Thursday, May 31, 2018

An Appropriate Intervention

The County Council will be meeting today to vote on the County budget. Despite the weight of the Ellicott City flooding and its ensuing destruction, council members must address the needs of the entire county and try to make the best decisions for all. I don’t envy them.

One thing that we must address now are the needs of the school system. Council members Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa have filed an amendment that would stop the proposed increase in class sizes and support HCPSS’s restorative justice program. Amendment 6 to Council Bill 25 would shift 5.1million into the school system’s budget.

I support this. As a teacher and a parent, I know how important class size is. The best way to teach students is to know students. The larger the class, the less possible this becomes. I also support the further funding of Restorative Justice program.

I wrote a letter to the Council last night explaining why I support this amendment. You can, too, but you need to hurry; the meeting starts at eight thirty.

To write all members of the Council at once:
To copy in County Executive Allan Kittleman:

Dear members of the County Council,

During the administration of the former Superintendent of HCPSS I wrote to you on more than one occasion to ask you to step in when things in our schools were going amiss on a number of fronts. I was told that the Council doesn’t interfere.

Our schools are now facing enormous challenges because no one interfered when money was being misappropriated, faculty and staff were being mistreated, no-bid contracts became the rule, mold-contaminated buildings were making people sick, poorly-constructed, wildly expensive programs were rolled out, and the pursuit of the almighty test score took precedence over the mental health and well-being of our students. 

The Council surely heard from many constituents during these years. What a difficult time that was for many of us who care about Howard County’s children, teachers, staff, and families. 

Today you have an opportunity to step in. Today, as you consider the budget, you have before you a clear way to intervene on behalf of our students and their futures. Please vote to approve amendment 6 to Council Bill 25.

It’s your turn. Please don’t let us down.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Lower the Flag

Sending you here today:

National Guardsman's heroism in Ellicott City flood recalled as 'the most Eddie thing ever' 
- - Sarah Meehan and Christina Tkacik, Baltimore Sun/Howard County Times

There are some days when it’s best to let the pros do their jobs. This is one of them. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


One year ago today:

The Main Drag: HoCo Holler

I dropped off two teens for a day of fun yesterday. Their destination? Old Ellicott City. As I turned on to Main Street I couldn't help but recall the horrific scenes of flooding last summer and its devastating aftermath. And now, as I pulled over to let the kids out, I was witnessing such a different scene: a sunny day, folks out and about, many shops beautifully restored.

It's amazing.

I know that there is still work to be done, I know that some businesses suffered losses from which they could not recover. Even taking this into account, the overall recovery of Old Ellicott City is astoundingly good. So many people worked in so many ways to make this happen. Love, determination, hard work, cash and in-kind donations. Creative thinking and problem solving, too.

The recovery in Ellicott City is rather like the proverbial ice berg. You know--the one about how so little of an iceberg is visible. About 7/8 of it is below the surface. There are visible faces and names to the recovery effort in the form of local leaders and partnerships. But I think that all of them would be quick to emphasize the importance of all the unseen helpers who worked together to make this happen.

So the girls went to the Forget-Me-Not Factory and Sweet Elizabeth Jane. (My daughter liked their new location.) They had lunch from River House Pizza and dessert from Scoop-AHH-Dee-Doo. They met up with my husband for the ride home at the parking lot by the Wine Bin because my daughter knew she could find it, having been to a movie night there. There was something so lovely to me in watching her share her love of this place with a friend.

A fervent and grateful HoCo Holler to everyone who has worked and is working to bring back Old Ellicott City and to assure its viability in the future. Your work looks really, really good.

Comments? Post them here:

Monday, May 28, 2018

Invisible and Delayed

From Freakonomics Radio: The Most Ambitious Thing Humans Have Ever Attempted, guest: Atul Gawande.

