Monday, September 30, 2019

A Girl Who Sang the Blues

This just in: a moment for a musical interlude.

Most people who know me know that my college degree is in music. It’s no surprise that music, in one way or another, has figured in many of my blog posts: music in the County Schools, Music Education as a powerful tool in reaching at risk students, community music events, concerts at Merriweather and beyond, the influence of music in old age.

Since childhood music has been intertwined in every aspect of my life: school, church, my professional life, my leisure pastimes, the self-chosen soundtrack of my car rides, cooking sessions, parties,  hours of writing papers in college and hours of labor in the hospital before our younger daughter was born. One thing you’ll never find in my life or in my blog is any hint that music ought to be combined with violence. 

Yet that’s just what I have been accused of by members of an online group opposed to the Superintendent’s plan for redistricting. This is what I wrote:

I saw so many posts on social media yesterday about the Wilde Lake High School band that I began to imagine what might happen if the musicians (from a school that many of the opposition have smeared) intersected with the protestors. Nothing would have made me happier than a serendipitous confrontation between the anti-redistricting crowd and the Wilde Lake High School Band in which the band prevailed gloriously and the protestors dispersed in confusion.

I thought it would be humorous for the protestors to have to face down a bunch of earnest, fresh-faced high school musicians. The assumption being that they’d come to their senses and go home, embarrassed by their misplaced anger. Music would be the medium to reveal the inherent innocence of the Wilde Lake students about whom they have been incited to disparage and fear.

‘Cause the players tried to take the field
The marching band refused to yield.

I’m a musician. To me, music and love are made of the same stuff, embedded in the creative life force of the universe.  In my world, music always wins.

Instead, my words were twisted by people whose goal is to perpetuate fear and anger. One smoothly likened me to someone who beckons the innocent into ovens, (WTAF?) then suggested:

Even more interesting about this blogger is her hint at promoting violence.


Perhaps violence was not her suggestion, but I’m not sure what other kind of confrontation she may have sought.

That was enough the start the fiery rolling of trolls through the Internet, claiming that I was promoting violence and should be “exposed.” (Doxxed, if you will.)

Those who drop a lighted match into the dry kindling and walk away know full well what the consequences will be. No matter how  reasonable they may sound, or how carefully they tailor their message from day to day, don’t be fooled. They know what they are doing.

The truth is that on a day of sheer madness I imagined - -  music. If you think that’s sappy you are probably right. But it’s not the least bit surprising to anyone who knows me or reads my blog. 

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Only Ones

It’s a bit of a long story as to how we ended up in Bowie yesterday. It started with a spur of the moment trip last Sunday when my husband discovered that the only place that had something he needed for class was at the Bowie Barnes and Noble. He was intrigued by the Bowie Town Center and suggested we go back together to have a look.

Bowie Town Center is what indoor shopping malls have morphed into in some places. You can see examples in Hunt Valley and White Marsh: a few criss-crossed streets with shops up and down the way. It is meant to feel like old time small town shopping, I think. I feel it pull at feelings of nostalgia and yet I find myself resisting the sense that I am being manipulated by a commercial “concept”.

Last night was more like a summer evening than a fall one. The air was warm and humid. A central plaza was packed with lawn chairs as a live band performed. People strolled on the sidewalks, stopping to listen to the music or to chat with friends. When we came out from dinner at Mezeh (very much like Cava) the band was playing “Tell Me Something Good” and the positive energy was palpable. I discovered the best Dollar Tree ever, far superior to our local ones in variety of selection. It’s a bit of a drive to get there, but I just might be tempted to go back. The Barnes and Noble was worth the visit as well.

More enlightening than the stores themselves was the experience of being close to the only two white people in a confidently Black space. I’ve written about this before. I don’t think that white folks have nearly enough experiences in knowing what it feels like to be in the minority. Having those experiences can go a long way in helping us form a sense of empathy for those in our culture who are continually “othered”.

Last weekend we visited small town Indiana. In all the time we were there we saw one person of color. An entire weekend of predominantly white people, and it wasn’t remarkable to anyone but us. Imagine what it would be like to be that one gentleman having a business breakfast at a hotel, navigating an overwhelmingly white space.

