Tuesday, October 31, 2017


Yes, it was an earthquake. Right here in Howard County, Sunday evening. You can learn more from meteorologist Justin Berk here .

He uses this map to pinpoint the location.

From what I am seeing on social media, the earthquake was felt well into Columbia.


Luckily, this was a minor event. It raises a question, though. Just exactly who do you call when your house goes boom?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Sally Brown Returns

Yes, I know this has been done to death. But today it jumped right off the page.

From Sara Toth's article on middle school re districting, this quote really bugs me.

"I was pretty upset that Emerson was going to be split from the majority of the Murray Hill community, but even more furious that you would send our kids to a school with significantly lower standards," said one parent. "How would you feel about your children attending the school with one of the lowest (Maryland School Assessment) scores in the county?"

- - October 30, 2013

Plus ça change plus c'est la même chose...

There are many factors at play in our redistricting process in 2017. There is frustration that the Board of Education put us in this difficult situation by a lack of proactive involvement. There is concern that over-development is placing a burden on school facilities that we are not keeping up with. Neighborhoods that have enjoyed a long-time connection with a particular school are alarmed to see that could change. Parents worry about the impact on their children of longer bus-ride times.

But those test scores.

Can we just lay down those test scores, folks?

Test scores are not what makes a school. And the continued reference to them feels more and more like a dog whistle to me. “Let’s preserve de facto segregation in our schools so our numbers look good.” (To heck with the other schools’ numbers, by the way.) “Let’s fight for the status quo so my children can go to school with the right sort of children.”

Of course, no one says it like that. It’s couched in careful and concerned language.

Underneath this all I hear the plaintive voice of Sally Brown in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

All I want is what’s coming to me. All I want is my fair share.

In study after study, standardized test scores are shown to correlate most strongly with socio-economic factors more than anything else. They won’t tell you what you really want to know about whether a school is a postive learning environment. Fighting to preserve the purity of test scores is about keeping people out. Or shrinking from sending our children to a school where children are “different.”

Here’s the thing. The more that white children are shielded from those who are different, the more likely they are to end up doing something like this. And I would suggest that understanding that all human beings are worthy of respect is far more important than test scores. These are private school kids from Baltimore but they very well could be privileged white kids from Howard County if we don’t stop clinging to precious test scores.

We all need to learn how to work in the world together. Our schools are one of the best places to set the stage for a life-long ability to interact with respect. We are fools if we throw that away in pursuit of numbers on a page.


Sunday, October 29, 2017

Looking for Answers

Questions of the day:

Why is Laurel in two four different counties?

What is the best Halloween candy? The worst?

Would you live in a tiny house? (Why or why not?)

Best new stores in old EC?

And, finally, answer the following:

“If I were going to move from my present home it would be because _______________.”

Feel free to send your questions my way, too.

Comments are welcome here:


Saturday, October 28, 2017


Ticked off, cranky, angry about everything.


So, what’s up, Howard County?

Apparently there’s a Tiny House Expo at the Howard County Fairgrounds this weekend. Wonder if there will be a protest continingent asking “Where are we going to put all those tiny children?”

You still have a chance to book tickets for CarnEvil at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods and support equipment for First Responders. Truth in advertising: I am petrified of all things scary so maybe I should just write them a check.

Speaking of writing a check, it’s time to jump on the turkey bandwagon! The Community Action Council is raising funds to provide 1000 Thanksgiving dinners to 1000 families in Howard County, turkeys included. Learn more here and donate.

Prism Concert Tonight At River Hill High School featuring Choirs, Bands, Strings, Guitars and no pauses! Pretty sure this is a free concert but you can certainly spend some money on Bake Sale items at intermission. 7 pm.

Three more days of steroids over here but I’ll endeavor to keep my medically induced hostility to myself.

As HoCo Rising used to say, have a great (weekend) doing what you love.

Friday, October 27, 2017

The Lonely Hour

Dear Bloggers who used to blog,

I miss you.

I wake up at five am and face the darkness in a lonely little world that doesn’t have your voices in it anymore: Sarah Says, Annathema, Lisa B Mrs. S, Life’s Little Comedies, HoCoRising, Tales of Two Cities, HoCo Hayduke, Do I Amuse You?, Rocket Powered Butterfly, HowChow, Dinosaur Mom...

Boo hoo, you say. Sad trombone, or the world’s tiniest violin.

Blogging is a hobby largely of the privileged. Most likely one isn’t doing it without some other resources that make the time to write available. So forgive my tiny little pity party over here.

I suppose this post is to say that I am happiest as a blogger when I’m in a bustling community of ideas. I miss that. Howard County still has some excellent community and/or political bloggers, for instance: HoCo House Hon, Is This Thing On?, Spartan Considerations, HoCoMDcc, Civility and Truth but they don’t post regularly. (I don’t want to overlook Scott E’s Blog but in truth it’s sort of a commercial venture so I’m not sure how to categorize it.)

So most days you are stuck with the tenacity of me and the esteemed 53 Blog. Not chopped liver, but still...can two opinionated people from Oakland Mills contain all the knowledge you need about Columbia and Howard County? I doubt it.

They say that fewer people read blogs on Fridays so I’ll just tuck this little lament right here.

