Tag Archive | Howard County

I Support CA’s Inner Arbor Plan. Do you?

If so, please sign this petition. The goal was to get at least 300 signatures by this Thursday, when the CA Board is scheduled to discuss and vote on the plan. I think there’s something like 226 right now. Please click the link, sign the petition and encourage your friends to do the same. This is too important to our future to delay.


p.s. Here’s what we can continue to expect of Symphony Woods if we don’t act:


A World Class Plan for Symphony Woods

By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about CA’s bold and innovative, “Inner Arbor” plan for Symphony Woods. If not, please read about it here.

First, let me say that I think Michael McCall has hit a home run with this plan, and I hope we can see his vision come to fruition as soon as possible. I’m glad CA realized that this was their chance to give Columbia something truly special, something that could be enjoyed by everyone in our community for generations to come.

The Inner Arbor plan masterfully incorporates art, music, theater, food and culture into the natural setting of the woods. It provides a place where people can gather to enjoy the myriad of events that will take place there. It will not only be a regional and national  attraction, but I predict it will be an international one as well.

I really have a hard time believing anyone could find fault in this plan, but we all know there is a small group of people amongst us who have vowed to do whatever it takes to sabotage real progress in Columbia. Some of them showed up last night and expressed anger at the process and their perceived notion that the plan was hatched in secrecy.

Former Boardmember Russ Swatek even went so far as to submit what has now become known as “The Swatek Memo”, which is a rambling 19 point document, “related to Symphony Woods development spanning the direction of CA, the process being employed, and the plan itself.”

If Russ and Company continue to rally against this plan, they will once again be showing their true no growth colors. Last night I testified in favor of the plan to the CA Board, and I encourage you to do the same. You can write to the entire CA Board here.  Let them know you support moving forward on the Inner Arbor plan!


Say, “Cheese”

I wish I had written, “I blog, therefore I am,” but I guess my answer to the question, “Why I blog” will do. You see, I really do want to make a difference here in my community. Through this blog, and my involvement on the Kings Contrivance Village Board, I am doing what I can to give back to my hometown, the place that shaped who I am today.

In his blog yesterday, CA Board Member Tom Coale writes, “… there is something undeniably patriotic in the work of these Village Board members.  It is the precise spot where the “rubber meets the road” in terms of our government’s interaction with individual citizens.” I couldn’t agree more, Tom. In fact, it is this aspect that I find most rewarding.

Almost three years ago, on September 9, 2008, we (David Yungmann, my sister Katie, and Mac Cassity) published Columbia 2.0’s first blog following a Columbia Tomorrow press conference at Symphony Woods.  At the time, the plan for downtown was a big question mark in a lot of ways.

What a long way we have come since then.  Since that initial post in 2008, we grew as we continued to blog, speak out at public meetings, and activate other young professionals to speak out about the future of their community.

And during that time, with the active involvement of Columbians and people across Howard County, the plan for downtown was finalized, passed by the County Council, and reaffirmed after the failure of a petition drive that attempted to take it to referendum in Howard County.  Our tradition of bold and comprehensive community planning prevailed, and today, we are on the brink of breaking ground to fulfill that vision.  I like to think Columbia 2.0 played a little part in that.

So, yes, I do blog to make a difference and I sincerely hope that I am.

Where does Columbia 2.0 go next?  I’m not sure yet, but the future always holds change and challenges – or, as I like to call, them: opportunities.  Stay tuned!

Columbia 4.0?

We started Columbia 2.0 in 2008 as an outlet for a younger generation of Howard County residents to engage in the debate over the future of downtown Columbia. We were among the first to embrace new media and social networking to reach our audience. We started this blog, as well as a facebook page and twitter account.

We taught ourselves video production, and we rallied supporters to testify in favor of the legislation that was eventually passed. Looking back, we did some great things, but admittedly, there were some things we could have done differently. That’s what happens when you take risks and learn on the fly.

So now that we’re 3 years in, it’s time to take a step back and try to imagine where the next wave will take us. To find out, I recently spoke with social media expert and current member of Howard County’s Leadership Program, Nichole Kelly.

As one of the country’s preeminent Social Media Consultants, she preaches the importance of measuring social media in a meaningful way. Kelly feels the upcoming downtown redevelopment is a perfect example of how key stakeholders can maximize their intended results.

I asked Nichole what recommendations she would have for Columbia 2.0 to not only get to the next level, but to stay ahead of the game:

“Now that you have successfully engaged a younger audience on the future of downtown Columbia, the big question is whether or not you can mobilize them to help downtown Columbia become their local hotspot. The reality is that many young people still make the trek to downtown Baltimore to hang out with friends rather than staying here in Columbia. I would recommend building a social media strategy around showing your audience why it’s cool to stay in Columbia and hang out locally.

