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 grew up in Columbia and currently resides in Kings Contrivance