Monday, August 31, 2009

Did Robinsons Want A Nature Center?

The Sun has an intriguing story about the deal leading to the new nature center being constructed in the Middle Patuxent environmental area.

While the project may mark a triumph for Ulman's effort to make Howard County a leader in environmental progress, there is an undercurrent of hurt feelings among the scattered members of Robinson's extended family, who recently learned about the groundbreaking from a local friend but have decided not to attend. Several wonder whether Robinson would have wanted such a large, active center on her land.

The piece raises more questions than it answers, but several of the details are curious nonetheless.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Re-check Those Clarksville E. Bus Skeds

From a note to parents:

As you may have heard, bus information that was published in the local newspapers was incorrect. We posted correct routes here in the building. For those of you that were unable to make it to the open house...I will post the info on our website.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

HoCo Loses $8.3M In State Aid

The Sun says the cuts are needed to deal with state budget woes and could mean "an immediate ban on local road repaving and possible higher costs at Howard Community College."

County health officer Peter L. Beilenson said he will have to lay off as many as 10 people and end programs in county clinics for services such as cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease prevention, tuberculosis and other kinds of screenings, and tobacco use cessation. The effect of the cuts will be magnified, he said, because most savings must be squeezed from cuts that can’t be imposed until the second half of the current fiscal year, which began July 1.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

River Hill's Entrepreneurial Spirit

Here's an interesting Back to School offer sent by school e-letter to River Hill families:

Calculators for Sale – August 27 & September 3rd. We were able to secure a nice supply of Texas Instruments Calculators and we will be selling them at RHHS at Orientation and Back-To-School Night. These calculators are being offered at at descent price, at convenient times, and a portion of the proceeds will help PTSA and Boosters! Click Here for the flyer with prices. You can always call or email if you want to place an order. If you have any questions, please contact Krysten Badey, RHHS Student & President, Bytes and Pieces LLC

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Man, 87, Charged In 91-Year-old's Death

Ah, the new media: A Sun story in WaPo on Howard's first homicide charge of the year:

They were two elderly men living out their days at Harmony Hall, an assisted living facility in Columbia. James W. Brown and Earl Lafayette Wilder didn't know each other, according to an official at the facility, and might not have had any contact until Aug. 14.

Now, Brown, 91, is dead, and Wilder, 87, has been charged with killing him that afternoon in an incident outside the home. It was Howard County's first homicide of the year.

Joseph LaVerghetta, general counsel for Harmony Hall's owner, said it isn't clear what triggered the incident.

"Nobody knows what happened,'' LaVerghetta said. "It's shocking. It's sad, a very strange thing."

Police said Brown was sitting on a bench outside Harmony Hall when Wilder struck him in the head.

HoCo To Break Ground On Nature Center

The ceremonial first shovels will be employed at 11 a.m. on Saturday at 6692 Cedar Lane, Columbia.

From HoCoGov:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Join County Executive Ken Ulman, representatives from Howard County’s Department of Recreation & Parks and the James and Anne Robinson Foundation as they “dig in” to begin construction on a new state-of-the-art nature center, made possible through the generous donation of Anne Robinson. The Center has been designed to incorporate extensive energy efficient and environmentally friendly strategies, making the facility a LEED Platinum rated building and minimizing any contribution to the County’s carbon footprint. When complete, the Center will offer educational programs related to nature, resource management and history and include an auditorium, two classrooms, a children’s discovery room and a 50 seat digital planetarium called “The NatureSphere.” Construction is expected to be completed by Fall 2010.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Peanut-free Tables For The Kids

What will they think of next?

From HoCo schools:

Maryland Law requires schools to designate a table in the cafeteria as peanut and tree-nut free. While most students with peanut and tree-nut allergies do not experience severe reactions with skin-only contact with their allergen, some students need more protection in the cafeteria.

For students with physician-documented anaphylactic allergy (e.g., physician's order for EpiPen) to peanuts or tree nuts, or a physician-documented anaphylactic allergy to another food, provisions for an allergen-free table will be made on a case-by-case basis, based on student need, physician-input, and parent request.

Upon parent request, the school will provide a designated table for a student with physician-documented anaphylactic allergy. Your child is NOT required to sit at this table, however the school is required to make this option available.