I miss you guys,

Village Green/Town²

Thursday, October 26, 2017

An Autumn List

Maybe we’re truly into Fall now. Hard to be sure. Each time we swing in that direction it’s followed by a prolonged summery spell. In the hopes that we’re really here, this local list:

Thumbs up:

Gorgeous trees with changing leaves in Oakland Mills
Walks on the pathways
Autumn treats during the last few Farmers Markets
When it’s cool enough to open the house and let fresh breezes in
A trip to Clarks Elioak Farm for a pumpkin and a hayride
The craft fair at Oakland Mills High School
Fall plays at the high schools
The urge to hit the Howard County Library and curl up with some good books and a cozy blanket

Thumbs Down:

Slipping on wet leaves
Yellow jackets
Steroids (see above)
Pumpkin Spice anything
Back to back political fundraisers
Driving to work in the dark

What’s on your local list?

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Spotted this photo on Twitter with the caption, “There are still nice people in the world.”

Somewhere in Columbia someone has a sense of humor and a gentle spirit to go along with it. I’d love to know the backstory.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

A New Low

There was a school bus accident yesterday; you’ve probably already read about it. If not, here you go.

I have never given much thought to the proper etiquette to responding to such news, but after yesterday I have a few thoughts.

In the unfortunate event that school children’s well being is in danger, it is recommended that you:

Express concern for the students.
Say something that shows empathy for the families of said students.

What NOT to do:

Use the accident as a springboard to say why your child should not be redistricted.

I mean, really now, folks. Everything is not about you. Other people deserve some sensitivity and respect.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Who Gets the Surplus?

A letter in the Flier caught my eye this week:

Dispersing surplus funds to Columbia villages’ budgets

It’s written by Tom O’Connor, who has served a number of terms in the CA Board as a representative of Dorsey’s Search. You can read it here. It describes what is to become of the $500,000.00 in the  Villages Contingency Fund:

Now, it is agreed by the villages and association [that] the VCF is no longer needed and should be disbanded. CA is proposing that the VCF should be prorated between the 10 villages, with CA getting half of the money, $250,000.

Mr. O’Connor feels that this money belongs to the villages alone.

The VCF was funded from the villages’ excess funds over the 17 percent allowable at the end of their fiscal year. These excess funds were, and are, a direct result of proper budgeting and oversight by villages’ managers and boards.

So what’s up with this? I’d love to know more. Since this is an advocacy letter, and not a news article, there’s a strong motivation to persuade within the confines of a tight word limit imposed by the paper. Are there more facts that need to be considered?  I can think of a few questions right off the bat.

If you have background info on this, feel free to message me through the blog. And, if you have opinions, feel free to comment on the Village Green/Town² Facebook page.

Saturday, October 21, 2017


There’s an old, worn out expression (used far too often) that asserts that “God doesn’t give us anything that we can’t handle.” I clung to this expression for dear life as my quirky GPS took me on a seven-hour ride to Stamford, Connecticut that involved back roads and scenic overlooks, hair pin turns in the dark and road changes every five minutes or so. Perhaps God and GPS don’t mix. The trip is supposed to be between 4 and 5 hours and should be more or less a straight shot up 95.

I’ve made the trip many times in my life, but never as a driver alone. So, once I decided to put my trust in the GPS, I was stuck. In fact, I was so daunted by the whole ordeal that I didn't stop once. Seven hours with no breaks is a bit of an effort. The middle finger on my left hand is numb.

But, I’m here. I pulled up after midnight to a hotel that didn’t exist when graduated from high school and more or less left this town for good. When I awoke and looked out the window I realized that none of the buildings and homes within my view were here when I left. Holy mackerel.

We moved to Stamford when I was at the end of seventh grade. So it’s not truly my hometown, but it’s the setting of my adolescence. At that time there was one tall building, the FD Rich Building. No mall, one or two movie theaters, a down at the heels Main Street with a few off shoots. It was a huge deal when the main drag got a McDonalds.

There was just about nothing to do in town for teenagers. The beach in summer. The Mall came along well after we had graduated. My social life was divided between school activities and church youth group. I’m not all that sentimental about the Stamford of those years because in many ways it was a pretty dreary place.

On the other hand, it was small enough and safe enough that we could walk around town, shop, take the bus, go to the movies or the library without adult assistance. There wasn’t much to do but we could do much of it ourselves.

I wonder if that is still the case. And the world has changed. Do teenagers anywhere have the kind of autonomy we took for granted?

I guess my memories all fall into Stamford: pre-redevelopment. The old town was winding down, treading water. Possibly even then pieces the stage was being set for the huge changes to come.

You can bet that I’ll be spending the next twenty-four hours looking at my old stomping grounds while thinking about Columbia. Is the Stamford of today better? More vibrant? Do the changes make sense? Do they give this old town a better sense of place?

In the meantime I’ll need to use my GPS to find the mall. I left my dress shoes at home.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Not Just Hollywood

As if the poisonous and infuriating tales of Harvey Weinstein’s victim’s were not enough, Howard County is having some reminders that criminal sexual behavior can come much closer to home.

Police: Girl Scouts leader in Ellicott City arrested on child porn charges.

HopeWorks rolls out advanced human trafficking survivor services.

Sexual abuse, assault, harassment, human trafficking. It’s a mistake to think of these purely in sexual terms. They are all examples of an abuse of power. Those with the upper hand manipulating and overpowering the weak. These are crimes that perpetuate the dominance of one group over others.