I have come to believe that addressing the issues of inequity upon which this nation was (sadly) founded is the greatest challenge of our generation. (Ok, yes, climate change, but that doesn’t get us off the hook for racial injustice.) Failing to acknowledge the white supremacist roots of this country does not make it go away.

It is forever with us. How we respond to the truth of this says much about who we are.

The racism that was enshrined in the very birth of our nation is like something foul that all of us have trodden in. We all carry it with us. And we be-foul everything we touch and everywhere we go if we don’t address it directly. We carry it with us into work, or school, or church.

Imagine having something truly vile clinging to your shoes and yet saying, “Let’s not talk about that.” “That happened a long time ago.” “You’re making a big deal out of this.” Have we become so used to the stench?

It takes generations of effort to “tune out” the sufferings of others. Those of us in the dominant culture have built many intellectual and societal structures to keep out the bad thoughts and the bad feelings that come with facing our culpability. The more we cling to those structures the less we want to be around people who challenge them.

Hence, the deep, deep comfort of resegregation. Of majority white spaces. Of political representation with “just a sprinkle” of diversity. Non-profit boards with one requisite person of color. Stock photos with one black, one brown, one Asian.

Imagine going through life having to navigate all the time as being “the only one” of your kind. Think about the weight you would be carrying, and how exhausting that would be. I wonder how I would have felt last night if I had been questioned by shop clerks and passers by about why I was in the neighborhood, or what I was looking for, or if maybe I was “lost”.

Just think about it.

Saturday, September 28, 2019


A beer after work on a Friday night? Don’t mind if I do.

I popped into Sapwood Cellars yesterday for the first time. At five thirty, it was hopping. There was a food truck out front, which seems to be the trend in local brew places these days.

I’m embarrassed to say that I don’t remember the name of the beer I had other than that it was the first one in the list and it was a pale ale. It was delicious, far too easy to drink. If I hadn’t already had subsequent plans with my spouse, I could have spent several more rounds in the company of such good beer and my even more excellent fellow-teachers.

Sapwood Cellars is on Route 108. Sort of. It’s is a building that’s behind the building that fronts to 108. And it isn’t actually a cellar, either. ( I think that’s artistic license.) It looks like they’re having some kind of anniversary party today,

Do you have a local micro-brewery that you favor? What do you like and why? We seem to be having a boom of sorts in Howard County. If only my tolerance for processing alcohol these days was up for the challenge. Aging ain’t for sissies.

A footnote of sorts. The same day I posted about that long-ago wish list for Columbia, Baltimore Business Journal put out a piece announcing a deal to bring grocer Lidl to the Mall in Columbia. That wasn’t anywhere on my list, but I like it. The news prompted a friend to post:

When this happens, I will have 14 grocery stores that I can drive to in under 10 minutes.

And that made me think: Race? Competition? Reality Show?

Kind of gives a whole meaning to the concept of Supermarket Sweep.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Long Weekend

Today is the last day to vote in the Best of Howard Readers Poll. Due to local goings on, I haven’t campaigned much but I’d appreciate your vote. I still think that, in the end, I have the best readers around and I don’t need a contest to know that. I’m grateful for community support of the blog, especially right now.

I’m looking forward to a long weekend. Will we get any true Fall-like weather that will motivate me to do some much-postponed organizational tasks? Seems questionable. Perhaps if I spring into action early in the day, I’ll catch the coolers temps. Fall is probably my favorite season but it certainly is taking its time to arrive.

I’ve got a car to clean out, some recent Elevate Maryland episodes to listen to, and perhaps a haircut to fit in. I have an interesting blog post to finish up, the kind that requires a weekend.

I was inspired by this from Threw Mike’s Eyez blog:

  • My goal for tomorrow is to fill a trashcan of old junk and get rid of it. Well, I do have a lot more goals than that, but that might be the hardest. 
We’ve got a whole lot of old junk in Columbia/Howard County, don’t we? It’s proving to be quite difficult to get rid of.

Whatever you have planned for the weekend, I hope it’s a good one.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Kid Stuff

Here’s a bit of time travel for you: this episode of Postcards from Buster (PBS) where the fictional band Los Viajeros receive a Coin of Excellence for performing for the troops in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I’m a big fan of PBS programs for children. I always learn something. For instance, this piece about military families introduced me to what a Coin of Excellence is.

