Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Imagining Downtown

There's lots of coverage (here and here)about General Growth's plans for downtown, and for now, lots of people are saying they are optimistic about the future (at least until General Growth offers more details about its plans for housing units and density blah blah).

We have not studied the proposals yet but there is lots of talk about office buildings, retail establishments, apartments, condos, a new 300-room hotel, a skating rink, a pedestrian-friendly this, terraced that, remodeled Merriweather, perhaps a new library, children's theater, small cities think-tank center, even a new highway interchange connecting town center to Oakland Mills.


All of which sounds like fine infrastructure. But we'll also be looking for the inspiration-structure (inspire-structure?). Big inviting public spaces. Ideas for connecting a diversity of people. The unexpected.

Rouse once mused about creating a slice of Coney Island on the waterfront. A 12-year-old on a Stingray bike could ride downtown and discover hot air balloon launches and colleges that existed in inflatable bubbles. A lazy summer afternoon could be spent collecting tadpoles, or just watching people.

We didn't think of downtown merely as a place to spend money or go to work. It was a place of discovery.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The O.C. Commute

Howard officials are taking a look at the county's take-home car policy, according to this story in the Examiner.

This passage caught our attention:

In the sheriff’s office, a few deputies racked up nearly 25,000 miles, mainly because they transport prisoners and sometimes travel for extraditions, said Sheriff James Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald’s 2007 mileage was 26,454, some of which he attributed to driving back and forth on the weekends to Ocean City, where his wife lives.

A couple months ago, Fitzgerald began driving his own 1998 Toyota to Ocean City, so his mileage this year will be lower, he said.

“Everyone was moaning about it. ... I have drastically cut down now,” he said.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

CA Election Results

Here's the results for the contested Columbia Council races:

Town Center Columbia Council Representative

Suzanne Waller - 134
Stephen Meshkin - 121

Oakland Mills Columbia Council Representative

Alex Hekimian - 270
Phil Engelke – 262

Harper's Choice Columbia Council Representative

Cindy Coyle - 315
Lynda Maxwell - 200

Wilde Lake Columbia Council Representative

Phil Kirsch - 260
Linda Odum - 225

(WL results via Columbia Compass)

Details On Stabbing Outside Mall

The Sun says an investigator testified last week that the stabbing of a teenager outside the mall "was the culmination of a drug deal gone bad."

One of the accused, Bernardo Leconte, allegedly claimed he was a member of the Bloods gang, according to the story. The other, Cordero Dante Taylor, had been "arrested seven times as a juvenile, prosecutor Jim Dietrich told the judge. In two cases, Taylor was found responsible for robbing a pizza delivery man and for involvement in the attempted armed robbery of a Chinese restaurant."

Cordero Dante Taylor was charged as an adult in the Jan. 10 stabbing of Julian Lichtenstein, who was 17 at the time of the incident. Taylor, of Forestville in Prince George's County, and the other suspect, Bernardo Leconte, 18, of Columbia, were charged with attempted first- and second-degree murder, first- and second-degree assault, carrying a concealed weapon and reckless endangerment.

The lead investigator in the case, Detective Joseph King, testified about the details of the incident, which occurred about 4 p.m. on a Tuesday. The stabbing left many residents shocked that violence had come to one of the Howard County community's prime gathering spots.

Lichtenstein had arranged to sell marijuana to Taylor and Leconte in the parking lot outside the JCPenney store at the mall, King said. After a quarrel over the quality of the drugs, Leconte put them in his pocket, he said. Lichtenstein told the detective that after he objected to Leconte taking the drugs without paying for them, Leconte pulled out a pocket knife.

Lichtenstein said he then took a swing at Leconte, who retaliated by stabbing him several times, King said.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Md. Dairy Fined For Ammonia Leak

From WaPo via AP:

A Maryland dairy farm has agreed to pay a federal fine and pay for environmental training for not properly reporting a 2006 ammonia leak at its Laurel location.

The Maryland & Virginia Milk Producers' Cooperative has agreed to pay a civil fine of more than $71,000 and to install a new ammonia control system at its Newport News location.

The milk processor also has agreed to pay for an eight-hour ammonia awareness training for emergency responders in Howard County, Maryland, where the plant with the ammonia problem is located.