DUBNER: Good ideas often take a really long time to catch on in medicine. Why do you think that is? 
GAWANDE: Yeah, I got really fascinated by this thinking about two examples. Both of them transformed surgery in the nineteenth century: anesthesia and the discovery of anti-sepsis. Preventing infections, the biggest killer there was. Anesthesia was discovered and within two months — 
DUBNER: In Boston, right? 
GAWANDE: In Boston, yeah. Massachusetts General Hospital. And within two months of publishing the result that a gas could render people insensible to pain, it was being used in every capital in Europe. There’s no internet. You had to send news by boat and horse. And within two months people were using it in the capitals of Europe, and by six years later there wasn’t a hospital in the country that was not delivering anesthesia care. By contrast, anti-sepsis, Joseph  Lister discovered that if you used antiseptic solution, clean the instruments, your hands, did all that stuff, you could cut infections by 80 percent. And a generation later, you still haven’t gotten to half of the profession doing it. And when I broke it down, I realized there’s a difference between a visible and immediate effect that they had in anesthesia that could be recognized right away, and tackling invisible delayed effects of germs.
So an example from today: the fastest selling drug in history was Viagra. Immediate and visible effect. And it was very good for the doctors too. My dad was a urologist at the time, and he tripled the number of patients he had in his practice within weeks. And so that was just a tremendous win-win. Surgery checklist: harder to sell. Cuts deaths — we just showed in South Carolina, hospitals that adopted it got a 22 percent reduction in death compared to the hospitals that didn’t complete the process. Because it’s making an investment now for a gain later for many problems which are often not immediately visible to people.
DUBNER: It’s interesting, in both of your examples it was the prevention that people ignore and the intervention that of course people gravitate toward.
As I was listening to this episode in the car yesterday, this particular section leapt out at me. I tucked it away in my mind, knowing I’d be using it at a later date. I just didn’t know it would be so soon.
What happened in Ellicott City yesterday was horrific. We all know that more than money and property have been lost here. As I write there are reports of a missing person: someone who was assisting with rescue. The spirits of many who rebuilt after the 2016 flood are broken or close to it. This kind of catastrophic loss and its ensuing grief leaves a mark on each human life it touches. 
A friend of mine said last night, “This is tragic, but it is a tragedy of human creation.”
And then I rembered Steven Dubner’s words:
It’s interesting, in both of your examples it was the prevention that people ignore and the intervention that of course people gravitate toward.
Stormwater management in a time of increasing climate change has been the unsexy prevention that many have chosen not to champion. And so, yet again, we are forced to be reactive because there was not the political will to be proactive. 
Today and the days and weeks (and months) to come will be about reaching out to those in need and doing whatever we can to help. I encourage my readers to participate in whatever way they can. But as the local election season gears up, what can we do to turn the discussion to responsible stormwater management policies and the proactive investments now that will prove their value later?
Ideas? Post them here:
Or you just might catch me in person here this afternoon.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


Help Ellicott City residents!

HoCoFoodBank will accept donations for Ellicott City Flood Relief (in partnership w/the #EllicottCityPartnership) TOMORROW-Mon 5/28 10am-2pm.  Items most in need: WATER, CLEANING SUPPLIES, FLASHLIGHTS. 

9385 Gerwig Lane
Columbia, MD.  Please share.

Support Portalli’s employee fund:

Fundraiser at Hysteria:

Donate to Ellicott City Partnership:

Let me know if there are more, and I will add them in. —jam


Last week I waited too long to pop in to the Oakland Mills Farmer’s Market and most of the things I had hoped to get were sold out. This was my own darned fault, and I knew it. As I stood at a particular stall, expressing that sentiment, I noticed that two of the workers were wearing Allan Kittleman t-shirts.

Actually, it was more like the realization that these folks were Kittleman supporters leapt out at me in bright, vibrant yellow. I felt like the shirts themselves were glowing, almost staring at me the whole time I was there.

I pondered this on the way home. Of course they’re Kittleman supporters, I thought to myself. Western Howard County, agricultural...But up until I saw those shirts I never really thought about their business in a political light. This doesn’t mean they weren’t always Kittleman supporters. I just never knew, and so it didn’t matter.

