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Happy Birthday, New City Alliance!

We’d like to re-print part of a statement released today by our friends at New City Alliance, marking their first birthday. And what a difference a year makes.

…Ongoing efforts by special interests and opponents of Smart Growth threatened to dilute and delay the plan. Our community’s vision was being put at risk by those who could not imagine the big picture nor grasp the realities of growth and change, what Jim Rouse called “failing to deal realistically with the world as it is, attempting to push things somewhere else rather than seeing that they’re done well.”

To ensure our community’s vision was not compromised, we launched New City Alliance with the express mission of “holding our public officials accountable” – putting our elected representatives on notice every step of the way to ensure the community’s best interests were priority number one.

Today, we’ve seen the unanimous passage of the downtown plan by our bipartisan County Council; passage of the legislation that details the public facilities plan; and, twice, public validation of the strong support for the plan, through the decisive failures of legal and political maneuvers against it.

We are proud of our neighbors for their commitment to taking charge of their own future. We are grateful to our public officials for carefully balancing the benefits and assurances this community deserves with the needs of the developer.

They went on to say that they’d continue to hold elected officials and the developer accountable “prior to breaking ground on the redevelopment and throughout the 30-year development process.”

As for that 30-year process, Columbia 2.0 would like to give special mention to Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty for her foresight and dogged determination in insisting that the downtown legislation was enforceable upon any developer of the land, not just General Growth Properties. Now, as the Howard Hughes Corporation takes ownership, we can rest assured that Councilwoman Sigaty fought for that distinction.

Happy birthday, New City Alliance, and congratulations to Columbia for coming so far in the last year!

(The full statement will be printed in full on NCA’s website.  Find more about NCA’s members here: http://www.newcityalliance.org/aboutus.html)

Election Reflections

Last Tuesday night, Alan Klein’s concession of the District 4 council race came via phone call to Mary Kay Sigaty, where she awaited results at the combined Sigaty/Ulman campaign headquarters.  Representing Klein in person was Delegate Liz Bobo, who walked in the room simultaneous to that call.  Those events seem fitting.  Alan did what he signed up to do, and, at the end, handed off the failed venture to its creator.

Bobo’s entrance into the room got what one attendee called “a verrrrrry frosty reception” from the gathering which included various supporters and a who’s-who of Howard County Democrats: Senator Jim Robey, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Delegate Guy Guzzone, Delegate Frank Turner, Delegate Shane Pendergrass, Councilwoman Jen Terrasa, Councilman Calvin Ball, and Councilwoman Courtney Watson.  There were some shocked faces and whispers.

It seems her presence there also effectively ended the party.  After Mary Kay’s thank-you to the crowd, Bobo started to move to the front of the room as if to speak. It seems no one wanted to hear her.  Heads turned away, and the room emptied as if someone had pulled a plug.  It was the shortest victory celebration we’ve ever seen.

The Klein Campaign is just the latest example of how she’s alienated her peers.  It adds to the damage that was surely done in the Symphony Woods Concept fiasco, when she unwisely tried to help CA in attempting to shift blame for their disastrous mis-handling of the project on to the county and she even tried to implicate the state by hinting that public money might be jeopardized due to the imaginary delay. (Both of those attempts were disproven here.)

In yet another indication of how the plates have shifted, we thought it was notable that John Bailey, an unknown teacher with zero political experience and no money, was able to carve out 18% of the vote against this career politician.  It speaks volumes that he was able to get that much support against an established campaign coffer and the fanatical nature of some of Bobo’s long-time supporters.

The branch that does not bend breaks.  When Bobo refused to change with the times, she was left in the dust.  In other ways, she allowed her arrogance to color her judgment and miscalculated just how relevant she is anymore.

With her stand-alone backing of Klein and stubborn road-blocking, Bobo drew a line in the sand against her political peers, against the community’s consensus, and against the inevitable: change.

Yet again, she gambled and lost.

Bobo, Klein and the Politics of Spin

We’ve had a great discussion over the last few days on this blog about schools downtown. A reader skeptical of the plan asked a thoughtful question, and we provided the facts of the legislation, while an original decision-maker on the issue weighed in with an insider perspective.  This was a substantive, reasoned conversation with a real outcome.

So how disappointing was it to see this article in the Sun today:

Bobo criticizes school board on Columbia redevelopment plan

Bobo asked why the Board was “not reserving a site for a possible new school for the proposed 30-year Columbia redevelopment.”  The Board, of course, replied that the issue had already been evaluated, decided, and legislated, with the result that the board has the right to reserve a site downtown if it deems it necessary, leaving their options open while development occurs so that they can make the best decision when the time comes – taking into account the ongoing needs of the rest of the county.  And Liz, Alan: everyone knows this.