The company agreed to the fine with the federal Environmental Protection Agency for not reporting an accidental ammonia leak of at least 400 pounds from a refrigeration unit at the plant in July of 2006.

Do Elections Make A Village?

It's time to vote for candidates for village and Columbia Association offices this weekend. The Flier has several articles (here and here and here) about the contenders and one theme is clear: Most seem to want CA and the villages to play a larger role in local development issues. There are plenty. What to do with the village centers. What to do about downtown.

CA has a lot of leverage in these discussions; after all, it has a big staff, big land holdings and a big budget.

Which is why we were struck by another Flier story on what to do about the Wilde Lake Village center. According to the story, the center's owner Kimco Realty plans apartments, underground parking, shops, and offices. There is no mention of how that would relate to any of the other stuff in the neighborhood -- Slayton House, the interfaith center, the swim center, the tennis club, the middle and high schools. Or any of the other condos, townhouses, single-family homes and such already surrounding the center.

The only stakeholders we see quoted in this story are Kimco and David London, from David's Natural Market, which would like to expand but can't seem to get much satisfaction from the property owner, at least based on what we read.

David London, the owner of David's Natural Market, likes the idea of becoming the center's anchor. Expanding would provide "enough space for us to operate our business," he said.

Kimco has met with London several times, [Kimco leasing agent Kevin] Allen said. They have not agreed on a plan because they do not know whether the county will approve the zoning to build residential apartments in the village center, he said.

"We won't be able to answer any questions until we get through the zoning process," he said.

Now we know better than most that you can't judge an issue from one little story. But it got us thinking. What would the principal at Wilde Lake like to see? Or the pastor at St. Johns? Or the tennis pro at the club? What does CA -- i.e. all of us -- want from a village center?

Here's a link to the Flier's election guide.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Bird's Eye Of Hobbits Glen

We're not golfers (though how hard can it be to hit a little white ball, anyway?)but we thought this digital flyover was a cool idea for scouting a course. That got us thinking, could you do the same thing with map of bike and hiking trails? Now that it is getting warm again, we've been thinking of resurrecting our little project to post a comprehensive guide. All we need is a little free time ;).

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Bottom Line

The Sun offers a look at what HoCo exec Ken Ulman's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year will cost us:

Property and income tax rates remain unchanged, but homeowners will pay more because of rising state assessments. That means $127 more for a house assessed at $250,000, or $228 more for a $450,000 house. Still the county's 5 percent assessment cap will save taxpayers $108 million next fiscal year.

Ulman's plan calls for increased costs for water and sewer to be passed on to homeowners to the tune of about $50 a year, and parking fines would rise from $20 to $35. Handicapped-space or fire-lane violations would bring stiffer increases -- from $150 to $250 for the former and from $50 to $150 for the latter.


Most homeowners would pay $50 more for trash and recycling services that now cost $175 annually. Residents in the western county would pay about $35 more because they do not get yard-waste recycling service. Low-income homeowners would get 60 percent off the fee.

All we can say is woe to those who park in a fire lane or handicap spot!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Still Some Work To Do

On Earth Day 2008, there's lots of pooh-poohing over whether such a day matters anymore. WaPo's Hank Stuever writes its obituary.

Earth Day was 38 years old. What killed it? A long but admirable struggle with celebrity piety and corporate baloney, mainly.

"Hometown Columbia" would rather save worms:

I’m just so tired of causes, preaching and big-cost events to show alignment with values. So, I skipped the Green Apple Festival in DC and went brown. Yes, brown as in earth, dirt, soil.

See, yesterday, a friend of mine and I were carpooling to an event in Virginia. When I got to her house, early in the morning, I noticed dozens of sad souls: vibrant earth worms struggling against an inevitable fate: death by drying out on a concrete driveway.

So, I got to work. I knelt. I picked up a worm. I put it on the moist grass so that it could find its way back down under. And then I hit the *repeat motion” button in myself, saving dozens of worms from a cruel and unfair death. My friend, not one oriented toward squiggly, wiggly, slightly mucous-covered worms, followed in my footsteps, perhaps with a little less zeal, but with plenty of heart.

