The failure of Taxpayers Against Giveways to rally any significant support to subject the Columbia Town Center redevelopment legislation to referendum is now official. According to this story by Sarah Breitenbach and Jennifer Broadwater in The Columbia Flier the “effort to bring portions of a massive plan to redevelop Columbia to referendum has failed.”
“The official count of the 3,491 signatures submitted by the citizens group Taxpayers Against Giveaways found 2,139 valid signatures — 362 short of the 2,501 required to keep the petition moving toward the November election, according to the Board of Elections Web site April 13.”
Predictably, the petition supporters are claiming that the referendum rules in Howard County were stacked against them. The fact of the matter is that they knew full well what the signature requirements were when they began their effort. Their rejection rate of 39% was a vast improvement over the 80% rejection rate of a previous ill fated referendum drive.
In retrospect, knowing what they knew, their rejection should have been even lower. I suspect they got a little sloppy in the end when it looked like they might not get enough signatures to clear the first hurdle.
I think the main problem was their message. The Town Center redevelopment program is hardly a giveaway. While it is true that the developer was granted an additional 3,000 or so new housing units they didn’t come free. The developer is required to set up a multi million dollar housing trust fund for affordable housing, renovate and improve Merriweather Post Pavilion and a host of other community enhancements, programs and public amenities.
Even the petition supporters like Alan Klein, the spokesmo for CoFoCoDo acknowledged that many signers actually supported the legislation.
“Klein said many signers were in favor of the Columbia redevelopment and believed a ballot question would reaffirm the community’s support for the plan.”
I guess some people just think we should be able to vote on everything instead of letting our elected representatives do the job we elected them to do.