Survivors of sexual abuse are forever changed. They carry within them the damage of their violation. That damage is often compounded by people who don’t believe their story.

“He’s really a nice guy.”
“Why are you making this into such a big deal?”
“What were you wearing?”

It’s clear to me that serious change in our culture won’t happen unless witnesses of questionable behavior start jumping in every time to protest, object, step up to protect someone in danger. It’s not enough to be a good person who doesn’t participate in abuse. We need to take it upon ourselves to actively stop it.

“That’s not funny.”
“She doesn’t like what you are doing.”
“You can sit with us.”
“Do you want me to call you a cab?”

Law enforcement officers have a job. Groups like HopeWorks have taken on a mission. What about us?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Show Your Spirit

Today is Spirit Day. Learn more about the goals of Spirit Day here and take the pledge. From the GLAAD website:

Spirit Day is a means of speaking out against LGBTQ bullying and standing with LGBTQ youth, who disproportionately face bullying and harassment because of their identities. Pledging to "go purple" on Spirit Day is a way for everyone — forward-thinking companies, global leaders, respected celebrities, neighbors, parents, classmates, and friends — to visibly show solidarity with LGBTQ youth and to take part in the largest, most visible anti-bullying campaign in the world.

It’s appropriate that HCPSS has chosen this day to unveil a new PSA about bullying prevention. You can learn more about today’s event here. Worth noting: the participation of Christine McComas, mother of late student Grace McComas, in these new efforts to combat bullying. What a transformation has taken place within the school system. Even one year ago such a partnership would have been impossible. 

While fighting bullying is so much more than what you wear, supporters of Spirit Day are encouraged to wear purple to show their support for LGBTQ youth and their pledge to combat bullying. I image that, here in Howard County, some folks will be wearing blue for Grace.

There’s never a good reason for bullying. But there many good ways we can work together to stop it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Win in Wilde Lake

I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at a choral rehearsal and I decided to pop in to David’s Natural Market to pick up some dinner. I was hoping for some of their delicious curried chicken salad. I can’t remember the last time I went to the Wilde Lake Village Center. Maybe a year ago.

The first thing I noticed is that the long-awaited Starbucks (formerly KFC) is really and truly open. Must go back another time to check that out. Then I realized how different the visual elements are as you turn off the main road. One’s view used to go straight back across the parking lot to the tennis courts. Now Alta Wilde Lake rises up, at a bit of an angle, to fill the sky. Out of the corner of my eye it almost looked like a hospital with a centrally located Emergency Room drop off.

A second look makes it clear that it is nothing of the sort. There’s a deliberate variety in the facade, giving the impression of more of a block of related rowhouses, giving it a sort of urban neighborhood effect. Altogether, an entirely different vibe as you come in the Wilde Lake Village Center.

It turned out that there was no curried chicken salad to be had. However, I was able to find am amazingly good Greek Salad instead. As I waited in the check-out line I heard a voice behind me.

“Mrs. McCready?”

I turned around. It was my (older) daughter, picking up something to drink before her art class at Wilde Lake High School. Quite the coincidence. Not quite sure why she called me Mrs. McCready. Perhaps she wasn’t altogether sure it was me (guessing from the back) and didn’t want to look foolish calling “Mom!”if she turned out to be wrong.

At any rate, I always feel that whenever I run into someone I know when I’m out and about around town that it’s a win.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Little Slyce of Heaven

I recently rewarded myself after a particularly long work week with a trip to HomeSlyce. I wasn’t there for the pizza, though.

Baba ghanouj. Food of the gods. That heavenly roasted eggplant dip I used to get regularly at Egyptian Pizza in Baltimore. Quite rare locally. Wegmans sells something they call baba ghanouj which looks more like hummus and has mayonnaise as an ingredient. Sacrilege!

Back to HomeSlyce. I arrived well before the dinner hour and had my choice of tables. I received excellent service. Sometimes a woman alone can feel less than welcome in a restaurant. Not so here. Service was helpful and attentive but not over-solicitous.

The beer? A Dogfish 60 minute IPA. My appetizer was the aforementioned baba ghanouj. It could have easily been a main course in my point of view. It makes your tongue tingle with garlic. Nothing shy about it. I ordered a Homie Salad for my main course. While there was absolutely nothing wrong with it, the ingredients just didn’t hang together in my opinion. The chopped steak on top is some kind of “steak-um”-like ingredient, which I somehow wasn’t expecting.

On the other hand, the ingredients were so fresh I was able to eat my salad leftovers the next day. So there’s that going for it.

A couple came in with a young child and a sleeping infant in a carry seat while I was there. As I was leaving another such couple was wheeling their stroller up to the entrance. It seems that HomeSlyce is a destination for the early dinner with babies and toddlers crowd. Cool. So five o’clock isn’t just for the silver-haired or the middle aged women dining alone.

Have you been to HomeSlyce? What do you recommend?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Parks and Malls

Today’s recommended reading:

How a mall-turned-public park saved downtown Columbus

I especially like this quote, describing green spaces:

They are an experience you cannot get online,” Dunham-Jones said. “It’s that direct experience with nature. It’s that direct experience of social activities,” she said.