An allergen-free table will be considered when:
• The student experiences severe, frequent and/or disruptive symptoms after skin exposure to their allergen.
• There is concern that other students' food may be ingested.
• The student experiences symptoms from inhalation of food odors/dust (e.g., peanut shells), etc.
• The parent makes a request.

If you are not sure whether your child needs this extra protective measure, please discuss this with your child's health care provider or with the cluster/school nurse. If your child requires or you wish to discuss the need for an allergen-free table, please contact the cluster/school nurse at your child's school.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Civil Generosity

From a HoCo library tweet:

HoCo_Library: No more Magnets? Come in and donate to the Choose Civility Car Magnet Fund or send us a check. Help keep Howard County civil.

Fugitive Caught

The man who overpowered a sheriff's deputy near Jessup was caught hiding at his brother's house near Richmond, the Sun reports.

The U.S. Marshals tactical team, which had about 18 members, cleared the house and searched it three times before noticing something odd about the wall and finding Devin Champagne hiding in the false panel, Fitzgerald said. Champagne put up a brief struggle but was quickly subdued, Fitzgerald said. He was being held Friday at the Chesterfield County Jail, where he had a pre-trial hearing in a local court, Fitzgerald said. Bryan Champagne had not been charged as of Friday afternoon, Fitzgerald said.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Turning Algae Into Diesel Fuel

"Green" technology in our backyard.

From WaPo:

By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer

Now that its flagship product is in nearly every container of infant formula sold in the United States, Columbia-based Martek Biosciences is looking to edge its way into the gas tank.

The Columbia firm, which develops nutritional supplements for food and beverages based on the fermentation of algae, announced this month that BP has agreed to invest $10 million over a 30-month period to fund research seeking ways to inexpensively develop vehicle fuel from organisms such as seaweed.

“We believe sugar to diesel technology has the potential to deliver economic, sustainable and scaleable biodiesel supplies,” BP Biofuels chief executive Philip New said in a statement. “BP is very pleased to be entering this important partnership with Martek.”

For BP, the Martek partnership represents just one of many investments to develop sustainable alternative energy forms. Since 2006, BP has announced investments of more than $1.5 billion in biofuel research, and other deep-pocketed energy giants are looking into this area as well. In July, Exxon said it would invest $600 million in a similar type of algae research.

If Martek’s research yields an affordable product, there eventually could be a significant financial upside for Martek — but that’s a big if, experts say.

“This is a fairly small bet [by BP] on a fairly long-shot idea, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing,” said Tim Ramey, an analyst with D.A. Davidson & Co. who follows Martek. Because of those long odds, Ramey dubs the BP investment as a bit of “wildcatting in the fermentation vessel.”

In theory, Martek President David Abramson said this week, turning algae into the type of fuel BP could use isn’t a remarkable accomplishment. The larger, more important trick would be to develop a product for a price that matches or beats the cost of fuels used by vehicles today.

“This is very doable in a lab, if you don’t care about the price,” he said.

If Martek develops a viable product, it would receive royalty payments from BP whenever that product was sold. Regardless of whether that happens, Martek will keep any research that may prove beneficial to its growing line of food and beverage products, under the terms of its deal with BP.

Martek’s annual revenue was $352 million last year, nearly 90 percent of which came from sales to baby formula manufacturers. Using algae, Martek makes DHA, an omega 3 fatty acid that has been proven to be important for brain and eye development in babies. As the only company that makes what is regarded as a “clean” DHA product — other manufacturers offer DHA in the form of fish oil derived from tuna and salmon — Martek’s product has cornered the U.S. market. Nearly all baby formula sold in this country contains DHA produced by Martek. Outside the United States, Martek’s products can be found in nearly 50 percent of the market.

In the last three years, Martek has been expanding its DHA business by striking deals with food and beverage makers such as Coca-Cola, which is offering a new type of Minute Maid juice that claims to “help nourish your brain” thanks to Martek’s DHA.
As recent studies have indicated DHA may have benefits for adults as well, Martek has sought to take advantage of a larger potential market, branding its product as “Life’s DHA” with a logo that all of its new partners are required to include on their packaging materials. The company is hoping that the logo will stick in the minds of consumers in the same way that computer buyers once gravitated to machines that featured “Intel Inside.”

