Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Caffeine Fix

Caffeine Fix

I freely admit to being a coffee shop guy. These are great places to meet a friend, catch a break between meetings, or simply to observe the ebb and flo of life in these two towns.

It wasn't that long ago when your choices for coffee shops in Columbia and Ellicott City were limited to Riverside Coffee and Roaster's shops on Main Street in Ellicott City and on Dobbin Road in Columbia. This was in the pre-Starbucks period.

Today we have an abundance of places to get a daily caffeine fix in Columbia and Ellicott City. The old Riverside on Main Street is now Bean Alley and the Riverside on Dobbin Road is under new ownership. There are Starbucks on Route 40, Dobbin Road and The Mall In Columbia (did I miss any except those Starbuckettes found in Targets, Safeway's and Barnes & Noble?). We also have Bun Penney, Mad City (another former Riverside), Lakeside (also a former Riverside),Old Mill Bakery, and Orinoco.

Are there others?

I like Bean Alley in Ellicott City as a place to meet, have desert and purchase bulk coffee. I have noticed that the Starbucks on Dobbin Road is often laptop alley and Lakeside is a great place to connect in Town Center and have a light lunch.

What's your favorite?


It just occurred to me that, as a supporter of the Plaza Residences tower in Columbia Town Center, I had no pro tower choice in the last county election. Candidates from both parties uniformly came out in opposition to this development.

Every candidate, regardless of political party, pandered to the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown as if that group represented the majority view. I think that remains to be seen.

Now that more and more people are finally coming forward and stating other opinions about Columbia's future downtown I wonder who will speak for them?


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Vision Thing

I just read Barbara Russell's letter to the editor in last weeks Columbia Flier. My first reaction?


For those who may not know, Ms. Russell is currently the Columbia Council representative for Oakland Mills. She also counts herself as being one of Columbia's pioneers (first 100 residents) and at other times has referred to herself as Columbia's first mother.

In her letter she wrote:
I have never been confused about Mr. Rouses vision for his new city.

Certainty is good but in this case I am afraid it is woefully misguided.

She went on to say:
In the concept plan that Mr. Rouse presented to the county leaders for approval and later in the concept plan/map that was distributed at The Rouse Co.'s visitor center, which was located on the Kittamaqundi lakefront, there was no typical traditional cityscape anywhere to be seen, including in the designated downtown area. As a matter of fact, Mr. Rouse presented his plan for Columbia as the antithesis of the typical urban environment and said Columbia was meant to be a new kind of city, "a garden for growing people."

I think she missed the key word here which is "concept." Concepts are very broad based ideas that allow for liberal interpretation. I also recall the concept plan. In fact, I remember the scale model that was made of what Columbia's future looked like back in 1966. Aside from Lake Kittamaqundi, there would be very little recognizable to a visitor today. For example, that original plan had a mini bus road bisecting the lake connecting Oakland Mills to Town Center.

The statement that I believe really misinterprets James Rouses intentions is:
It most definitely did not depict 20-story residential and other buildings casting long dark shadows over pavement and other buildings as in a traditional cityscape. The downtown was basically designed to service residents, not house them.

Let's be realistic here, concept plans do not depict specific buildings so claiming that Jim Rouse never intended a 22 story building to be built in Town Center because he didn't have one in his concept plan is just plain foolish.

I had the honor of working for Mr. Rouse both in Columbia and later as he set out to open malls all over the country. Though I would never claim to know his mind I was able to observe one critical thing; James Rouse was an evolutionary thinker. His ideas changed over time. This is evident to anyone who followed his career. After Columbia he determined that was better to focus on rebuilding existing cities rather than creating new cities in the suburbs. I highly recommend his biography by Joshua Olsen, Better Places Better Lives - A Biography of James Rouse to anyone who wants to know what this man was all about.