To me, a coin is like an Army Achievement Medal or award," said Command Sgt. Maj. Byron Loyd, the command sergeant major for Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd Infantry Division. "There are two types of coins I give: the regular battalion coin that represents the battalion, and then my personal coin that has my name and rank on it. It symbolizes something solid from me as a senior leader. It's my way of saying thank you for the hard work I see you do.”

In Maryland special coins are used both in this way - - honoring or thanking - - and also to commemorate special occasions. Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot use them. Coins are made with a special image and imprinted with the name of the giver. I imagine that the gift of one of these coins means a lot to the recipients. Otherwise there would be no point in giving them.

The Baltimore Sun/Howard Times must have been looking for a way to give its readers a bit of that PBS Kids experience when they published this piece by Erin Logan. The headline for the piece suggests financial malfeasance.

Howard County Executive Ball spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to brand items with his name, records show

But that’s just the motivation to get the student to get to the real work of the lesson.

Calvin spent 3700.00 on commemorative items. Allan spent 3500.00. 

Really, that’s all it is.

The word problem includes an illustration, like most early years math textbooks. It’s of a coin. A commemorative coin made with a special image and imprinted with the name of the giver.

Frankly I think there are better ways of encouraging local citizens to do Elementary math problems.

I also have to wonder who is shopping hit pieces on the County Executive to the Balt Sun/HoCoTimes because this is very, very thin stuff. Criticizing Calvin Ball for doing something that elected officials in Maryland have done for quite some time and that is even enshrined in the traditions of the US military is headscratchingly awful.

It’s also superficial and misleading.

Want to learn something today? Watch PBS Kids. This article won’t cut it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Wish List

Today Howard Hughes breaks ground for a new location of the popular Busboys and Poets restaurant/bookstore. In honor of this event, here’s an online conversation from 2015 where Busboys and Poets makes an appearance.

What is one business that doesn't exist in Columbia, that you wish did? - - July 15, 2015

An open all night diner. An old fashioned ice cream parlor.

The Pub.

A kosher eatery

A good old fashioned Fish Fry.

Dim Sum restaurant!

Seafood restaurant 

Maybe it's because I grew up in a town that had a video store, a grocery store, a pizza place, a Chinese place, laser tag, tiny indoor mini golf, and gas--but I cannot imagine Columbia does not have enough businesses!

I long for a place that has truly feisty baba ghanouj like Egyptian Pizza in Baltimore.

A good deli (Attmans or comparable)

Ben's Chili Bowl

Busboys and Poets

The Container Store!

Miss Shirley's, a seafood restaurant, Boxwood Collection, great deli. No more chain restaurants.

Nightclubs, Indie theatres, gay bars, tattoo shops...

Wicked Waffle (currently located in D.C. & Bethesda)

Crate and Barrel and the Container Store

A gentleman's establishment!

Theatre like Landmark Bethesda Row that plays indie and foreign films with food/wine and lounge seating.


I second the vote for indie/foreign films, with or without food/wine.

An area where the rents for businesses are not exorbitant which 

would allow privately owned creative businesses to exist.

Long John Silvers


Gelato shop, Sweetgreen (lots in DC), Burger Lounge (San Diego business)

Greek place with souvlaki and gyros!

More job training places ! Is it bad that I didn't say a restaurant ? And if it were a food business I say bring back Produce Galore and Bun Penny.

MicroCenter. I miss CompUSA even tho my wallet doesn't.

Marijuana dispensary

Jewish style deli

More farm to table organic restaurants

I found out this year Columbia has a film society. $35 for the year, foreign films, at the Smith Theater. Well kept secret.

More Italian restaurants, non franchise.

Jack in the Box

Empty nester homes or condos in downtown Columbia.

 ...we already had a Jack in the Box in Wilde Lake back in the 70's.

Year-round farmer's market


A restaurant - not a grocery store - with a substantial salad bar. Columbia used to have one and I miss it all the time.

We need an affordable and accessible women's health center, like a planned parenthood.

A theater that shows independent films

Panera in Dorsey Hall Village Center!

Fogo de Chão 

Drive in movies

Dairy Queen.

Cook-out (fast food chain)

The Container Store

Jamaican/Caribbean Restaurants

Popeyes, Bonefish, Texas Roadhouse -- hard to choose between 

those three.