I don’t want it to matter. I want to be happy to be supporting the Farmer’s Market, local businesses, local agriculture. I was surprised at the instant reaction I found myself having. It wasn’t that I find Mr. Kittleman an evil scourge upon the County, but that I found myself staring at (a perfectly permissible form of) political speech in a place where I never expected to see it, and it made me uncomfortable.

Would I have felt the same if it had been shirts for Democratic Candidates? Well, that depends on the candidate, I guess. I’d like to think that it was the introduction of political speech into what had been, before that, a politics-free environment. But, I have to admit, as a Democrat, I might have just seen it as “normal” and tuned it out.

I find myself very torn these days between trying to accept or reject people on their own merits, and recoiling from those whose political party now stands for policies I find morally bankrupt. To be honest, I finding myself shrinking from anything that feels overtly “Christian” for the same reasons. I have come to have a lack of trust.

Ironically, it’s my own (basically Christian but kind of Unitarian) religious beliefs that keep me trying to find the thin places where we can reach out to those who are different and find a way to build better connections.

What can I say? I am a deeply partisan individual who wants to believe that there can be good outside my own partisan world. And yet the events in our nation and how they are affecting the world at large and even our local sphere reinforce a sense of wariness.

And now I need to wrap this up so I can make it to the Market in time to get strawberries.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Saved by Scribbles

Yes, I have been up since 5:30 am. No, I cannot find anything to write about.

Thank heavens for Marge Neal, Baltimore County journalist and occasional blogger, who posted this lovely companion piece to my grass controversy post of earlier in the week.

Blade Mouth-Runner

What do you think? Would Columbia types ever do the same?

And then, out of the dim recesses of my memory, came the hazy recollection of this story.

Neighborhood Hero

Neighborhood heroes. We need more of them. We need to be them.

Friday, May 25, 2018

The Painful Moment

God is a God of the present. 
God is always in the moment,
 be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.
(Theologian Henri Nouwen)

As I was scanning through my social media feed this morning, seeing photographs of the hateful graffiti at Glenelg High School and responses from local notables and friends, this quote appeared. I share it not to forward a religious view but rather to look at what it means to be in the moment with this uncomfortable occurrence. If you don’t like the God reference, feel free to replace it with the word “truth”.

Each time something like this happens in our community, I read statements like this:

This isn’t who we are.
We are better than this.

We rush in with denials. We wash away the ugly words. We run from the painful implications.

We don’t want any of that ugliness to stick to us or to tarnish our community. But until we truly enter into the truth of that moment, we can’t begin to develop the strength to address it. And in our denials and avoidance we allow these experiences to follow us and stalk us until the next one inevitably comes along.

And it will. 

We are not One Howard. Saying it will not make it so. Look at the photographs from Glenelg, not only filled with racial hatred, anti-semitism, homophobia, but also a pointed personal attack against the school principal. Look at them. Don’t look away.

This is who we are.
We are not better than this.

Local leaders will be quick to say we won’t tolerate this behavior. They are right; we shouldn’t. But painting it over, either literally or metaphorically, is not the medicine that will cure our ills. 

I have a mental image that I can’t shake: what if each time this happened we all had to wear those words on our bodies and had to explain to everyone who asked.

No, it wasn’t me...I would never do this.
What did you do to keep things like this from happening?
Well, um, nothing really. I’m a good person.

And imagine if those words wouldn’t fade away until we actively bore witness to the truth and did something tangible to change that reality for ourselves and our community. 

This may sound fanciful and/or twisted, like an episode of the Twilight Zone. But it’s closer to reality  than you may think. Until we own this experience—truly own it—it owns us.

We can’t wash it away. We need to work it away.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Sumer Is Icumen In

Pools open this weekend. Graduations will be happening at Merriweather.

Sumer Is Icumen In

Strawberry picking at Gorman Farm. Restaurant patrons choosing the outdoor tables. Soon the snowball stands will be open.

