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Kelly Casey Van Horn for Board of Education

The race for Board of Education just got a little more exciting for my entire family yesterday when my cousin, Kelly Casey Van Horn threw her hat into the ring. And although I am biased, I think she makes an excellent candidate.

You see, Kelly has a passion for education. She taught 3rd grade for 8 years in the Fairfax county public schools system, so she is familiar with the rewards and challenges of being a classroom teacher. This passion also led Kelly to further her own education, and she holds a masters degree with a concentration in new professional studies. In addition, she was a private tutor for a remediation program for the school for students who did not pass the state standardized test.

As an experienced teacher, she would be an insightful voice for public education. She has a two year old and a one year old, so she has a long term vested interest for hcpss for at least the next 20 years. She believes redistricting/overcrowding is an issue that needs to be resolved and wants do her part to ensure that the Board works for students, parents, and teachers alike.

This is an exciting new chapter in Kelly’s life, and the Board of Education would be lucky to have her. I hope you will consider giving her your vote.



Bigotry Trumps Civility

Last Thursday night, I attended the Zoning Pre-Submission Hearing conducted by the Howard Hughes Corporation. After their presentation, they opened the floor to questions and comments. At one point, Joel Broida, one of the more vocal opponents of the redevelopment grabbed the mic and made a comment that literally left my mouth open wide.

Here’s his quote from The Columbia Patch article: “Renters don’t have pride in the community,” he said. “They aren’t the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped.”

Instead of commenting on just how wrong I believe his statement to be, I will instead ask you to read this post by Bill Santos over at Columbia Compass. He sums it up more succinctly that I could ever hope to.

However, I would like to add one thing. It is obvious that Mr. Broida is so against change that he would violate core values of inclusion and diversity we hold dear here in Columbia, just for the sake of complaining. And that’s just sad.



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.




The Right Side of the Digital Divide

Last week, The Columbia Patch published a letter to the Editor that I wrote regarding the Inter-County Broadband Network. This initiative is a game changer and will ensure that every Maryland jurisdiction is wired with high-speed cables by September 2013.

According to Governor O’Malley, “we’re going to connect 475 schools, 248 police and emergency centers, 52 libraries, 60 community colleges, six universities and countless numbers of businesses.”

It makes me proud to be a resident of this great state when I hear our leaders taking charge and improving the quality of life of all their citizens.

-Brian Dunn



Local Blogger Making a Difference

Today, on the 2 year anniversary of his blog, HoCoRising announced some big news. He has started a new initiative to end homelessness in Howard County. Called TheRising, it’s being hosted through crowdrise, which was founded by Columbia’s own Ed Norton.

Please visit his page and donate if you can because behind every homeless person is a story worth listening to. There are many reasons a person becomes homeless. But oftentimes, it’s simply bad luck that’s the culprit. These are real people, with real problems that will be helped through this effort, and I commend Tom for starting it.

-Brian Dunn

Howard County Gets a “AAA” Rating – Again

For the 14th year in a row, Howard County has received a AAA credit rating from all three national bond rating agencies.

Howard is one of fewer than 30 counties in the country to receive a AAA rating, the highest rating available, from Fitch Ratings, Standard and Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Services.

“Howard County has a history of managing through difficult economic downturns; while this is the 14th consecutive year we have received the highest possible rating from all three agencies and it is gratifying, we never take that rating for granted,” County Executive Kenneth Ulman said in a statement Monday. “As we have for the past four years, we will continue to make tough financial decisions, remain conservative in our spending and find efficiencies throughout government.”

Full story here.

Getting it Done for All of Us

We sat down with the Columbia Association‘s Jane Dembner the other day to talk redevelopment, village center master plans and how CA is building relationships for the good of its stakeholders.  It is truly exciting to see everyone coming together on our community’s plan!  Thanks, Jane, for all your hard work and your vision.

One Year Ago

This week marks the anniversary of the historic passage of CB 58 & 59. After 5 years of charettes, meetings, hearings, work sessions and discussions, our County council voted unanimously to approve the bills that are now providing the framework for the development of Downtown.

At times, it seemed like it would never get done. But we, as a community, believed in a bold future for Columbia. So we pressed on and we are beginning to see real progress.