WaPo's David Fahrenthold discusses the "good and the bad" of Earth Day:

Almost everybody seems to be doing -- or buying -- something to lighten their burden on the environment. Twisty light bulbs. Hybrid cars. At Whole Foods, "bananas with a conscience."

But it can still seem as though nobody is doing enough.

Nationally, climate change has become a galvanizing political issue. But real-world changes still lag: U.S. emissions are projected to rise, not fall, over the next two decades.

In the Washington area, disconnects between environmental participation and environmental results can appear in frustrating microcosm.

On Earth Day today, area activists can celebrate grass-roots support for the Chesapeake Bay, the D.C. region's top-10 rank in hybrid-car ownership and its 1.9 million energy-saving compact-fluorescent bulbs.

But the Chesapeake is not getting cleaner. Cars in the area are still driving more miles. And, no matter what its light bulbs look like, the region is steadily using more electricity.

Closer to home, there's this update by WaPo's Christy Goodman:

Water quality in the Patuxent River received poor marks in an assessment released yesterday by the Patuxent Riverkeeper and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences.

Data collected by state and federal agencies regarding dissolved oxygen, aquatic grasses and other factors were used to determine the overall health of the river, a method similar to determining the health of the Chesapeake Bay for its annual report card. The river was given a D-minus. The bay got a C-minus in 2007.

The Patuxent Riverkeeper, a nonprofit environmental advocacy organization, is recruiting volunteers to conduct water quality tests for next year's report card and for a daily log on www.pwqi.net.

The Patuxent is a Chesapeake tributary and drains some 900 square miles. It is the longest waterway located entirely in the state, running from Howard and Montgomery counties.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Columbia Networking

This piece about a Columbia tech company ran on WaPo's WashBiz Blog:

By Zach Goldfarb

Clarence Wooten used to call himself an "entre-poor-neur."

That was back in the 1990s. Wooten -- Baltimore-born, Howard County-bred, Johns Hopkins University-educated -- had created three technology companies, all while still in his 20s. He had spent so much time on those businesses that it took him seven years to graduate college.

The first business, called Envision Designs, created computer animations for architects. The second, Metamorphosis Studios, developed multimedia for CD-ROMs (remember those?) and later was a Web site maker. Last, in April 1999 he launched ImageCafe, which sold templates of Web sites to small businesses that wanted their own place online.

He loved creating companies, but they didn't earn him much money. Then he struck gold. Just six months after ImageCafe opened shop, he sold it to Network Solutions, the domain name company. At the height of the dotcom boom, his young company drew $23 million, though some of that was in stock. And we all know what happened over the next few years to dotcom stocks.

Wooten wouldn't say how much he earned from that score, but it's been supporting him and his family since. Now he's trying to launch his next big bet. For two years he has quietly been growing CollectiveX, his new Internet play.

"It certainly changed my life," Wooten said of his InternetCafe sale. Then again, he said, "It didn't stop me from being hungry. ... I have to be building or creating something. It's not necessarily about the money. The money is how you keep score. It's about building something that people want and need."

Buzzword alert: CollectiveX is yet another name in the world of social media. Most of the better known social networking Web sites connect people with profile pages to each other. Facebook focuses on school friends and colleagues, MySpace has a knack for music, LinkedIn connects professionals. Rather than being a single network itself, CollectiveX lets groups create their own social networks around particular topics.

"We're trying to empower you to create your own Facebook," Wooten said.

Around 14,000 such groups have been created, most of them private. A directory of public sites is at Group Sites. Companies, clubs and other like-minded people are creating sites. The largest and most popular include the UrbanPhilly.com Professional Network; the International Network of Social Entrepreneurs; and NolaYurp, to support New Orleans. Companies and organizations using the site have included the Nature Conservancy and an international group of consulting company Accenture's alumni.

Based in Columbia, the site's audience has been doubling every few months, now reaching 2.5 million page views of month, Wooten said. It has generated some buzz in tech circles. TechCrunch, the influential blog about technology news, has written about it occasionally, with editor Michael Arrington once saying "CollectiveX is better than LinkedIn."