Sumer Is Icumen In

People are looking at the lineup at Merriweather for the summer and choosing their concerts. They’re finalizing summer camp and childcare plans for their children, family vacation plans, too.

Sumer Is Icumen In

Local gardeners are tilling the soil at “the allotments”. Children and parents are gearing up for the CA swim team season. Teachers are crossing the days off their school calendars. 


Svmer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu
Groweþ sed
and bloweþ med
and springþ þe wde nu
Sing cuccu
I’m putting a call out for a future post: what are the things that mean summer in Columbia/HoCo to you? Add your thoughts here:

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

This. Means. War.

Yesterday I witnessed the Great Columbia Grass-Cutting War. It wasn’t pretty.

On a Facebook page entitled “Celebrating Columbia Maryland and its Future” the topic was anything but celebratory. A disgruntled resident was pulling out all the stops to shame any and everyone she perceived to be responsible for one of the great horrors of our time:

Too bad the Columbia Association, the Harper's Choice Village Board, and Enterprise Community Homes are all refusing to take any action to mow the grass at Harper House, which is now hip high. Apparently Columbia Association mowed this area in years past but now says the property owner Enterprise Community Homes should mow this area at the corner of Harper's Farm Road and Cedar Lane. Gridlock because each party is refusing to mow this grass and it looks terrible. Maybe Howard County needs to get involved!

Her post was accompanied by (twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each one explaining what each one was to be used as of the approach, the getaway, the northwest corner the southwest corner and that's not to mention the aerial photography.) multiple photographs of the offending site.

What followed (53 comments-worth) revealed that the complainant had already gone the same route on NextDoor, emailed multiple folks at the Harper’s Choice Village Association, and probably made multiple phone calls. Now I don’t know why the immediate removal of the grass was a life or death issue for her. Perhaps she dropped a contact lens or is missing a small dog.

But it was quite clear from responses to her tirade that, every step of the way, she had been receiving honest and forthright answers from Her Village Association, and she just didn’t like it. She chose to misrepresent what was actually going on in order to get more people stirred up on social media. It was the ultimate in “I want to talk to a manager!”

A highlight (?) was the person who thought it was high time that Howard County used some our tax money on taking care of Columbia, instead of relying on the Columbia Association to do it. Yet another example of people not understanding what Howard County Government does vs what CA does. Sheesh.

A (long-suffering?) gentleman came forward to re-iterate the steps that Harper’s Choice was already   taking to address the situation.

Do you guys think that if someone violates a covenant we can immediately sue them? These processes take time. Would you like me to go to your house, find all of the issues, and then give you 7 days to fix them all before I start fining you by the day? Probably not. That is why the process is civil. The grass sucks but it will get cut. We are on it.

And then, he shared a bit of golden information:

The new owners didn’t know their responsibility. This town is very complex. People don’t realize. The village center itself is owned by over 4 entities. This town is confusing.

Amen! This town is confusing. Maybe I should make that the new slogan for my blog. 

Village Green/Town² - - this town is confusing

God bless that poor man. This is probably not his first go-round with angry citizens demanding instant service. From what I can tell, he’s a board member. So that means he volunteers his services to   make Harper’s Choice a better place. You, sir, are my hero.

In the meantime, a bit of insight from another entrant into the fray:

Do people really care how tall some grass is?

Dear friends, in the Great Columbia Grass-Cutting War, let there be no more casualties. Let them hammer their swords into ploughshares. Or maybe lawn mowers.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Women’s Question

Meanwhile, at the MPT forum...

Candidates for governor were asked:

Next question on the economy: look into your crystal balls and tell me where do we go?

No, scratch that. The men were asked that. The two women candidates, Ervin and Vignarajah, got something different.

Also, the two women on stage got a different question, both of them asked what to do about boosting entrepreneurship for women.  The men just got questions about boosting the economy.

(Information shared here comes from the twitter feed of Erin Cox @ErinatTheSun)

May I just take a moment to bang my head on the desk here?

