Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saved By A Flood

There was a nice article about Ellicott City in todays Washington Post.


Holiday Movie Night: Part One

My lady and I were out for movie last night.

Our theatre of choice was the Regal Cinemas at Snowden Square . We went there even though:
1. It's in the back of a Home Depot.
2. You can't buy tickets online.
3. The soda machine stinks.
4. There are no paper towels in the men's room.
We chose it because it is relatively easy to get in and out of the parking lot and the theatres are less crowded. I like the AMC theatres in Town Center but the mere thought of battling post holiday shoppers and the holiday movie crowd was enough to steer us to the back of a home improvement store.

As I maneuvered into a fairly convenient parking spot, adjacent to the handicap spaces, I mused to my green eyed lady that what we need in this town are special reserved parking spaces for SUV's. I reasoned that since these cars are bigger and, theoretically at least, they are capable of carrying multiple passengers, SUV's should be accorded some select close in spaces. Of course these spaces would need to be larger too. It is nice to have lots of room to open our big SUV doors without bumping into a Camry.

We could make up for this added space by creating some smaller than normal parking spaces for little cars like the Mini. These spaces could be added to the fringes of the parking lots. The reasoning here is that since these cars tend to be most popular with young people they are much more capable of handling the long hike to the theatre.

We saw The Good Shepherd. It's long but good.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Maggie Browns Contract

Jud Malone, former Columbia Council Representative from Town Center gave the following testimony at Tuesdays meeting of the Columbia Council Committee charged with exploring Maggie Browns contract extension.

My name is Jud Malone; I live on CA assessed property at 5651 Vantage Point Road. I wish to speak tonight on the subject of renewing President Maggie Brown’s employment contract. I am not sure to whom I should address my comments since five of the CA board members in a public statement announced that “we oppose, and as members of the Board will not vote for, any new contract that is for a term of more than one year.” They have also stated that “now is the time for CA to move on to modern, measurements-based proactive management in a technology-driven era”, whatever that might mean.

In any case, for the benefit of the remaining board members still wanting to hear from the community, I would strongly advise that Maggie Brown’s contract be renewed for three years, the same term as her current contract.

Maggie Brown has been an excellent president. She is a well respected ambassador to the community, she has effectively led a highly qualified staff and she has achieved all the objectives set out for her by the CA board in all of her five years of service.

Under her leadership, the quality of CA's programs have improved year after year, consistent with the objectives set by the board of directors and CA is in the midst of a major migration to the very latest technology for its information technology system, again at the direction of the board of directors.

At some point it will become necessary to think about a transition of leadership in the organization but it cannot be accomplished in only one year and certainly not under a freelance decision making process.

The next three years should be devoted to:

1) Working on the board’s own ability to function responsibly. This is the most immediate concern for the community – not the performance of the president.
2) Working towards a more effective relationship where the Board understands that its role is to govern and the President role is to manage the organization.
3) Implementing a rigorous professional process for the selection a new president that all board members will respect and abide by.

I would urge the board - don’t mess up this important responsibility of selecting a new president. CA has an unfortunate history of doing it wrong – learn from the past and take the time to do it right

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Mailbox Locator

The other day I was in the Mall in Columbia and went looking for a mailbox. I asked several merchants and though they all seemed to know about the mailbox in front of the American City Building, no one knew of any in the mall.

I don't believe there is one. If there is, I certainly couldn't find it. The closest I came was stamp machine by the entrance near LL Bean. How come the mall has a stamp machine but no mailbox?

Anyway, my search led to the discovery of a cool little website. The mailbox locator lets you simply input your zipcode and it will identify all of the mailboxes in that zipcode. Click on any of the locations and it will tell you the pick up times. It also has a Google map to help you find it.

Very cool.

And, incidently, mailbox locator shows no mailboxes in the mall but there is one at One Mall North.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Out of Touch

Judging from the letters to editor in yesterdays Sun, the members of the CA Board of Directors who met as a "caucus" and decided to oppose a three year extension to Maggie Browns contract, are seriously out of touch with the community.

Not a single letter was written in support of their position.

The Board Members calling for Maggie's removal are Phil Marcus (Kings Contrivance), Gail Broida (Town Center), Cynthia Coyle (Harpers Choice), Philip Kirsch (Wilde Lake), and no surprise, Barbara Russell (Oakland Mills).

Though I have often been a critic of CA, I firmly believe that Maggie has bought stability and leadership to that organization. The present Board is split and dysfunctional. It is hard to fathom how they will be able to find and agree on someone who is more capable than Maggie.

It's time for the voting lien payers in Columbia to say enough of this nonsense.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The North Pole In Ellicott City

If you have never visited Mumbles & Squeaks Toy Shoppe in Ellicott City, you are missing one of the best toy stores around.

Two years ago The Washington Post even did a story on the place in their "You Haven't Lived Here If You Haven't..." series.

