Saturday, August 09, 2008

In This Months Business Monthly

Every so often I’ll write a column, sit on it for day or so, then tear it up and start all over. That was the story with my August column in The Business Monthly.

The August column started out being narrative of sorts about the July meeting of Columbia Association Board of Directors. This was the meeting where a motion, put forward by the boards Planning and Strategy Committee, was to be discussed and voted on. The motion was intended to lay out ground rules for the Columbia Association staff before they sat down with representatives of General Growth Properties to discuss the company’s draft master plan for town center. A key element of the motion was the stipulation that no new roads or buildings would be allowed in Symphony Woods Park. This stipulation was in response to GGP’s suggestion that the park become a more widely used and accessible amenity and a gateway to a renovated Merriweather Post Pavilion. GGP is also proposing that this ‘gateway” would also be an ideal place to locate a new headquarters for the association and possibly a new and larger central library.

Unlike most CA board meetings which are lucky to attract more than ten people, this particular meeting was packed. By the time the meeting got underway it was standing room only. Interestingly, the audience seemed to be evenly split between those who supported the motion and those who felt that it was too constraining and counter productive. The resident testimony ran the gamut from the absurd with comments like “When I moved here I was told that nothing more would be built in town center” to the comical “New roads and buildings in the park would be illegal.”

The attendees also shared a common characteristic. They were mostly boomers. The only young person I saw was a guy named Matt Petr. I told him I was heartened to see a young face in the crowd. He explained to me that he was there to get CA to sign off on some utility easements. In other words, he was working. He didn’t have a clue about the big debate of the evening but he was profoundly affected by it. Matt didn’t get to go before the board until just before 11:00 PM. I guess he got to know Columbia pretty well that night.

At the end of the meeting the motion was modified to allow staff to consider “limited new roadways or buildings of a park related scale.” That sounds ambiguous enough for me.

So I wrote about the meeting. I included all the good quotes I had collected. Then I put it aside and went for a ride. I drove into Town Center, parked in Symphony Woods and looked around. That’s when it hit me.

What happened to the Columbia I used to know?

I went back to my computer and started all over. You can find this month’s column here.


Joey said...

Read the article...fantastic! So well put and I couldn't agree more!!!

Tom said...

Unfortunately, you give GGP too much credit for the vision of a new downtown. When this all started even before the charet Dennis Miller was just wanting to use all the 1600 housing allocations left in New Town zoning to develop the Crescent area south of Symphony Woods. Three people, two on the CA Board and one County Council (Jud Malone, Josh Feldmark and Ken Ulman)came up with the original idea for redeveloping Columbia's Downtown. Josh and Jud convinced the rest of the CA Board to authorized $20K for a consultant to educate us how to do a charet. The Board decided that in order for the charet process to be successful the County needed to take ownership of the process since they would be responsible for the zoning changes and making sure the infrastructure requirements are met. The Board and the consultant made a presentation to the County Council and they eventually bought into the process and convinced the County Executive to fund the charet (estimate $200K).
At this point GGP saw the potential for the project and volunteered to be the lead for the community process after the DPZ finished doing the focus groups. The rest is more recent history.
So talk about the CA Board all you want. It was there when it counted and will be again as the process moves forward.

wordbones said...


Your are correct of course in giving proper credit for the charette to Malone, Ulman and Feldmark. The idea of the charette was not intially welcomed by The Rouse Company.

There are some members of the CA board who I believe understand the great opportunity that sits in front of them. I applaud their leadership. I just wish that there were more of them.


Jud Malone said...

Excellent article. One of your very best!

As Tom has stated, CA played a key role at the very beginning of the Charette process and still has the institutional capacity to be a leader as we go forward.

But then as now, the CA Board struggles to remain coherent and consistent. The good news is that it can be responsive to community input.

The resolution regarding Symphony Woods recently put forward by the Planning and Strategy Committee was originally designed to stop any dialog, stop any creative thinking and to run away from any leadership role.

After a strong turnout by supporters of a vison for Symphony Woods that is a place for important cultural and civic amenities, a vibrant and active community public space as well as a regenerative natural environment, the Board amended its guidelines for CA Staff in a way that keeps doors open and allows for dialog and a range of design options that can be considered.

Scott said...

great article....

Anonymous said...

Back in the mid sixties when Columbia was just a visitors center by a lake, I was a young real estate agent standing there explaining to visitors the Columbia concept. The tempo expressed was exciting and sort of like a constant party.

Although I became a conservative insurance agent, it made me sad that Columbia became conservative too. Have more fun Columbia! - John Robertson

PZGURU said...