This is right up there with the early days of women in journalism where men were assigned straight news stories and women were limited to articles about cooking, home decorating, and the society pages. It’s 2018 already, folks. We have two women running for Governor and you have to ask them “women questions”?

Does this mean that there were also especially tailored questions for candidates of color, or for the candidate who is gay?

No, when it came to economy, there were two questions: one for the men, and one for the women.

I don’t know much about the moderator for this event. It seems unlikely that this was a deliberate attempt to marginalize the women candidates. It’s probably just unthinking stupidity. But to frame a separate question in this way absolutely does marginalize Ervin and Vignarajah as candidates whose interest and capabilities are limited to the “women’s sphere.”

Do moderators submit their questions in advance to any sort of panel for feedback before the event? If so, were there any women on that panel?

Everyday sexism at work. And from public television, no less.

Please tell me we can do better than this.

Monday, May 21, 2018

In the Darkness

My thoughts are very dark today. More school shootings, more toxic masculinity that cannot abide rejection. More ridiculous posturing from those who take money from the NRA. We have become a culture which requires the ritual sacrifice of our young.

I am sick to death of it.

But it is Monday, and we are all beginning this week together. There’s got to be a bit of light somewhere. Here is the full text of Bishop Michael Curry’s address at the royal wedding on Saturday.

I’ll leave you with this:

Think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Raining on Prom Night

Friday night I was on pizza delivery duty for the GSA all-HoCo party at my daughter’s high school.

They were tight on money so restaurant delivery from Anthony’s wasn’t in the cards. Having Mom bring it on over from Little Caesar’s was the more affordable option.

It was raining, not heavily, but when hasn’t it been raining lately? When I arrived at Little Caesar’s in the Oakland Mills Village Center there were only two other customers: a young couple in evening finery. The fellow, in a whimsical move, was wearing his date’s handbag around his neck by its gold chain handle. Her dress was red, satin and lace, but understated. Quietly elegant.

“You guys look fabulous!”




Another gentleman came in from the rain. Around my age, maybe older.

“Where’s your prom?”

“B & O Railroad Museum, in Baltimore.”

“Oh, that’s gorgeous. You’re going to love that,” he said. I shook my head in agreement.

All the while the young couple is waiting on their order, and I am waiting for fifteen assorted pizzas and five orders of cinnamon bite things. I begin to carry my order out to the car. The young people leave, carrying a pizza. The young man stops.

“Do you need some help carrying that to your car?”

“Oh, heavens. No, I’m fine. You go to your prom and have a fabulous time!”

They smile and walk away. The clerk from the pizza place comes out carrying the rest of my pizzas.  It is an altogether satisfactory experience.

Some of our kids in Howard County pose for photographs by the family pool and head off to dinner in fancy restaurants before the prom. These kids were heading off with a humble pizza from Little Caesar’s and they still had the human kindness to offer help to someone in the rain.

It turns out that it was the Wilde Lake prom they were heading to. I checked the arrival photos in the Sun but didn’t see them.

I hope they had a truly wonderful time.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I woke up to a world awash in the royal wedding. More coffee, please. No criticism from me; I just didn’t have it in me to get up that early. If Twitter is any indication, I should be running the text of  Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s address in place of a blog post today. It’s not available yet, from what I can tell. Perhaps tomorrow.

On the local front, today is Oakland Mills 50th Birthday kick off celebration. The events of the day have been adjusted due to inclement weather. I think the most updated schedule of events can be found here.

Wine in the Woods will be squishy this year, on account of the weather. I know from past experience that this will not deter devotees of our local rite of Spring. I also know it’s going to rip up the grass something fierce. Can’t wait for that new pathway system to go in...

County Council member and candidate for County Executive Calvin Ball did have an event scheduled for this afternoon but it has been moved to June 9th. I’d say that’s a good call.

There’s going to be a free community square dance happening today at Clarksville Commons from 3 to 5 pm. That event will be happening rain or shine. Learn more here.