It seems Delegate Bobo has resorted to spewing Alan Klein’s campaign rhetoric – making last-gasp lunges at any issue, regardless of the facts.  It’s embarrassing to watch them make these wild claims that are easily refuted with even a passing knowledge of the unanimously approved plan and the extensive process involved in its creation and refinement.

You’d think a seasoned politician like Liz Bobo would know better than to try to pull off last-ditch shenanigans like this – especially on behalf of a candidate like Alan Klein.  He’s already known for not being well-versed on the issues or the budget (which he admitted to never having read) without his Mentor chopping him off at the knees by making reckless public statements that betray their growing desperation.

We can’t wait to see what ridiculousness they’ll come up with next.

Schools Downtown: If, When, and Where

Today, a reader of A Double Negative” asked a couple of good questions about the plan for schools downtown. Not surprisingly, there has been some campaign-related misinformation floating around about this so we were lucky to have someone directly involved weigh in.  And, hopefully, this will be the last word on the subject.  John Hannay, President of the PTA Council of Howard County, responded in the comments (our emphasis, below):
.
Mr. Hannay: The line that the downtown development plan contains no provisions for schools is misinformation (if not outright lie) being promoted by Mr. Klein’s campaign. The Plan absolutely contains provisions for schools. I know this because as President of the PTA Council of Howard County I was personally involved in discussions last winter to ensure that the Plan addressed the need for schools.
Last December, an invitation came from Mary Kay Sigaty (who then Chaired the County Council) to the Board of Education (BOE) for a recommendation for how the need for new schools should be handled. The BOE reached out to a number of public education stakeholders (including the PTA Council) for input on the issue. BOE President Ellen Giles and BOE member Alan Dyer were the ones with whom I communicated. I, in turn, consulted with PTA leaders at the three local schools most likely to be affected: Running Brook Elementary (where I currently have a son enrolled), Wilde Lake Middle (where I had a son enrolled…he’s now at Wilde Lake High), and Byrant Woods Elementary (part of the Wilde Lake school cluster).
Out of the various discussions that occurred, the BOE eventually recommended that it be empowered to determine if, when, and where a new school would be needed as development occurred, and that the developers be required to donate the necessary parcel of land to the County School District at that time (if needed). This recommendation was then communicated to Councilmember Courtney Watson (who was then Council Chair) in early January 2010.  This recommendation then became part of the legislation, as one of the 90 amendments adopted.
Is there a specific parcel of land identified for schools in the Plan? No, because as stakeholders considered this issue, we felt it was not in the best interest of children and their parents to lock the school system into a particular place or strategy. Further, the Plan only contains provisions for donation of land, which has been the past practice. Generally speaking developers have not been required to pay for school construction (or additions to existing schools), only donate land, when needed. Funds for school construction come from the BOE’s Capital Improvments Budget, which is funded by local taxes and (to a modest extent) state grants.
The dilemma in all of this is that it’s hard to know at this time what will be needed in the way of schools. It depends on what type of housing gets built where, what the current enrollments are at the existing schools and what the ages of those students are, and what the capacities are for renovations and additions (which are generally less expensive) at existing facilities. That’s why the language that’s in the Plan was developed the way it was. Generally speaking it takes 3-5 years to plan and build a new school. Additions and renovations can be done more quickly.
What’s important in the Plan is that the Board of Education controls when the process for building a new school starts and determines generally where land (if needed) has to be found. The school system has long-established formulas for anticipating when new schools or additions will be needed that are fairly adept at ensuring that facilities are present when needed. If a new high school is needed (not considered likely in the near future), there will generally be more lead time to prepare because when families move into new housing they tend to have younger children.

It is clearly stated in the legislation.  Item 10 in the Downtown Community Enhancements, Programs, and Public Amenities Implementation Chart (CEPPA Chart) says: “10. GGP shall, if deemed necessary by the Board of Education, reserve a school site or provide an equivalent location within Downtown Columbia.”
In other words, we do not anticipate needing a site now, but if we do need it at some point, we’re covered.