Bun Penny

More vegetarian /organic / farm to table restaurants would really be perfectly suited to this area

I know about the film society, but an arthouse cinema still would be good to have for both new and vintage movies....A large bookstore which also has a good selection of movies on DVD and classical music CD's, like the Borders we used to have. I stubbornly supported that store and avoided online ordering until it was gone. Daedalus is fine but focuses on older releases.

An opera house?

A place where addicts could go for detox. Currently the closest place is Pathways in Annapolis.

I really miss the bookstore. BAM does not have the selection that Borders had.

Dairy Queen

Elizabeth Arden spa

Comedy club

A decent dance club 

A dry bar/nightclub/performance venue type of place. This a growing area - not just in Europe but many have sprouted up in other American cities. There is a growing population of folks in recovery and people who simply don't like to drink alcohol.


Small businesses - like the ones on Historic Ellicott City's Main Street. The businesses in Columbia mall are chain stores (except maybe one or two). I would love for Columbia to support small business. 

A real Deli, New York style!

A real homemade ice cream creamery! We're moving to Columbia from NH in a couple weeks, and I almost had to call the deal off when I saw there was no real ice cream! 


It’s interesting to see which places have actually come into being since then. It looks like there’s a longing out there for an authentic New York-style deli. I wonder if plans for one of those are in the works? 

Is there anything on this list that speaks to you? Are you excited about Busboys and Poets? 

I wonder where we’ll be in for more years.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Much has been made of the recent announcement by the Howard County Schools that students will no longer be able to recycle trash in school lunch rooms beginning in 2020. In general, we feel as though it ought to be possible. In reality, this kind of recycling is becoming less and less feasible, for a variety of reasons. 

I noted with excitement that Moms Organic Market in Jessup is now set up to recycle a wide variety of items including shoes, cell phones, batteries, baby food pouches, and more, Check them out.

A different kind of recycling today - - take a look back at this post from a year ago about the ALICE report from United Way. This paragraph leapt out at me:

It feels good to be in our bubble of like-minded people. It feels like home. If someone challenges our comfortable life by suggesting that we open our eyes (our neighborhoods? Our schools?) to that other twenty-five per cent we may bristle. It’s one thing to make a donation to help people who are mostly out of sight and out of mind. It’s quite another to invite them to dinner. To call them neighbor and friend. To make their priorities our priorities.

Take a minute to read it. I think it’s worth a second look.

Monday, September 23, 2019


I’ve been thinking about Governor Hogan’s State slogan, “Maryland is open for business.” It stands to reason that any state would want to attract jobs, good jobs if at all possible. So business means jobs. And jobs mean workers. And workers have to live somewhere.


Is Maryland Open for Workers? For Families? Are we welcoming to new residents or are we only looking for better jobs for the people we have already? And if residents move up to better jobs, who gets the old jobs? Where do they live?

Attracting new business is seen as a sign of a good local leader. In Howard County it would seem that one ought to attract business without creating any additional residents. I don’t know if that is altogether possible. If there isn’t enough housing, workers will have to commute from somewhere else. That means a lower quality of life for them and more carbon emissions for all of us.

And traffic. We all hate that gridlock from folks coming in and out, right?

Maybe someone should tell the Governor to cancel this “Open for Business” thing until we figure out if we’re open for people.

Sunday, September 22, 2019


When I started writing this blog I was focused more on understanding why a certain segment of Columbia’s Pioneers were determined to control future outcomes for the New American City. I wanted to get a grip on what it meant to be in Columbia versus being in an outparcel. I was spending a lot of time tracking complaints from folks who could pinpoint the exact moment that Columbia began to go wrong, (Not always the same moment.) Or, on the other hand, those who pointed to a possible change which would definitely be that moment of never-turning-back destruction of Rouse’s vision.

Recent events have made it clear to me that there’s another encircling ring of judgement: those who pinpoint the exact moment at which Howard County went wrong. And that would be in the creation of Columbia.

It’s hard for me to swallow. Columbia, the unwanted. Columbia, the unloved. Or derided, or feared. But it’s absolutely true that there is a segment of Howard County which blames all sorts of things on the existence of Columbia. It doesn’t matter that we are talking about a community which has now celebrated its 50th Birthday. Some people are still mad. Do they feel towards Rouse’s quiet purchase of Howard County land the way Baltimorians feel about the disappearance of the Colts under cover of darkness? Is it an anger that is passed through generations?