Some of Martek’s patents around DHA development are set to expire next year, however, and some analysts see Martek’s BP deal as a way for the company move forward into possible new businesses should fresh competition emerge on the DHA front.

“They’re trying to reinvent themselves with deals like this, knowing that their main business might be changing,” Ramey said.

Abramson disputes that the company has anything to worry about, patent-wise. Some patents have already expired, he said, but the process of making DHA is tricky enough that his company doesn’t fear competition will descend quickly.

In any case, Martek has a library containing thousands of species of algae stored in freezers at its Columbia facility. Algae can do more than just generate DHA, and it is possible that one of the thousands of species in its collection may contain the company’s next big product.

Might it be diesel fuel? Bentley Offutt, principal analyst at Offutt Securities, said investors won’t know for years whether the research money was well spent.

“Things in genetic engineering take a long, long time.”

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Police Bust Alleged ID Thieves

Police find lots of personal data -- and wigs!

From HoCO PD:

Howard County police are working to identify approximately 100 victims whose financial and personal information was found at a hotel in Elkridge.

Four suspects from Florida face charges for a theft scheme that stretches across at least four states – and one of the suspects also faces assault charges stemming from a pursuit in which she fled from authorities. As they continue a detailed investigation and determine the scope of the scheme, police anticipate filing further charges.

On Aug. 10, police were called to a Best Western in the 6700 block of Dorsey Road in Elkridge after a housekeeper found suspicious documents in a hotel room trash can.

Police questioned occupants of the room and attempted to stop an Infiniti driven by a suspect as the vehicle approached the hotel. The driver of the Infiniti fled, leading to a pursuit where the driver collided with three Howard County police cars and attempted to strike a Howard County officer with the vehicle.

A search of the hotel room and vehicle produced hundreds of personal and financial documents from various states and victims, including driver’s licenses, credit cards, checks, social security cards and bank statements. Police also found $12,000 in cash and numerous wigs in the vehicle.

The driver of the Infiniti, Bridgette Marie Arendas, 24, of Lauderhill, Fla., was charged with first- and seconddegree assault of a police officer, reckless driving, five charges of credit card theft and one charge of general theft, with additional charges anticipated. Arendas is being held on $175,000 bond at Howard County Detention Center. There is also a warrant for her arrest from Broward County, Fla., for robbery that will serve as a detainer.

Two passengers in the vehicle, Lamisha K. Loffett, 33, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Jamie K. Frazier, 32, of Plantation, Fla., face five charges of credit card theft and one charge of general theft. Loffett posted $3,500 bond and was released Aug. 11. Frazier posted $5,000 bond and was released Aug. 12. Wayne B. Curry, 35, of Lauderhill, Fla., who was arrested at the hotel, also faces five charges of credit card theft and one charge of general theft. Curry is being held on $75,000 bond at Howard County Detention Center.

Police anticipate filing additional charges in at least six thefts from vehicles in Columbia, Elkridge and Ellicott
City since July. Preliminarily, police have identified 18 victims in Maryland, seven in Florida, four in Virginia
and one in Georgia. Police are working with neighboring jurisdictions and federal investigators to identify
victims and file further charges.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HoCo, Others Seek $100M For Broadband

From HoCo gov:

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman announced today that the One Maryland Broadband (OMB) Plan, being led by Howard County’s IT Director Ira Levy, has submitted its application to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration for $100 million of federal stimulus money set-aside for fiber optic projects. The “One Maryland” group consists of all of the central Maryland counties: Baltimore, Howard, Anne Arundel, Harford, Carroll, Prince George’s, Montgomery and Frederick, plus Baltimore City and Annapolis.

“The ‘One Maryland Broadband Plan’ provides tremendous opportunities within each of our jurisdictions, as well as for the State, to strengthen public safety and emergency management, enhance education, improve health care, spur economic development, increase government efficiency and expand broadband access to millions of Maryland residents and thousands of Maryland businesses,” said Executive Ulman.