Mr. Hannay (and C2.0 wholeheartedly agrees): While I’ve been a fan of Liz Bobo on a number of other issues, I’ve been most disappointed with her behavior on this one…and I’ve respectfully told her so directly.
 What’s important now is that eligible voters (registered Democrats) in District 4 who believe that Ms. Sigaty did the right thing in ensuring responsible downtown development now vote in this election.
It’s one thing to cheerlead on Mary Kay’s behalf. What makes the difference is that support for her gets translated into votes. It’s also important to talk with your friends and neighbors about the need to support Mary Kay. Mr. Klein and his supporters are doing their best to create an impression that everyone is moving toward him. Based on door knocking I’ve done on behalf of Mary Kay in my neighborhood, I don’t think that’s necessarily the case. So, talk up Mary Kay, and BE SURE TO VOTE.

A Double Negative

2010 represents something huge for Columbia: the second coming of the original planned community that was so ground-breaking in its day, it’s still awe-inspiring to consider how James Rouse pulled it off back in the 60s.

We’ve seen the creation of a 30-year comprehensive plan created to inject life into a fading downtown, re-invoking Rouse’s ideals – to respect the land, to create a place a for people, and, finally, to create a “real City.”

We’ve got a lot of work ahead of us, but it’s good work.  It’s environmental restoration of lands and bodies of water that have been sorely neglected; it’s building pathways and walkways that will allow us to travel by foot and bike, on a human level; and it’s a creation of a $43 million housing trust fund to help make these opportunities available to everyone.

As we look at the upcoming elections through this lens, two candidates in Howard County stand out as embodying what we don’t need going forward.

Alan Klein doesn’t have much of a record – a work record or a political record.  The little we know about him is that he likes to oppose things.  He continually criticized the downtown plan, although he couldn’t articulate why exactly.  After that plan passed with overwhelming public support and major re-writes by local government, he helped with a petition effort to take the issue back to the drawing board.  He couldn’t make that happen either.

Now, his one-issue candidacy hinges on unsupportable statements about that same plan.  He continues to rant, for example, that the plan is too much, too soon, despite the fact that it is phased over 30 years and he can’t offer anything better.  And he continues to insist that the plan is unenforceable, despite statements by the Council and legal opinions to the contrary.

Klein doesn’t have a better plan, alternative solutions, or even a reasonable basis for opposing the existing plan.  He doesn’t have any expertise or experience on any of the other major issues he’d have to address as County Council representative.  He just represents a big Dead End.

Liz Bobo began as a pioneer and participant in Columbia.  She was really something.  But times changed and she didn’t.  Her effectiveness has been marginalized to the point that she seems to derive her political power from opposition – to almost everything.  Let’s take a look at some of the things she’s done for Columbia and Howard County:

1.  Fought to “limit additional medical centers from moving to Howard County.”  (Flier, 8/26/10).

2.  Fought to deny Dorsey’s Search’s inclusion in Columbia.

3.  Fought the construction of Route 100. How much did that fight cost us, as taxpayers, with the eventual cost of Route 100 going up so much over the years?

4.  Fought growth in western Howard County by trying to implement 20-acre zoning.  Remember the tractor-cade?

5.  Fought growth throughout Howard County by instituting the draconian concept of a growth moratorium.

6.  Fought for a diminished vision for downtown Columbia.

7.  Fought the current plan for the redevelopment of Columbia’s village centers.

8.  Expressed grave concerns about Wegman’s being constructed.

9.  Opposed Walgreens.

10.  Instituted a land use policy for Howard County while she was County Executive that lost her her re-election bid.

And, this doesn’t even address economic development measures she has resisted over the years.

Columbia needs leaders with courage and vision, leaders who aren’t afraid to “make no little plans.”  We’ve worked hard to keep that founding principle alive.  Let’s not allow these negative candidates to take that away from us.


AAIHC on Howard County Candidates 2010

AAIHC (African Americans in Howard County) has issued some endorsements and statements on Howard County candidates.  Here are a few excerpts:

House of Delegates, District 12b: (Very strange) Endorsement of Liz Bobo

This is perhaps the most difficult endorsement AAIHC had to make this time around. It seems that Liz Bobo has become part of a growing local segment of “reactionary anti-progressive liberals,” all having to do with opposition to affordable housing—with some in the group (not necessary Liz) even opposing the Federal Government approved health-care plan.

For affordable housing or having a decent roof over one’s head, especially African American and low-income families, (which is a critical issue in this election) is continuing to be an on-going long-term critical problem for Howard County. Liz has contributed to this problem, starting back when she served on the Howard County Council, in being the only Democrat voting against a developer (Rouse Company) who proposed an approved  Montgomery County type affordable housing plan, chosen to be implemented starting in Columbia’s River Hills Village.  We all now know that River Hill does not have affordable housing.

