took me to a whole different place.

It seems to me that, as Columbia turns 50, we are challenged to decide how we will re-use the New American City. It isn't new anymore. Some of its foundational ideals are refreshingly revolutionary, but it is still a product of its time. And times change. Buildings get old and need repair or even replacing. Concepts can become dated as well.

We are living in the age of Columbia's creative adaptive reuse. We are engaged in the process of deciding what has stood the test of time and should be preserved exactly as it is, what is not working and should be replaced, and what can get new life through creative reuse.

Think of it as Columbia: Upcycled.

I think that visionary people (as James Rouse was) are well aware that what is created at the beginning will be used, and reused, and rethought, and recreated over time. Indeed,didn't he say "Columbia will never be finished"?

Some of us, in fact, most of us, are not Pioneeers. We are the re-users. The re-creators. The upcyclers of a vision worth preserving.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Catching Up

At long last, the weekend. I have plenty of catching up to do.

First I have a gig at the Chrysalis. But you knew that.

Then a brief crash-out, recovery time in the comfy chair. Possibly a bubble bath.

Then, it's catch-up time.

Grocery Shopping
A book to read for work
The last several episodes of the Elevate Maryland podcast

I have my work cut out for me.

What's on your catch-up list for this weekend?

Friday, September 15, 2017

Matchy Matchy

We have a saying here in early childhood-world. If you see a child persist in a certain kind of behavior, say, screaming when they don't get what they want, it usually means that someone, somewhere, is rewarding that behavior.

So let's talk about matching tshirts.

The t-shirt printing companies must be making a killing in Howard County what with all the community groups wanting to turn out for meetings, hearings, and protests in gear that matches their cause. If one person holding a sign is good, ten are better. If they all wear the same color, it has visual impact. If they wear matching t-shirts, it presents an imposing visual message. Looks great in photos and on the tv news.

At some point people observed the goings-on in the County Schools and perceived that the groups with the matching t-shirts got better service than those who didn't. And once that cycle of rewarding behavior began, it has dominated the scene.

I have nothing against t-shirts in and of themselves. But I think we've gotten stuck in an unproductive cycle where the people with the money to create and buy matching t-shirts expect that they will win the day. What about the people who can't afford to do that? Are their concerns less valid? Do they deserve the leftovers after the t-shirt people divide up the pie?

I think it's time to break this cycle. I'm not sure how to do that. Do we specifically forbid the matching t-shirt gambit? Censure it like schools have with articles of gang apparel?

As a teacher I'd say that the way to extinguish an undesirable behavior is to stop rewarding it. And let's decide as a community what kind of behavior is worth rewarding.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Touching Lives

Social media lit up last night wth the news that missing Wilde Lake High School teacher Laura Wallen had been found dead. Like many others in our community, although I did not know her, I feel deeply sad. I just can't get it out of my mind. It cast a long shadow over the rest of my day.

Any death due to intimate partner violence is horrific. But something about a teacher, whose job it is to build relationships and inspire trust in young people, makes this news even harder to fathom. The goodness that was Ms. Wallen spread through her teaching and touched the lives of her students. The pain of her loss will do the same.

I read something yesterday on a different topic that I think applies equally well here:

This shows just how fragile teens are.  The amount of pressure teens are under these days is absurd.  Kids hold a lot of pain inside and are not taught proper coping mechanisms.

I know that the school system is springing into action to provide grief counseling to students and staff. I'm glad they have the resources to do that and that they understand how important it is. This is the beginning of the grieving process. As adults we know how long grieving goes on. Long after we think it should, it persists. Resurfaces in a new guise. Weighs us down with old memories or new fears.

The grief counselors will go away. Life will return to "normal". The damage these young people are carrying will become largely invisible but we need to be mindful it is there.

You think redistricting is scary? Feel threatened by your child going to a different school?

Try having to live every day with the fact that beloved teacher was killed by a man she loved and trusted. Try imagining that it might happen someone else you love. Or that it might happen to you.