The One Maryland middle mile project will create a cohesive fiber optic network interconnecting over 800 community anchor institutions across a wide swath of the State of Maryland. The proposed network seeks to address an opportunity to unite rural, urban and suburban communities in one contiguous local government network across the State. The benefits of this interconnection are numerous and substantial, especially as they relate to sharing resources and knowledge among public schools, libraries and public safety entities. The One Maryland application included 28 letters of support and 14 letters of interest from both public and private sector partners who have been working with the OMB developing this plan.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration plans a tiered review process to evaluate the merits of the applications.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Free Flu Shots For Elementary Students

From HoCo schools:

The Howard County School System, in partnership with the Howard County Health Department, is offering free seasonal Flu Mist vaccine to elementary students, with parent permission. Elementary school students have been identified as the "target" population because flu is so common in elementary school-age children and this age group often spreads infection to their family and community.

Dose 1 will be administered to students in one-half of the elementary schools on September 22, 2009 and to students in the remaining half of the elementary schools on September 24, 2009. Parents will receive more specific information from their child's school. Students under 9 years old, who are receiving flu vaccine for the first time or who only received one dose of flu mist previously, will need a second dose. This will be offered during the week of November 2, 2009. Seasonal Flu Mist will protect students against seasonal flu but does not protect against the H1N1 influenza.

Prisoner Escapes During Transport

The Sun reports that David Champagne, 20, broke free Thursday night while being taken to jail after being convicted of felony theft (he was already on probation for a 2007 assault conviction). The deputy had to be hospitalized. The escapee appears to still be at large Monday.

Champagne, who was in the back seat of a sheriff's office vehicle, was able to transfer his handcuffs from behind his back to the front of his body. He then used the handcuffs to choke sheriff’s deputy Don Chase and tried to take his firearm, which he wasn't able to get. Champagne then fled in the area of Route 175 and Pocomoke Drive, according to sheriff’s office officials.

The Sun said the sheriff's department will review its transport procedures after the attack, the first on a deputy in 20 years.

Currently, Howard County uses only one sheriff's deputy to transport prisoners within the county, and only some of the cars are fitted with wire barriers between the back and front seats. Those cars are typically used while transporting prisoners charged with more serious crimes, or people taken into custody who are believed to be on drugs.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Going After Bad Checks

The ExploreHoward blog says the HoCo school system has hired a collection agency to chase after people who pass bad checks for less than $300, which is apparently becoming a growing problem.

If you have insufficient funds, you'll also be charged a $35 fee.

The system receives more than 800 bad checks each year, according to school system Director of Finance Beverly Davis. About 90 percent of those checks are for small dollar amounts and are written to individual schools for everything from field trip fees to yearbooks to summer school tuition.

Here's how one school described the change to parents:

Effective immediately, a new policy about check payments has been put into place. When providing a check as a payment, you not only authorize the school system to process the payment, but you also authorize us to collect a fee of $35 from your account IF your payment is returned unpaid. A $35 fee is allowed by Maryland State Law and is charged as an electronic fund transfer.

Please be aware that a check payment authorizes us to use information from your check to make a one-time electronic fund transfer from your account OR to process your payment as a check transaction. To help us to process your payment, please include the following information on your check:

Full name
Street address
Phone number

Thank you for your cooperation!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Man Dies Under Lawn Mower

From HoCo PD:

Howard County police are investigating an industrial accident in Annapolis
Junction where a Columbia man working for a landscaping company died.

Celerino Baltazar-Avila, 27, of the 8800 block of Tamar Drive in Columbia, was mowing a commercial property in the 9000 block of Junction Drive in Annapolis Junction when police believe he lost control of a lawn mower and fell down a steep embankment about 10 feet. Baltazar-Avila was working for Premiere Lawn Service, based in West Friendship.

An employee of a nearby business was on break at approximately 2 p.m. when the he discovered Baltazar-Avila and called 911. It is unknown how long Baltazar-Avila had been injured when he was discovered.

Police and Fire & Rescue responded to find Baltazar-Avila pinned beneath a riding mower. Baltazar-Avila was transported by ambulance to Howard County General Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at approximately 3 p.m.

Police and the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Administration are investigating the incident.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Phish (Traffic) Jam

From HoCo PD:

On Saturday, Aug. 15th, motorists are advised to expect delays in the area of
Merriweather Post Pavilion and The Mall in Columbia due to a concert that is
expected to draw large crowds.