Of course the revitalization of the Symphony Woods land as Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods comes to mind. The response to programming at the Chrysalis has been overwhelmingly positive. But this article looks at what happens to failing Malls in the middle of a Downtown area. Ours is doing fine right now, but what would happen if it weren’t?

What if Columbia were not a city built around a mall? What then? I certainly don’t wish for the Mall’s failure. But surely there are folks out there somewhere who have to consider what would happen if it did. That’s a whole lot of land and a boatload of challenges. 

How important to Columbia’s well being is the continued success of the Mall itself?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Getting Through

I’ve been reading a lot online recently about stress and anxiety in teenagers, especially high school students. Instead of addressing that directly today, I have a question for you.

What got you through?

What was the thing (or things) that you lived for during those difficult years of your life? What made it possible to get up in the morning? What was the respite for you from the stress of school and adolescence?

For me, it was music. Listening to music, and singing in choral groups. Playing the guitar and writing songs at the piano. Oh, and creative writing. Much poetry, some short stories. Journaling.

What was it for you?

And what is it now for your child, if you have one in this age group? How can they release stress? What brings them joy? What gets them out of bed in the morning even if many things seem bleak?

Learning (and living) are meaningless without joy and the capacity to experience it. What are we doing to ensure our teens get enough of this essential ingredient?

Comments are welcome here:


Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Case of the Missing Blog Post

I look forward all week to Saturdays, when I will have more time to write. Today I woke up with that tell-tale pressure behind my right eye: migraine.


The sky still looks as gray as yesterday. Hopefully it will clear a bit and we’ll get a bit of blue sky. Here’s an event that will benefit from a little sunshine:

All are welcome: 17th Annual PFLAG Picnic Saturday, October 14, Noon to 3 p.m.
Location: Rockburn Branch Park Pavilion (6105 Rockburn Branch Park Rd., Elkridge, MD 21075) - located on same road as Rockburn Elementary School, at end of road to the left.
What to Expect:
Parents, family members, friends, LGBTQ+, allies and children of all ages
Lots of seating for relaxing and chatting
A large pavilion to protect us in case of rain
Cutest Dog Contest !!
What is Provided:
Charcoal and cooking utensils
Soft drinks and ice
Cups, plates, eating utensils and napkins
What to Bring:
Something to barbecue and a dish to share
Dogs on leashes welcome
Suggested Donation of $5 per family is appreciated

It will be interesting to see if this event attracts individuals running for office. I find it humorous to see who suddenly discovers the LGBTQ community only during election cycles.

In the meantime, it’s light out for me until the migraine medicine kicks in. Have a great Saturday.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Casting the Net Wider

You may not know Lina by name, but if you followed the #hocostudentwalkout at Mount Hebron High School, you know something about what she stands for. I first became aware of her during that time as students challenged us to #stopthesilencestartaconversation . I’ve been following her on Twitter since then and have found her to be refreshingly honest and insightful. She’s a straight-talker. You want the truth, unvarnished? That’s Lina.

Lina is now asking for help so that she can settle some debts and begin an education in the arts. You can read her story here. I have donated, and I encourage you to read her appeal and consider helping out. She’s an activist with the soul of an artist. Or maybe it’s the other way around. So is another product of Howard County Schools, Bree Newsome. Who knows what great things Lina’s future may hold?

The arts inspire, empower, transform. Lina is choosing this path for herself and is willing to pursue it even if her family can’t/won’t understand and support her. Maybe I indentify with Lina because my parents decided during my senior year that I was a bad prospect for college and that they wouldn’t give me any money to continue my education. I ended up moving out, working for two years, and receiving the incredible blessing of meeting an alum of Mount Holyoke Colkege who encouraged me to apply as an independent student.

Mounts Holyoke gave me an almost 100 per cent total scholarship. Without them, I would never have gone to college. Without the businesswoman who befriended me as I waited tables at Friendly’s, I wouldn’t have known that Mount Holyoke was even a possibility. I majored in music, by the way. I’ve been working in arts in one way or another since I graduated.

I know that most of us have been giving and giving and giving to support hurricane relief, but if you can spare even a little, Lina can use it as a launching pad to greater things. She wants to make a fresh start. She is trying to build a new life. So I’m casting the net wider to see if I can help.

Comments are welcome here:


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Big Deal or Little Deal?

I look forward to Thursday mornings when I get the Columbia Flier in my inbox and can see what’s happening around town. This morning’s came with pointers about how to use the New Digital Edition. Along with stories on redistricting, a Hopeworks vigil, high school sports, campaign finance reform, and a first responders expo, there was an article I was surprised to see.


This must be quite the important article, because it also appears on page 33.  (And on page 32 in black and white.)

Everybody makes mistakes. Most of us don’t have ours splashed on the pages of newspapers. As a teacher, I talk a lot with children about how it’s okay to make mistakes. My co-teacher likes to ask the students, “Is this a big deal or a little deal?” to help them put things in perspective. Often they come to the conclusion that ”hardly a deal at all.”

I’m torn about the new digital edition of the Flier. As my mother always used to say, “If something says New and Improved!, it probably isn’t.“  But that’s a rather jaded view of the world. It presumes that there are no improvements left to make. If the Columbia Flier (and its parent owners) are still trying to make changes and improvements to the reader experience, well, maybe it’s a sign that it’s still alive and kicking.

And, with the state of journalism these days, especially small-town journalism, I’d say that’s a good thing.

