Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

One of the advantages of staying at home for the Memorial Day is having time to visit the Baltimore National Cemetery and share a moment of remembrance for those who served.

When I returned home and looked up the cemetery website I surprised to find that the property was once part of the land holdings of our own Charles Carroll of Carrollton.

Thank you to all who have served.

Congratulations Cathy!

When the Lady Terps defeated Northwestern in the final game of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse tournament last night a loud cheer rang out from our small neighborhood picnic. Had Maryland not made it to the championship game there is a good possibility that their coach would have been at the gathering instead of Unitas Stadium.

Cathy Reese, the four year coach of the Terps and a former Lady Terp herself, is a HoCo local. She lives in Ellicott City.

Congratulations Cathy and to all the members of the University of Maryland Women’s Lacrosse team on bringing the National Championship trophy back to Maryland after a nine year drought.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Home Boy

We didn’t go away for the weekend. No drive to the mountains or the shore for us this year. We’ve stayed put, right here in HoCo.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to get away and I enjoy that as much as anyone but it’s also nice to opt out of the holiday travel weekend scene. It’s also a lot quieter around here with so many people on the road. According to this story by Benjamin Ford in The Gazette, “AAA Mid Atlantic is projecting that more than 32.1 million travelers nationwide will take a trip for the holiday weekend, up 5.4 percent from last year, as people see encouraging signs in the economy, said Ragina C. Averella, manager of public and government affairs at AAA Mid-Atlantic.”

“Nearly 90 percent of the trips are by car and the average distance traveled will be 626 miles, according to the AAA study.”

Our cars haven’t gone over twenty miles since Friday night.

And while it wouldn’t be accurate to say things are dead in HoCo this weekend, crowds are noticeably lighter within that twenty mile world we’ve seen these past two days.

Yesterday, our community pool was virtually empty though today is was noticeably busier.

After a bike ride this afternoon, Peanut and I stopped by Rita’s on Frederick Road around 1:30 PM today and we were the only ones there. No waiting in line…sweet.

In about an hour we’ll join our neighbors for a little cookout and conversation. The kids will freely roam about in familiar territory and nobody will have to drive home.

The best thing though, is that tomorrow, we won’t have to worry about packing up and getting back on the road. We can sleep as late as we want to.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

HowChow Chat

In our continuing quest to have a wide variety of guests on our podcast, this week we were joined by HowChow. In a little over two years his blog has become the preeminent voice of all things food in HoCo. It will come as no surprise to anyone who has read his blog that he once was a reporter. If you live in HoCo and you like food you’ll probably enjoy this show.

This show marked the end of our seven month run at the Lakeside Café. The owners said they had received some “concerns” from certain patrons and it was felt that we should probably find somewhere else to do the show. It was a good run at Lakeside and I’ll miss the place but as they say, when one door closes another opens, or something like that. The show will go on and for now at least it will stay in Town Center. Our next show will be out on the street as the Columbia Festival of the Arts three day LakeFest gets underway on June 11th. We shall endeavor to stay out of the way.

And speaking of the street, we decided not to do the café walk around segment at the end of this show. We’ll probably drop it all together. It has always been the most difficult part for us because at two o’clock on a Friday afternoon there just aren’t that many people in the café. After listening to the show last night I’m convinced we need something at the end to replace it. One thought was to have an “open mic” where anyone could sign up for five minutes with us to talk about whatever is on their minds.

It’s a work in progress.

You can listen to the latest episode of “and then there’s that…” here.

Friday, May 28, 2010


I love honeysuckle and right now, in HoCo, the honeysuckle is really hitting its stride. It’s not just the scent and the flower that warms my soul it is also the fact that it blooms at one of my most favorite times of year. It is high spring and the temperature is cool but not cold, graduations and weddings are in full swing, the pools are opening and the grass hasn’t turned brown yet. Damn near perfect and, in my book at least, the honeysuckle is the perfect flower for this perfect season.

