Sunday, April 25, 2010

WL's Kirsch Keeps His Seat

From the ExploreHoward blog:

Philip Kirsch of Wilde Lake won a new one-year term on the Columbia Association's 10-member board of directors in the planned town's only contested CA board election this year. Facing Linda Odum, a real estate agent he beat by very narrow margins in each of the last two years, Kirsch widened the gap in a 415-268 vote election, village officials said. The election was seen as important because Kirsch has represented a community-oriented outlook more common among older residents of the village, while Odum took a more developer/business-friendly approach. "It feels good," Kirsch said about the result.

Just The Good News, Please

This popped up in our Google-catcher this week, a new site called the Village Connector that said it will devote itself only to the good news of Howard.

Our goal with the Village Connector is to collaborate with community members to write the news ourselves instead of allowing the source of news to be consolidated into any single entity.

We also focus on the positive edifying things that are going on in our communities and limit exposure to contentious, controversial topics that divide communities. To the extent that we deal with difficult issues we do so in a way that is solution oriented without judgment or being opinionated, but rather presenting issues in a way that serves the community.

The mission may have something to do with the folks behind the site:

Charter Members are local business owners who hold a special status here at Village Connector because their investment in this project is what allowed us to bring the newspaper to your community.

It's a laudable goal, uniting communities, but hard to see how that happens if one avoids the contentious. But, whoa, we need to purge the negative. In the spirit of its launch, we think it is only good news when more coverage joins the Interwebs.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Expect Traffic Delays Sunday

From HoCo police;

Pedestrians and cyclists will be racing on Howard County roads on Sunday, April 25, during the Tri-Columbia Blossoms of Hope Howard Life Festival. Motorists are advised to use caution when sharing the roads in Columbia during the various races, including a half marathon, 5K foot race and various bike races.

From 7 to 11:30 a.m., Little Patuxent Parkway will be closed between Sterrett Place and South Entrance Road.

Heavy pedestrian traffic is expected on the following roadways:
• Little Patuxent Parkway from South Entrance Road to Hickory Ridge Road
• Hickory Ridge Road from Little Patuxent Parkway to Cedar Lane
• Cedar Lane from Hickory Ridge Road to Grace Drive

Howard County police officers will be staffing traffic posts at all major intersections. Traffic delays are anticipated, so citizens are advised to allow for additional travel time. Motorists are advised that race participants have the right of way.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Send Your Student To School Day

From a school system e-mail to parents:

The fourth Thursday in April has traditionally been designated as national Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day by the Ms. Foundation for Women. This year the Howard County Public School System had scheduled April 22 as a Professional Development Day for teachers. As you know, we now will use that day to make up one of the school days students missed due to the snow.

We recognize that visiting places of employment can have educational benefits for students; however, I am asking HCPSS parents to send their children to school on April 22. This year in particular, we are attempting to avoid any further disruptions to instruction and encourage you to support this effort by having your child in school this Thursday.

If you do choose to take your child to work, your child will not be marked absent for the day.

Sydney L. Cousin, Superintendent

Monday, April 19, 2010

CA's New Prez

The Sun offers up an assessment of Phil Nelson's start as CA president. We have to echo some of the observations; it seems to the outsider he is sorta anonymous compared to his predecessors. But we've always said HoCo seems to like low-key, don't-rock-the-boat leaders. Woe to anyone who would want to actually shake up suburbia.

The big, quiet, 60-year-old Midwesterner with the soft voice....

"He is no social butterfly,"

"He's the definition of an introvert"

Here's how Nelson explains his style:

"It's part of my nature. I like to listen a lot more than I like to talk," he said, joking about his personality as part of his Norwegian heritage. He keeps a notepad handy, and writes down things people say and do that give clues to where they want to go. When the time is right, he offers a suggestion. His goal was to learn the organization from the ground up, he said, not try to impose some preconceived new structure. "That backfires," he said he's learned over the years.

The Day Job

I've been missing in action a bit lately as I have focused my energies on launching a new weekly business publication for WaPo: Capital Business. You can see the result here.

As you can see in my first editor's note, I finally truly appreciate the life of a start-up entrepreneur!

By Dan Beyers
Monday, April 19, 2010; 24

It was the first day after we had gotten the green light to create a new weekly local business publication and my mind was racing. There was a mission statement to craft, staff to hire and people to see. The IT department wanted to meet pronto. Our meetings team wanted to talk about a launch event. We still had not settled on a proper name. And then . . .


I smashed into the back end of a car on Interstate 95.

No one was hurt, thank goodness. The driver of the other car, an Internal Revenue Service manager, could not have been nicer as we exchanged insurance information. Perhaps that was because, while his car had a small dent, my front end was a shambles.

"Are you sure it's safe to drive?" he asked.

