Friday, May 30, 2008

Court Opinions

Sun columnist Dan Rodricks takes a look at how this week's sentencing by Judge Louis A. Becker of a Mexican immigrant for a DWI-related fatal crash (10 years) compares to other recent sentencings:

April 2008: A former Johns Hopkins Hospital pathologist could serve as little as one year in prison for his role in a head-on crash on the Jones Falls Expressway that left a 22-year-old woman with injuries that later killed her.

February 2008: An Anne Arundel County man who was drunk and high on drugs when he caused a crash that killed three dialysis patients was sentenced to five years in prison, amid emotional pleas from the victims' families for a more substantial punishment. Judge Paul A. Hackner sentenced Fontaine Pridgett, 47, of Cape St. Claire to 15 years in prison with all but five years suspended and five years of supervised probation - a slightly harsher sentence than prosecutors had requested for the three counts of homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated.

May 2007: A day before he was to stand trial on charges of driving drunk at 120 mph on the Baltimore Beltway, a former Annapolis man admitted guilt in a high-speed drunken-driving crash that occurred a month and a half later and killed his passenger, a Naval Academy midshipman. The driver's blood-alcohol level was 0.17 percent, about twice the legal limit. He received a five-year jail sentence -- with all but nine months suspended! -- from Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck.

Rodricks' posting drew several comments, including this one:


Before we feel too bad for this guy, let's look at an excerpt from a 9/17/07 Sun Article on Morales-Soriano:

"Before last year's fatal crash, Morales-Soriano was charged in Prince George's County with negligent driving, speeding and driving the wrong way on a one-way street after being stopped in Riverdale in July 2006. He was found not guilty, according to court records.

"In February 2006, he was given four citations after an auto accident in a Columbia parking lot in which he refused to take a Breathalyzer test. No one was injured, and prosecutors dropped the charges, saying their evidence was weak."

Admittedly, it doesn't seem that the judge took these two incidents into consideration, but maybe this sentence should be the norm for those that drive drunk and kill innocent people, regardless of their immigration status.

Meanwhile, the Sun reports on another sentencing, this involving a teenager for the shooting death of Shawn Powell, 18, at a Columbia housing complex in August 2006.

Judge Becker sentenced Monti Mantrice Fleming, who was 15 at the time of the shooting, to at least 55 years.

Here's how the Sun described the crime:

In January, a jury convicted Fleming of first-degree murder, first-degree assault and weapons charges. According to prosecutors, Fleming confronted Powell in a courtyard of the Barnside condo complex in Columbia about 11:30 p.m. Aug. 26, 2006, and the two began to argue. Powell walked away, but Fleming followed and hit him in the head with a liquor bottle, they said.

Powell again tried to walk off and Fleming followed, prosecutors said. Fleming pulled a .38-caliber handgun from his pocket and fired six shots at Powell, who had started to run away. One bullet hit Powell in the back, and he collapsed in a yard. His dead body was discovered the next day.

....Becker sentenced Fleming to life in prison with all but 50 years suspended. He also sentenced the teen to 20 years with all but five suspended for one of the weapons convictions. He merged the sentences for the remaining charges with the murder sentence, and ordered five years of probation upon release. Under Maryland law, Fleming must serve half of the sentence before he would be eligible for parole.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Man Gets 10 Years For 2006 Fatal Crash

A 27-year-old man pleaded guilty Wednesday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a drunken-driving accident in Howard County in 2006 that killed a Marine and his date.

The Sun said Howard County Circuit Judge Louis A. Becker cited Mexican native Eduardo Raul Morales-Soriano's illegal status in this country for a sentence that exceeds suggested state guidelines for the charges.

The judge said he made his decision "primarily because of the high alcohol read." Morales-Soriano's blood-alcohol level was 0.32 percent, four times the legal limit, at the time of the crash, police have said.

Becker said he also considered an unusual facet of the case: Morales-Soriano, a native of Mexico, was living in the country illegally.

"This court cannot ignore that the defendant has violated the law with his illegal presence here," Becker said.