"Whether you're talking about MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, I call those the mega social networks that revolve around individuals and their friends and contacts," Wooten said. "I wanted to create a platform where I could create my own miniature social network...defined around a particular group I belong to."

CollectiveX, on its own, is not a destination site. It is simply a Web application for building social networks. And it goes beyond what Facebook and others offer, Wooten said. Groups created on CollectiveX can put up online calendars, store files and start e-mail lists, for instance. Individuals on the CollectiveX network have a personal and a professional profile, and they can choose which one to affiliate with a particular group.

Most of this is free, but CollectiveX offers additional features--such as more storage, advertising free pages, secured transactions--for an additional fee. He calls the arrangement a "free-mium."

CollectiveX is in some ways similar to Ning, a site that has generated loads of buzz started by Netscape founder Marc Andreessen.

CollectiveX currently has six full-timers on staff and one part-timer. Originally the premium features were to pay for the business model, but the audience's growth, Wooten said, has made an advertising-focused model more attractive. The site's audience is still quite modest--too small to be counted by ComScore, one of the industry's traffic warehouses. Quantcast, another service, estimates the number of unique visitors to CollectiveX on a monthly basis at just around 10,000.

Wooten knows he needs to ramp that up. He is searching for venture capital to help expand the business, but little has come so far.

"We're in a space and time where venture capital flows freely, but it just doesn't flow freely in this region," he said. "I believe we'd be farther ahead had we been in another environment."

Wooten has thought about relocating to the West Coast, but "resisted it" because of his family.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Trust But Verify

WaPo has a story about whether schools should use metal detectors to hunt for weapons. Most school systems have rejected the idea, saying it's just not feasible given all the entrances a building might have and the staffing that would be necessary.

There's an interesting bit at the end of the story about the quality of official reporting on the subject:

Reports of guns in schools remain comparatively rare in the region. Prince George's has confiscated 10 firearms since fall 2006. Montgomery school officials report only one firearm in that span apart from the three recovered last week. The Anne Arundel, Howard and Loudoun school systems report one gun each.

School officials greet such reports with skepticism. Federal law requires school systems to report firearm violations as a condition of funding, but the incidents are mostly self-reported.

The most recent report on guns in Maryland schools, for example, shows no gun confiscated in a Howard County school in the 2006-07 academic year, even though a student was arrested with a gun in June 2007 at Hammond High School. Patti Caplan, spokeswoman for the Howard school system, said the incident might have been omitted because it happened so late in the school year.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Buy Local

From the Oakland Mills newsletter:

The farmers’ market will return beginning Sunday, May 4 and will run each Sunday from 9AM – 1PM in the lot of the OM Village Center. There will be eight vendors that will set up at the market: Homestead Farms (vegetables/fruits); Bonaparte Breads; Musachio Farms (vegetables/berries); Dragonfly Farm (cut flowers and vegetables); Penn Farm (vegetables); Great Harvest Bread Company; Shaw Farms (organic vegetables/berries); Lewis Orchard.

The market master is hoping to get a coffee vendor, let’s hope that happens!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The India Connection

The co exec touts two India-based businesses that have located here. We really couldn't tell what was new except that the county is formally recognizing such. Are we missing something?

From the Sun:

A coalition of Indian-American business owners headquartered in Howard County is expanding into an office building it purchased on Centre Park Drive near Route 108 in Columbia.

The growth of Intercontinental Export Import, an international plastic recycling firm, and Prism Microsystems, a software security firm that has 12 facilities worldwide, could together add up to 80 new jobs in the county during the next year, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced at a news conference in the firms' jointly owned headquarters building. Grand-opening festivities are planned at 10:30 a.m Saturday.

Ulman showed slides of his February trip to Bangalore, India, where the two firms also do business, as a way of spotlighting the growing business connections he hopes to solidify between the county and India.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Biking To Work

It's been one of our fantasies to ride the bike to work in Washington one day. We've never been able to plot out a reasonably safe route (we so hoped the great transportation minds would have found a way when they rebuilt Rte 29 but apparently not).

