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Getting it Done for the Port

With the widening of the Panama Canal scheduled to be completed in 2015, it’s great to hear Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake advancing the city to take full advantage of this unprecedented opportunity.

President of MTC Logistics, Harry Halpert, has coined the phrase “Global SeaPort” when describing the unique position of the Helen Delich Bentley Port of Baltimore in the international maritime community:

Ensuring that Maryland can join this National Gateway project includes moving forward on a key construction project: the development of a “Baltimore-Washington Rail Intermodal Facility” somewhere along the rail corridor between Baltimore and Washington. The new intermodal facility would allow containers to and from ships in the port to be transported to this location and quickly transferred to double-stacked trains, connecting our state to a wide array of new markets in an efficient manner. (Cargo transfer facility well worth state’s investment, Baltimore Sun by Harry Halpert.)

The “Global SeaPort” is a gem for any politician to strengthen and tout. You noticed how every GOP presidential candidate claimed to be the biggest supporter of expanding the Port of Charleston during the GOP primaries in South Carolina. Governor O’Malley certainly underscored the power of the port and its expansion in this ad during his last race for governor.

If Mayor Rawlings-Blake can speed up the process, make the port more immediately competitive and put an old industrial site back to work in this economy, people all around Maryland will see this no nonsense, impatient-for-results leadership as exactly the kind of character that port union Democrats, chamber of commerce Republicans and practical Independent voters want in an elected official- whether a local or a statewide candidate.



Ignite Columbia


On Wednesday night, I moderated a panel discussion sponsored by CA that addressed the question of how to get younger and more diverse people interested in serving on the Village and CA Boards. The panel consisted of, Regina Clay (current Wilde Lake Village Board member) Candace Dodsen Reed (Director of Constituent and Community Affairs for Howard County Executive Ken Ulman), Sean Harbaugh (Assistant Director of the Columbia Association’s Open Space Management Division) Summer Romack (former Owen Brown Village Board 2003 through 2011) and Kecia Rome (Vice-Chair of the Owen Brown Village Board).

Fist, I asked them why they serve. I wanted to get a sense of what drove each of them to take that first step to volunteer their time. Each gave their reasons, but the prevailing sense was that we all love this community and want to see it thrive for many generations to come.

Then I wanted to know what they thought CA and the Villages can do to make governance participation and community leadership more attractive to younger and more diverse residents? That really stimulated the discussion and they came up with some great suggestions such as utilizing technology to make it easier for young families to know what’s going on around here, getting to know your neighbors better, and for CA to take their message directly to residents through a, “road show” type campaign.

We only scratched the surface in the 45 minutes we were allotted, but it was really cool to be a part of such a stimulating discussion. Thank you to CA for inviting me. This panel came up with some excellent suggestions that I hope we can implement sooner rather than later.



Panama, the Port and the Intermodal: A Pretty Big Deal

There was a neat op ed in the Baltimore Sun (“Cargo transfer facility well worth state’s investment“) yesterday by MTC Logistics president Harry Halpert.  MTC Logistics, now a huge warehousing and storage operation that “links Baltimore to the world,” grew from a local cold storage company based in Charm City that has been owned by the same family for the last 100 years.

Mr. Halpert wrote about the importance of readying our state and our Port for the opportunities brought by the Panama Canal expansion over two thousand miles away.  This expansion, which we’ve talked about before, means huge (literally) new business through the Port of Baltimore, which is now being deepened for significantly larger ships to come through Panama.

And, somewhere between Baltimore and Washington, a new “intermodal” facility will be located along the CSX rail line to enable freight to be trucked from the Port and placed onto double-stacked trains, sending it out efficiently across the East Coast and – more significantly – opening up new markets throughout the Midwest.

A decision has yet to be made on where that new facility will be built: a long and deliberate federal process has narrowed the list down to just four candidates in the state, two of which are right here in Howard County.  To come from that facility, Mr. Halpert lists “more than 200 new jobs during construction and approximately 7,200 jobs during the first 20 years of the facility’s operation” and “approximately $8.8 billion in cumulative economic benefits by 2034, and nearly $400 million in tax revenues for state and local government.”

According to Mr. Halpert – and news to me – are the environmental benefits to the state: that “the expanded use of rail transportation will reduce long-haul truck traffic and cut the emission of greenhouse gases” for “cleaner and less congested roads” and that “the facility itself will operate in a clean fashion, relying on electric, zero-emission cranes and technology designed to reduce truck idling time.”

This is a pretty big deal.  With the Port of Baltimore expansion to be finished next year, and the Panama Canal widening in 2014, we are approaching what looks to be a new era of transport for the state of Maryland.

I wrote the other day about how I hope Howard County can lead the way here. This is an opportunity – if we take advantage of it – that will have huge impacts for generations to come.  We should all be ready to get involved in this process, if we don’t want to be left behind.


EDA on Economic Development?

Interesting post by Wordbones Friday about the Howard County Economic Development Authority‘s silence on the intermodal issue.  It sounds like our blogger friend asked some tough questions of the new-ish head of the EDA, Laura Neuman.

Now, before I go any further, let me say that the Economic Development Authority is probably right to stay out of this specific neighborhood fight. That’s not their role. There is an established federal review process for site selection and acquisition, with CSX and the Maryland Department of Transportation working with the potential affected communities.

The EDA’s #1 priority is to promote economic growth here in the county. So while I understand why she chose to remain neutral, it would have been nice to hear Ms. Neuman speak to the economic benefits of the project, particularly if a Howard County location was to be picked (in terms of keeping and creating jobs here at home). After all, there’s a much bigger issue at stake in terms of a modern investment to our county’s infrastructure.