Ms. Wallen touched lives. Let us all find a way to help care for and lift up those young people who feel the loss of her light so deeply. They will need us.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

One More Time

Let's do it again!
When I'm not blogging or offering my two cents at public meetings, I have another life as an early childhood educator. While I'm working as a generalist these days, for many years my primary focus was music and movement. So, when I heard that the folks at the Inner Arbor Trust were looking for family-friendly programming this summer, I realized I had something to offer.

So, here goes:

Saturday, September 16th, rain or shine!
A free family event for parents and preschoolers.

Chrysalis Kids: Music and Movement on the Chrysalis Stage.

Come experience the beauty of Columbia's newest performance space with your little ones. From 10 to 12, Early Childhood Music Specialist Julia McCready will play DJ with your favorite Kids Tunes. There will be plenty of room to move and groove, and hands-on materials to explore!

Admission is free.

Tell your friends. Come along if you have young children and grandchildren. To be clear: this is not a show. It's a free-form, hands-on dance-fest. If you want to bring a quilt for getting comfy, snacks and/or juice boxes--it's all good. If your young ones have older siblings,  the Imagination Playground equipment will be out for their enjoyment.

We'll have a varied playlist with everything from Laurie Berkner to Abba to Elvis to Raffi. The Imagination Playground materials are perfect for those who'd rather build than boogie. 

Celebrating the arts in the park is for everyone. Even the very youngest.

Have requests for Saturday's playlist? Send them here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Just One Question

The other evening at the Chrysalis event, I bumped into my County Council representative, Calvin Ball. I actually walked towards him with arms outstretched because by now I know he's a hugger. I mean, I don't think he would ever hug anyone who didn't want to be hugged, but in general he's a hugger. and I'm fine with that. Later on I came across County Execituve Kittleman and he shook my hand in a friendly manner and actually knew my name (I'm in awe of people who can remember names, because I can't anymore.)

The piece de resistance was seeing Dr. Ball and Mr, Kittleman greet each other in an effusive, hug-plus-handshake combination. At least I think that's what it was. I was distracted by thinking about how people who have such opposing viewpoints must maintain a pleasant outward face in social settings. It's an art.

At my school we practice the Responsive Classroom curriculum, where children learn and practice many kinds of social interactions. We make the social/emotional needs of children a top priority. One of the games we play in Morning Meeting goes like this:

Would you like a handshake or a hug?

The question is passed from student to student and each one gets to choose. Later on when children learn how to resolve disputes, they will often ask:

What can I do to help you feel better? 

And the other child may ask for a handshake or a hug. Or sometimes a hi-five.

I thought of this game when I saw these two elected officials exchange pleasantries at the Chrysalis fundraiser. Often seen to be political rivals, they still adhere to the social norms that look like Civility.  Why? Is it because that's what the public expects?

Is the continuing practice of social niceties a sham? Would the world be better if we all just let it hang out and turned a cold shoulder to those whose views or actions alienate us? Is being willing to extend a hand of friendship/greeting under such circumstances a sign of weakness?

Is it all just for show? Or is it in some small way an act of faith that we, as a community, have hope that our differences won't destroy the things, however small, that connect us?

Monday, September 11, 2017


I had APFO on my mind when I opened up Facebook this morning. Those thoughts were soon swept away by a multitude of posts commemorating 9/11. I've written about it before. I don't think I have anything exceptionally new or valuable to share.

Just one thing, though. As I scanned the section for things that happened "On This Day" I realized how glad I am that that 9/11 occurred before the advent of Facebook.

Can you imagine the searing pain of accumulated posts, including photos and video, of that day?

We have become used to sharing everything on Facebook, in good times and in bad. But in my opinion it is a blessing that we don't have the vivid accumulation of pain and devastation of that day coming back at us in our "memories".

There's such a thing as too many memories. I don't think there's any lack of documentary evidence. I don't think we are in any danger of forgettting.