Something to plan ahead for: the Building Families for Children Agape 5K.  

Building Families for Children is anon-profit Christian organization that provides family stability services within a 50 mile radius of their office in Columbia. This includes foster care, therapy services, material assistance drives, and volunteer family coaching/hosting services through Safe Families for Children. The Agape 5K is their major annual fundraising event. From their Facebook page:

Register before 5/25 to reserve a free athletic race t-shirt!
Use promo code 1MONTH TODAY ONLY to save 10%!

✔ Athletic Agape 5k T-Shirt
✔ Chip Timing (Racine MultiSports) 
✔ Raffle Prizes & Swag Bags
✔ Convenient Early Packet Pickup (Road Runner Sports)
✔ Delicious Post-Race Snacks (bagels, donuts, bananas, muffins, and more!)
✔ Awards & Prizes (top 3, age categories, largest group)
✔ Supporting Programs That Help Maryland's Most Vulnerable Children Thrive in Families! 

Already signed up? Invite friends to join your team!
We still need 40 VOLUNTEERS! Sign up on the event page. 

Yeah, there’s that Preakness thing happening in Baltimore again. I’m just hoping that wet conditions don’t cause serious injury to any of the horses. The people on the infield will need to fend for themselves.

In closing, I can’t let the day go by without sharing this local story:

“Was there a part of you that was like, ‘This isn’t real. This could not happen at my school?’” the interviewer asks.
“No. There wasn’t,” Curry replies, with a bitter laugh.
“Why so?”
“It’s been happening everywhere,” she shrugs. “I’ve always felt it would eventually happen here too.”
It. Will. Happen. Here. Don’t want it to be a local story? Do something.

Friday, May 18, 2018

No Thanks

Dear political people, especially men: do not hug me if you don’t *really* know me. Ok?

I posted this on Facebook last night after coming home from the campaign kick-off event for Jen Terrasa. (I’m not a big fan of political events but it was an easy decision to come out for Ms. Terrasa.)   At any rate, I was surprised at how many folks responded to my statement.

First of all, I want to clarify that I love hugs, from people I know well, and with whom the expression of affection through hugging is appropriate. The act of pressing a hug on someone you’ve never had more than a two minute conversation with is creepy to me, especially if it is in the service of forwarding a political campaign.

“I want something from you. So I’m going to hug you as a ritualized symbol of a familiarity we don’t actually have. Now, vote for me.”

No thanks. Being a political candidate is a bit like being a door-to-door salesman. One is not required to hug the Fuller Brush man.

Let’s face it. A hug is an intimate physical act in which one must lower one’s defenses to participate. Yes, there are many more intimate physical acts than this, but still, pressing your body against someone else’s and squeezing should at the very least require consent. If you want to show you have a positive connection with someone, then take the time to actually forge that positive connection. Otherwise it comes across like marking your territory.

A sad footnote to this is that I received a private message from an old friend worrying that he was the source of my complaint. The reason he is a friend is because he actually cares what I think and feel, and has taken the time to get to know me. He isn’t the sort to carelessly violate boundaries. It’s people like this that one can trust with a hug.

I felt this way before the the #metoo movement, by the way. I’m just surprised that men running for office haven’t gotten the message that consent and respecting boundaries are front and center this year. My goodness, I hope they stay front and center forever.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Bananas in Baltimore

Just your periodic reminder that without journalists you don’t have attention to detail. Just saying.


All kidding aside, things in Baltimore are pretty bananas right now. Do you subscribe to the Baltimore Sun? You should.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

The Big Ask

Dear Reader,

Just in case you missed my earlier emails, I’m dashing off this last-minute note with a very important purpose. You know we’re facing a big deadline tonight and your support is crucial.

Being a blogger isn’t all cocktail parties and ribbon-cuttings, you know. It takes a full time devotion that affects my whole life and that of my home team. I need you on my home team now, Reader.

This year we’re continuing the Project Summer initiative by sending a worthy child to theater camp, but we need your help to make our funds go farther. There’s driving school in the offing, and wisdom teeth extraction, too.