P.S: I scanned the photograph for a good thirty seconds-looking for signs of a a Mercury rocket before my brain processed what I was really seeing.

Comments are welcome here:


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Whatever Happened To...

And odd by-product of yesterday’s post about togas was an off-shoot about something called Colonial Day. Parents were lamenting the disappearance of said yearly event from the curriculum.. I had never heard of it. I’m pretty sure there was no Colonial Day at my daughter’s elementary school.

Fill me in, oh gracious readers. Did your child’s school ever have a Colonial Day? What did they do? Is your school still doing this as an annual event?

While the idea of dressing up, doing hands-on activities and even cooking (and getting to eat what you cook) sounds awesome, I can also see some issues around the “Colonial” theme that could be problematic.

Not all of us identify with whites of the American Colonial period. Native Americans had land stolen. Africans were brought here as slaves. We don’t spend a day re-enacting those historical experiences.

Also, I wonder if an event like Colonial Day is something that depends on the involvement of many parent volunteers. In less affluent areas, where parents are often working multiple jobs just to get by, that kind of volunteer pool is unavailable.

It’s altogether possible that Colonial Day fell victim to the mindset of our not-too-distant past where things were deemed worthy only if they could be tested. And that would be sad. Taking away multi-sensory experiences from education definitely finishes the learning experience. If Colonial Day is no more, what other engaging, interactive learning experiences have we put in its place?

Tell me more. I’m interested.

Comments are welcome here:


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Forbidden Garment

Now, here’s an unusual tweet:

Seniors, Do not wear a Toga to school tomorrow. It is against Howard County School Policy. Thank You.

I wonder what the story behind that might be?

You see, I’ve read the Howard County Schools Dress Code and there is absolutely nothing about togas.  So what was so important about this that the school in question posted on Twitter and sent emails to parents? Are they worried that togas might expose “undue flesh or undergarments”?

There’s got to be a reason. I don’t doubt that. But I’m pretty sure it’s not against policy. Correct me if I’m wrong. I entered the word “toga”into the HCPSS website and the only hit was for the GT Research Program. (No, I don’t understand that connection, either.)

I ran this by some parents online and the response was, by and large, laughter. Some found it puzzling, as other schools have allowed togas, but overall it just struck folks as silly. And sometimes, when all the news is mind boggling and upsetting, a bit of silliness goes a long way.

I suppose that I wouldn’t find it so funny if I were a senior who had planned on wearing a toga, though. I wonder what they think?

So we can have senior skip day but they took toga Tuesday away?¿?
(A possibly-related local tweet.)

So, seniors, I guess you shouldn’t wear togas today. But, for the rest of us who are ever so curious, could you please find out why?

Comments are welcome here:


Monday, October 9, 2017

Life On Line

Yesterday afternoon I was scanning Twitter for possible blog post topics and I saw this:

Shots fired inside Ellicott City Walmart.

There were a handful of tweets from different sources, clustered in a one-hour period. My impression was that this was an ongoing situation. I went to Facebook to see if anyone knew anything.

I posted:

Shots fired in Ellicott City Walmart?

The response was immediate.

Are you there?

I realized my mistake too late. Friends were seeing my post and assuming I was in danger. After a few minutes of trying to explain the situation, I deleted the entire post.

I’ve always thought I was a responsible user of social media but yesterday I was lazy. I didn’t do the additional research that would have shown that the event took place Saturday evening.  And I posted to Facebook in a way that caused friends unnecessary alarm. It was the social media equivalent of shouting “Fire!”  in a crowded theater.

In short, I screwed up.

The combination of ever-increasing incidences of mass shootings, combined with the hair-trigger immediacy of social media, puts us all on edge. And makes it easy to over-react. Jump to conclusions. Flail about in search of answers.

My apologies to anyone I may have frightened yesterday. I vow to do better.

Also, a recent (around 6 am) update on this ongoing story:

HoCoPD searching for gunman who wounded another shopper at the #EllicottCity #Walmart. Wounded man got his gun & shot at store @cbsbaltimore

Comments are welcome here:


Sunday, October 8, 2017

Parking Garage Epiphany

Is there a word for what it means to be genuinely happy for other people? 

Last night my husband and I dropped off my daughter and her date to the Homecoming Dance and headed down to Opus 1 at Merriweather Park in Symphony Woods. I thought that the timing, as it was just getting dark, would be perfect. It was. 

However, I wasn’t alone in my thinking.

We found ourselves in a long, measured spiral up the MedStar building parking garage. And, as we drove, it sunk in just how many people were going to be at this event. Neither one of us is big on crowds. By the time we reached the top and a few spaces appeared we had lost the will to park, get out of the car, wend our way through the darkness to the event. 

Did I mention there were a lot of people?

We looked at each other, weighing the pros and cons. And then we took the turn down through the parking garage and went home. 

Lame, I know. Two middle aged introverts on the brink of a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We turned back.

But here’s the thing. I spent much of the evening enjoying posts from those of you who were there. It was amazing. I may have felt a twinge of disappointment that we didn’t push ourselves to go, but mostly I felt a sense of joy for everyone who was out there and having such a glorious experience. (I must say the Chrysalis was looking good. It’s hard to imagine Opus 1 without it.)