And, as Wordbones alluded to, the direct and indirect local benefits from an investment this size would be huge. I would think that the Economic Development Authority’s role should include promoting those benefits —  an opportunity to become a critical link in the global supply chain, while reclaiming our county’s history as a rail and transport giant.

In the end, it seems to me that our two goals here as a county should be to maximize community input as part of the federal site selection process, and then do everything we can help make a decision as quickly as possible. After all, we need to get moving on jobs and investment here in Maryland, and it would be nice for Howard County to be leading the way.




Soles4Souls Event Tonight

Continuing on with my “Profiles in Leadership” series, I would like to introduce you to a remarkable Columbia woman named Rachel Quade. Rachel and her wonderful  family are my neighbors. In fact, they were the first to welcome us to the neighborhood when we moved in.

And since she has 2 daughters that are a couple years older than my daughter, Rachel would often stop by with a bag of clothes that her daughters had grown out of. And for those of you with kids, you know how helpful that can be. Rachel is always quick with a smile and a friendly word. She really is just one of those people that genuinely loves to help others.

Putting other’s needs ahead of your own one of the best leadership qualities I can think of. But the coolest thing about Rachel is that she is now putting that quality to work.

Her work with Soles4Soles is extraordinary, and I am happy and proud to say she is my neighbor. If you would like to donate to this cause, please click here. AND, if you a looking for something to do tonight, please consider this:

What: An evening with the founder and CEO of Soles4Souls
When: Thursday October 20th, 7:00pm
Where: Monteabaro Recital Hall, Howard County Community College
RSVP: Please call (443)518-1420 or e-mail for questions.
Space is limited, but you can e-mail Rachel at to reserve a spot if you like.

Profiles in

In a recent post, I wrote about leadership and promised to introduce you to some people in our community who possess the qualities that make a good leader. First up is Anne Brinker, the Kings Contrivance Village Manager.

I’ve gotten to know Anne since I became a Village Board Member last year, and let me tell you, she is definitely a leader. First of all, she’s smart. Notre Dame smart. Ask her a question about any hot topic being discussed here in Columbia and Howard County, and she’ll instantly give you a rundown on all the issues. Not only that, but she also realizes that, no matter what side of the issue you’re on, it’s important to listen to the other side, work out your differences, and move forward for the good of the community.

Secondly, Anne listens. Good leadership calls for thoughtful action, which is not common. At a recent KC Board meeting, a resident spoke out (angrily) at the board’s lack of leadership on environmental issues. She voiced concern about leaves in storm drains and the lack of people planting rain gardens. She came in armed with a pamphlet, and she was looking for a fight.

Now, this resident (God love her) was just trying to do her part to help the environment, and I believe she really did come to us with the best of intentions, but she was clearly ill informed about our environmental efforts. For example, environmental issues are so important to our Village Board that we have a standing Environmental Committee which hosts an annual Open Space and stream clean up twice a year.

So, after quietly listening to all of the residents’ concerns and the perceived lack of environmental activism in KC, Anne calmly addressed her. In a positive tone, she thoroughly explained that our village is one of the few to have a page on our website dedicated just to the Environmental Committee’s activities and related resources. She then pointed out that the latest Architectural Guidelines revision included adding a page dedicated to Green Technology and Sustainability. Anne then went on to explain that the Board also encourages green thinking by sending the village covenant advisor to Howard County’s Greenfest every year so we are able to answer residents’ questions on sustainable technology and the covenants.

It was quite a sight to behold. But Anne did not simply list the Board and association’s accomplishments; she invited the resident to join the Board’s environmental efforts and encouraged her to volunteer on the Environmental Committee. What started as a heated conversation ended with the resident feeling heard by her Board and positively charged to become an active member of her community.

And finally, like any true leader, Anne is humble. She is quick to give credit to others, and never wants or expects any praise for her amazing work. In fact, I had to convince her to let me write about her leadership qualities. But she saw it as an opportunity to reach out to residents in a new and exciting way, so she agreed. She is selfless.

We are lucky to have Anne Brinker on the job in Kings Contrivance. She is a great leader, and one of the main reasons I believe our village is one of Columbia’s best.

-Brian Dunn

Qualities of…..

I am in the second of a 2 year term on The Kings Contrivance Village Board, and I love it. It feels good to know that in a very small way, I am giving back to my community and striving to make it better. In the time I’ve served, we’ve accomplished a lot and I’ve met some amazing people that have given me a new perspective on what it means to lead.

Take my fellow board members, for example. Week after week, they all show up to listen to the concerns of the community and vote on the measures that come before us. If you were to go back and look at the minutes, you’d see that most of the time we had a full board sitting at the table, which is remarkable. Sure, there were times when someone was sick or couldn’t make it for some reason, but that was rare. Most of the time, no matter what else we all had going on in our personal lives, we all made it to the meeting and tackled the issues at hand. Commitment.

Of course, none of our efforts would be possible if not for the wonderful staff we have in Kings Contrivance. They work tirelessly to make our village run smoothly. They are the first contact for our residents when they have a concern, and they always conduct themselves in a professional and courteous manner. A lot of what they do is behind the scenes, but somehow I think they are just fine with that. Dedication.

I also have a lot of respect for the residents who come to us to voice their concerns. They care deeply about their community, and without them it would be impossible to address all the important issues we face. Engagement.

And last, but certainly not least, I learned a tremendous amount from our local elected officials, who always make it a point to attend as many of our meetings as they can. When you consider the amount of meetings they have to endure, it’s awesome to know that they stay on top of what’s going on in their village and keep us abreast of the hot topics they are dealing with. Effective Communication.

Yes, this past year has taught me a lot about leadership qualities, and it made me realize that we have many, many great leaders here in Howard County. In fact, we have so many that I plan to write about some of them on this blog in the coming months. So stay tuned for an announcement on our first profile soon!

-Brian Dunn