Starting at 10 a.m., police will be directing traffic on Little Patuxent Parkway,
Brokenland Parkway, South Entrance Road and Hickory Ridge Road.

Little Patuxent Parkway from Brokenland Parkway to South Entrance Road will
be closed to through traffic from approximately 3–7 p.m.

Motorists are advised to plan ahead and allow extra travel time.

What could the be object of such interest? The return of Phish.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Deer Hunts Are Back

From HoCo Gov:

The Howard County Department of Recreation & Parks has announced its fall/winter schedule of managed deer hunts. The hunts will be held in an effort to help maintain a stable, balanced white-tailed deer population in our parks where deer browsing has been shown to reduce biodiversity.

Since the program began in 1998, there has been an observable improvement in habitat quality and vegetation abundance in many of the parks where managed hunting has taken place. This year’s managed hunts will include a combination of bow and shotgun hunting. Hunting hours are from dawn until 12 noon, and each park will be closed for all other uses during this time. The hunting schedule is as follows:

Alpha Ridge Park:
Bow & Shotgun November 4; December 9

Blandair Park:
Bow Hunting October 6; October 27; November 10; December 8

David Force Park:
Bow & Shotgun October 14; December 15

Fulton South Area:
Shotgun Hunting October 19; December 7; January 20

High Ridge Park:
Bow & Shotgun October 20; November 16

Middle Patuxent Environmental Area:
Bow & Shotgun October 7; October 28; November 11; December 16; January 13; February 10
-- more --
Page 2
August 11, 2009

Department of Recreation & Parks Announces Deer Management Program for 2009-2010 (continued)

North Laurel Open Space Area:
Bow & Shotgun October 12; November 2; November 23;

Schooley Mill Park:
Shotgun Hunting November 9; November 24; December 14

West Friendship Park:
Shotgun Hunting November 18; February 3

Wincopin Trail Area at Savage Park:
Shotgun Hunting October 13; October 26; November 17

In addition to this managed hunt program, in which specially screened and selected hunters are allowed daytime access to certain parks, the Department also operates a sharpshooting program. The sharpshooting program utilizes licensed and qualified marksmen and precise, accurate, noise-suppressed firearms at night in areas where the managed hunt is not feasible. While the schedule for sharpshooting has not yet been finalized, last year’s locations included: Alpha Ridge Landfill, Blandair Park, Daniels Mill Overlook, Gray Rock Openspace, Rockburn Branch Park, Timbers of Troy and Worthington Park.

Since deer population reduction programs such as the hunts and sharpshooting are not possible in many areas of the county, the Department of Recreation & Parks has developed a Deer Management Reference Manual to help homeowners and gardeners live in harmony with white-tailed deer. The manual, which is available in all county library branches, contains information on the use of deer repellents, fencing to protect crops and property, how to avoid deer-auto collisions, and Lyme Disease prevention. There is also information about the county’s deer management program available on the Department’s website.

The Department of Recreation & Parks and the University of Maryland Cooperative Extension Service can also arrange to have experts on the topic speak to homeowner associations, schools or other groups. Other Recreation & Parks’ deer management programs include an effort to reduce ticks on deer through the use of “Four-Poster” devices which deliver an approved pesticide to deer attracted to a feeder baited with corn. Developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the devices have been shown to reduce tick populations by 90% or more.

For more information on the deer management program, call the Department of Recreation & Parks at 410-313-1675.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The HoCo Fair Heats Up

Ah the sweet perfume of the livestock barns returns through Aug. 15. You can find the HoCo Fair schedule here.

One new event, according to the Sun, is an old standby...the tug of war:

Participants in the first round on Wednesday will be members of the public safety professions, from police officers to firefighters to sheriff's deputies. On Thursday, regular folks are encouraged to take part.

And yes, there will be an oversized muddy ditch to motivate everyone to pull with all the brute strength they can muster. Teams are limited to 16 members and can't exceed a total of 1,800 pounds.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Breakfast At The Movies

Breakfast is supposed to be the day's most important meal but apparently not if you are the movie-going type.

Columbia's AMC Theater is testing out the idea of serving pastries and such at their early shows -- offering food and drink combinations for $5, according to this story in the Maryland Daily Record.