We’ll also be addressing infrastructure needs as we move forward on our historic decision to improve the two bathrooms in our home. These bold changes are made with the express commitment to improve quality of life and long term resale value.

Your commitment to our mission has put us over the top before, and you can help us do it again. Time is of the essence. Our deadline is midnight tonight to make some big decisions on where we are going next. Your participation in our mission sends the message that a world class community is willing to support the kind of small town, hyper local blogging that leaves no stone unturned in pursuit of a good story.

No amount is too small. Consider checking the box to make a regular monthly donation. But do it now, before midnight. Give your voice a voice in the blogosphere.

Join the Village Green/Town² home team and be a Reader who knows best.


Am I a little burned out by candidate donation requests?


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Trapped in a Lost Parcel


Every once in a while I see a local story that is pure Dennis Lane. This one has his name all over it, in my opinion.

Dispute over slice of land has pizza food truck in limbo (Kate Magill, Howard County Times)

River House Pizza owner Nathan Sowers just wanted to build an awning over his pizza oven and now he’s trapped in a sort of land use Bermuda Triangle while the county dukes it out with owner (?)Susan Duff. The Tonge Triangle, perhaps?

This story has everything: local business, real estate, County vs. private owner, historical property lines, dueling deeds, records that go back to the 1800’s. 

“It has no tax I.D., it’s up for grabs, it’s what we call a lost parcel.” 

It’s not a lost parcel to River House Pizza. They’ve been whipping up their delicious wares near the Little French Market for some time now and their business adds a lot to the Tongue Row atmosphere. Live music, delicious pizza, ice cream from’s a perfect old Ellicott City evening.

It’s Spring. Almost Summer. The time for outdoor pizza is now. Folks who negotiate property disputes may have all the time in the world but a small business like River House Pizza does not. Their livelihood is tied up in the successful operation of this site. 

I don’t know who has the most accurate property deed but this whole thing is making the County look a bit like Scrooge, if you ask me.

Want to support River House Pizza?  Patronize their brick and mortar location:

Forest Green is open 7 days, 11-9pm.

As of now, the courtyard hours are Fridays 4-8:30, Saturdays 3-8:30, and Sundays 11-5pm.

Monday, May 14, 2018


A friend shared this question with me last week.

 "Generally speaking, do you believe most people are doing the best they can?"

This question, and the results of a study analyzing people’s responses, are in the book Rising Strong by Brene Brown

This question has been in my head ever since. I think the reason it made such a big dent on me is that it’s not a question I ever ask myself. In examining the world around me I tend to rely on pretty basic responses. I experience happiness when people do things that I feel are good, or that are pleasing to me personally. I experience anger, sadness, fear when people do things I think are bad, or that hurt me personally.

Gosh, that sounds an awful lot like the study of a single-celled organism being poked with a lab instrument.

"Generally speaking, do you believe most people are doing the best they can?"

In order to answer this question you have to be willing to think about why other people do what they do. You have to attempt to get out of your own head and endow other people with the humanity you allow for yourself.

I was on the receiving end of some unprovoked and inaccurate criticism online last week. It stung. I’m not sure which hurt more, the tirade itself or that no one came to my defense. Into this swirl of negative emotions came my friend’s question. It made me stop and think.

You see, I do believe, overall, that people are doing the best they can. So what does that mean when we hurt one another, or make bad choices, or fail? How does that color my perception as the single-celled organism reacting to an unwanted stimulus?

I don’t know. But I know that it does make a difference. If only because it reminds me that it’s not all about me, my feelings. My survival.

Here’s a toast to the reminder that we’re not all tiny singe-celled organisms against the world. And to the friends who remind us of that when times are tough.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

The Sticking Point

civ·il rights
  1. the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

    There appears to be a significant chunk of the Howard County population that believes that the civil rights of hcpss students are a matter of opinion. No. They are protected by law. We don’t get to have a great big class discussion and craft a “solution” that prevents people from feeling uncomfortable.