The judge did not elaborate on how Morales-Soriano's immigration status affected the sentencing.

Here's WaPo's account:

By Raymond McCaffrey

A 27-year-old man pleaded guilty yesterday and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a drunken-driving accident in Howard County in 2006 that killed a Marine and his date.

In imposing the sentence, Circuit Court Judge Louis A. Becker said he considered that Eduardo Raul Morales-Soriano is an illegal immigrant and that his blood alcohol level was four times the legal limit on the night of the crash.

Morales-Soriano pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent manslaughter in the deaths of Jennifer Bower, 24, of Montgomery Village and her passenger, Cpl. Brian Mathews, 21, of Columbia. Mathews had served eight months in Iraq.

Morales-Soriano, who faces deportation after his release, received the maximum sentence of 10 years for each count. The terms were to be served consecutively, but Becker suspended 10 years.

The plea and sentencing came almost four months after Circuit Court Judge Lenore Gelfman had rejected without explanation a plea agreement that had called for up to eight years in prison.

Mathews's family members had expressed dissatisfaction with the earlier agreement. After the sentencing yesterday, William Mathews, Brian Mathews's father, said, "The longer off the road, the better."

Brad Goldbloom, Morales-Soriano's attorney, asked Becker to follow state sentencing guidelines, which suggested three months to four years for each count his client faced. Goldbloom said that the case had been "portrayed as the illegal immigrant versus the American hero and his girlfriend," and that his client's "illegal status in this country should in no way cause him to suffer a greater penalty."

"He made the very poor and tragic decision to get behind the wheel of an automobile," he said.

State's Attorney Dario J. Broccolino said later that he would have been "more pleased" if the defendant had been sentenced to 20 years in prison. "The drunk driver is often more dangerous than the hit man," he said.

At a hearing Jan. 31, when the earlier plea agreement was rejected, the victims' relatives spoke of young lives full of promise. Mathews had planned to become a teacher, they said, and Bower was studying to become a licensed professional counselor.

Family members did not testify yesterday. "I believe that took a lot out of those families," said Danielle Duclaux, a senior assistant state's attorney.

Morales-Soriano, a Mexican national who had been living in Laurel, wore headphones to listen to an interpreter translating the proceedings into Spanish. He spoke mainly to answer questions posed by the judge. He did not react as he was sentenced.

"I don't know if he was crying," his lawyer said later. "He was upset the whole time."

Morales-Soriano, who had a valid Maryland driver's license, was driving a Nissan Sentra on Thanksgiving 2006 when he struck the rear of the Toyota Corolla that Bower and Mathews were riding in at a red light at routes 108 and 175, fatally injuring the pair.

He had been charged the previous February with drunken driving, but the case was dropped, prosecutors have said, because Howard County police did not collect enough evidence.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A New Neighbor

JessieX alerted us to a new blogger in the neighborhood. "53 Beers on tap," a reference to the number of taps at the old Last Chance Saloon in Oakland Mills, promises commentary on civic, political, social, and cultural matters affecting Columbia and Howard County, Maryland.

For starters, he takes up General Growth's suggestion for a new "connection" between Oakland Mills and Town center and discussion of same at a recent meeting in Oakland Mills.

A couple of people in the audience latched onto the words that the connection "could" be a road and immediately assumed that it "will" be a road, and crafted their comments to start to create a public outcry against a "through road across 29 through Oakland Mills".

I'll comment no further on that behavior, because I have found over the years that I am a poor defender of idiocy. The question to answer is, can a road be built between Town Center and Oakland Mills in a non-disruptive way to Oakland Mills? To answer the question, one only need look less than a mile south.

Seneca Drive crosses over US29 and into the Allview community. Allview is a mature residential community of single family homes. Seneca terminates into a traffic circle which spurs off into several residential road, each of which contains speed humps. Having frequented that community myself, that community is a network of 25-mph speed limit roads and it appears safe. And although through the network of side roads, one can get to, for example, Broken Land Parkway or Kings Contrivance, it is not easy, nor is it a time saver to do so.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Watch Out For Ticks

Several papers had stories on the rise in Lyme disease in the area. The illness can appear as a circular rash and bring flu-like symptoms. No one seems to know why the sudden jump in cases.