The story quoted several patrons who passed on the offering, preferring to stick with their popcorn and Coke. One who tried it was unimpressed.

John Clutts, 50, from Columbia bought a cinnamon roll and apple juice combo Saturday morning, but, he said, “I got it primarily for the apple juice.”

If the theater is looking to add breakfast, Clutts said he would recommend having healthier options, such as fresh fruit.

“These things are pretty junky,” he said, holding up the pastry.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Stan's The Man

HoCo has announced its sports community hall of fame inductees, and we can't think of anyone more deserving than one of the honorees, Flier sports columnist Stan Ber.

We might be a little biased on the subject. Stan has written up a certain member of the Talk Team a time or two, and we have blushed at each mention. Of course, he also cut a certain member of the Talk Team from a little league all-star team, but, hey, we probably deserved it.

While we are at it, we owe Karen Brelsford a bit of gratitude as well. She graciously printed some of our first journalistic offerings -- summaries from adult softball games -- and launched our very brief career as photojournalist, publishing a memorable photo we took from a soccer tournament from Bermuda. Except she didn't publish the game pictures. She posted one of all the lads sunning themselves on a rock on those beautiful pink sands. Ah, the athletic life.

Here's the official list:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County’s “Community Sports Hall of Fame,” sponsored by the Department of Recreation & Parks, is proud to announce its 2009 inductees. The Community Sports Hall of Fame honors outstanding individuals who have gained prominence and/or have made a substantial contribution to community recreation sports in Howard County. The induction ceremony will take place at the 7th annual “Celebration of Sports” on Tuesday, October 20, 2009, at the Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center.

This year’s inductees were selected by a 12-member Hall of Fame Committee and include:

Stan Ber was sports editor for Columbia Life and, in late 1971, became the sports editor of the Columbia Flier and later its sister publication, the Howard County Times. In his role as sports editor, Stan served as a facilitator for the first Columbia Memorial Day Soccer Tournament and two tennis tournaments for junior players. He was instrumental in the creation of the Columbia Rotary Club’s Bob Davidson Scholar Athlete Award, presented annually by the Columbia Rotary Club. He used his weekly column to follow the progress of athletes and coaches, to speak out about the wants and needs of the sports community, to advocate for good sportsmanship and to emphasize the importance of getting good grades.

Karen Brelsford became a freelance photographer for the Columbia Flier in 1973 after a chance encounter on a sports field with fellow inductee Stan Ber. She was soon assigned to write the stories, take the photos, type the copy, write the headlines and proofread the pages. She helped produce the 20 pages of sports that once filled the Flier and the Times, publishing thousands of kids’ names in the papers each week. It was Karen who made sure that girls’ teams received equal coverage. She also refused to run one-sided rec league write-ups, reasoning that someone on the losing side also had a good game and deserved to be mentioned. After years as the assistant sports editor, in 1999 Karen became the sports editor and served in that position until 2002 when she left the paper to become a certified financial planner.

John Dye has been an active game official and administrator for Howard County Officials since 1972. Recognized by area softball players as a premier umpire, in 1992 John was honored with a membership in the “National Indicator Fraternity” – a national certification recognition of the Amateur Softball Association for outstanding umpires. At the state level, he is a board member of the Maryland State Amateur Softball Association and has served as the State of Maryland Umpire for both the National Softball Association (2005) and the United States Sports Association (2006). Since 1997, he has served as President of the Columbia Volksmarch Club.

Phil Lang has served on the Howard County Striders Board of Directors for the last 18 years, including two years as President and five years as race director for the Striders Metric Marathon. Since the 80’s, he has been organizing the Striders team entries for competitions and in 2001 created the Striders Cross-Country Training program. Under his leadership, the Striders’ youth program has grown to over 200 young athletes. He has served as the Maryland State representative to the Road Runners Club of America since 2005.

Jim McCleary is the face of the Kangaroo Kids Jump Roping Program. Involved since the 70’s, Jim was responsible for adding choreography to the routines leading to the first Kangaroo Kids Precision Jump Roping Team. As team coach, he leads three to six practices a week and provides numerous after-school jump roping programs. He is co-founder of the USA Jump Rope Federation, serving on their Board of Directors for nine years. He successfully lobbied to have jump roping become an official part of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and has served as the AAU Jump Rope Committee Chairman since 1997, earning their Volunteer of the Year award in 2000. He also served as the USA Jump Roping Head Coach in 2004.