Life has changed in so many ways since that day in 2001. Social media is just one piece of that. And I'm grateful for the ways that people are able to use Twitter in times of local and national emergency. But today, when the pictures and feelings come swirling back, I'm glad there's a limit to the sheer volume of them coming at me before I even finish my morning coffee.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

What's New?

What can I tell you that you don't know already? Probably not much.

The season is beginning to turn and there will be wonderful Fall events all over Howard County.

Redistricting and APFO concerns continue to roil community discussions with some folks believing that neighborhood is against neighborhood, school against school.

Students have gone back to school and there have been some interesting discussions about homework.

Political season continues to heat up with more candidates opting in or opting out.

Oh! Here's something you may not know:

Did you know that there's a coffee shop in the new MedStar Building? You know, the one everyone likes to complain about, on the corner of LPP and Broken Land? It's nothing to write home about at this point, but I'm sure it's quite convenient for those who work in the building.

I got together with local blogger Harry Schwarz recently to discuss blogging and the local news scene. He suggested we meet up at the aforementioned coffee shop.

I gather that there will be a variety of businesses as a part of the MedStar complex once it is finished. In the meantime, you can get coffee and snacks in-house. Or if you're passing through. Or meeting a friend.

Harry has a lot of good stories to tell. He also has a fascinating vision to get local bloggers to work together in sharing stories to work for good. It has happened from time to time, but of course egos sometimes get in the way...bloggers can be a prickly, quirky lot.

And that's on our good days.

What's the news where you are? Tell me something I don't know.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Those Crazy Kids

The kids are having a party. They've invited everyone. There will be food and drink and music and dancing and even a s'mores pit, whatever that is. I'm going. I don't generally do the big gala things. But this sounds fun.

The kids are having a party at the coolest new venue in Columbia: the Chrysalis. I'm no kid but I've caught their enthusiasm and I want to be there. It won't be the same-old, same-old. It won't be the same people one always sees at such events.

The kids are having a party. Makes a parent feel so proud, you know?

Never mind that the kids are actually adults with children of their own. In Columbia-world where the real grown-ups make documentary movies about how things used to be, people who celebrate the present and the future are Just Kids.

Tonight I'll be celebrating what is truly right about Columbia and Howard County with some amazing people. But somewhere else there will grumblings about "no vision" and  "gatekeepers". That doesn't sound like much of a party to me.

We raise our children with love. We give them our best and hold our breath when they spread their wings to fly. We support their ventures. We celebrate their accomplishments. If we don't we are almost violating the prime directive of parenthood. If control is more important to us than the paths our children freely choose, we have failed.

The kids of Columbia are having a party. They're supporting a beautiful and vibrant community space for everyone to enjoy. Even if you can't come, maybe you can just be happy for them.

And feel grateful to be invited to your kids' parties.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weekend Edition

It's a big weekend in Howard County, beginning with:

This event will be held at Harper's Choice Middle School from 9-5 tomorrow. Do you have issues you really care about? Want to learn how to put ideas into action? This is the event for you. 

Next up:

Under the Harvest Moon, a fundraising event to support Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. 7 pm at the Chrysalis. It sounds like it's going to be a lot of fun and the weather looks promising!

 If you're looking for something for Sunday afternoon, may I recommend the Columbia Big Band concert at the Chrysalis. It's free to the public, 3 pm.

Of course if you want to want to take a look at other things happening in Howard County, take a look at Totally HoCo.

What am I doing this weekend? Well, I'd love to participate in all these events but experience tells me that one event will be more than enough for this introvert. I'll be celebrating under the harvest moon on Saturday night.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Guest Post: In Defense of Development in Columbia

In Defense of Development in Columbia, MD
By David Saunier*

Our city was the brainchild of one of our country’s most brilliant humanitarians of the last half century. James Rouse, a real estate developer, envisioned a new kind of city that was carefully planned to avoid many of the pitfalls common to our country’s non-urban core—namely the haphazard and impersonal development known as urban sprawl. He believed that a thoughtfully considered city plan would enable a place that enriched the lives of its citizens, allowing everyone who lived there the opportunity to become the best that they could be.