Here's the Sun's account:

Reported cases of Lyme disease in Maryland doubled last year and more than tripled in Howard County, leading the county health officer to join state officials yesterday in warning citizens and recommending prevention measures.

"We're seeing a dramatic increase in Lyme disease in the area," said Dr. Peter Beilenson, adding that experts believe many cases go unreported.

Statewide, the number of reported cases jumped from 1,248 in 2006 to 2,576 last year. In Howard County, the number increased from 113 to 358 during the same period

Here's link to a state Web site focusing on the problem.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A New Budget

WaPo calls the new budget adopted by the County Council on Thursday remarkable for what it does not do: The $855 million spending plan does not raise property or income tax rates as many counties have been forced to do amid a souring economy.

That doesn't mean taxes are not going up. Most people will see their real estate taxes rise because of higher assessments (Yup, even though home prices are falling, assessments are still climbing to catch up to years of appreciation during the housing bubble). And the council adopted higher fees for trash collection and water and service service and increased revenue enhancers like parking fines. All told, the 5.6 percent spending increase approved by Howard is greater than the 4.3 percent boost approved by next-door Montgomery.

We do get fancy new recycling carts and hybrid buses under the new spending plan.

There are those who argue it is important for governments to make investments in times of economic uncertainty, and others who stress the need for frugality.

The Council debated where to draw the line and ended up putting conditions on one of those investments: Plans to buy part of a proposed Oakland Mills office building, according to this story in the Sun.

The executive, who sees the proposed four-story mixed-use building as a key boost to revitalizing the village center, agreed not to sign a purchase contract until at least 45 percent of the building is sold or leased to long-term tenants. He also agreed that the county would not pay more for the space than any other buyer, and to overhaul county parking regulations - a contentious point for several council members.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Council Approves Plan For OM Offices

Council member Greg Fox, a Republican representing the western part of the county, had tried to block the county's purchase of 15,000 square feet of office space in the proposed Meridian Square office building in the Oakland Mills Village Center (where the old gas station used to be).

But today comes this news from the Oakland Mills listserv.:

This email is to let you know that the Howard County Council just passed

the FY09 Budget with the inclusion of funds for the County to purchase office

space in Oakland Mills Meridian Square Complex.

What No Fireworks?

Ho hum. Another year. Another birthday. Turning 41 certainly doesn't bring out the brass bands like 40 did.

From CA:

Columbia’s 41st birthday celebration will be held on Saturday, June 21, at Lake Kittamaqundi from 1 to 5 p.m. This year’s event will include the cake cutting ceremony, a teen fashion show, children’s activities and performances by The Suzuki Music School Touring Ensemble and The Jokers. A children’s game arena will feature face painting, games, a balloonist and a strolling birthday cake.

The schedule of events for the birthday celebration is as follows.

Schedule of Events

1 - 2:15 p.m. Teen Fashion Show

2:15 - 2:30 p.m. Cake Cutting

2:45 - 3:30 p.m. The Suzuki Music School Touring Ensemble

3:45 - 5 p.m. The Jokers

Columbia’s birthday celebration is free and open to the public. For more information, please call 410-715-3161 or log on to

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

School's Out A Little Earlier

From the school's super:

To all HCPSS Parents and Students,

I have received word from State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick that she has approved my request to waive June 16 as a student day. This means that the last student day for all Howard County public schools this year will be June 13. All school-based staff will report on June 16 to close out the school year.

The schedule for the last days of school is as follows:

June 9 Full day for all students
June 10 Full day for all students; high school exams begin.
June 11 All schools close 3 hours early. no pre-K/RECC; high school exams
June 12 All schools close 3 hours early; no pre-K/RECC; high school exams
June 13 Last student day; all schools close 3 hours early; no pre-K/RECC; high school exams

Sydney L. Cousin
Superintendent of Schools

Columbia Unrest

The Examiner is stirring the pot these days on whether we do or do not have gangs operating in Columbia. The paper has published two stories quoting an anonymous former HoCo police officer saying investigators are well aware of who the troublemakers are. But officially, police seem to be playing down those accounts. Read the stories here and here.