I read your article and am a little unsure exactly how to take it. It's obviously very biased toward your support of the Town Center redevelopment plan - but that is normal for an opinion piece.

What concerns me most about your article is the second to last paragraph where you say..."...and resultant testimony from ENLIGHTENED residents..." Your use of that term was in reference to people who testified against the CA proposal to not support roads in Symphony Woods. In other words, those who support the whole GGP concept plan.

Wow. I mean I've heard of arrogance, but this has to rank pretty high up there on the arrogance meter. So, according to you, it seems that anyone who does not share your position on the whole Town Center redevelopment issue is "un-enlightened"? Really?

I'm sure that the people who aren't drinking the Town Center plan "kool aid" would be gald to know you think they are stupid (or whatever other applicable synonyms could be inserted).

I'll come back to that a little later. In your 7th paragraph, you also maid a statement that "The decline came gradually". Just how exactly would you claim that Columbia has "declined", if just two years ago it was ranked as the 4th best place to live/raise a family? Even if it were ranked in the 100th spot, that would still make it a heck of a nice place to live.

Did it ever occur to you that maybe MANY of the current residents of Columbia like Columbia exactly as it is? Why does a city have to change year by year like some kind of fashion statement in order to be considered "lively" or "nice" or whatever? Maybe people like you are too status oriented about where you live. You, snotty, hoity toity elitists who just must live in the number one ranked city in the world according to "we're better than you magazine". What nonsensical bullshit.

If you don't like where you live, then why don't you move somewhere else that fits your dream. Why should you feel entitled to cram your desires down everyone else's throats? There are plenty of people who like Columbia as it is and who chose to live here because of how it is.

Anonymous said...

Good points. Don't look for the blog host to respond though. Duck and run...

wordbones said...

Anon 4:31 PM,

Let me understand this, a guy hurls insults at me and you expect me to respond. I don't think so.

And did you stop to consider the irony of an anonymous commenter that accuses someone of ducking and running?

Thanks for dropping by.


PZGURU said...

Wordbones - you feel that I hurled insults at you? How is that any different than you calling a large chunk of the residents of this town/county as "stupid"? I guess you can dish it out but you can take it?

Of course, you could always try responding to the points I raised in my comment, or try to answer the questions I posed to you, but do you?

You, and other pro-TC redevelopment propagandists have no qualms about attacking Liz Bobo, Lloyd Knowles, and other people who don't fully support the redevelopment, but you are somehow off limits to be challenged or questioned?

You're more arrogant than I thought before.

You enjoy having a public "discussion" of various topics, but apparently only as long as everyone subscribes to your point of view. Way to have an "open mind".

wordbones said...


I never called anyone "stupid." That was your interpretation.

According to Rogets Thesaurus, appropriate synonyms for "unenlightened" could be "blind, sightless, unsighted, unseeing, stone-blind, blind as a bat, ill-informed, and uninformed."

Nowhere is "stupid" suggested as an alternative.

Thanks for dropping by.


PZGURU said...

Ok. So you meant to call them "blind" or "sightless"? I'm not sure I understand. I assume you don't mean in the literal sense of blind, so it must be in the figurative intelligence sense.

Of course, "ill-informed" or "uninformed" also have connotations of "ignorance", which has connotations of stupidity. You certainly weren't calling those people "smart" were you?

Talk about hiding behind inuendo. You use a term that you can go back and manipulate with vagueness to make it seem like you weren't insulting people. If that's not the case, then what exactly did you mean by inferring "un-enlightened" upon those who don't support the plan? I certainly don't think you were complimenting them.

Oh, but that's how passive aggressive elitist propagandists like you operate, same as that other blogger who takes his toys and runs home anytime anyone challenges him on anything.

Here's your shot to explain it to me and the rest of the blogosphere, in your own words. What did you mean?

wordbones said...


Not that I feel especially compelled to explain myself to you or anyone else for that matter but someone who I think is "unenlightened" is not a lost cause. They are not stupid. Someday they too may become enlightened like the rest of us "passive aggressive elitist propgandists."

There is always hope, even for the likes of someone like you.


PZGURU said...

Said little red riding hood to the big bad wolf: "My grandma, what a big EGO you have!"

Like I figured. You certainly weren't paying anyone any compliments. The attributes I gave you are right on the money.

I'm doing just fine thanks - thinking for myself and challenging folly and hypocrisy and dishonesty, and not just following the "crowd" like a pack of lemmings running toward the cliff, like yourself.