Patricia Muth has been teaching Howard County how to glide, jump and spin on ice for four decades. Upon moving to Columbia in the 70’s, Pat quickly involved herself in the activities of the local ice rink as a volunteer. Her volunteer efforts included co-founding the Columbia Figure Skating Club and offering both recreational and competitive figure skating. Today, she continues teaching and coaching for the Columbia Figure Skating Club and the Chesapeake Skating School.

Ray Page started his coaching career with the COBRA Football Program in 1972 as an assistant coach in their intramural 7-9 age bracket and a head coach of an 11-13 year old team. His coaching career continued another 25 years with that 11-13 year old team. During the past four decades, Ray has served as Vice President of Football for COBRA. In 2002, he helped co-found the Trojan Football team and the Central Maryland Football and Cheer League; he went on to serve as President of the Howard County Trojan Football and Cheer program. Ray was also very active assisting with local wrestling tournaments.

The 2009 “Celebration of Sports,” which also includes the “GoodSport” awards, will feature keynote speaker Joe Ehrman, former NFL Defensive Lineman for the Baltimore Colts. Tickets for the event may be purchased at Recreation & Parks headquarters, 7120 Oakland Mills Road, Columbia, online or by phone at 410-313-7275.

Are We Nicer Yet?

That was the question posed by WaPo columnist John Kelly in his piece on the Choose Civility campaign recently (we've been on vaca so we're just catching up on things).

We're were drawn to this bit in his interview with Christie Lassen, director of PR for the HoCo Library system, the birthplace for the campaign:

But has any of it made people nicer to one another? The only way to know for sure is to have performed what's called a longitudinal study. Some benchmark should have been established before the campaign started and then a representative sampling of populace should have been surveyed regularly ever since. You could come up with a "civility quotient" and tracked it over time.

"We have not done any sort of studies like that," Christie said. "All we have right now are anecdotal stories."

Anecdotal stories are the bane of scientists but they still possess some value. Christie said people have reported being more understanding of other drivers when they spot a car magnet. Where most of the change seems to have occurred is in the behavior of the people with the magnets. No one wants to end up as the ironic punchline in another person's anecdote: "You'll never believe who cut me off on Route 29 today then flipped me the bird: a car with a 'Choose Civility' sticker!"

Alas, she coulda been describing us the other day, as we tooled about town in our sedan, proudly displaying our sticker even as we behaved very uncivilly to a fellow motorist who had just cut us off.

We felt silly afterward for getting in such a dither, and pledged to ignore such affronts in the future.

Were we embarrassed at becoming an ironic punchline? Maybe. Are we nicer? We're trying.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Planning Dept To Go Paperless - Sorta

In reading this, we wondered if regular lay folks like us also got a chance to participate in the pilot. Give us a shout if you know the answer.

From HoCo Gov:

ELLICOTT CITY, MD – Howard County Executive Ken Ulman has announced that starting today, all site development plans for the County’s Department of Planning and Zoning will be reviewed electronically. The Department has implemented cutting-edge software that will serve as a tool for plan submission, review, approval and tracking, using an on-line system. The software allows parallel collaboration between agencies to review and markup plans and share comments. The Department of Planning and Zoning is one of the first planning departments in the country to automate its site development plan review process.

“We are very excited about this shift away from paper-based plan review because it supports our sustainability goals and our goal to increase the effectiveness of local government,” said Ulman. “With the implementation of this technology, the Department of Planning and Zoning estimates they will be able to save more than 150,000 sheets of paper annually.”

Prior to full implementation, the Department of Planning and Zoning worked with the County’s Department of Technology and Communication Services to administer a pilot project to test the new technology. County agencies, as well as engineering firms that volunteered to test the technology, also helped tweak the system to ensure that it was ready for full implementation.

“We are grateful to all who helped test-drive the technology,” said Marsha McLaughlin, Director, Department of Planning and Zoning. “Every day we work to be more efficient at delivering high-quality plan reviews. I believe this new technology will certainly enhance our efforts.”