As construction begins, you can work to change the perception of downtown Columbia in the mind of the county’s young adults and you can do this in a way that you can actually measure whether or not it works. The beauty of social media tools is that you can create campaigns that encourage users to tell you where they are. A popular tool many young adults used is called Foursquare (link). You can put together local events in area bars and restaurants and tell people to use this application to ‘check-in’ if they attend. Done well…you can actually show the rise in restaurant revenues from your target market over time and once the construction is complete you will have a loyal audience to support our local businesses. That’s a win for the future of downtown Columbia and a win for our local residents.”

Now here’s a woman that gets it! It’s no surprise she is nationally recognized for creating social media strategies that deliver results. Recently she teamed up with Hootsuite for a whitepaper series that talks about how to measure social media to core results. The next whitepaper will be available for download on Wednesday followed by a webinar on Thursday. I know I will be tuning in, and if you’re interested in how social media can help you, your business or organization, I suggest you do the same!

-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.

“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.

Architect Magazine Spotlights Columbia and Ellicott City!

November’s Annual Design Review edition of Architect Magazine devotes a page to Howard County, focusing on Columbia and Ellicott City.  How exciting that our area is being recognized!  Part of that recognition is no doubt due to the “upcoming opening of the U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade” bringing thousands and thousands of new government jobs, and all of the growth that flows from that.

The incoming federal workforce will require housing and amenities, while many companies that depend on cyber security will need to relocate or open satellite offices to be close to this defense epicenter. It’s almost impossible to measure the number of private-sector jobs that will follow the public ones, from high-tech support and ancillary industries to service and construction workers.

Time to start preparing, Howard County!

A Bright, Bright Future for Howard County: County Executive Ulman talks about the “transformative” changes coming to our area

The spotlight was on County Executive Ken Ulman on WBAL TV’s Sunday Q & A. Asked about the plan to redevelop Downtown (around minute 1:30), he hit the nail on the head: “We have a great downtown, a great mall, a lakefront, Merriweather Post Pavilion – but you can’t walk from one to another!” He went on to talk about the $26.5 million “rebuilding” of Merriweather “for the next generation.” (Hey, that’s us!!!)

Then, the question is posed: “You guys are on the cutting edge of the cyber security world out there. Are we going to see more jobs coming to Fort Meade because of this?” His response? Absolutely.

See the rest of his comments here, starting around minute 3:00, about the “transformative” impact of BRAC and Cyber Command on the region. Columbia and Howard County are perfectly located for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  If we are going to capture that opportunity, we must start preparing.

County Executive Ulman on WBAL Nov. 28

HoCo Teams in the Regional Finals

Three Howard County Schools try to keep their season alive in the Regional Finals tonight.

In a Class 3A East matchup, River Hill takes on Wilde Lake at 7:00 p.m at River Hill HS. The teams played each other last month in a close game, with River Hill sealing it with a late pick. This should be one heck of a game.

And Hammond, fresh off their first playoff win in school history takes on McDonough in a 2A South clash, also tonight at 7:00 at McDonough.

Good luck to all!


Tomorrow, Vote for Columbia to Move Forward

What a year it’s been. We’ve seen it all. The historic passage of CBs 58 & 59 by our County Council, the bill signed into law by our County Executive, a failed referendum effort against it, and a huge primary win by Councilwoman Mary Kay Sigaty over Delegate Bobo’s candidate Alan Klein.

All that’s left is tomorrow’s general election. Columbia 2.0 would like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication our elected officials have displayed, not only this year, but for the past 4 years. They put the community’s best interest first, and they locked in a plan that embodies our core values.

Therefore, we are proud to endorse County Executive Ken Ulman and Council members Calvin Ball, Greg Fox, Mary Kay Sigaty, Jen Terrasa, and Courtney Watson for re-election. Here’s to 4 more years of moving Howard County forward.

Art, Culture, and Life Downtown

Since our founding, we have enjoyed a diverse and rich arts scene in Columbia. Culture? Well, that might be in the eye of the beholder, but one thing is for sure. If we want downtown Columbia to be successful as we begin our redevelopment, both the arts and culture must play an integral part.

The photo above is the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, which is in the Basque region of Spain. The museum houses modern art and has helped to revitalize the city.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 7:15, in another Frank Gehry designed building, you’ll have a chance to help come up with ideas on how best to incorporate art and culture into the new buildings and open spaces that will make up downtown.

Gail Lord of Lord Cultural Resources, will hold a special presentation entitled “Conversation on Art and Culture in Downtown Columbia, “ in the Spear Center at the General Growth Properties building, 10275 Little Patuxent Prky., Columbia, MD 21044.

If you’d like to attend, RSVP: cathyvsmith@verizon.net

See you there!