I spotted this lovely number behind Rita's in Ellicott City. That’s the other thing I like about honeysuckle, it grows pretty much wherever it wants to. In that regard it is much like the deer who reside around us, highly adaptable. It’s also non native which pretty much makes it a cousin of everyone living around here except those with Powhatan, Nanticoke, or some other native tribe in your blood.

As kids we learned how to “eat” honeysuckle by snapping off the end of the flower and slowly removing the stigma hoping to catch a drop of the nectar on our tongues. My daughter enjoys doing that too even though the resultant payoff is rather paltry.

And finally, on a cloudy day such as today, the honeysuckle is still yellow and white like a sunny day and just as sweet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Watson Takes Point on Ref Reform

At tonight’s county council meeting, council chair Courtney Watson will introduce legislation to reconcile the differences between state and county laws governing referendums. According to an email from Courtney, the proposed bill addresses “key conflicts between State and County law by making it clear that the State law governs. In addition, this bill removes the requirement that petitions include a particular disclosure statement whenever circulated by individuals who are paid to do so. Removing this provision, which is unique to Howard County, makes it easier for petitioners to use standard State forms. The law already requires the petitioner to report all expenses which would include labor costs. The bill also corrects some obsolete nomenclature and makes other technical corrections.”

This move will undoubtedly lead to a wider debate on the other contentious issues surrounding referendums in HoCo such as the stringent signature requirements and the relatively low threshold for the number of valid signatures required to place an issue on the ballot.

And speaking of referendums, Marc Norman is headed to back to court in his continuing quest to stop Harris Teeter from opening a store in Turf Valley. According to this story by Sara Breitenbach in The Columbia Flier, his group, Citizens for Open Government “filed their intent to appeal a recent ruling from county Circuit Court Judge Timothy McCrone to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.”

I suspect that his union buddies are continuing to fund this quixotic legal attempt to keep the non union grocer from opening another store in HoCo. It’s always easier to be righteous with other people’s money.

In Memoriam…Gary Arthur

Gary Arthur, the long serving Director of Parks and Recreation for Howard County, passed away this morning after a brief illness.

I had the pleasure of meeting Gary earlier this year when he was our guest on “and then there’s that…” He was a fun guest and an all around good guy. He will be sorely missed.

Soaring Sales of Smart Phones

When I picked up a new smart phone earlier this month I didn’t realize I was part of the surge. According to last weeks Kiplinger Letter, sales of smart phones like the Droid and iPhone “are speading like wildfire among execs and workers in the field. 25% of all phones will be smart by 2011.”

At least our phones are getting smarter.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Perhaps the Best Triathlon in the World

I went for my regular haircut with Wayne last night. I’ve been going to Wayne for a haircut almost as long as I’ve been getting haircuts. Before he moved to the Mall he cut my hair in the Long Reach Village Center.

Wayne is also a triathlete. He’s also been a triathlete for as long as there have been triathlons, or so it seems at least. As for me, I’m more of what is best described as an occasional runner but it is enough of a connection for Wayne and I to converse about whilst he gives me a trim.

"Did you compete in the Columbia Triathlon last Sunday?,” I asked.

Indeed he had. I think he’s competed in every Columbia Triathlon since it’s inception in 1984. This year he ran in the Grand Master category. You have to be sixty or older to be a Grand Master.

I asked him how he did.

“I notice my age in the running more than anything else,” he sighed, “Ten minute miles is more the norm for this group.”

I like ten minute miles. I hope to run one someday.

Wayne has actually participated in a number of triathlons throughout the country. He said that the Columbia race is by far the best and he attributed that largely to its longevity.

“Some volunteers have worked every race for twenty six years.”

Experienced staff always makes thing run more smoothly.

“People come from all over the country for this race. The 1,800 slots are filled up quickly.”

“It may perhaps be the best triathlon in the world.”