We're currently strategizing about how we might bike over to the commuter rail station; anyone do that? Or we might try one nice spring to day bike half way from the Beltway in, if we can figure where to leave the car in peace. Anyway, we were reminded about our quest when we saw this announcement from the county:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – County Executive Ken Ulman will kick off the County’s first-ever “Bike to Work Day” on Friday, May 16 at 7 a.m. at The Mall in Columbia adjacent to the Howard Transit Bus Stop (upper level near Sears Service Center). The annual event kicks off May as Clean Commute Month in the Baltimore Region. Howard County’s “Bike to Work Day” will run in tandem with events in Baltimore, Towson, Annapolis and Bel Air.

“May is the beginning of the ground-level ozone season,” said Executive Ulman. “Ground-level ozone has a detrimental effect on everyone’s health, particularly children, senior citizens and individuals with chronic health conditions. Bicycle commuting is a clean, fun and healthy way to get to work and it helps to improve the air that we breathe.”

“Bike to Work Day” festivities will begin at 7 a.m. and run until 8 a.m. Executive Ulman will be at the opening ceremonies and make time in his morning schedule to bike an abbreviated route to highlight the importance of the day and promote bicycling as a healthy alternative to drive-alone commuting and a great way to help the environment.

Howard County Health Officer Dr. Peter Beilenson and Director of Planning and Zoning Marsha McLaughlin will be there to speak about the benefits of a healthy and clean commute. Also, Robert Anderson, Vice President of Integrated Products at Nemetschek North America in Columbia, who bikes to work on a regular basis, will share his experiences with bicycle commuting. In addition, Princeton Sports of Columbia will provide information on bicycle maintenance and provide assistance during the event.

"We are working with the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and our neighboring jurisdictions to identify worthy bike route projects for inclusion in the Baltimore Regional Transportation Plan. These projects will improve connections to other parts of our region and the State and provide a safer and more enjoyable ride for individuals who bike to work, as well as for those who ride for recreation," said Marsha McLaughlin.

All registered participants should stop by The Mall on their way to work that morning to pick up their “Bike to Work Day” shirts and hats. In addition, there will be a drawing for prizes and one lucky winner from the region will win a bicycle tour for two on the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage.

For more information or to register, please visit www.bike2workcentralmd.com or visit www.howardcommutersolutions.com for detailed event information.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Arrest In Wilde Lake Shooting

From HoCo pd:

Through investigation, detectives and officers of the Howard County Police Department arrested a man yesterday evening in the 10800 block of Green Mountain Circle, in Columbia. The homicide occurred on April 9, 2008 at approximately 11:25 a.m. in the vicinity of the Wilde Lake Village Center, in Columbia. The victim, 20-year-old Bryan Antoine Adams Jr., of Columbia, died as a result of gun-shot wounds sustained from this shooting.

The man involved in the homicide has been identified as, Antajuan L. Wilson B/M 3/14/1989, of 10800 block of Green Mountain Circle (Wilde Lake), in Columbia, MD. Wilson was charged early this morning with 1st and 2nd degree murder, 1st and 2nd degree assault, and weapons violations. At present, Wilson is incarcerated in the Howard County Detention Center on a no bond status.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Engaged At Jeffers Hill

The Sun has a fun story about 10 (or 11 if you count one who moved out of town) teachers and staff at Jeffers Hill Elementary School who got engaged this year. The staff overall totals 65. All are women except for Dan Tucci, a physical education teacher.

The teachers deny that the momentum of one engagement after another prompted them to pressure their boyfriends - or in the case of Tucci, his girlfriend - to pop the question.

But they laughingly say the school could use all the engagements as a hiring incentive - telling prospective teachers that if they come to Jeffers Hill, and they'll be married before they know it.

Reward Offered In Shooting

From HoCo PD:

Howard County Police are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the suspect who shot and killed Bryan Adams, Jr. yesterday in Columbia.
The homicide occurred at 11:25 a.m. in the area of the Wilde Lake Village Center. A Howard County police officer at a nearby gas station heard gunshots and saw a witness running toward him for help. The officer ran to the victim to render aid and called for medical assistance.

Adams, 20, of Suffield Ct. in Columbia, was transported by ambulance from the scene in the 10400 block of Twin Rivers Road to Howard County General Hospital. He died at the hospital as arrangements were being made to transport him to Shock Trauma.
Police are searching for a man seen in the area of the shooting. He has been described as a black male in his late teens to early 20s, with a medium build, approximately 5 ft. 9 in. tall, with gold teeth fronts.