Fifty years is a long time to stay mad.

It’s also true that Columbians, being a part of something founded on idealistic principles, can be mightily full of ourselves. We can sometimes lack perspective on what the county was like before we came along. We are not always the best evangelists for our values. We can be a bit ego-centric.

Village Green/Town² is meant to be an ongoing discussion about where Columbia and Howard County intersect. Right now there are times when it feels as though there are no points of intersection whatsoever. Or that any points that touch are those which create friction. And sparks.

That didn’t stop the Howard County Library/Choose Civility folks from hosting their “The Longest Table” event this year. Of course this event draws its audience from people who want to connect, who want to learn. It’s not a representative cross section of the general population.

Did you go? How was your experience? What did you learn?

I wonder if someday we will look back at The Longest Table Events and pinpoint them as moments when our community at large began to go right. I don’t know. But I can hope.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Eyes Open

It turns out that the blog post from this week that Facebook was most excited by was this one:

Well, thanks, Facebook. Keep on doing your algorithmic thing.

This weekend there’s a music festival in Ellicott City, a multigenerational Korean Festival at the Howard County Fairgrounds, and a Recovery Walk in Ellicott City at the Assembly of God Church. Each one of these event most likely started as somebody’s dream. I’m always in awe of people who have what it takes to turn those dreams into reality. It takes outreach, and team-building, flexibility, and persistence. This year’s first ever Howard County Pride event comes to mind.

Readers of this blog know I have a soft spot in my heart for the people who dare to dream the big dreams. I want to give a special shout out today to the people who work to make dreams become a reality. It is tiring and unglamorous work.

And it is hugely important.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Another One Rides

Howard County doesn’t have enough school bus drivers. And, according to this article by Talia Richman in the Baltimore Sun, we are not alone. Other counties are struggling with this issue as well.  Ms, Richman shares a response from HCPSS spokesman Brian Bassett: 

A Howard County schools spokesman said the district also faces a shortage of about three or four dozen drivers. Officials there have “leveraged several operational solutions to make up for the shortage that include scheduling buses to make multiple runs by serving schools that have different start and dismissal times.” 

I don’t know how it works in other counties, but here in Howard the school system contracts out the various routes to a number of independent local bus companies. They, in turn, are tasked with recruiting, training, and supervising their fleet of drivers. I don’t think this is the first year that we’ve had a shortage of drivers. Is it possible that the system we currently have in place isn’t the best way to to this?

On the other hand, do we pay school bus drivers enough? What are their working conditions like? Do they receive adequate training and support on the job? Are they respected by their employers?

Oh, and one more thing: where do they live?

Howard County is a very expensive place to live. Can school bus drivers afford to live here? And, if not, how appealing would it be to have to commute daily to drive a bus in another county, very like on split shifts?

Not very, I would think.

If we want more school bus drivers, perhaps we need to think about what we need to do to grow more. Sadly bus drivers are often forgotten in the big picture of what makes a school system work. But clearly we can’t make it work without them.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Open the Door

I’ve been holding on to this exchange from Twitter for a while now.

I’m sharing it today because I’ve been thinking a lot about accessibility. How much is lost when whole chunks of our society don’t receive access to the essentials for physical and emotional growth? Talent and genius can be anywhere. But they need fertile ground to develop. They need nourishment.

You might think I’m going to segue now into more talk about schools, but I’m not. What’s on my mind this morning is about how crucial it is to make the arts accessible to all in Columbia/Howard County. So often the arts are the playground of the well-to-do. The more that money is the key that unlocks arts experiences, the more that audiences will be white and affluent.

But will future artists come only from this limited segment of our population? And can community support of the arts be sustained in a vibrant, multicultural community like Columbia/Howard County if it speaks only to one audience?

This is just one of the reasons that I’m so proud to be associated with the Inner Arbor Trust/Merriweather Park at Symphony Woods. During each season since they have opened they’ve offered a selection of events which have included ones that are either free or low cost. And their programming ranges from classical to jazz to kid’s events to culturally diverse offerings such as Cultura Plenera and Mystic India.

In short, the park is living the mission of Columbia by who it aims to reach. The arts are for
everyone. Not to harp on that picture book too much, but anyone who has consistently attended events at the Chrysalis instinctively knows that “all are welcome here.”

Accessibility to the arts isn’t simply about growing more artists and arts audiences. The arts promote a strong sense of community. They foster a sense of belonging and empowerment. The arts connect with many, many other disciplines by so many tiny threads that a free ticket to a concert may also open a door to many other amazing dreams.

The arts offer a chance to believe. This opportunity should not be reserved solely for the wealthy.

While we need to make accessibility to food, housing, education, health care (and mental health care) a priority for those who struggle, we also need to prioritize accessibility to the arts. Music, visual art, dance, and drama feed brains and souls and hearts.  They reach out to the genius which is there but is as yet undiscovered.

"We created ways for people to care more deeply about one another, to stimulate, encourage, release creativity, minimize intolerance and bigotry." - - James Rouse

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Personal Day

I’m having an “I just can’t” day over here today. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll be back tomorrow.

P.S. Music is never, ever violent. It doesn’t have to be. It’s music!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019


I overslept this morning. I’ve had a lot on my mind that made it hard to get to sleep and stay asleep.

Here’s a picture of the first bud which appeared yesterday in our front garden bed.

On a whim we planted wildflowers from seeds this year. But we got going rather late, so we weren’t sure what would happen. We’ve had a lot of growth, but no sign of flowers.

Summer is over. We figured it was probably too late for flowers. But maybe we’ll get some just the same.

I could really use something beautiful in all the local ugliness.

Monday, September 16, 2019

New Fangled

I am old, I am old, I am old. 

They’ve changed the formatting for voting in the Best Of Howard Readers Poll and it’s driving me out of my mind. All I want is one button to push when you have finished making your selections that tallies your choices and responds, “Thank you! Your vote has been recorded.” Would that be too much to ask? 

Something about this reminds me of my mother and the food processor. 

As a newlywed, I adored my food processor. Back then I cooked everything from scratch and it was one of the wedding presents that got frequent use. So, I tried to talk my mother into getting one. She was still chopping everything in a wooden chopping bowl. Her resistance amazed me.

"How do you make sure that the plastic pusher-thing doesn't get sliced off by the blades?" She asked, doubtfully.

"It doesn't! Trust me! And besides, do you think they could

successfully market something that got sliced up as soon as you used it?"  I wasn't very patient with her line of thinking.

Now I’m the one with the less-than-flexible line of thinking.

Still I must attempt to adjust to a changing world. So I’m casting my votes daily despite being quite unsure as to whether they are being registered. 

Have you been voting? How’s it going for you? Am I the only one having difficulty coping? Something else that’s new: this year you need to register for a personalized link to vote. You don’t need to be a subscriber. But you will only be able to vote once per day, not once per device per day.

I have a some personal favorites in the line-up this year. I thought I’d put in a good word for a few.

Childcare: Bet Yeladim Preschool
Kids Activities: Chrysalis Kids
Annual Festival/Event: Fantasywood Festival
Best Special Event Venue: Chrysalis 
Performing Arts Group: Columbia Orchestra
Best Farmers Market: Oakland Mills Sunday Market 
Best Principal: Nancy Thompson, Talbott Springs Elementary 

Of course, you may have other ideas. Columbia/HoCo folks can be mighty particular about such things.

Then there’s that Blog thing. Thanks to you, I won it last year. Winning feels good, no doubt about that. I work hard on the blog and care a lot about the community topics I explore. But maybe it will be someone else’s turn this year. 

We’ll see. It may be that all these clicks are being sucked into a 
vortex and expelled into the universe.

Here’s the link. Now, go vote!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

All in All

A few more thoughts about yesterday.

Some friends reached out to me to recount positive things happening around town: the Wilde Lake Family Picnic, the Monarchs and More Children’s event at the Chrysalis. A look around Twitter also showed businesses coming back on Ellicott City’s Main Street: Miss Fit and the Forget-Me-Not Factory. All in all, more of our community is thriving than not. We’re not completely a lost cause.

It’s interesting to note that, while the County Seat is Ellicott City, the protest event about Howard County Schools redistricting was held in Downtown Columbia. It’s an acknowledgement that the upstart community, around only since the late sixties, has become the center of the County. Yet somehow the entire point of Columbia - - better communities through racial, ethnic, and economic integration - - seems to have been lost on the protestors.