    Not all that long ago there were plenty of parents and probably even school board members who felt uncomfortable about their white children going to school with black children. Yes, right here in Howard County. History does not look too kindly on the many ways they engineered to deny civil rights on the basis of skin color.

    This country moved forward on the legal decision that separate will never be equal. And that goes for race, for the disabled and those needing special education services, for pregnant teens, for transgender students. Nowhere in the law does it say that your feelings about this must be protected.

    It’s a free country, you may say, and it’s true that you are welcome to believe whatever you wish if it does not impinge upon the rights of others. You might want to re read the end of that sentence, though. But once you put yourself in the running for public office, it will be your responsibility to uphold the law as it stands. And what if you are running to serve students and families on the Board of Education? 

    You must make it your business to educate yourself as to the civil rights laws that pertain to our students. All of them. Every argument used against transgender students having appropriate access to bathrooms and locker rooms has been used, in one way or another, against other classes of students. It is no more about bathrooms than it was about water fountains. 

    And, if for one moment, you look at a class of students as ‘problems to be solved’, I strongly suggest that you withdraw from the race. Championing the civil rights of all students should be the foundation of every BOE candidate’s campaign. 

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Fabulous at Fifty

Here comes my Village, Oakland Mills, making fifty look fabulous with birthday celebrations so grand that I couldn’t even fit them onto one page. And this is just the kick-off event!

These days when we discuss the older Columbia villages it is often in the context of challenges we face. But Oakland Mills continues to show the bright side of our deep Columbia roots. Our Village Board is active, with a number of specialized committees to address community issues. We support our Farmers Market, our Village Schools, and a variety of charitable ventures throughout the year to support families in need.

Yeah, we’re fifty. And we’re feisty and fabulous, too.

Take a look at the flyer above for details to the kickoff event next Saturday, May 19th. There’s absolutely something for everyone. If you live in Oakland Mills, or, if you have ever lived in Oakland  Mills, come on by!

May 19th. It all begins at 9 am. Come help us celebrate.!

Friday, May 11, 2018

The Price of Politics

Until yesterday, all I knew about Kevin Kamenetz came from listening to one interview on the Elevate Maryland podcast. As I read the sad news yesterday of his sudden death and began to read about his life, I realized I have a lot of catching up to do.

Honestly, I was disappointed by Kamenetz after listening to the podcast. He seemed too prepared with prepackaged answers, with little time to stop and think a new thought. His performance was more than polished. It felt as though he had developed a veneer as hard and shiny as many layers of polished lacquer. He had an admirable record. He brought along suitable talking points.

But there was no sense of thoughtfulness. Of intellectual flexibility or even just a tiny spark of vulnerability. None.

Politics changes people. I have noticed this even amongst my friends and acquaintances. It’s not an easy world and putting up an outer shell of self-protection is often the route that many take in self-defense. When I recently talked to candidates for the Democratic Central Committee on the HoCo Forward Slate, the differences were notable between those who were experienced and those who were new to the field.

The newcomers were much more likely to speak candidly and share their own opinions. The experienced candidates took more time, chose words carefully, used qualifiers, tried to deflect, push the discussion somewhere else. They fell back on approved talking points. I found the differences a bit alarming.

By all accounts Mr. Kamenetz worked long and hard in the service of his community and the value of his career should not be judged by one appearance on a local podcast. I wonder if the manner I found so off-putting was the result of years of surviving the rough and tumble world of politics and public service.

One thing I cannot shake from my mind today, When asked if he had made any mistakes, or felt any regret about choices he had made in his career, Kamenetz demurred. He felt good about all his choices and accomplishments, he countered. Finally, when pressed, he allowed as how he wished he had spent more time with his sons when they were younger.

Those words are the first thing I thought of when I heard the news of his untimely death.

To all my friends who are running for office: please remember his words. When you consider how much of yourself you are willing to give to public service, don’t forget that there are some things that you can never get back.