Police have increased patrols in the Wilde Lake area and distributed reward flyers in the community.

Anyone who has information about this incident is urged to call police at 410-313-3200.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

UDPATE: Shooting In Wilde Lake

UPDATE: As the comments suggest, the victim died of his wounds. The Examiner said police were investigating whether anyone involved might have come from the Crown gas station nearby. A witness said he saw four men in their early 20s at the station moments earlier. One filled a can of gasoline and the group left to take the fuel to a car.

Detectives took the surveillance tape from the Crown gas station and dusted the station door and one of the gas pumps for fingerprints.....

Police questioned and released at least one of the men who was with Adams at the time of the shooting.

Here's the release from the HoCo pd:

Howard County Police are investigating a homicide that occurred at 11:25 this morning in the area of the Wilde Lake Village Center in Columbia. A Howard County police officer at a nearby gas station heard gunshots and saw a witness running toward him for help. The officer ran to the victim to render aid and called for medical assistance.

The victim, 20-year-old Bryan Antoine Adams, Jr., of Suffield Ct. in Columbia, was transported by ambulance from the scene in the 10400 block of Twin Rivers Road to Howard County General Hospital. Adams died at the hospital as arrangements were being made to transport him to Shock Trauma.

Police are searching for a man seen running from the scene. He has been described as a black male in his late teens with a medium build, approximately 5 ft. 9 in. tall, wearing sneakers and dark clothing. Police are actively searching for this subject utilizing patrol officers in vehicles and on foot, as well as K-9 units.

Anyone who sees someone matching this description or has any additional information about this incident is urged to call 911.

Here's the Sun's latest account, which has background on the victim. Adams was a recent Wilde Lake grad.

Adams was recently unemployed and trying to find his way, friends said yesterday afternoon. A 2-year-old son of his died in 2004, and he was having a difficult time coping, they said.....

Sean Thompson, 21, said she knew Adams for years in school, and he wasn't the type to look for trouble.

"He was nice, relaxed, laid back," she said. "He was just to himself. This is crazy."

Adams had faced criminal charges in recent years but had not been convicted of any crimes, according to court records. A 2006 marijuana possession charge had been placed on the inactive docket, as was a second-degree assault charge from that year, according to records.

A drug possession charge from last year and a robbery charge from 2006 were dismissed, records show.

Here's the original post:

From the Sun:

A 20-year-old man was shot this morning in the area of the Wilde Lake village center in Columbia, Howard County police said, and police are now searching for a teenager who was spotted running from the scene.

Police said the victim, who has life-threatening injuries, was shot on the sidewalk near the Melting Pot restaurant in the 10000 block of Twin Rivers Road. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital in Columbia, then taken by helicopter to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore

The Cost of Recycling

The local papers say the county wants to hike trash-collection fees by $50, kicking the annual charge up to $225. Some of the money will be used to buy everyone big new recycling bins on wheels.

Here's how the Sun explained it:

Ulman has said he is trying to prepare for 2013, when the expiration of a long-term trash contract that ships most county waste by rail to private landfills in Northern Virginia is likely to sharply increase refuse disposal costs. Currently the county pays $33 a ton to dispose of trash, while market rates are $70 a ton, said county public works director James Irvin. By contrast, the county is paid s $55 a ton on average for recyclables.

So if the goal is to reduce trash disposal costs, is charging fees for recycling really the best incentive? (Also, what do you think the lifespan of those expensive bins will be, given the way they get manhandled by the crews? Anyone else have a battered and cracked blue bin?)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Police Say Cop Accidentally Shot Two Kids

From the Sun. Click on this link for full story:

Howard County police today named the two teens who were shot and wounded by a police officer yesterday. The teens were injured by a shot apparently fired accidentally by a Howard County police officer during an investigation of suspected drug activity in a Jessup neighborhood, police said.

Dwain Usery, 14, of Jessup, was shot in the abdomen and was taken to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center where he is in fair condition. Garcia Wilson, 15, also of Jessup, was shot in the arm and was treated at Howard County General Hospital, police said. He was released last night. Both teens are freshmen at Hammond High School, according to the county school system.