It had to be, I thought. I have a day full of meetings.

And that's when I realized that there really is nothing so consuming as getting a business off the ground. As I related my experience to others around town, I got only knowing smiles.

Dean Violagis, vice president of research at the real estate data firm CoStar Group in Bethesda, told me about how he helped the company build its first database, literally driving around Washington in 1989, writing down information about the office buildings he encountered.

"It was all basically done by hand," he said.

There was no satellite global positioning systems in those days, no geocoding. "I literally took out a map and put a dot on it," he said.

Violagis thought the company a little crazy when it asked him to take a photo of each building he documented. What would it do with the boxes and boxes of slides he accumulated?

To realize that work would one day form the basis of the computerized repository of real estate information that CoStar has become famous for is inspiring.

So is hearing Violagis talk about CoStar's efforts to extend its brand into new markets. The entrepreneurship never ends, even if the techniques of gathering data are now more advanced. "Every city, we have to start over again," he said.

Launching a business can be so daunting, the challenges so numerous, that friends and colleagues can be pardoned if they seem a little skeptical.

Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive of the Consumer Electronics Association in Arlington, remembers a time back in the mid-1980s when he and the late Ron Brown, who would later become commerce secretary, were sitting on a bus in Tokyo listening to David Rubenstein talk about his vision for a merchant banking firm that would one day become private equity giant Carlyle Group. At the time, the three men were all lawyers, fighting to protect the legality of the videotape recorder.

"Ron and I laughed at David, thinking he was just being fanciful," Shapiro said. "But then he did it."

Capital Business plans to tell many more stories like that in the weeks and months to come, for it strikes me that one of the things uniting our diverse business community is the entrepreneurial spirit stirring in companies big and small. The upheaval brought on by the recent economic downturn has a way of focusing the mind and encouraging people to consider new possibilities.

I pulled my wounded car into my downtown parking garage and smiled at the look on the attendants' faces.

"What happened?" one asked. "Are you okay?"

I shrugged my shoulders.

Never felt better.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tune in: HoCo Housing Fair

A correspondent wrote in, alerting us to today's (4/10) housing fair:

In case you can’t make it to the Housing Fair today, here’s a link to the live stream.

We’ll be streaming the opening, when we’ll be giving away a $500 Amex gift card, as well as several of educations sessions. And at 1:30 pm, we’ll be live streaming the Housing Lottery, when we’ll be giving two lucky winners the opportunity to buy houses in Howard County at significantly reduced prices.

We hope you’ll take the time to share this link with the readers of the blog.

Lastly, all of our live streams will be archived and available for embedding and viewing on website.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Is The Problem The Phone Or The Yapping?

The Maryland General Assembly is once again considering whether to ban the use of hand-held cellphones while driving, according to this WaPo story.

The House is scheduled to vote Friday on a bill that has already passed the Senate.

WaPo reported that the research is mixed on whether such a ban would reduce accidents.

The National Safety Council has estimated that cellphone use is responsible for 1.6 million crashes a year, about 28 percent of the national total. The NSC has joined with the group FocusDriven to promote cellphone-free driving.

The NSC also cites studies that show that requiring use of hands-free cellphones -- the step that Maryland might take Friday -- does not reduce crashes.

"Cellphone driving has become a serious public threat," the NSC said in a report issued last month. "A few states have passed legislation making it illegal to use a handheld cellphone while driving. These laws give the false impression that using a hands-free phone is safe."

The NSC pointed to volumes of research that found that regardless of whether a phone is hand-held or hands-free, a cellphone conversation distracts a driver and delays reaction time when a traffic incident occurs.

"Estimates indicate drivers using cellphones look at but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment," the NSC said.

.....The recent NSC report addressed a question often asked about cellphone use: Why is talking on a cellphone more distracting than a conversation with a passenger? Drawing on more than 30 studies, the NSC concluded:

"Passengers tend to suppress conversation when driving conditions are demanding. Talking on cellphones has a different social expectation because not responding on a cellphone can be considered rude. In addition, callers cannot see when a driving environment is challenging and cannot suppress conversation in response. Passengers can see the roadway and may moderate the conversation."

The report found that some passenger conversations can be distracting, as can listening to loud music.

"But when the same drivers talk on cellphones, they do have a slower response time," the NSC said.

Two Arrested In Shootings

The Sun reports that police arrested two people involved in two separate shootings that occurred overnight Tuesday in which three people were injured.

Daniel John Palombo, Jr., 24, of 3500 block of Reynard Drive in Ellicott City, was charged in the shooting of Brandon Michael Boswell.

Boswell, 25, had gone with four friends to the 5400 block of Broadwater Lane in Clarksville to meet a man, police said, saying the meeting was possibly drug-related.