Whatever the truth is, knowing who the bad guys are is not the same thing as bringing a halt to the trouble. What we've have been struck by is how the suspects arrested in several recent violent crimes here are no strangers to the legal system, which suggests the problem is far larger than a police matter.

Take for instance what the Sun said about Ronald Derrick McConnell,who has been charged with first- and second-degree murder, assault and reckless endangerment in the most recent OM shooting:

According to court records, McConnell is scheduled to stand trial next month on weapons charges, including possessing a firearm as a convicted felon. In 2005, he was convicted of second-degree assault and a handgun charge, court records show.

In 2006, McConnell was found guilty in Howard County of drug possession and concealing a deadly weapon, according to court records. McConnell's record also includes other charges involving violent crimes, including armed robbery, and animal cruelty.

Batts pleaded guilty in 2003 to carrying a handgun and drug possession in Montgomery County. He was convicted in Howard County in 2004 for marijuana possession and in 2005 for possessing drug paraphernalia.

The police met with residents to try to calm fears on Tuesday, and from the news reports we heard from a council member and other community leaders. Does anyone know if any state's attorneys or judges were there?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Arrest In Fatal OM Shooting

Police told the Sun they allegedly linked the suspect to the crime through fingerprints found on the shotgun and from tips from informants:

Howard County police today arrested a man of no fixed address and charged him in the May 17 killing of a Columbia man at an Oakland Mills apartment complex.

Police charged Ronald Derrick McConnell, 21, with first- and second-degree murder, assault and reckless endangerment in the shooting death of Jason Batts.

Batts, 23, of Long Reach, was shot to death at 2:50 a.m. May 17 in the parking lot of the Stevens Forest Apartments, on Stevens Forest Road in Oakland Mills, police said.

McConnell was arrested at about 1 p.m. in front of a relative's house in the 9400 block of Merryrest Court, in Oakland Mills, after he was spotted by a patrol officer, according to police.

Police To Meet With OM

The papers say police plan to meet with Oakland Mills residents tonight to talk about the recent shootings. Our spider sense tells us there's been an uptick in violence in recent months what with the stabbing at the Mall, the shooting in Wilde Lake and now two incidents in Stevens Forest. And that's just the incidents that get the headlines. On any given week you can read the crime logs to see reports of people accosted for their cell phone, iPod, wallet or whatnot.

Our guess is it is just a small group, stirring up trouble. But it's not unusual to see stray gaggles walking around the neighborhood in the early morning hours or to come across a cluster congregating in the road, seemingly toying with traffic.

We seem to recall back in the 90s police adopted a "flood the zone" strategy after getting special grants from the state to root out drug activity in specific neighborhoods.

Would that work here?

Here's a link to the Sun's story on tonight's meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the loft of the Other Barn, at 5851 Robert Oliver Place.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Second Shooting in Oakland Mills

Police say the latest incident does not appear related to the first, which is certainly no source of comfort. The Examiner reports that two groups were involved in some sort of fracas and police had to evacuate neighbors from their homes.

From the HoCo PD.

Howard County Police are investigating an assault and shooting that occurred overnight in Columbia. The victim, 24-year-old Wayne Ronald Hamlin, of the 5900 block of Harpers Farm Road, was treated and released from Shock Trauma this morning for a gunshot wound to the shoulder and facial lacerations.

Preliminarily, it does not appear this incident is related to the deadly shooting of Jason Batts, 23, in Columbia the night before.

Police were called to the 5800 block of Thunder Hill Rd. for shots fired at 1:12 this morning. Investigators believe two groups of people became involved in an altercation outside, during which Hamlin was injured. Detectives have not confirmed the cause of the dispute.