Today, I could easily envision Jim Rouse hunched over plans with Doug Godine at General Growth Properties mapping out the next evolution of Columbia's downtown. I think he'd be pleased that the community had matured to the point that it could attract the attention of developer such as WCI Communities.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

New Columbia Blog

A new blog, specifically targeted to Columbians (past and present) in the 25 to 45 year old age group, has entered the local blogosphere.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

Blogger Anonymity

My last post seems to have raised the ire of one Cynthia Coyle. It seems that she has taken umbrage at blogger anonymity. In fact she has gone so far as to label the practice of blogger anonymity as cowardice.

I disagree.

Anonymity in public discourse is an honored tradition in this country. One need only look to the founding fathers of our country to understand this. The Federalist Papers, the 85 essays that successfully argued for the ratification of the Constitution of United States, were all written anonymously. Names such as "Publius" and "Cato" masked the true identities of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison. These writings may have been the most influential documents in the formation of our country. I would hardly characterize these gentlemen as cowards.

So why do I choose to blog anonymously?

There are a variety of reasons mostly personal. My opinions are my own and not a reflection of my family or my business. In the past people have taken potshots at others associated with me because of something I have said. I don't think that is fair.

That being said, I also do not take great lengths to hide my true identity. Others have easily discerned who Wordbones is. I am often seen about the county sporting a black ball cap with "wordbones" emblazoned on the front. As it stands, my blogger profile already offers more information about me than most local bloggers.

So why don't I just come out and say who I am?

Well for one, I would never do that just because someone like Cynthia Coyle doesn't like it. Personally I could care less whether she, or anyone else for that matter, takes offense with it. Someday I may publicly reveal myself but I will do so at the place and time of my own choosing.

How do you feel about blogger anonymity?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Just Wondering But...

What gives Delegate Liz Bobo (MD House of Delegates District 12B) such stature in the debate over Columbia's downtown. Her duty as a state delegate is to concern herself with matters affecting Howard County on the state level. Issues such as Town Centers redevelopment are the responsibility of our local politicians. Granted, Liz was once County Executive but the voters were so unimpresseed with her performance that they denied her a second term choosing instead a then political neophyte named Chuck Ecker (who went on to easily win a second term). Liz does not even live in a CPRA assesed property so she isn't really even a Columbia resident (any more than I am!).

And who is Alan Klien. Until now, no one I know of in this town had even heard of him. What has he done to earn his stripes as a spokesperson for Columbia future downtown?

Does he live in Town Center?

Has he served on any community boards?

How long has he actually lived in Columbia?

I don't mean to be malovent but I am wondering why these two seem to get so much attention in the press. And it is not just me that is wondering that either. Others in the community have begun to raise the same questions.

As for Liz , she has a long record of public service for Howard County and I both admire and respect that. At the same time, however, her husband, Lloyd Knowles is one of the plaintiffs seeking to block the construction of the Plaza Residences in Town Center.

Does anyone else have a problem with this?

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Snow Day Musings

I took a break from blogging after my last post on January 20th. I guess I had a case of bloggers writers block or perhaps I just had the blogging blahs.

You know, sometimes it all just seems so much like blah, blah, blah. the interim I took a little trip down to an island in the West Indies and recharged my blogg strokes. Wordbones is back.

Since today was the first snow day for Howard County schools and I found myself being a stay at home dad with my eight year old daughter, I had a little spare time to get back to blahhing...err...blogging.

I stopped by Howard County's most prolific blogger, Hayduke, and was surprised to find a comment posted by Councilperson Courtney Watson. She was clarifying remarks attributed to her in a newspaper story about Brantley Developments proposal to build duplex housing in Elkridge. I leave the discussion of that particular topic to Hayduke but I was surprised to find one of our council people weighing in on a blog. Could it be that the bogging universe is expanding?

Are local blogs gaining credibility as legitimate forums for public debate?

I have always been curious as to the demographics of our local blogging scene. Up until now I suspected that it was largely composed of angry men (with apologies to numbersgirl!).

Could I be mistaken?

I also wanted to comment on a story I read in today's Sun about the proposed Centennial Gardens housing development. It now appears that this affordable housing project is officially dead in the water. The community opposition to this development was strong with the arguments being that it was "the wrong project on the wrong site" and "the lack of compatibility and the density of the project."


So where is affordable housing compatible in Howard County?

Apparently anywhere but my back yard.