Which Hearing Did Patuxent Attend?

On December 20, I attended and spoke at a public hearing that included testimony on two of the technical documents within the Downtown Plan, the sign code amendments (CB 56) and Design Guidelines (CR 138).  The sign code amendments are intended to help alleviate the current situation downtown: those unfamiliar with the area and some who are familiar can’t find what they are looking for. When the buildings and roads change downtown, we are going to need signs that help people find their way, promote the retail and entertainment opportunities and add to the ambiance of the more urban center.  The design guidelines are written primarily for the planners, architects, and the like who will be filling in the details of the plan, to make sure that what is built is aesthetically pleasing and has some cohesiveness, while still allowing them the creativity to make it unique and special.

At that hearing, nineteen people spoke in favor of passing either or both of CB 56 and CR 138.  Nineteen.

Four people spoke in either opposition or in only conditional support.  Four.

Yet, the article that appeared in the Howard County Times/Columbia Flier over this weekend seems to portray that proportion as something else.  There are two quotes from people opposing the legislation, and just two quotes from supporters of the legislation, both of which are watered-down and don’t convey the gist of the testimony I heard.  And, there is this sentence:

While many people testifying at the public hearing said that they think the design guidelines need more work, a few came out to support the resolution.

Absolutely wrong.

Nineteen in support.  Four in opposition or conditional support.  (Don’t believe me? Check out the video of the hearing yourself here – under the “County Council” heading, see “Video” link for “Legislative Public Hearing” on 12/20/10.  Also, the list of speakers is here.)

Today, I ask Patuxent to print a correction of this story.  It mischaracterizes the event and it diminishes the efforts of at least 19 citizens who spent a late night in a crowded room just to speak for three minutes on matters clearly not the object of any controversy.

Moreover, it mischaracterizes the public feeling surrounding downtown redevelopment.   Just as the overwhelming support for the sign code amendments and  Design Guidelines was clear that night, the overwhelming support for getting the Downtown Plan off the ground is clear, too.

You know what would be a better story?   That community members came together in overwhelming support of this step forward in transforming their community.  That a lot of people took a lot of time – and courage – putting together an amazing plan that is taking shape right before our eyes.  That our town is on the verge of something huge and historic.

The community has spoken.  Columbia is a success story.  Let’s celebrate that – not look for ways to undermine it.

It’s time our local paper starts reporting the truth.

Nineteen to four.

–  Brian Dunn, Kings Contrivance

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One response to “Which Hearing Did Patuxent Attend?”

  1. DY says :

    I too testified at the hearing. I watched as the reporters (Patuxent, Sun) ran around to the 3-4 known opponents and not one of the dozen plus proponents. I knew this article would come out the way it did before the hearing even ended based on who they were all talking with during the night. It’s really unfortunate that the Patuxent papers need to go out of their way to perpetuate this myth that the community is divided evenly on this project. In the past year, testimony on the plan itself was 2-1 in favor, a referendum effort failed, Mary Kay Sigaty defeated Alan Klein 2-1 in a race that was centered on the downtown plan, changes to APFO passed without any material opposition and the design guidelines/sign law amendment hearing was 19-4. If the newspapers want to be the PR arm of HCCA and CDC just say so. But if they want to be taken seriously as objective sources of news, this nonesense really needs to change.

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