Witnesses reported to police they saw a group of people running into an apartment in the 5800 block of Thunder Hill Road. Police evacuated neighboring apartments in the building and took the residents to a nearby police satellite office. Officers made entry and are talking to the people found inside the apartment in question. At this time, police have not yet charged anyone. The evacuated residents were allowed back inside around 6 a.m.

Detectives are asking anyone with information to call police 410-313-3200.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fatal Shooting In Steven's Forest

It's the county's second homicide of the year. Not a lot of detail is available yet; this from the Sun:

Officers in the Oakland Mills area heard gunshots at about 2:50 a.m. and responded to the 5800 block of Stevens Forest Road, where they found a man who had been shot in the parking lot of the Stevens Forest Apartments, said Howard County police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn.

The man, identified as 23-year-old Jason Batts of Painted Yellow Gate in Columbia, was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics, Llewellyn said.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Are Cameras Coming To Your School Bus?

This arrived in our mailbox from one of the high school listserves.

TO: All Principals and Assistant Principals

FROM: David Drown, Director of Transportation

RE: Bus Video Surveillance Equipment

The Pupil Transportation Office has the capability of using video cameras on buses servicing your school at your request, the request of the driver/contractor, or the discretion of the Transportation area supervisor. Prior to such use, it is our procedure that all parents and students be notified that such equipment may be used at any time. Although an abbreviated version is included in the school calendar handbook, we are requesting that the following notice be placed in the next printing of your student handbook or newsletter. It needs to go into some publication that all families using the bus system would receive.

The notification should read:

1. A bus video surveillance system may be in operation to help monitor student behavior on Howard County Public School buses. Bus safety is a top priority and bus drivers may not be able to watch the road and closely monitor students at the same time.

2. The surveillance system can be helpful in monitoring student behavior and permit the bus driver to concentrate on safe driving.

Thank you for your cooperation regarding this matter.

Race Alert

OK, we missed the first luncheon concert but we're ahead of this one:

Don't get run over by a herd of bicycles.

From HoCo PD...

The Howard County Police Department is notifying the public that the 25th Annual Columbia Triathlon is taking place on Sunday, May 18 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. This event includes a bicycle course and running course that will use county roadways.

The 1,500 bicyclists will be riding on Md. Route 108 from Ten Mills Road to Harpers Farm Road, Homewood Road, Folly Quarter Road, Triadelphia Road, Triadelphia Mill Road, Green Bridge Road, Howard Road and Linthicum Road. After completing the bicycle course, the participants will run the foot race on Old Annapolis Road, Carillon Drive, Cross Country Drive, Century Drive and Colonial Drive.

Police are urging citizens to plan ahead and allow themselves extra time when traveling in these areas during the time of the event. Delays are expected and police officers will be directing traffic to allow the event to proceed.

Better Late Than Never

We missed posting this earlier, from CA:

The Columbia Association (CA) kicks off its annual Lakefront Lunchtime concert series on Wednesday, May 14. New to the series this year are free cold beverages and restaurant discount coupons for the first 50 guests to sign in at the visitor’s welcome tent. Concerts are held each Wednesday through July 2 from noon to 2 p.m. on Lake Kittamaqundi. The free lunchtime entertainment includes vocalists and musicians ranging in style from rock to folk to jazz.

Following is a schedule of performances for the 2008 Lakefront Lunchtime concert series.

Date Performer(s)

May 14 Project Natale

May 21 David LaFleur

May 28 Julie Hall Trio

June 4 Andrew McKnight

June 11 Diane Daly Trio

June 18 Trio Balança

June 25 Harmony of the Sol

July 2 2nd Story Band

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Money To Rebuild But Not Operate?

This is one of those bits of news that made us go, huh?

The Sun had a story on CA's decision to rebuild the old Woodlawn Slave Quarters, believed to be the oldest surviving structure of its kind in the state.

Now that the Columbia Association has rebuilt the partially collapsed, vine-covered remains of the Woodlawn Slave Quarters, advocates for the historic property are faced with a new question.

What can they do with it?