Columbia would become a place that married nestled-in residential cul-de-sacs, beautiful open space and walkways, and clusters of commercial and public cores that would allow for pedestrian and bike-friendly access to all that was needed—shopping, entertainment, worship, and education. Columbia would have a downtown gathering place that residents would enjoy—providing more commercial options; including restaurants, music, nature, and art.

These initial ideals and the careful plan that followed over the next few decades resulted in one of the more successful planned communities anywhere in America (insert your favorite national accolade here). By most measures, Columbia is a model community that many have looked to replicate. But as with small start-up companies, our town has experienced some growing pains as it has become larger and older. In companies as they grow, one of the hardest things to maintain is the original culture that was carefully nurtured among the handful of early employees. So too, has Columbia struggled to maintain its identity of a community that is welcoming and providing of meaningful opportunity to people of all races, religions, and income levels. And yes, even classic suburban sprawl has crept into the periphery of our town, making our once-thriving village centers skeletons of their former selves.

Our residents, especially our younger ones, have often lamented the lack of fun and activity here. We can see where nearby younger cousins—Reston, VA and Kentlands, MD—have paid careful attention to correct the shortcomings of the early planned communities of Columbia and Greenbelt, MD in this regard.

Many who lament the recent plans and trends in Columbia to develop and redevelop our “urban” cores, fear a loss of Columbia’s original character and a loss of James Rouse’s original ideals. They often claim that greedy developers are simply making a profit without a care in the world for what Columbia is really all about. It can be a slippery slope, indeed, for either side of this issue to claim to be the true representative of Jim Rouse and his vision. But nonetheless, I will charge ahead and posit that continued careful development of Columbia’s urban centers (the Lakefront, the Crescent, and our village centers) is precisely in keeping with the values that made Columbia great in the first place.

So, as Columbians, what do we value? I, for one, value a continued commitment toward making our city welcoming to all that want to live here, a place that can be relaxing and exciting, a place that offers employment opportunities right in our city, a place that values the inspiration of the arts, a place that values exercise and fresh air, a place that values the education of our all of our residents, a place that accommodates young and old, and a place that continues to offer opportunities for me to see old friends and make new ones. It’s a long and often incongruent list, but one that Columbia has pretty successfully managed over the last half century. But it is managing it less and less as time goes on. Our city needs a rejuvenation of its original ideals to truly be successful at allowing its residents to be the best that they can be.

Careful urban development provides opportunities for residents to easily access all that they need and love. And more dense, mixed-use development allows for a pedestrian and bike-friendly environment that benefits everyone—including young people, those that cannot afford cars, those that care about carbon emissions, and those that value ready access to jobs within walking distance. Careful urban   development benefits small businesses that can scarcely thrive in spread-out, sparsely-trafficked areas. Careful urban development benefits the community as a whole, as our downtown becomes an attractive place to shop, eat, and be entertained.

So what is “careful urban development”? Lucky for us, we have a historical model and functional framework here in Columbia. Careful development is a public-private partnership working within a long-term plan that seeks to manage the common problems that come along with growth—including traffic, parking, crime, and overcrowded schools. Careful development balances profit with purpose, ensuring that affordable housing remains a reality and ensuring that everything works at a human scale. Careful development is considerate of the community’s perspective, and recognizes that any good business is at first, responsive to the needs and desires of its “customers.”

With committed stewardship of those ideals on the part of the Columbia Association, the County Executive, the County Council, the County School Board and Zoning Board, and perhaps most of all, our citizens; our town can have careful urban development and continue to develop and flourish for another 50 years.