Sherry Llewellyn, a spokeswoman for Howard County police, said the shooting occurred at 5:19 p.m. at Pleasant Chase Road and Summit Hill Way as undercover officers were conducting surveillance of the area because of suspected drug activity. The undercover officers thought they saw a drug deal taking place in a car, Llewellyn said. She said she didn't know how many officers were involved.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Green Exceptions

The Sun has a story about politicians who talk green and then use gas-guzzling SUVs to get around. One of the few exceptions, the paper says, is our own HoCo exec.

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman and Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett use hybrid vehicles.

"I just wanted to set a good example," said Bartlett, a conservative Republican from Western Maryland. Seeing elected leaders espouse environmentalism but practice something else "just makes people very cynical," he said.

Bartlett says his Toyota Prius has plenty of room and is safer than a rollover-prone SUV.

"It's a silly justification for conspicuous consumption," the congressman said.

The big SUVs typically get 12 to 16 mpg, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's latest ratings, though the E-85 Suburbans, which use a mixture of 85 percent corn-based fuel and 15 percent gasoline, burn the equivalent of 6.7 barrels of oil per year compared with 21.4 barrels for the gasoline-only model. The E-85 releases 9.2 tons of global warming gases per year - 2.2 tons less than the gas-powered model - based on 15,000 miles of annual driving.

By contrast, Bartlett's Prius - his second - gets 46 mpg, uses 7.4 barrels of oil annually and releases 4 tons of carbon dioxide.

While corn-based ethanol reduces oil use, production methods can wipe out the benefit to global warming, several experts said.

"There's no scientific evidence that flex-fuel is helping the environment," because there's no certification for how it is made, DeCicco said.

A gallon of ethanol produces less energy than an equal amount of oil, so more must be burned, said David Friedman, research director for the vehicles program of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Ulman's Ford Escape hybrid gets 30 mpg, uses 11.4 barrels of oil a year and puts 6.1 tons of carbon dioxide into the air. The Howard County executive, however, is often chauffeured around the county by a police officer driving an unmarked patrol car.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

WSJ Discovers Civility

There's a very nice write up of the civility campaign in Saturday's WSJ (subscription required), with a cameo from blogger Jesse Newburn at Hometown Columbia. We often wonder why you don't see well-told pieces like this in the local media.

Here's how it kicks off:

COLUMBIA, Md. -- Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, 15 miles northeast of here, has a professor of civility. He is P.M. Forni, a 56-year-old Italian of elegant comportment and genteel speech who, a few years ago, set out to imbue America with "gracious goodness."

Who in the Sam Hill does he think he is?

That's what Heather Kirk-Davidoff thought when she noticed a proliferation of bumper stickers on cars around her neighborhood here in Columbia, a city of about 100,000. "Choose Civility in Howard County," the stickers said.

The best comes at the end:

Then came a rap on the door: It was the guest he had agreed to invite for an hour-long cordial exchange on the question of civility. Dr. Forni seated Ms. Kirk-Davidoff at his glass-topped table, offered her a fruit tart, which she declined, and cut the small talk.

"I have a sense you have an objection to my work," he said.

"You know, I live in Columbia," said Ms. Kirk-Davidoff. "It's a community built to foster civility."

"A utopian enterprise," Dr. Forni said, going on to talk of longitudinal behavioral studies and the function of mirror neurons. "You don't like the fact that people should be told explicitly what is good and what is bad?" he asked.

"It's the rules," said Ms. Kirk-Davidoff. "When we learn rules without learning compassion, the rules can do the opposite. Jesus didn't say, 'I am the rule,' right?"

Dr. Forni was quiet for a moment. "Yes," he said. "Jesus said, 'I am the way.' If I had met you before, probably I would have used 'way.' The 25 ways of being considerate and kind."

He managed a smile. The pastor smiled back and stuck out her hand. The professor of civility shook it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Early Graduation

There was a time in our lives when the idea of early graduation would have been greeted with wild exuberation. Actually, we still think that way. We're just having fun imaging teenagers at an 8 am commencement. That'll get'm ready for the workaday world!

