Reporting from the Fringe

Yesterday, I ventured into the Den of Incivility (Russ Swatek’s dining room) to see for myself who’s in charge of trying to kill the world-class plan to save Columbia.

The open house was a call for volunteers to gather signatures for a referendum against the recently passed legislation to redevelop downtown, but I showed up to let them know that we’re not about to let a few nut jobs stand in the way of real and lasting progress here.

I left with several observations, which I will share with you now:

Russ Swatek thinks the east coast is too crowded. I heard him utter those exact words. So it’s no surprise that the CA Board member is leading the referendum. He joked that he was a “professional pest” or something to that effect. Hey, Russ, this is no laughing matter when we’re talking about such a bold plan for our future.

As the spokesperson for the so-called Taxpayers Against Giveaways or TAG (a group reportedly holding meetings at the home of Liz ” No No” Bobo), there may be a real conflict of interest here. In fact, there’s a petition being circulated calling for his resignation on those grounds.

Then there’s Frank Martin, of Turf Valley fame. Google this guy. It seems that there is no lawsuit he doesn’t love, and he spent a lot of time yesterday bragging about how much time he spends in court. He was offering advice to other volunteers in the room about signature gathering. His main problem is the increased taxes from the additional school aged kids that might come along with their parents to Columbia. You know, the kids who grow up to work and live in Columbia, to pay taxes, and to raise their own families. Don’t worry, Frank – if you have it your way, there won’t be a Columbia left by the time these kids grow up.

They all kept insisting that this plan was ramrodded through and that it will burden Howard County taxpayers. Yet when I brought up the EDA and fiscal impact reports that say just the opposite, they quickly dismissed it. The fact is, they just don’t like any development and it wouldn’t matter what the plan was. They absolutely have a right to petition, but this isn’t about giving voters a choice. This is about being sore losers. It’s about delaying a Plan that was passed unanimously by the County Council after thousands of hours of meetings and community input.

What bothers me is, they only need signatures from 5,000 of the 163,000 Howard County voters to get this on the ballot and create another year of delay. That’s right – just 3% of our voters can hold up this thing for the other 97%. I have a hard time letting the fringe say “no” for all of us to an estimated $5.7 billion in total economic activity and 29,970 new jobs in Howard County.

So if you’re reading this, and you understand how much of a boon this redevelopment is for Columbia and Howard County, tell your friends and neighbors that there are a few people out there trying to deny us the complete city Columbia was always meant to be. It’s just not right.

-Brian Dunn

Brian grew up in Columbia and currently resides in Kings Contrivance


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10 responses to “Reporting from the Fringe”

  1. wordbones says :


    Nice reporting. I hope more people see this.


  2. HoCoRising says :

    I presume you don’t see any irony in calling a man’s home the “Den of Incivility”? More interesting to me is how this fight became so nasty.

    • columbia2 says :


      The redevelopment of Downtown is much bigger than any one person or issue so I went to the open house to see for myself who is planning the referendum and, more importantly, why. When the meeting started, everyone introduced themselves. When it was my turn, I introduced myself and told everyone why I was there. I was very polite and listened to everything they said. When they brought up a certain issue they had problems with, i.e., increased taxes from an influx of school aged children, I questioned them. I wasn’t trying to disrupt anything. I was merely engaging in a discussion. When I left, I shook Mr. Swatek’s hand and wished them all luck.

      I recognize that these people are as passionate about their community as I am, and I certainly can’t fault them for that. But the fact is this narrow band of negative people (calling Mary Kay Sigaty a criminal and a liar) continue to seek obstruction of progress toward a revitalized Columbia by making ridiculous arguments which are devoid of facts. They constantly mount such resistance but offer no creativity of their own. They are long manipulation, but short on constructive vision.

      It’s a slap in the face to the experts, County staff, community members, and the officials we’ve elected who have worked for so many hundreds of hours over the last five years, who succeeded in forging a consensus among so many different interests and demographics. This Plan passed overwhelmingly: with unanimous support from the County Council we elected, and 2-to-1 support in our community. And after all this hard work to reach an expansive agreement, I see people deliberately trying to drive a wedge between Columbia and the rest of the County, actually talking about how to divide our community.

      The right of referendum is clear; still more clear is the right of free speech, and the responsibility to call something what it is.


      • HoCoRising says :

        Thanks for the comment, Brian. I’ve moved it up into the post.

        I never did anything to abridge your right of free speech. I just exercised my own, and somehow did so without calling you a “nut-job.” I think you diminish your credibility by falling back on name calling, no matter how angry you may be.

        I respect everything that you, David Yungman, Mike Davis, etc., have done for what you see to be the greater good. Despite what accusations others may make, I see it as a thankless effort that you all are pursuing out of civic-mindedness that should be applauded. I do take exception to the convenient labels that are placed on those who disagree (done by both sides). At the end of the day, all it does is shut down communication and end any possibility of a reconciliation of ideas.

        You have every right to call other people “nut jobs,” but I think you are hurting your cause.

  3. Mona Brinegar says :

    Regardless of your position, you have no right to hamper citizen’s right to referendum. I seriously question your goal in showing up at a home of someone promoting something you oppose. At best you were trying to gain information to stop the referendum, and at worst you were attempting some sort of intimidation tactic.

    Either way, these tactics have fundamentally harmed your mission and generated a steeper uphill battle for your own goal.

    • columbia2 says :


      I would never hamper a citizen’s right to referendum. But a referendum is only beneficial if the public’s wishes have not been served.

      As I pointed out in my response to HoCoRising, this Plan passed overwhelmingly: with unanimous support from the County Council we elected, and 2-to-1 support in our community.


  4. ColumbiaWatcher says :

    However, there was very little actual reporting. Mostly a lot of innuendo. Interesting that he thinks Swatek is uncivil when he throws around insults like “nut job”, “no no”, “sore losers”, and “fringe”.

    • columbia2 says :


      I don’t make it a habit of name calling. I just see this as a clear choice between doing something or doing nothing; a bright future envisioned by us or a dim one offered by them.


      • ColumbiaWatcher says :

        On the contrary…it is you who offers the dim future…one of name-calling and more wealth for the wealthier and more marginalization for those with fewer means.

  5. HoCoRising says :

    I don’t see an e-mail address for you, so this is the best I can do, but it looks like I won’t be able to make the YPN event tonight. I honestly wanted to go and meet with you and David. Maybe if you guys have some availability some other time we can meet up.

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