There just doesn’t seem to be any plan (including the upcoming re-development of the Wilde Lake Village Center) which would create affordable housing that pleases Liz. Moreover, affordable housing is the beginning of wealth building for Black families, a point reached by first renting, followed by purchasing real estate.

The opportunity for affordable housing in the up-coming Columbia downtown and the Wilde Lake Village Center, strongly fits the bill of wealth building for Black families and working class families, being made possible by a $50 million affordable housing trust fund created by the developer. This was created at absolutely “no cost to the tax payer.”  The fund will be funded by businesses and residents moving into downtown Columbia—a true American way of people doing for “themselves” vs. having the Government to do for them.

Unfortunately for Liz and the county, nothing in Liz’s voting record, as to affordable housing, has had any “salutary” effects.

Liz has been steadfast in her other commitments in Annapolis—and others in Howard County as well.  But the issues discussed are long standing ones in Howard County. And this endorsement is being given in the hope that Liz Bobo begin to mend her ways understanding that it’s far past time for “lip service” to African Americans and working class families to enjoy Jim Rouse’s  dream of racial and economic justice throughout Columbia and Howard County—especially when it comes to economic development and housing.

County Council, District 4: Endorsement of Mary Kay Sigaty

We disagreed with many of Mary Kay Signaty policies the last time around, but she proved us wrong in becoming one of the most effective members of the Howard County over the past four years Sigaty started off by being an activist, followed by a solid period on the Howard County School Board.  From there she moved to the County Council where she has be an extremely effective Council member, especially when it comes to focusing attention on low achieving students in Howard County educationShe has also become very effective at managing zoning throughout the County, to include approving the development of downtown Columbia.  In fact, Mary Kay lives within a stone’s throw of downtown Columbia, right across the street from one of our low-income housing developments, the latter which she is very committee to.

And statement on challenger Alan Klein

Her opponent, Alan Klein, is a one issue person, where according the Baltimore Sun, “he promises a passionate fight against the county’s plan to transform downtown Columbia into an urban center.”   He is very disingenuous. He says he supports “full-spectrum affordable housing,” but he has no rational workable plan for housing working families anywhere in the County, especially downtown Columbia.  He opposes affordable housing in the re-development of the Wilde Lake Village Center, despite the fact that 90% of the employees there will be $10.00/hour workers.   No mater the facts, the housing needs of working families in the county makes no appeal to the heart of  Mr. Klien.

He taught at Thunder Hill Elementary, leaving after a short time because he found the school to be too “restricted” says a Sun article.  He later returned to Howard County where he taught gifted-and-talented students, leaving after a “half year” according to a Sun article.   Klien’s  election literature doesn’t even mention health-care, especially Howard County’s “Healthy Howard” plan, in place until the Federal plan kicks in 2014. No successful growing county, especially Howard County,  should suffer through Klien type of leadership.

Wordbones and HoCo Rising also commented on these endorsements.

From the Horse’s Mouth

To the press, Delegate Liz Bobo has acknowledged the challenge from local teacher John Bailey, saying that she hasn’t campaigned this hard in years and isn’t taking anything for granted.

But in an e-mail sent Friday to an apparently bipartisan list (without an authority line, of course), she sounded more like the Liz we know:

As you are most likely aware, I have a challenger in this election.  John Bailey, who works in Montgomery County, switched from the Republican Party, for whom he served as Vice Chair in Howard County, and has filed against me in the Democratic primary.

It is very important that I take this challenge seriously, despite many saying that I couldn’t possibly lose. No election can be taken for granted, particularly in this tumultuous climate.

We aren’t saying she’s wrong or right.  We’re just saying the arrogance is stunning.

But, hey, she probably said the same thing back in 1990.

A Conjured Conflict

A couple weeks ago, a hilariously edited video appeared on YouTube from Delegate Liz Bobo where she discusses local issues with 3 young Columbians. Toward the end of the video, she talks about Symphony Woods, and in my opinion, makes a very misleading statement.

I decided to send a video response directly to the campaign to address this, but not surprisingly, it hasn’t appeared. It’s been almost a week since I made it, and I doubt they’ll ever approve it, so here it is:

A Piece of Non-News

Liz Bobo has come out of the closet on endorsing Alan Klein against Mary Kay Sigaty for the District 4 County Council seat.  File this away under “Duh.”

“There’s no one else’s support who I was more eager for,” he said. Or, we might add, whose support you could have possibly gotten.

P.S. If you’re reading this post, try this one for more fun with insider intrigue.