Check out this story in the Flier:

Traditionally, Howard County graduations are held at Merriweather Post Pavilion, in Columbia, during the week after Memorial Day, which this year falls on May 26.

But due to the concert schedule at Merriweather, graduations are being held both before Memorial Day -- May 22 and 23 -- and after, May 29 and 30.

To fit in all 12 area high schools' graduations and accommodate the scheduling needs of Merriweather, two schools -- Howard and Reservoir -- will hold their ceremonies at 8 a.m.

Musical acts Duran Duran and Sheryl Crow are playing at Merriweather May 27 and May 28, respectively.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Free Hugs

This just made us smile:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

A Columbia Nature Center

HoCo Exec Ken Ulman's capital budget (that's the one used to build stuff) includes $9.5 million for a nature center in the Middle Patuxent preserve in the western part of Columbia. This would be the first county-owned nature center. When we were growing up, before computer games and TiVo, there was no better day out than a picnic at the Rock Creek nature center in Washington. When we moved to Columbia, we made periodic trips to Patapsco State Park. And does anyone remember the petting zoo at Symphony Woods?

Here's an excerpt from the project description:

In February of 2005, the County purchased 18.4 acres from the Middle Patuxent Nature Center Foundation (now the Robinson Nature Center Foundation). This parcel was deeded to the Foundation as a gift from Anne S. Robinson under the conditions that the Foundation sell the property to the County and that a nature center be constructed on the property. Mrs. Robinson also required the Foundation to donate $1 million to the County for the purposes of design and construction of the County’s first Nature Center. Other funds held by the Foundation can be used for the same purpose, or other purposes related to the nature center such as programming and staffing.

The main objective of the Robinson Nature Center is to bring people together with nature, to learn, to experience nature and the environment around them, and to promote an ethic of stewardship of the land.

To that end the Robinson Nature Center will provide Howard County residents with interesting and exciting educational programs that are based on sound scientific information. The focus will be on experience-based learning for the expressed purpose of teaching the importance of our natural and historic resources. Through these programs we will bridge the gap between people and nature and foster responsible stewardship of all our natural resources.

The center will be comprised of a modern nature center with customary indoor exhibits and displays along with outdoor interpretive trails. The trails will be used for outdoor education, and interpretation of the historic Simpsonville Mill and its surrounds. The indoor exhibits and displays will be both interactive and static in nature. In addition to the main exhibit room, the Center will have a large Discovery Room specifically designed for children’s activities with many “hands-on” exhibits and activities. The Discovery Room will capture the attention of children and educate them about their natural environment. The exhibits and activities will be based on sound environmental science while at the same time, offering an exciting and enjoyable learning experience. The programs and exhibits will address environmental issues on a local, regional and global level. The Center will also provide space for meetings, conferences and special events again bringing people together to learn more about our natural environment.

The Robinson Nature Center will be in harmony with the site. Beyond preserving the integrity of the site, we must create a building that “fits" the site. It will be designed and constructed using “Green Building” technologies emphasizing the importance of conserving energy and natural resources.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Our wonder lab is marking her calendar. From CA:

The Columbia Association (CA) will host its second annual Dog Day Afternoon on Saturday, April 12, from 1 to 4 p.m. at Lake Elkhorn in Columbia. CA invites dog lovers and their four-legged friends to an afternoon stroll around Lake Elkhorn, where they will find doggy treats, activities and lots of tail-wagging fun.

Entertainment includes a DJ, face painting, a caricature artist and a craft area for kids. This free event will feature local businesses and organizations that focus on the health, happiness and well-being of our beloved furry friends. Some activities will include a pet costume contest and fashion show, raffles and contests.

Confirmed vendors for this year’s event include bark!, Barkbusters, Camp Bow Wow, Canine Companions for Independence, Club Pooch, Dogs & Company, Dogtopia, Invisible Fence of Maryland and the Coventry School.

Dog Day Afternoon is part of the Columbia Association’s Welcome Initiative to help new and current residents learn more about Columbia’s history and vision and encourage them to become involved in their community. For more information, please call 410-715-3104 or log onto www.ColumbiaCalendar.org for updates.