Comments are welcome here:

*David Saunier came to Columbia while in diapers, in 1972. After receiving a degree in Architecture from the University of Maryland, he went to work for Jim Rouse's Enterprise Foundation. Today, he still lives here with his wife and two young children where he works as a designer and occasional rabble-rouser.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017


Recently one of the members of the CA Board posted an artist's rendering of what future Columbia might look like. I'm assuming this comes from Howard Hughes. He asked what people thought.

So far the response looks largely negative. I don't know much about the particular presentation from which this photo is taken, but I do know that it would have consisted of more than one photograph. There's got to be a lot more information where this came from.

There are two things I think when looking at this photograph:

1. What is the context here? What is the supporting documentation that explains what we see in this photo?

2. Do all the people up in arms about this photo know that Columbia was always meant to be a city?

I look forward to a more comprehensive explanation of what the future holds. This picture is enough to pique my curiosity. I don't think it's cause for mass panic.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Life Lessons

Today is the first day of school in the Howard County Publc Schools. There's an air of excitement as a new Superintendent has a chance to share his priorities with staff and students. I see a lot of excitement out there from teachers.

Right now, however, it is six seventeen at my house and one tired teacher and one tired teen are up and getting ready.

I have taught many things throughout my career: elementary school French, preschool music, three year olds, kindergarten. And yet there's one thing I have not successfully taught, and it's on my mind today.

I have not taught my family members how to make their own lunches.

This hearkens back to when I worked part time and had much more time to get ready in the morning. Now we are all on the same schedule and I'm scrambling. And writing a blog.

Who makes the lunches at your house? Does anyone buy lunch? Is anyone excited to try the new healthier options at school this year?

To all students and teachers going back today, I wish you a great first day. Let there be joy in learning  and a sense of community to support you.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The Patron Saint of Redistricting

Today's late post brought to you by a monster migraine. The less said about that, the better.

I've got a bit of a HoCo Holler vibe going on over here. I've been observing, more than participating, in online discussions about school redistricting this summer. And one thing that has been consistent throughout is the calm, reasoned voice of Board Chair Cindy Vaillancourt.

Ms.Vaillancourt has made herself available online to answer all questions, explain, elaborate, correct misbegotten conspiracy theories--you name it. While she undoubtedly has her own personal opinions on how this is all playing out, she has worked diligently to maintain an even, neutral presence in the face of some serious unpleasantness.

I hope that our community realizes how much work this has been to field everyone's fears and woes for the last few months. I also hope they realize the level of respect, responsiveness, and transparency Ms. Vaillancourt is modeling. Can you imagine some of our previous board chairs in recent memory dedicating so much time and effort to interacting with the community?

I can't.

The community has every right to be involved in the redistricting process. I have seen Ms.Vailllancourt affirm this many times. I wish that they would choose to be involved without accusing anyone involved in the process of malice and malfeasance. Ms. Vaillancourt is only human. She has been, for many folks, the public face of redistricting in Howard County.

A few of her recent exchanges indicate just a hint of weariness or exasperation. You get the feeling that mom, driving the car while supervising shenanigans in the back seat, might just wish she could pull the car over and tell it like it is.

I don't think she will, though. She has worked too hard to get us to where we are now. If you don't know her backstory on the Howard County Board of Education, I've got about a hundred blog posts to bring you up to speed. (Not really, more like 10-20.)

We've got a ways to go yet on this redistricting thing. It's a bit early for me to declare Cindy Vaillancourt the Patron Saint of Redistricting. What I'm really trying to say is: could we please back off from trying to burn her at the stake?


Comments are welcome here:

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Ghosts of the Past

It made me smile the other day to read that someone else shares my sentiment about the former Patuxent Publishing building on Little Patuxent Parkway.

Did I mention I love the Flier Building and hope it is preserved??

Call me crazy, but I have a soft spot in my heart for that building. I don't even particularly like architecture from that time period, but it's so quintessentially "Columbia" that I love it anyway. When the late blogger Dennis Lane wrote about its closure in 2010, I was one of the many to chime in in the comments section.

I'm trying to imagine a creative re-use for this building. Ideas?