It’s been an interesting 12 months to say the least. The opponents of the plan continued to try to derail things, but they failed. The county executive and county council who worked so hard on the plan were unanimously re-elected; supporters of the plan continued to turn out in overwhelming numbers to public hearings on the conforming legislation; the Adequate Public Facilities provisions were passed; and now we’re knee-deep into finalizing the guidelines for design and signage.

We’ve come a long way, but there is still important work to be done.  Let’s keep it moving, Columbia!

“If you don’t create change, change will create you”


Yesterday, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman gave his annual State of the County speech.  He talked about managing well, partnering well, and investing well – the “principles that have guided this administration from Day One.”

The two things that stood out to us were his comments on downtown (of course!):

I am extremely proud of the community effort that we went through for downtown Columbia. The master plan we passed last year embodies the vision and values of the community, respects our history and establishes downtown Columbia as a dynamic, attractive place to live, work and play.

And his emphasis on the impact from the coming expansions at Fort Meade (BRAC and Cyber Command):

… after talking about base realignment for years and seeing jobs trickle in, we’re now poised to see the flood of jobs we’ve heard so much about. Already, 500 positions have been moved on base, and by September, that number will grow to 5,800– over 5,000 new jobs in 9 months. That’s staggering.

And by the end of 2012, we are expecting an additional 15,000 private sector jobs to have accompanied this expansion….

Wow.  There is no question: Columbia and Howard County will see some stunning changes in the next few years and decades.  We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: we can look at change as a problem or as an opportunity – but either way, it’s coming.

We choose to embrace change proactively, and we believe Columbia, with our tradition of “creative, forward thinking community planning,” is a great place to do that.


If you’re interested in more of what the county executive had to say, you can read the full text here or watch it on video on Comcast Ch. 99/Verizon Ch. 44:

January 25 – 7 p.m.
January 26 – 1:30 p.m.
January 27 – 11:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.
January 28 – 1:30 p.m.
January 29 – 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m.
January 30 – 1:30 p.m.

Calvin Ball Tells It Like It Is

In today’s Columbia Flier, a letter to the editor appears criticizing County Council Chair Calvin Ball for saying at a recent public hearing, “many of the people who testified against the bill have been naysayers of the redevelopment plan since its beginning stages. Their perspective is not new.”

I’m just not sure I understand the grounds for criticism.

What about Dr. Ball’s statement is not true?

Congratulations to Ken! County Executive Now Leads MD Assoc. of Counties

I saw this piece in the Maryland Reporter the other day, about our County Executive, Ken Ulman, taking over as president of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Association of Counties.  In this new position, he’ll work with and represent local officials from all around the state, advocating for county issues.  This is especially key right now, with budget cuts already straining local jurisdictions, and more looming on the horizon.  Known for his commitment to fiscal responsibility, he seems like a great fit to represent Maryland’s counties as they deal with these budget issues.

In a December interview, the 36-year-old Ulman said the top issues for counties are “budget, budget, budget. It’s all about future pension shifts and budget. We have some other issues, but that is the real issue.”

Another re-emerging debate surrounds Smart Growth.  We can’t think of a better person to speak to this issue at the state level than trail-blazer Ulman.  His leadership and first-hand experience in areas like this will provide inspiration and knowledge to other elected officials across Maryland.

He’s already gotten a nice endorsement from Governor O’Malley:

“The MACo Board made the right choice by electing County Executive Ulman to lead the organization during these difficult economic times. I look forward to working with Ken and the entire MACo Board as we build on the accomplishments of the last four years and continue to move Maryland forward.”

Congratulations, Ken.

UPDATE: Video of Governor O’Malley announcing Ken as MACo president, and some words from our county executive:



An Affirmation

There has been a lot of talk about last Tuesday’s election already, so we’ll spare you more analysis except to say that it was proof that our current leadership is leading us in the right direction, toward our shared vision of a vibrant, sustainable Columbia and Howard County.

We join New City Alliance in congratulating the Howard County Executive and Council on their victories and look forward to working with them as we all move Columbia forward.

READ, SEE, and LEARN MORE at our Facebook pages for Columbia 2.0 and New City Alliance!

Also, a new community forum has recently launched for all things Columbia.  Get the latest on current Columbia community and cultural events at and