Photo by Davd Saunier

It strikes me that one of the things which has been chronically missing in discussions of Downtown Development is the ability to be happy for other people. If it’s not going to personally benefit the writer of that letter to the editor, well, then, scrap the plans immediately. A prime example is this letter by Robert Tennenbaum to the Columbia Flier.

The completion of the Chrysalis [amphitheater at Merriweather Park] raises two very  different questions. Who approved this outrageous $6.6 million expenditure for a 5,977-square- foot structure? The almost $12,000 cost per square foot is beyond belief. I’ll bet no other “band shell” in the U.S.A. has even come close to this expenditure. The architect is proud that the entire enclosing awful green shell is built out of a skeleton of steel tubes, where the “structure would be fully exposed ... as a brawny steel exoskelton” sounds nice. But someone forgot that soon the Symphony Woods birds and maybe squirrels will happily discover this wonderful structure as ideal for their nests. Not to mention the droppings down on the nice floor and on peoples heads. More fix it expenditures are looming for the future! 

This is very likely the quintessential “Get off my lawn” letter in the saga of Columbia, Maryland. “I don’t like it, it’s ugly, and—squirrels!” Mr. Tennenbaum is entitled to his opinion but I’d just like to point out that it’s not his lawn.

It’s our lawn.

And, for all my friends and fellow community members (and visitors) who were celebrating in the woods last night—I am thoroughly and unabashedly happy. Joy, wonder, delight. Making my hometown a beautiful place in 2017.

Comments are welcome here:


Saturday, October 7, 2017



Oakland Mills Fall Festival, 11 am - 4 pm
OPUS 1 Merriweather , 4 - 11 pm


Behind the Scenes at the Chrysalis: a tour with the designers, 1 pm
Out of the Darkness Community Walk, 1 - 3pm


Going a bit far afield this morning. This photo popped up in a Facebook group I belong to about my old elementary school in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The beautiful old school was torn down in the mid-seventies to be replaced with a one-level, open classroom space. 

This photo is from a soft cover “yearbook” that the photo company sold every year. I have long ago parted with all of mine. Today when I looked at it something leapt out at me that I had never seen before. Do you see?

The list at the bottom tells me her name is Tessie Martin. I have absolutely no recollection of her. Was she really in our class? Was she there for the whole year? I have plenty of memories of most of the other children in this picture. The fact that I don’t have any of Tessie means that I didn’t play with her in the playground, we never played st each other’s houses, she wasn’t in my reading group. In those days it was the tradition a girl would invite all the girls in the class to her birthday party. Did we invite her? I don’t think my mother would have omitted her. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t there.

One African-American child in a sea of white faces and I have no memory of her. I certainly remember that my teacher was African-American because, for most of us, that was our first experience having a teacher that was not white. But what kind of memories does Tessie have? Was she largely ignored and excluded by her peers? Did she have friends in other classes? Did she have friends in our class but I just never noticed because she wasn’t in my little geeky, bookish group?

I wonder if she was lonely.

Comments are welcome here:


Friday, October 6, 2017


Imagine that you're driving along and a light comes on. You know, one day of those dashboard lights. What do you do? Many of us might keep on driving, hoping the issue will resolve itself, or promising in our heads to get it checked later.

Well, that very situation happened to HoCo community activist and blogger Lisa Markovitz. Sharing with permission:

Very bad and scary news today. Someone cut my ABS, Tire control, Stability control and other safety features from my brake system, on both front brakes, with a clipper. It is even worse than cutting the brake lines, as that would have not gotten me very far. This was a very bad accident waiting to happen. A warning light went on that I luckily decided to have checked out right away, and this was found. The police are investigating, and the officer and the service people have said they have not seen anything like this. It was insidious and targeted. The officers have recommended certain safety issues for us, and we are very concerned. They told me to share with the public. They found wires in my driveway that are in evidence. Feeling very anxious and confused right now.

This is a crime that could have resulted in serious injury or death. It is not a prank like egging your car or a simple destruction of property like slashing tires. It's not your basic theft of items left in an unlocked vehicle. It is careful and calculated and it is meant to do harm.

What I am thinking about this morning is that someone in our community feels targeted for harm, and that someone else in our community is the kind of person who would do such a thing. Both ideas fill me with dread. Whether it is a random troubled person who might tamper with anyone's car, or an individual with a particular bone to pick with Ms. Markovitz, it is a sign that something is gravely wrong in our little suburban world.

Right now I don't really much care which one it is, although "random" would be much less creepy. I just want the perpetrator to be located and taken into custody quickly so that Ms. Markovitz and her family can feel some sense of relief from the fear they must be experiencing. And so that no more harm will be done.

As a local blogger the worst I have ever experienced is people writing nasty things and falsehoods about me online. And once someone left an anonymous letter at my house. That's just nothing compared to this.

I don't want to believe that Howard County has crime like this. Clearly it does.

Comments are welcome here:


Thursday, October 5, 2017


Since I seem to be on an Oakland Mills kick this week, now would be a good time to invite you to the Oakland Mills Fall Festival, happening this Saturday. 

Entertainment Schedule:

10:55 a.m. – Oakland Mills High School Band
11:15 a.m. – SoulTET,
Soul, Funk, R & B and Jazz

12:30 p.m. – Unity Reggae Band, 

1:45 p.m. – Tracey Eldridge and Friends, 
Children’s Music

3:00 p.m. – FunDrum Rhythm Circle, 
Drum Circle

You can click the link here to learn more at the Facebook event page.