Liz Bobo: Almost as bewildered as we are

On July 6, we read that Columbia Association officials have pushed back the start date on construction of a redeveloped Symphony Woods due to what they are calling the “difficulty of navigating the new county laws governing that plan.”  CA Board chair Cynthia Coyle couldn’t understand why CA would be held to the same planning process as everyone else.

Meanwhile:

Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a Columbia Democrat, said she was unsure if pushing back the start date on the park would threaten the state funding, which was intended for “shovel-ready” projects.

Although she said she had never heard of bond money being withheld, she said the legislature, “was very precise about its criteria for bond bills. There weren’t that many because money is tight.”

Eligible projects, she said, were required to be planned and ready to begin, thus providing immediate jobs, and awarded matching funds from another source.

“We certainly presented the (Symphony Woods) project as one that’s ready to go and I believe we were telling the truth,” she said of vetting the project in Annapolis last winter.  …

“Here they are, ready to go,” she said. “I’m bewildered by it.”

You’re bewildered, Liz?  Not as much as we are.

First, how could she call this project “shovel-ready” or “ready to go” when the deadline for proposals for landscape architecture, planning, and engineering services was just twelve days ago, on Thursday, July 29?

CA Website 7/28/10

Shovel ready?  The process has barely even begun.  Typically, between concept plan and “ready to go” is about six months: the actual design work ending in final, approved site plans; the bidding process; the awarding of the construction agreement(s); and – most important – the sometimes thorny process of regulatory approval, which includes approval through Planning and Zoning or Inspection Services.  For our park, this process is further complicated by a very sensitive environmental component.

Second, a look at the Bond Bill Fact Sheet reveals that construction was slated to begin in April 2011 - and to continue until summer of 2014, beginning with Phase 1 (a plaza and promenade), then onto Phase 2 (a fountain, parking lot, etc.), and, finally, “future phases” that include, among other things, a play area and small cafe.  So where is the holdup if the groundbreaking date hasn’t changed since the bill was passed, months before this article appeared?

2010 Bond Bill Fact Sheet

Third, the state deadline for spending the money is seven years away. This is typical, since capital dollars from the State are hardly required to be “shovel ready” like stimulus projects but rather are for community enhancement projects that take years to build.

Another fun fact: the total cost is estimated at $4,528,000.

Delegate Bobo says she told the state the project was ready to go four months ago.  In July, CA blamed the county for delaying its project.  And yet, twelve days ago, designers and planners for the project hadn’t even been hired, let alone begun the designing and planning process.

Furthermore, the delegate implies that the funds are being jeopardized because of this imaginary delay due to “very precise” state criteria about the readiness of the project.  This implication simply does not follow from a bill that allows seven years for the money to be spent and which includes “design” of the park in its description.

So: why so many discrepancies?  We are just bewildered.

UPDATE: HoCoRising and Wordbones have picked up this story with these respective postings: “Is CA doing a good job?” and “Careening out of Control” (which, incidentally, has quite a heated debate going on in the comments section!)  Get in on the discussion!

Fast and Loose with the Facts: Wilde Lake elections

Columbia Compass blogged today about the CA election in Wilde Lake.  Specifically, he talked about some Letters to the Editor in the Flier in which, CC feels, the authors took – shall we say – liberties with the truth.

The post is best read in its entirety, which you can do here.

The Letters to the Editor he mentions are below (titles slightly paraphrased – we kid! We kid!), and are followed by some interesting exchanges from both sides at these original postings:

- Leaves are Important

- The CA is Nice

What do you think…?

Liz Bobo: Unequivocal support of GGP’s Downtown Plan

We hear that Delegate Liz Bobo has been making the rounds of various labor leaders in Maryland citing her continued and full support of GGP’s plan to revitalize Downtown Columbia.  The unions’ support of the project is based on the thousand of jobs it will create, and Delegate Bobo is claiming a shared interest in that issue to solicit them for money to fend off challenger John Bailey.

When pressed, she seemed to admit that she had had “occasional concerns” about the Plan, but overall, had always given it her full support.  Huh?  That doesn’t seem quite right.  We seem to recall her relentless undermining of the process by which the Downtown Plan was approved, multiple reports that she hosted meetings in her own home with leaders of the group (TAG) that unsuccessfully attempted to take that approval to referendum, and her husband’s public call for the bills to be withdrawn.

Wonder what Russ Swatek, Alan Klein, Steve Meskin, and the rest of that group think about Liz’s unequivocal support of GGP’s Downtown Plan…

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