At the time I was imagining the space would make a great church, or, truth be told, a signature Columbia residence.  (I still think it would be a great project for HGTV's Extreme Homes.) Or perhaps a Howard County home for Kennedy Krieger outreach.

Dennis didn't think the building would be preserved. As I recall, he suggested it was probably "a teardown." It languished until 2014 when the County bought it as the site of a future business incubator. Alas, it was not to be. With the election of Allan Kittleman as County Executive plans for the Flier Building were nixed. And now, this:

Introduced by: The Chairperson at the request of the County Executive

A RESOLUTION pursuant to Section 4.201 of the Howard County Code, authorizing the County Executive's sale of certain real property known as the "Flier Building" owned by Howard County, Maryland, containing approximately 2.159 acres, and located at 10750 Little Patuxent Parkway, Maryland; waiving the advertising and bidding requirements of Section 4.201 of the Howard County Code; and providing that the County Executive is not bound to sell the property if he finds that it may have a further public use. (tabled 7/29/16)

I'm feeling a twinge of disappointment here. The story of the Flier building isn't simply the story of a small-town newspaper, but also, in a way, of beloved Columbia residents Bob and Jean Moon. 

...Columbia architect Bob Moon, husband of the newspaper's then-managing editor Jean Moon, said he designed the iconic building with a vision of youth. (Baltimore Sun)

I wish it could be saved and reused with all of the fanfare we saw with the Rouse Building/Whole Foods site. I've heard that the building always had some functional problems. Perhaps it would be more expensive to save it than most buyers would be willing to take on. In the grand scheme of downtown development it's merely another centrally located spot for future development.

Who knows? That could end up being pretty cool, too. But maybe, just maybe...

Ah, well. I don't get a vote on this one. But I do have a request. If anyone who reads this blog has the power to wrangle me a tour of this building, message me and let me know. I really want to have that experience and savor a bit of Columbia history before it's too late.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Down by the Old Mill Steam. Of Consciousness.

Shlogged through the work week looking forward to Saturday when I'd have the time to write a decent blog post. Woke up at 5:30 am with a serious case of the "I don't wannas." In the meantime, a second cup of coffee feels essential and the sound of rain outside is not helping.

On my mind this morning:

  • Opioid addiction is now a heartbreaking national health crisis because victims are white.
  • Police brutality and over-reach may now actually be considered to be a problem because the nurse is white.
Also, someone out there is floating the theory that Howard County Government has actively promoted segregation of schools as a way to isolate high test scores in areas of affluence in order to promote more land development in those same areas. Any other bloggers out there working on this? Feels more like a conspiracy theory than a fact-based one.

State Comptroller Peter Franchot is ever so proud of himself for promoting craft beer and adding a week to summer vacation. This is adorable. Now what should we do for the families that can't afford craft beer or a longer summer? Who represents them?

Lest you think I'm nothing but negative today, a big birthday shout-out to my County Council representative, Calvin Ball. I believe he's having one of those life, the universe, and everything birthdays today. If you see him, I'm guessing a birthday hug is in order.

Comments are welcome here:

Friday, September 1, 2017


As if by magic, in response to yesterday's post about thanking road workers a photograph appeared so we can finally give credit where it is due.

Oh, wait. This isn't Route 29, it's Route 32. And it isn't actually legitimate road workers. It's elected officials mugging for a ceremonial photo opp.

Looks like I got all excited for nothing.

I know that, in the world of politics, ceremonial photo opps are just a part of the job, but for some reason I find the ones with all of the shovels to be particularly objectionable. How many of the people  in this photo would last ten minutes doing the kind of hard physical labor involved in road work? (Not to pick on them; I wouldn't, either.)

If one's livelihood depends on running for re-election then having one's likeness reproduced in multiple photographs becomes a highly desirable goal.

Just once, though, I'd like to see the spotlight shining on the people who do the real work.

As that fellow on the radio says: not a sermon, just a thought.

Comments are welcome here: