Tuesday, June 30, 2020

News Day

Yesterday was a busy day for local news. The County held its first teleconference for Older Adults and caregivers, to “provide updates on the County’s COVID-19 response as it relates to older adults, including health tips, impact within the long-term care and assisted living facilities, available resources, and reopening plans.” Earlier in the day County Executive Ball participated in the announcement of Howard County’s Official Pollinator Plant: bee balm.

News from Macy’s had folks wondering whether they will or won’t be closing our local Mall store. Initial accounts seemed to suggest closure, while follow up from HoCoMoJo indicated that they intend to remain open at least for a while. That, of course, brings conversations of the economic health of the Mall model of retail to the forefront. The days of having the Big Anchor Stores seem to be over. Will that mean the death of the Mall in Columbia, or will replacements like Lidl and entertainment venues ease the shift to a different way of shopping in the Internet age?

At the end of the day the Columbia Association released word that CEO Milton Matthews will be stepping down at the end of his term, in April 2021. Mr. Matthews has served since 2014. Before this, Phil Nelson led CA for five years, leaving when the CA Board declined to renew his contract, saying he was “not visible enough in the community.” (I’m still mulling that one over.) Before Nelson, Maggie Brown served in the CEO role beginning in 2001.

Several things come to mind. Having seen how members of the CA Board and some community members treat the CA President, I can’t say that’s a job I’d want to have or recommend to anyone else. In addition, the financial model which has held CA together until very recently is challenged on a number of fronts. I’m not convinced that the Columbia Association as it exists today will survive the current pandemic challenges. Has the time come to discuss moving Columbia from an overgrown homeowners’ association to an incorporated city?

In some ways I have come to believe that the more we tinker with this Columbia Association thing, the worse it gets, as in the farm woman in James Thurber’s story:

Can it be done better? Probably? Are we capable of doing better? I don’t know. Most people who live in Columbia are completely unaware and the continuing trials, tribulations, and and drama of CA are completely irrelevant to them. Will a new CEO make CA relevant? That’s my question.

A tip of the hat to Ilana Bittner of HoCoMoJo for covering a lot of ground yesterday in local news stories. You can follow them on Facebook and Twitter

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