Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Liz Speaks and Mr. Ed’s Lips Move

I don’t know how I missed this before but I just came across a letter that Ed Kasemeyer wrote in The Columbia Flier back on January 15th on behalf of Liz Bobo and CoFoCoDo.

“Recently I attended a meeting at Slayton House convened by the Coalition for Columbia's Downtown. A presentation was made by Cy Paumier, one of the early Columbia partners, a longtime resident and an internationally renowned urban park planner. Among other thoughts, Cy presented his ideas for developing Symphony Woods as, if you will, Columbia's "central park."

If you haven't already seen his presentation, I hope you have the opportunity to do so soon. His proposal is very impressive, not too difficult to achieve and would maintain and enhance the park-like environment we all treasure in Symphony Woods.

I want to put my support behind this proposal and look forward to working with Del. Liz Bobo, our other colleagues in the Howard County delegation and all of you in providing whatever help I can to make Cy's proposal a reality.

This would be an invaluable addition to the quality of life not only for Columbia but for all of Howard County.

Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer"

If there ever was a case of political back slapping this is surely one. What is it, I wonder, about Cy Paumiers plan for Symphony Woods that Senator Ed likes so much compared to the one put forth by General Growth Properties?

Has Cy Paumier even finished his plan yet?

Is Senator Ed opposed to a world class public library in Symphony Woods?

Maybe he should stay in Arbutus where they actually may care about his opinion.


Anonymous said...

Care to define "world class library"?

Please keep in mind that the 12A district that Sen. Kasemeyer represents is one of the four legislative districts that covers Howard County. While the majority of District 12A is in Baltimore County, it does also include substantial portions of Elkridge and stretches to abut the eastern edge of Columbia.

Sen. Kasemeyer may know a thing or two about "world class libraries". Baltimore County's library system (17 branches and four bookmobiles) is ranked in the top six systems in the country for communities of 500,000 or more, a ranking that reflects very well on both that system and Baltimore County. That's about one branch for every 46,000 people and one book mobile for every 200,000. For comparison, Howard County has six library branches, which is also about one branch for every 46,000 people.

It's a lot more about accessibility and interaction with the community and a lot less about grandiose touristy structures replacing forested parkland with a nonconforming-to-Symphony-Woods-design-intent, metal-clad or otherwise too-cliché-futuristic edifice being placed most conveniently, not for residents, but instead across the street from a proposed 500?-room hotel.

And, if you weren't paying attention, Howard County's library system is already ranked #1 for communities between 250,000-500,000 people in the authoritative HAPLR 8 library rankings.

So why would we want to pull resources away from providing accessible library resources to the rest of the county on a quest for a claimed "world class library" when we already have a system ranked very well? A facility of the scope mentioned includes both the substantial one time cost of new construction (a facility similar to Cerritos' costs about $40M, not even including land costs, doesn't it?) and ongoing elevated operation costs (Cerritos' costs around $5.5M/yr, about double Howard County's existing per library spend). Is this proposal to replace the library with another building placed just a thousand feet away away really for another reason?

We know the current roads cannot support the drastic amount of increased vehicle traffic the proposal would create. Doesn't part of the claimed traffic solution in this current proposal (along with decreasing acceptable traffic congestion standards) include running a multi-lane roadway through Symphony Woods and through the existing library's land? Shouldn't we expect any traffic plan for increased density to not require such sacrifices of natural spaces and existing public buildings and instead remain within existing road corridors?

I just don't buy claims that the current library is so inadequate that it cannot be maintained economically at the same location. If we're really interested in improving library services while making the best use of limited public resources, thought should instead be given to how to make libraries across the county more accessible to the public. For Town Center, one of the best ways is to improve the transit system's service to Columbia's villages and public destinations, the library included.

There's also two interesting items to be gleaned from that same library ranking index noted above.
1. El Cerritos' community, Los Angeles County was not among the top ten library sytems for its population category (>500,000).
2. There were numerous library systems from smaller population categories that ranked higher than Howard County's and the other larger communities' best library systems. That seems to indicate if communities grow too large, the quality of services provided to their populations may decrease. The sweet spot for best library system scores seems to be for communities of 50,000 to 100,000, which is, coincidentally, the size Columbia is now.

Growth, whether one considers quality or capacity of libraries, schools, or traffic, doesn't always equal better amenities or services. If done wrong and/or too much, it can cause multifaceted detriments.