Two Audits in One Month

Last week when I was checking out at the Giant grocery store in Centre Park, a message appeared on the self check out screen that read something like “assistance is required to complete this transaction.”

My first thought was that I screwed up. I really like the handheld scanners and new wheelie baskets at this store and I thought I really had the hang of it by now. Of course there was another shopper in line behind me and from the look I got I couldn’t help but feel like they thought I’d screwed up too.

It turns out I didn’t screw up after all. I was being randomly audited.

After what seemed like an eternity waiting, a clerk came over, punched a few special numbers into the terminal and then proceeded to randomly hand scan items I had previously bagged.

When I first started using this DYI check out thing I wondered how they insure against people who slip something into their bags without scanning. Now I know.

The good news is that I passed; the bad news is that the shopper behind me ended up finding another line.

The other audit came today from the Census Bureau. When our form arrived in the mail back in March I dutifully filled it out right away and sent it back in. Last night I received a message asking me to call them today. I had been assigned a case number. The Census Bureau was auditing my ten responses.

I think I passed again. With the Census Bureau it was sort of hard to tell. I’m not complaining though. In the scheme of things, these types of audits are a lot less stressful than certain other kinds of audits.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Can We Recycle This?

In our household (house of bones), quite frequently, someone will hold up a particular piece of household waste and ask, “Can I recycle this?”

This question is never asked of the easy stuff…papers, bottles, and such…it’s always raised with those tweener items like aerosol cans. The answer of course lies on the lid of the big blue bin that the county passed out last year but that sits outside, in the cold/heat snow/rain. These waste management issues demand immediate attention…no time for research.

Salvation of a sort arrived in the mail yesterday from the HoCo Department of Public Works. They sent us a postcard with the new 2010 Holiday Slide Schedule for trash collection. Since I’ve screwed this up before I took special notice of this information and that's when I discoverered the information bonus on the address side of the card. In the house of bones we all now know that yes, you can recycle EMPTY aerosol cans.

This is new information, sort of. I checked this list against what is listed on big blue and yes, aerosol cans are listed, but they are included under a picture of a tin can. On a cold dark winter night, you know, around dinner time, the words under the picture get a little lost.

So thank you DPW, for resolving at least one conflict in our home.

And remember, whatever day your normal trash collection falls on next week, it will actually slide to the next day instead because of Memorial Day. If your day is Saturday, however, no change for you.

This has been a public service message from Tales of Two Cities.

Turf Valley Shopping Center Gets Approval

And speaking of referendums, western county residents are getting closer to having a Harris Teeter grocery store. The proposed 160,000 square foot Town Square at Turf Valley received Site Development Plan approval earlier this month finally clearing the way for construction to begin.

It was a little over a year ago that the petition effort to stop this development was sidelined by the Board of Elections. After the BOE rejected about 80% of the signatures that were submitted, the organizers then tried to stop the development through the courts. The latest attempt by opponents to have the BOE decision overturned was thwarted last month when Howard County Circuit Court Judge Timothy McCrone issued a ruling upholding that decision.

Site Development Plan approval is the last major hurdle before the developer can move dirt and begin construction. With an SDP in hand they are likely pitching this development to retailers at the ICSC convention in Las Vegas this week.

No word yet on a projected completion date.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Referendums and American Democracy

My favorite political science professor in college, Paul A. Woelfl, S.J., liked to shake up young idealistic students with the notion that America is not a Democracy; it's a free enterprise system, not a democracy, he'd insist.

I thought of him today when I read this blog post by Frank Hecker. Frank took up the intellectual ball I dropped in this post about the latest effort to legislate by referendum.

Frank reminds us that the concept of the referendum in American democracy is a relatively new idea.

“… it’s important to note that the idea of direct democracy through referendums and ballot initiatives isn’t sanctified by association with the Founders. It didn’t gain traction until the advent of the Progressive movement in the late 19th century, in reaction to the perceived corruption of state legislatures by corporate interests.”