If Santa is looking for something beyond the standard fare found in the national chains, this is the place to go.

Places like this make toy shopping fun.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Task Force Sham

I have just learned that in a meeting last night of the CA External Relations Committee, Barbara Russell reported that her 40th Birthday Celebration Task Force had decided to hold a City Fair on the weekend of June 29th through July 1st.

Nothing could be further from the truth. No consensus on what the birthday celebration might include was reached by the Task Force and certainly no dates were set.

I attended that initial Task Force meeting. There were many ideas bantered around, some good, some not so good. After everyone gave their input Barbara Russell pretty much told everyone at the meeting that none of this discussion really mattered because she was going to go ahead and do what she wants to do which is to hold a City Fair.

For those readers who were not around twenty years ago when the last City Fair was held, I can only tell you that it wasn't pretty. It was as if all of Glen Burnie descended on the lakefront.

The thing is, it wasn't always so. In the beginning, the City Fairs were truly community events. It was more like a Village Fair. Everyone in Columbia went. There was even a "Ball in the Mall."

Back in those early days, Columbia was a town of with a population of about 15,000 people. It is much different now with a population of over 100,000 but some folks like Ms. Russell haven't come to grips with that.

It is irksome that she created a "Task Force" only for window dressing. It wasted a lot of peoples time. Make no mistake. The entire celebration of Columbia's 4oth birthday is being soley orchestrated by someone who is living in the past and who does not want to listen to anyone who disagrees with her.

On top of it all, she thinks she can pull together an event of this scale in just six months!

Having planned and executed large scale events in the past I can tell you that it takes a full year to do it right, not to mention a fair amount of money.

There is a viable and well proven alternative. For the past twenty years, The Columbia Festival of the Arts has hosted a LakeFest celebration which included the birthday celebration. The Festival has a full time year round staff and they have been working on the 40th birthday LakeFest for a year and a half now. They have been raising mpney through corporate sponsorships and individual donations. They have over 200 volunteers committed and ready to work.

Apparrently Ms Russell is not even listening to Maggie Brown on this. Aside from being the President of the Columbia Association, Maggie served for several years as the chairperson of the old City Fair. Her advice and counsel is being totally ignored.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We Got It Good

I realize that many are worried about the ramifications of growth but the bottom line is that most communities would love to have the problems that we are dealing with. The front page article in today's Sun outlines the opportunities and challenges that BRAC presents us. Personally I think we are up for the challenge. If we can tone down the rhetoric and work together to find that ever elusive middle ground between those who want to stop all growth and those who want to "pave paradise and put up a parking lot" we will become the envy of the nation.

And...given that we are are also facing a budget shortfall, this projected growth in employment is very good news indeed.

Think about it. We have a state that is growing with "knowledge workers" instead of a state that is bleeding from the drain of an aging population coupled with the loss of manufacturing jobs.

We got it good.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Fair Play

Now this is interesting!
Perhaps our "silent majority" is finding its voice. That would be nice.

Check out

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Weekend Observations

This past Friday was Ellicott City's Holiday Midnight Madness celebration. Fortunately for the restaurants and shops the weather was very cooperative, albeit a bit windy.

If you have never experienced this event, you should really check it out next year. Most, if not all stores are open until midnight and there are activities such as carolers along the streets. We breezed down around 8:00 PM and we were able to snag a parking space that wasn't too far from the action.

We enjoyed a pre dinner glass of wine at Annabell's and then ventured down to Jordan's for dinner. As we passed Taylor's antique mall we spied the Red Hat ladies in their fine holiday regalia sitting in the storefront window sipping tea and greeting passersby.

This is exactly what a "vibrant" downtown looks like.

Saturday evening found us at the Columbia lakefront. While not as active as downtown EC on Friday it was nonetheless festive with the white lights strung along the awnings over the lakefront restaurants. There were plenty of folks in the restaurants (with the notable exception of Jesse Wongs Hong Kong) but not much "street life." More stores and cafes would help that.

Since the Ravens played on Thursday night this past week I forfeited my usual Sunday of watching football and agreed to go to The Mall In Columbia on Sunday. I gained major points by agreeing to a shopping trip. I'll need those once the playoffs start.

The mall felt lacking in the holiday spirit to me. Maybe I am just a cranky old guy but I can't help myself. You see, in one of my former lives I worked in mall marketing for The Rouse Company. In those days we took great pains to insure that our malls were classiest act in all of malldom. The holiday decor was extensive and choirs performed continually in the center court by the Poinsettia tree. The Poinsettia tree itself was framed by hanging baskets overflowing with Poinsettia's.

This year the poinsettia tree shares a stage with cars from Jim Coleman Jaguar Land Rover. The hanging baskets have been replaced by green and white banners advertising the car dealership.

It just didn't seem right.