Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Taxpayers against Giveaways

The group that has come together for a petition drive to subject the Columbia Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation to a referendum this fall is called Taxpayers against Giveaways. Up until today, the only person I knew in the organization was Russ Swatek, the Columbia Council representative for the Village of Long Reach. According to a recent post on Columbia 2.0, he also likes to refer to himself as a “professional pest.” I always wondered what he did for a living.


After reading Brian’s post I now know that my former high school classmate Frank “Marty” Martin is also involved. That should be very helpful to Russ. Marty has a lot of experience with petition campaigns in Howard County. He’ll be a valuable asset to the effort. Brian didn’t say who else was there but I suspect there were some familiar faces from CoFoCoDo and HCCA.

It may surprise some readers here to know that I am actually of two minds about this petition drive. If successful it could theoretically settle, once and for all, whether the community at large is truly behind this plan or not.


The problem is that if the effort to overturn the legislation is defeated by a close margin, the opponents will likely cry foul. A lawsuit challenging the outcome is almost guaranteed. If the vote is lopsided, and the voters resoundingly back the Town Center plan, the opponents will likely say it was due to big money spent by the developer and its business backers to defend the plan. The little man never had a chance they’ll moan.

The point I’m trying to make here is that for the core group of Taxpayers against Giveaways, this will never be over.

So what if Taxpayers against Giveaways prevails?

It could happen. If it does I’d be surprised, but it could happen.

What then?

Columbia will still limp along for a few years. The decline would be gradual at first, almost imperceptible. Over time, say within the next ten years, you’d start to notice that the Mall isn’t as busy as it once was. Wilde Lake still won’t have a grocery store or much else besides a massage parlor, a Chinese takeout and a nail salon. Merriweather Post Pavilion will close, eventually. You’ll notice that you really spend more time on the fringes of Columbia than the Town Center.

The opportunity for Town Center would pass.


PZGURU said...

WB - you're obviously a professional "chicken little". Columbia's dying! Columbia's dying! Columbia's dying!

And it's all because of those nimby's at TAG.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the chuckle, PZ. My thoughts exactly. I'd also add that this group is so guilty of tactics they continually try to pin on others.

THE TRUTH: Referendum proponents (GGP Bailout opponents) only object to the NUMBER of residential units proposed. They don't want an influx of 10,000+ people into one of ten village centers.

Understandably so.

The county taxpayers object to financial support for this plan which will reach deeply into our pockets.

John Bailey said...

My understanding is that the Board of Elections wants the referendum to get on the ballot if at all possible. That is if they can get the signatures. After the 2006 referendum debacle the Board of Elections would like the opportunity to show that a citizen referendum is possible and that they are not out to stop the process. I agree with wordbones that I am of two minds of the referendum, I support citizen participation and this would be a great way to find out exactly what the citizens want, of course if the referendum does not win in November then it just slowed down the process that most voting Howard County resident’s support. My only question about the referendum is whether what they are taking to referendum is legal. From what I have heard they are only looking to take two parts of the bills to referendum and I don't know if that is possible. I do look forward to seeing what will happen in the next few weeks with the referendum movement. The bills were signed February 3rd, so almost 30 days have passed out of the 60 days required to get the first 2,500 signatures.

Anonymous said...

WB, I agree with you 100%. What can be done to derail this group?

Anonymous said...

TAG Haiku:

Russ Swatek thinks that
the east coast is too crowded.
Why is he here then?

PZGURU said...

ANON haiku wanna-be: I don't recall Swatek saying that the east coast is too crowded. I believe his position is that the redevelopment plan would MAKE Columbia too crowded.

He's probably living here because he likes the characteristics of Columbia in its PRESENT form. Dumassss!!!!

Here's a haiku for you:
ANON2:36 distorts and lies
The facts don't support him
So pathetic

David said...

WB - re: your reference to lawsuits - I completely agree. Unfortunately, they will all be led/funded by the developer and business community. When there's $$$$Billions to be made, you can count on the lawyers to challenge every signature and leave no stone unturned.

Let the people decide... vote it up or down and let's move on.