Police said Palombo arranged a meeting with Boswell, and planned for two others to rob Boswell. During the meeting, a masked, armed man and woman pulled up in a car, got out, and shot Boswell in the leg.

Palombo was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit first- and second-degree assault. The masked man and woman have not been identified.

Police also made an arrest in another shooting that occurred the same night in a trailer park in the 100 block of Alma Ave.

Jessica Matovich, 32, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged as an accessory in the shooting incident, where Arthur Thomas, 27, and Michael Fitchett, 36, were shot in the leg after a confrontation with two people with police believed to be guests at Econo Lodge next door.

When police arrived at the scene, Matovich told police her car was stolen by people involved in the shooting. Police issued an alert for a silver 2003 Chevy Impala. The car was found in Laurel with Matovich inside. Police charged her as an accessory after the fact to attempted first- and second-degree murder and accessory after the fact to first-degree assault. The shooter is still unidentified.

A third shooting on the same night injured two teenage boys in Laurel. No arrests have been made in that incident in the 9100 block of Hitching Post Lane.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Five Wounded In Three Shootings

From HoCo PD:

Howard County police are investigating three unrelated, non-fatal shooting incidents that occurred overnight Tuesday. Five victims are being treated for injuries.

Four are serious, one is in critical condition. Police are offering a reward of up to $1,500 for information in any of the cases.

The first incident occurred at 7:45 p.m. April 6 in the 5400 block of Broadwater Lane in Clarksville.

Detectives believe the suspects and victims may have known one another. They are looking into whether drugs may have been involved in the case. The victim, an adult male, and four friends agreed to meet a man on Broadwater Lane. During the meeting, an additional car pulled up and two masked suspects, one male and one female, both armed with guns, exited the car and demanded money from the victim and his friends. They took cash and shot the victim in the leg. He was transported to Shock Trauma in serious condition.

The victim is Brandon Michael Boswell, 25, of the 900 block of Swan Creek Road in Ft. Washington. The suspect vehicle description is not being released due to the ongoing investigation.

The second incident occurred at 12:51 a.m. in the 9100 block of Hitching Post Lane in Laurel. Three male teens were walking along the roadway and were approached by an unknown suspect wearing a mask who fired shots, striking two of the teens. One teen was struck in the face and is in serious condition; the other was struck in the back and is critical. Both are at Shock Trauma. The third teen was not injured. The victims are 15- and 16-year-old males and are not being publicly identified.

The third incident occurred at 12:53 a.m. in the 100 block of Alma Avenue in Laurel and is unrelated to the shooting in Laurel minutes earlier. Two groups of people were shouting at each other between a motel and a mobile home park. A fight broke out and two people were shot in the legs. Both are in serious condition at Shock Trauma.

The victims are Arthur Thomas, 27, of the unit block of Alma Avenue, and Michael Fitchett, 36, of unknown address. Police are looking for a silver 2003 Chevy Impala with MD tags JGA226 that was seen leaving the scene and is reportedly stolen.

Anyone with information is asked to call 410-313-STOP.

Somebody's Feeling Optimistic

From Drop Box

A member of the Talk Team sent us this picture of new housing construction off Route 108 across from the school administration complex. There once was a time when a scene like this might have passed unnoticed.

Plans for the development, called Cedar Grove, call for about a dozen homes with a starting price of $500k.

Our correspondent wonders if a traffic light is included in the plans -- as we can attest it can be hairy getting out on Route 108 from Cedar Lane or the school buildings across the way.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blandair Nearing Reality?

HoCo exec Ulman recently released his capital budget proposal for building stuff around the county. The budget includes money to begin creating playgrounds and athletic fields at the old Smith Farm, otherwise known as Blandair.

Here's an excerpt from a letter sent by Candace Dodson Reed, a community liaison in the HoCo government, and distributed by Oakland Mills village folks.

As you may know, in last year’s budget we included funding for Phase I construction at Blandair Regional Park. This year’s budget includes $2.4 million for Blandair, funding that will be used to complete Phase I construction of the three multi-purpose artificial turf fields, a playground, trails, and restrooms included in Phase I, as well as design funding for Phase II. Planning for Blandair has been ongoing for many years, and I know that many are excited to see construction work getting underway.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

HoCo Exec Has Surgery After Nosebleed

From the Sun:

Howard County Executive Ken Ulman had successful surgery early Friday to cauterize what was termed "an arterial bleed in his septum," according to a statement from his spokesman, Kevin Enright. Dr. Domenick Coletti performed the surgery, and Enright said Ulman was "alert and talking." The executive was expected to be released today from Howard County General Hospital. "The Ulmans truly appreciate the numerous calls, e-mails and well-wishes that have come their way during this time," Enright said. Ulman was taken to the hospital Thursday morning after he suffered a massive nosebleed in his office.