The Columbia Association has always intended the two-room stone cottage, which stands off Bendix Road on a piece of its open space property, to be an educational resource for the community. Now it is seeking motivated people and new funding to make that happen.

Barbara Kellner, manager of the Columbia Archives, is quoted as saying plans to connect the structure, rehabilitated at a cost of $225,000, to walking paths and add interpretive exhibits are just that for now -- plans.

The walking path and other plans are "years away," she said, "but opening on special occasions throughout the year is a very doable short-term goal.

Later, CA President Maggie Brown addresses the question of funding.

..."our view would be to continue to help with this project." There is room in the next fiscal year budget for some additional funds, she said, but other benefactors need to step in as well.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Cross To Bear

Yet again, Columbia's ideals are the subject of news coverage. This time, WaPo weighs in on the debate over placing a 16-foot cross on a new church building for the St John's United congregation in Wilde Lake.

Some guardians of local tradition see the cross as a challenge to the core values of Columbia.

"I think it's just wrong," said Robert Tennenbaum, a planner and architect who helped design Wilde Lake. "This is Columbia -- you are talking about a special place."

Since the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center opened in 1970 with a feast of bread and honey, St. John United Church and St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church have shared the discreet low building, which has no outer markings to distinguish it as a house of worship. But after several years of planning and fundraising, St. John United, a congregation that melds Methodist and Presbyterian traditions, is expanding to provide more room for its flock.

The Rev. R. Whitfield "Whitty" Bass, pastor of St. John United, said he doesn't see why anyone would be offended by a cross on the exterior of a building. "The cross is a symbol of freedom," he said.

But others feel just as strongly that the cross will be an offense to the idea of interfaith centers as sanctuaries of inclusion.

"A number of people are really disturbed about it," said Rhoda Toback, a village resident and former member of the Wilde Lake Village Board.

The Wilde Lake Interfaith Center used to be home to other denominations, some of whom outgrew the space. There was a time when Jews, Catholics and Lutherans walked into the building together to worship in their separate places. Folks have debated the merits of the interfaith concept over the years.

Indeed, here's an excerpt from a 1999 WaPo story:

Enthusiasm for Rouse's vision seems to "go in cycles," said Linda Beanblossom, building manager for the Oakland Mills center.

As the leadership of a religious group changes or when a new group replaces an older one, she said, adherence to Rouse's ideas "does not necessarily carry through."

The Rev. Richard H. Tillman, pastor of St. John the Evangelist Catholic parish, which holds services at both Wilde Lake and Oakland Mills, acknowledged that the interfaith concept "does not resonate with everyone." There are those, he said, who believe a separate, identifiable building with its own distinctive character promotes a greater sense of community and loyalty.

But, Tillman added, "a living, breathing community whose members establish their identity . . . by treating each other with love and respect is much more potent than edifices or material constructs."

Monday, May 12, 2008

A Bridge Over Lake K.?

The Sun reports on a traffic forum regarding plans for downtown Columbia, which includes mention of the possibility of a larger highway entrance off Route 29 at what is now South Entrance Road:

Traffic experts have told GGP that eventually there will be a need for a four-way interchange connected to Route 29 near South Entrance Road, [GGP regional vp Gregory F.]Hamm said. Initially he opposed the idea, but he now recognizes that allowing that road to cross over the end of Lake Kittamaqundi may be the least environmentally damaging option.

"Clearly, there's a lot of engineering and discussion that would have to happen," Hamm said. "That's the exact position of the bridge over the lake that was shown by Jim Rouse. It's not the only idea, but it's an idea."

Evan Coren, a Columbia Association member from Kings Contrivance, said he has "concerns about the bridge over the lake and what impact that's going to have on noise and the experience of the lake."

Back in the day, it was one of our treats to plead with mom and dad to take a little detour off South Entrance Road and bop over a little stone hump of a bridge. This new one sounds, ummm, a little bigger and less picturesque.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Wine In The Mostly Trees

One of our personal favorite events, the Wine in the Woods, is coming up May 17 and 18 and we always look forward to just relaxing in the festive atmosphere under a canopy of thick trees. In fact, some of our best memories come from simple picnics in the woods, whether it be a church event or just a quiet walk.