Once upon a time it was an International Festival. Then it was a Cultural Arts Festival. Now it is a Fall Festival. It doesn't matter what the name is, it is 100 per cent pure Oakland Mills at its finest and you should stop by and have some fun. Bring the family. Eat some festival food, dance to the music. 

It's a little slice of Columbia awesomeness and it's free. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Practical and Compassionate

A Civil War story:

A woman journeys to a hospital in order to advocate for better care for her son, who is wounded. Day after day she ask nurses to assist in his care. Finally, an exasperated hospital worker says,

"Madam, your son is not the only one in the hospital."

She replies,

"He is the only son of mine in the hospital."

I begin in this manner to say that, when I write about Oakland Mills in the context of CA assessment share, I am keenly aware of my own bias. I cannot pretend to have a disinterested view. I am engaging in the discussion as a resident of Oakland Mills.

Trying to find the most equitable distribution of CA assessment share is a highly complex issue and it has been going on for quite some time. There are some Villages, Long Reach, for example, which feel they have been chronically underfunded. (I think it is probably safe to say that no one ever thinks that their Village is overfunded.)

All this being taken into consideration I can't help but have the following reaction to Jonathan Edelson's presentation to the Columbia Association. It is a thorough accounting of both the practical and compassionate work of a village. I don't know how anyone can hear that and say, "Yeah, we're going to cut you back $57,000.00."

You know that story from the New Testament? We haven't exactly been burying our talents in the ground over here in Oakland Mills.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

One Size Does Not Fit All

Equal versus Equitable in CA assessment share allocation:

Sharing this presentation (with permission) from the Chair of the OM Board to the Columbia Association. I'll write more about this tomorrow. --jam

September  28,  2017
TO:        CA  Board  Meeting
FROM:  Jonathan  Edelson,  Chairman,  Oakland  Mills  Board  of  Directors 
Subject:  Proposed  Assessment  Share  Formula,  Resident  Speak-Out  Remarks 

Good  Evening.  My  name  is  Jonathan  Edelson  and  I  am  the  Chairman  of  the Oakland  Mill Community  Association.  I  am  here  to  talk  to  you  about  the  proposed changes  to  the  assessment   share  formula.  The  Oakland  Mills  Board  sent  comments back  to  the  assessment  share committee,  and  I  understand  these  comments  have also  been  shared  with  you,  but  I  must underscore  the  dire  financial  circumstances Oakland  Mills  would  face  should  we  lose  nearly $57,000  in  assessment  share.  This represents  almost  a  10  percent  cut  to  our  total  budget  and  15  percent  cut  to  the current  assessment  share  we  receive.  It  is  by  far  the  largest  cut  among  all of Columbia’s  villages.

 First  and  foremost,  the  cuts  to  our  budget  required  to  absorb  this  loss,  even  if implemented over  a  three  fiscal  year  period,  would  leave  us  unable  to  fulfill  our mission  to  serve  the residents  of  Oakland  Mills.  We  must  remember  that  we  are incorporated  to  operate,“...exclusively  for  the  promotion  of  the  health,  safety, common  good  and  social  welfare  of  the owners  of  property  in,  and  residents  of  the community  of  Columbia...”  (Oakland  Mills Community  Association,  Inc.  Articles of  Incorporation,  pg.  1)

 As  you  may  know,  Oakland  Mills  has  the  lowest  median  income  of  any  Columbia Village  and is  the  home  of  one  fully  subsidized  apartment  complex  and  one partially  subsidized  apartment complex  owned  by  the  Howard  County  Housing Commission.  We  are  also  home  to  the  high school,  middle  school,  and  elementary school  with  the  highest  rates  of  children  receiving  free and  reduced  meal  services in  Howard  County.  A  cut  of  this  magnitude  will  affect  everyone  in Oakland  Mills, but  it  could  most  acutely  affect  those  in  most  need  in  our  community.

For  example:

 Our  schools,  PTAs,  boosters,  and  other  local  community  nonprofits  rely  on  our modest donation  budget  to  fund  important  programs  and  activities.  With  our  recent support,  every  child   at  Stevens  Forest  Elementary,  where  2/3  of  the  children receive  food  assistance,  brings  home  a book  from  the  book  fair;  the  new  Pre-K  at Talbott  Springs  Elementary,  where  half  of  students receive  food   assistance,  got iPads  for  use  in  the  classroom;  the  PTSA  at  Oakland  Mills  Middle brought  an author  to  school  to  work  with  students  on  writing;  the  then  brand  new  Oakland Mills  High  Robotics  Club  entered  and  won  a  competition;  the  Oakland  Mills  Fine Arts Boosters  bought  instruments  for  children  who  could  not  otherwise  afford them,  and  the  Forest Ridge  Community  Center  kept  its  doors  open  to  our  neediest children  when  its  county  fundingwas  cut.  These  organizations  do  not  have  the fundraising  base  that  similar  organizations  in other  parts  of  the  county  have,  and our  modest  donation  can  mean  the  difference  between serving  a  need  or  letting  the inequality  continue  to  grow.