He then proceeds to dissect the reasoning and intent of the ballot initiative process and how that relates to both the GOP Taxpayer Protection Initiative and the Taxpayer Against Giveaways effort to overturn the Town Center redevelopment process.

“I’ll leave to others the task of providing a full argument against the proposed Town Center referendum. I’ll simply say that given the long period of public consultation and the fact that the entire county council voted unanimously for the GGP plan, it’s hard to make the argument that an unjust outcome was forced on the populace by a legislative minority captured by special interests.

With the Taxpayer Protection Initiative I think it’s also hard to make the argument that the popular will is being thwarted in a manner that makes it imperative that the normal legislative process be bypassed. Given the recent
4-1 council vote to pass the Howard County 2010 budget and the lack of any apparent major public outcry over that vote, I think a more reasonable take on the situation is that Howard County voters have elected a solid council majority in favor of the current fiscal strategy, and for the most part are fine with that approach. Why then is the Taxpayer Protection Initiative necessary?”

An interesting read for all concerned.

Fear mongering

At his press conference today, Alan Klein spoke of fear mongering by those who would paint him as being anti development. He insists that he’s not.

The problem is that the only developments he supports are those that he and his supporters dream up. They support development scenarios conjured up in living rooms by people who aren’t putting actual capital at risk. They support Disney World with free all day passes.

What they don’t support is supportable development, the type of development that real capital would subject to risk with the reasonable expectation of a return.

I don’t think that’s fear mongering, I think that’s anti development.


Alan Klein held a press conference this morning at the Hug statue in Town Center to officially announce his candidacy for county council. I couldn’t help think of the irony of this setting. The Hug statue honors the memory of Mort Hoppenfeld, one of the early planners of Columbia for The Rouse Company.

In other words, it is a statue honoring a developer.

Mr. Klein doesn’t seem to care much about developers, except when he spins their “vision” to support his views. During his prepared remarks he spoke of Jim Rouse and Mort Hoppenfeld citing their values that he claims “have not been represented on the council.”


In a critique of Town Center written in 1981, Mort wrote that “Downtown needs apartments and condos: At high density within walking distance- on top of things like shops and offices. This is hard to accomplish, but HRD knows how. They may need help with zoning.”


I’ve said it before but it does bear repeating; Jim Rouse and by extension Mort Hoppenfeld, were developers first and foremost. While it is certainly true that they introduced innovative concepts to community planning and development they also understood that those concepts needed to economically viable in order to succeed.

I just don’t get that Alan understands this part of the equation and I further suspect Mort would not have been pleased with Alan’s interpretation of his “values”. In fact Mort understood the need to adjust to changing times. What he and the other planners originally conceived in the sixties may not be appropriate today.

“What was concluded then were not so much answers as hypotheses or best bets as to what would work best for the evolution of the communities and the people in this city. Now there is the potential of information and experience to modify the hypotheses, to “answer” the questions. Certainly conditions within and external to Columbia have changed and needless to say, will continue to change.”

Alan and his supporters don’t seem to understand this dynamic. He said he believes that the council should mandate that a grocery store be part of every village center, including Town Center. I wonder how he intends to force a grocery store to locate where they don’t want to be.

Another ironic moment when occurred when Alan spoke of his early involvement in politics. He recalled that, as a six year old, he actively championed the candidacy of JFK with his playmates. After relating further episodes of his continued political activism through adulthood he told the assembled audience that he was not a “political animal by nature.”


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Spring Cleaning

This is such a small town.

This afternoon, after spending the day cleaning the interiors of two cars, I decided to gas up the SUV for the week ahead. As I crossed the river headed towards the Shell station in the rock I noticed a black BMW Z3 in my rearview mirror. He followed me into the gas station.

This guy looked really familiar.

He should be. He’s the guy with the Yappy Hour band. In fact, he is the actual Band Director at Ellicott Mills Middle School. His name is Rich Roberts.