So we had to wonder about a story in this week's Flier (we can't find a link on the paper's revamped site), headlined "Plan would preserve most of the trees."

The plan, of course, is General Growth's proposal to renovate Merriweather and surround it with a museum, theater, library, "pathways, fountains, manicured trees, lawns and art."

Sounds real natural like.

Officials at General Growth Properties Inc., the predominate property owner in downtown Columbia believe they can retain 62 percent of the forest in a section of the wooded area that is known as Symphony Woods,said Keith Bowers, an environmental consultant working for the company.

Four in 10 trees would have to go to erect buildings along a new promenade. Only two-thirds of those that remain are regarded as healthy, the story says. So out of 100 trees, that would mean about 40 healthy trees would remain, if we did our math right.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Teeter Invasion

Foodie alert!

It's hard to miss news about Harris Teeter these days. The grocer is scheduled to open its Kings Contrivance store on May 20. WaPo recently reported that the chain opened its 20th store in the Washington area, a store in the District, the city's first. HT first planted its flag in the region in 1998. The Sun reported on plans for other stores in the Baltimore area as part of a recent, gushy feature.

A tipster told us the development firm Greenebaum & Rose Associates recently told homeowners in Maple Lawn that Harris Teeter has signed a lease for the shopping area on Route 216. Supposedly the grocer will break ground this fall and open in 2009.

WaPo said the planning board approved:

Maple Lawn Farms, north side of Route 216, west of Route 29 at a future Westside Boulevard, Fulton. Maple Lawn HT LLC, Baltimore. The planning board approved a site development plan for a 49,472 square-foot Harris Teeter grocery store on 4.24 acres.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

83-Year-Old Charged In Hammer Assault

Here's WJZ's report on the Hickory Ridge attack:

Alma Payne, 81, is critical but stable after losing an eye when the man she's been married to for six decades hit her in the head more than 20 times.

Neighbors could hear Payne screaming for help inside her Satinwood Drive home. Her husband, Calvin, barricaded the front door, then hit his wife in the head with a hammer, while repeatedly saying, "Are you dead yet?"

"He beat her in the face, in the eye and the face. Some of the hands got beat up tryin' to fend off the blows, you know," said David Figueroa, the victim's brother.

Figueroa says she lost an eye as a result of the attack. Surgery is necessary to repair damage to her eye socket and all 10 fingers. Family members tell Eyewitness News Calvin, a respected deacon in his church, suffers from Alzheimer's disease. They also recall a long history of violent behavior toward his wife.

"At this point, the suspect is charged with attempted murder and assault," said Sherry Llewellyn
, a Howard County police spokeswoman.

Here's the HoCo PD report:

Howard County Police arrested an 83-year-old man last night for trying to kill his wife at their home in Columbia. Calvin Ralph Payne, of the 6200 block of Satinwood Drive, is charged with attempted murder and assault for striking Alma Payne, 81, with a hammer.

The victim called 911 around 7:50 p.m. to report she had been assaulted. Patrol and tactical officers were dispatched to the scene and found the victim inside the house with a severe head injury. Officers took the woman out of the home and she was taken to Shock Trauma by helicopter.

Tactical officers found Calvin Payne with blood on his clothes and hands inside the residence. He was taken into custody and charged early this morning. Detectives have not determined a motive in the incident.

Police served a search warrant at the house overnight and found a hammer in the master bedroom covered in blood.

The victim, Alma Payne, is in serious but stable condition.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Does Ft Meade Need A Makeover?

Sounds like it from this Examiner story:

Mold covers pipes and grows from walls, while pipes leak and paint peels from 1950s-era barracks housing service members stationed at Fort Meade.

“One way to look at barracks is if you would let your children live there,” said Marine Maj. Danny Chung, commanding officer of 130 Marines at Fort Meade.

“I wouldn’t let mine live here.”

Col. Kenneth McCreedy, Meade’s commanding officer, says money for repairs has been deferred for years to meet other growing needs.

