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.
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.