I saw so many posts on social media yesterday about the Wilde Lake High School band that I began to imagine what might happen if the musicians (from a school that many of the opposition have smeared) intersected with the protestors. Nothing would have made me happier than a serendipitous confrontation between the anti-redistricting crowd and the Wilde Lake High School Band in which the band prevailed gloriously and the protestors dispersed in confusion.

Didn’t happen. But in my imagination it was excellent.

One more thing. It would be wise to keep an eye out for folks who appear to be using all this community controversy in an effort to raise their own personal visibility. Yes, sadly, there will always be those who just hope to profit from the exposure. If the walk had not existed it might have been necessary for them to invent it. For the photo ops.

I don’t think those photos are going to hold up well over time.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A Day in the Life of a Community

At ten am today in Owen Brown there will be a celebration of the life of Jane Dembner. 

At 12 pm there will be an “Opposition Walk” in Downtown Columbia to protest the Superintendent ‘s plan for redistricting.

The painful irony of the juxtaposition of these two events is not lost on me.

The Columbia that Ms. Dembner believed in and worked for was welcoming and inclusive. She cared about community that was for everyone. Her vision wasn’t simply pools, parks, and pathways. Her Columbia, and, in relationship, Howard County, was a place where attitudes could be changed and  fair and affordable housing welcomed those who needed it.

I thought of Jane when we opened our school year with this book, All Are Welcome. Some samplings from the text by Alexandra Penfold:

No matter how you start your day./ What you wear when you play./ Or if you come from far away./ All are welcome here.

Then, further along:

You have a place here. / You have a space here. / You are welcome here.

And, most of all:

We’re part of a community/ Our strength is our diversity./ A shelter from adversity

All are welcome here.

Whatever is happening “at the Mall” today is most definitely not a message of inclusion. Whether motivated by outright racism, polite suburban “don’t say it out loud” racism, or a sense of affluent entitlement, it is a rejection of what community really means. It is an unwillingness to zoom out and see the bigger picture. 

The responsibility of schools is to meet the needs of the larger community. Today’s event shows how desperately some people want to think small, live small, be small. I take a dim view of the habit some people have of saying that Jim Rouse is rolling over in his grave. But honestly, folks, today he may actually be wincing.

Where will I be today?

Celebrating Jane. Grateful for her life. Grateful for her family and friends and colleagues with whom she did so many good things.

We’re part of a community/ Our strength is our diversity./ A shelter from adversity

All are welcome here.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Who Knew?

The change was made without fanfare, posted quietly to Boarddocs and noticed quite by accident by OMCA Board Chair Jonathan Edelson. The replacement school for Talbott Springs Elementary had been moved from first priority to somewhere on down the line. So was a major capital project for Hammond High School. The response from the public indicates that this announcement was completely unexpected.

Who knew? 

Not the County Council, if various statements of dismay are to be believed. I haven’t seen any official comments from members of the Howard Country delegation to the Maryland State legislature. I wonder if they knew. What about the County Executive?

Local and State Government officials are not in the habit, nor should they be, of micromanaging hcpss affairs. But the construction of a new school is different. It requires the coordination of local and state funding and therefore would require ongoing communication and collaboration. At least, that is what I had assumed.

So, to my mind, if the school system had arrived at the conclusion that monies just weren’t there for these two projects, it would have been done in collaboration with state and local government. And I’m not getting the feeling that this is the case. (Obviously I will correct if it turns out I am wrong.)

And what about the AAC, who were tasked with giving direction to the Superintendent’s redistricting efforts? It would have been crucial for them to know whether these projects were going to be realized or not in weighing various options. Did they know? 

I don’t think so.

So, who knew? Well, the Superintendent, obviously. The BOE. And Central Office staff, I guess. Board Member Vicky Cutroneo posted this article from HoCoTimes shortly after news broke about the change. 

Top construction projects for Howard schools to be funded, but officials voice concern for future needs, Jess Nocera

Hmm. That article was written in May.

“We told you in May but you weren’t listening”?

While I appreciate the background information from Ms. Cutroneo, I don’t think this lets the school system off the hook for making such an enormously impactful change in a way that left community members feeling blindsided and disrespected.

So at this point I still have more questions than answers. My most pressing questions are about how the school system works in collaboration with local and state government and what kind of transparency is required. There’s simply got to be more to this story.