Monday, May 5, 2008

So This Nonprofit Walks Into A Bar...

The Examiner tells the tale of how a nonprofit cancer group came to the rescue of the Greene Turtle:

A mistake by a Columbia sports bar could be a boon for the Ulman Cancer Fund.

In a highly unusual case, The Greene Turtle, which failed to renew its permanent liquor license, can stay open this month, thanks to two temporary licenses granted to the nonprofit, started by Howard County Executive Ken Ulman’s brother.

The business can serve alcohol, while the nonprofit reaps the proceeds from the alcohol sales.

“I think it turned out to be a really nice solution that acknowledges everyone’s concerns,” said Thomas Meachum, attorney for The Greene Turtle in Columbia.

The owner at The Greene Turtle hit a snag renewing the liquor license recently when the local resident on the licenses — needed to obtain a license — moved to Arizona, Meachum said.

Facing about two weeks without a license while they reapplied for a renewal, they came up with a solution. The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults, a nonprofit in Columbia, could obtain a temporary license.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Update On Shooting At Senior Complex

The Sun reports that the husband of the 62-year-old woman who was shot is upset with police.

Bobby Harris, a Columbia resident, lashed out at the actions police took against his wife, Pearl, calling the incident a "travesty of justice."

"She was only 105 pounds. ... She could have been subdued without a gunshot or any type of violence like that," he said. "Somebody in the building could have gotten hurt. ... It's something that needs to be and hopefully will be addressed."

The story also says that the officers involved were not carrying those Tasers that police recently received permission to use. The shooting occurred before a crisis team would arrive to try to defuse the situation.

Here's the official May 1 HoCo PD statement:

Howard County Police are continuing to investigate a police-involved shooting that occurred during a call for a mental subject in Columbia yesterday.

Last night, investigators interviewed officers, witnesses and Pearl Harris, the 62-year-old woman who was shot. Based on those statements and evidence at the scene, police have determined that Harris confronted Officer Matthew Mehrer, waving a large knife. A second officer, PFC Mark Baxter, ordered Harris to drop the knife, but she instead lunged at Mehrer with the weapon. Baxter fired his handgun once, striking Harris in the hip. She is expected to be released from Shock Trauma today.

The incident occurred yesterday after police were called by property managers to the 8600 block of Snowden River Parkway at around 4:20 p.m. for woman who was creating a disturbance.

After being released from Shock Trauma today, Harris will be transferred to a psychiatric facility for evaluation. Harris will not face criminal charges until any necessary treatment is complete.

Baxter and Mehrer are on administrative leave, which is the department’s policy when a police-involved shooting occurs. Baxter has been with the police department since 2001. Mehrer

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Another Police Shooting

First two teenagers, now a 62-year-old woman is shot at an elderly complex.

From the Sun:

A 62-year-old woman was shot yesterday by police responding to the senior citizen apartment complex in Columbia where she lived, according to Howard County police.

Pearl Wardell Harris was "acting erratically," said Sherry Llewellyn, a police spokeswoman, who described Harris as a "mental subject."

A property manager from the complex, Park View at Snowden River, called 911 about 4:30 p.m. to report a disturbance in one of the apartments. Police responded to the four-story facility in the 8600 block of Snowden River Parkway and called in a mobile crisis team, Llewellyn said.

"During that interaction, the officer felt threatened," Llewellyn said, adding that a knife was recovered at the scene. Police did not release any details about the knife.

Welcome Dog Talk

Sophie, our wonder lab, was very glad to hear this news:

Hi. I just wanted to let you know that I just launched a blog called Columbia Dog Talk at I didn't discover yours until after I named mine, so I hope I'm not confusing the blogosphere with the name.

I was interested in this particular note since I'll be compiling area walks and hoping to put some maps together. I have a list of about 25-30 walks that we're exploring and the list should be useful even for those without dogs. We also started a dog walk group through Meetup called Columbia Dogs-on-the-Go, at

We'll paw-mark the site in our favorites list.