Anonymous said...

Swatek, Mona and most of the people posting will NOT be here at the end of a plan that will take more than 30 years from 2010 (Rouse's 15 year plan took 40 years) to complete.

Most of you will NEVER see 5500 new units / 183 each year. Most of you old, bitter fogies probably will see about 1,000 units, an amount those who are trying to kill the plan say they support.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if I understand. We have gone through countless meetings and billions of words over the past 5 years. Our elected officials,the County Council, have the power to make decisions on our behalf. We voted them into office and bestowed them with certain powers. They executed those powers on our behalf.
Now we have some citizens who voted for or against our County Council who disagree with them in their decision. Sounds like it's much ado about nothing. It's the tyranny of the minority full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The game is over, checkmate.

Anonymous said...

John Bailey if you actually believe the BoE WANTS to see ANY successful referendum, I have some swampland in Florida....

They have clearly unequivocally demonstrated they'll do any illegal thing to circumvent our right to vote on land use issues.

Anonymous said...

The minority (and we can likely name all 25 of them, including Swatek and Mona) are trying to appear to represent the County.

The evidence is clear. More folks and a diversity of folks have supported our electeds and most of the decisions they make. Do we all agree with every vote--probably not. Will we all agree with every vote anyone takes over a 4-year period--probably not. But they are representing a strong majority of their constituents the best way any human could.

Anyone who feels that strongly to the contrary, run, make your case to the people and do a better job! I doubt you will see people like Swatke or Mona actually run for County Council. It's a lot easier to complain and tell half-truths.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:38, whatever your game, it's lame. Everyone already knows there's a thin layer of anonymity out here at best, Nick.

Anonymous said...

Why doesn’t Marc Norman run for Council? If he really cares about the issues that he says he does and really does represent the majority of his community and really does think a campaign can be successfully run with no contributions from any industries the Council may impact, he should get out there! Norman for County Council??

PZGURU said...

ANON 7:43 - are you serious? A developer will NOT spread out 5500 units over 30 years. They may spread them into 3 or 4 "phases" but I would venture that they will be built within 10 years, more likey 5-6. Remember, these are not SFD units were talking about (in which case 20 years would be more likely), these are going to be mulitfamily highrises.

To the commenters who continually "generalize" with statements like "I'm sure the majority of people support the plan...." STOP already.

Neither side can make such ridiculous claims. The referendum will settle that (for the most part). I say for the most part, because let's face it, there's never 100% voter turnout/participation. But putting it to an up or down vote is the only fair way to decide it.

Anonymous said...

Once again, PZ is exactly right, if we're allowed to have a sensible discussion on this blog.

wordbones said...

Anon 10:19 AM,

I've never required anyone to be sensible.


PZGURU said...

WB - especially not yourself! :p

Anonymous said...

First my congratulations WB for generating this kind of commentary.
Second, PZGURU is out of his element commenting that a referendum will settle anything. I am disappointed that he has ventured into the political arena out of the zoning arena. He isn't as plausible. I'm sure I will receive a hate comment for saying so.
Of course, what do I know?
My attitude is we elected the County Council and if we disagree with their decisions, let's vote the bastards out. Who cares about a disgruntled few referendum signers objection? Get out of the way and let our elected officials do their jobs. If they don't, vote them out of office. The referendum guys have too much time on their hands. Why don't they get out and earn a living like the rest of us have to?

PZGURU said...

HH - I would never send you a hate comment. I don't understand your comment. Do I need to take a pre-approved class or something to be "qualified" to venture into the political arena? Isn't the zoning arena highly political in and of itself anyway?

Beyond that, it seems that YOU don't have a firm grasp of the legislative/judicial process. Since the citizenry can not hold elections except every 4 years, or as designated, referendums are a mechanism to address instances where elected officials have done something that the citizenry disapproves of. If you don't like referendums, you don't have to participate in them. That's your right, just like it's anyone else's right to start a referendum drive.

I hope that was "hate-free" enough for you. XOXOXO

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:30, that's why we should abolish Social Security. If these people had jobs to do, they would not be trying to take jobs from others!