We  watch  expenses  very  carefully  for  our  special  events  to  ensure  they  can  be offered  at  no cost  so  any  of  our  residents  can  attend.  These  include  not  only  social events,  but  important informational  events  like  housing  rehabilitation  panels, Board  of  Education  candidate  forums, and  health  and  safety  sessions  with  local authorities.  The  staff  and  hours  of  operation  cuts  we may  have  to  make  would  lead to  both  a  reduction  in  the  number  of  special  events  we  can  host and  the  need  to charge  admission  fees  to  events  that  were  once  free  to  our  residents.  We  will also very  likely  need  to  stop  advertising  and  printed  newsletters.  Without  advertising, we  could face  additional  loss  of  revenue  through  reduced  rentals  of  The  Other Barn,  as  almost  all  of  our rental  business  comes  to  us  through  advertising. Additionally,  many  of  our  residents  still  rely on  printed  media  for  information  due to  both  preference  and,  more  importantly,  lack  of  access to  social  and  electronic media,  and  they  would  miss  out  on  important  events  and  other information.

 Our  thoughts  on  the  assessment  formula  itself  are  covered  in  our  first  response  to the  proposal,   but  they  are  worth  repeating  again.  The  formula  developed  by  the assessment  share  group, which  I  know  put  in  a  lot  of  time  and  effort,  makes everything  equal  based  upon  arithmetic formulas,  but  it  is  not  equitable.

For  example:

 Our  main  rental  facility,  The  Other  Barn,  is  a  unique  and  iconic  structure  in Columbia. Unfortunately,  it  is  also  a  difficult  structure  to  manage  and  maintain. While  the  formulaincludes  a  flat  rate  per  square  foot  of  space  across  all   facilities in  all  villages,  it  fails  to  consider   the  unique  features  and  limitations  of  the facilities.

 When  The  Loft  in  the  Other  Barn  is  in  use,  we  cannot  rent  the  rooms  on  the  bottom floor.  If  we   did,  we  would  have  people  walking  through  each  other’s  events  to access  the  ADA  entranceand  use  the  restroom  facilities.  So,  our  reality  is  that  we have  limited  opportunity  to  bring  inrevenue  from  all  of  the  square  footage available  for  rental  at  The  Other  Barn.  The  formula  does   not  recognize  this.

 As  an  older  facility  with  unique  architecture,  The  Other  Barn  also  presents  expense challenges.   While  we  recognize  and  appreciate  that  CA  covers  capital  expenditures over  $1,000,  many individual  maintenance  expenses  in  our  facilities  fall  below  this level  on  a  per-case  basis,  but they  add  up  quickly  over  the  course  of  the  year.  We pay  for  numerous  service  calls  on  our dumbwaiter  because  our  main  rental  space  is upstairs,  but  our  kitchen  is  downstairs.  The aforementioned  elevator  has  broken many  times  before  the  last  incident  that  led  to  its replacement.  It  takes  two  CA workers  to  change  a  light  bulb  in  The  Loft  at  a  cost  of  about  $150   per  incident. These  are  just  a  few  examples  to  illustrate  why  a  one  size  fits  all  formula  does  not work  when  the  villages  it  is  being  applied  to  are  not  starting  out  on  equal  footing.

 Similarly,  our  housing  stock  is  older  than  most  of  the  rest  of  Columbia.  Other villages  have benefited  from  lessons  learned  in  pioneer  villages  like  Oakland  Mills and  Wilde  Lake.  Oakland   Mills  is  about  to  celebrate  a  milestone    its  50 th birthday   but  that  is  also  a  reminder  that  our homes,  apartment  buildings,  and  commercial buildings  are  aging,  and  some  were  built  using practices  and  materials  that  were not  used  in  newer  villages.  We  would  like  to  do  property standards  evaluation,  but such  a  cut  would  make  this  impossible.  We  already  have  a  backlog  of covenant cases,  and  reducing  our  covenant  advisors’  hours  would  only  make  this  worse. Even things  like  trees  are  presenting  an  issue    we  have  large  numbers  of applications  from  residents to  take  down  trees  that  are  reaching  the  end  of  their lives.  Our  covenants  require  that  an  advisor   visit  each  site  to  start  the  process  of taking  down  dead  and  ailing  trees.  These  are  challenges that  I’m  sure  some  other villages  face,  but  some  do  not  or  face  them  to  a  lesser  degree  because of differences  in  covenants  or  just  being  newer  than  we  are,  yet  the  formula  for  all villages  is 
the  same.

 In  conclusion,  I  hope  the  CA  Board  will  consider  that  equal  and  equitable  have different meanings.  Equal  means  the  same,  while  equitable  means  fair .  The assessment  share formula  proposed  is  equal.  Unfortunately,  the  villages  it  may be  applied  to  are  not  equal, and  that  will  lead  to  an  outcome  that  is  not equitable.  We  all  sign  fiduciary  responsibility agreements;  I  signed  for  OMCA  and you  signed  for  CA.  Because  of  the  way  our  finances  are intertwined,  I  implore  you to  consider  your  fiduciary  responsibility  to  Columbia’s  villages. Oakland  Mills understands  and  accepts  that  things  will  change  under  any  new  assessment  share formula;  however,  unless  this  formula  is  adjusted  to  account  for  differences  in  our villages, and,  our  assessment  share  decrease  is  capped,  our  mission  and  financial stability  are  in  serious jeopardy.