I asked about his Z3. He told me it was a ’97 (I think) and had about 94,000 miles on it.

“Garage kept?” I asked. This car looked pretty clean.

He said it wasn’t. He says he drives it as his everyday car, even through this past winter. I told him about my other car. We both agreed that once you’ve driven one of these cars, you have a hard time giving it up.

I’m having a hard time giving it up. Since I’ve got my Beemer back on the road I’ve been falling back in love all over again.

I also told him about forgetting the name of his Yappy Hour ensemble.

“What was that name again?”

“Try this,” he replied.

See Dave, they do have a name.

Cheap Date

I predict that the hottest pace to hangout this summer will be the patio at the new Stanford Grill in Columbia. Last night at a private opening reception, the patio had its grand debut and it was instant hit with the invited guests. Though the view of Rouse Parkway and the strip shopping center across the street is no match for the lakefront in Town Center, the owners have succeeded in creating an intimate outdoor dining and lounging area that is unique in the Baltimore Washington Corridor. You hardly even notice that there is a road out there.

Mama Wordbones and I spent most of the evening on the patio. Though the rain poured down around us on three sides, we stayed dry as we dined under the canopy with the large fireplace.

For most of dinner I sat next to Guy Guzzone and his wife Pam. We talked a bit about the proposed settlement between the residents of the Villas at Cattail Creek and the developers over the ill fated private sewage system they installed. I mentioned to Guy that fellow blogger HoCo Rising had written that he doesn’t believe the proposed settlement is a “credible offer.”

It’s easy to second guess these things. I told Guy that I suspected that this settlement offer was the result of some hard bargaining and protracted negotiations where threats were made by both sides to walk away from the settlement and let the courts decide the issue. Guy informed that he had been “very involved” in these discussions and that, in fact, was the case. He described the process as being contentious and that the proposed settlement offer was not reached easily.

And speaking of HoCo Rising, I also ran into his mom and dad inside the restaurant in one of the cozy booths. Dad is also a blogger but admits to not being as prolific as he’d like to be and certainly not as much as his son.

After dinner we moved over to the fireplace area and I spent some time talking to our podcast producer Dave Bittner. We were informed this week that our show will no longer be welcome at the Lakeside Café in Town Center. Michael So told us that someone had complained that the show was not appropriate for his café. Considering the fact that we tape well after the lunch hour on Friday afternoons when there are very few people actually in the café, I suspect there is local politics behind this “complaint.” Our show next Friday with HowChow will be the last at Lakeside.

Towards the end of the evening I spoke a bit with David Jones, the managing partner of the Blue Ridge Restaurant Group which owns the Stanford Grill. He told me that they were initially reluctant to put a restaurant in this location because of it’s rather off the beaten path location. They changed their minds when they decided to create a sort of R&D restaurant that would test out dishes that could eventually find their way into the other Blue Ridge Restaurant Group restaurants that operate under the Copper Canyon brand. Since this location was to be a bit more upscale and innovative they figured that people would take the little extra effort to find it.

Judging from the wide sampling of their menu that we enjoyed last night, it will be well worth that effort.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Yappy Hour

If you are into the whole canine thing, you’d most likely enjoy Yappy Hour at the Wine Bin in Ellicott City. I know we did last night.

Though I was initially a little reluctant, Mama Wordbones convinced me to take our 13 year old lab with us. I really wasn’t sure if she was up to it. She doesn’t move around very well these days. A big walk now is once around the house. Sometimes she likes to take a break half way.

In any event she did fine. If a continually wagging tail is any gauge I’d have to say she enjoyed herself. Unofficially I was told by George’s owner that our girl Mars was the oldest dog in attendance. George is the other dog in the picture. He's twelve.

Yappy Hour is really a mini festival of sorts that works as fundraiser for a designated animal cause. The beer and wine are free but all tips go the animal charity of the evening. Baltimore Pet Pals were the volunteer bartenders.

There were vendors set up in the parking lot as well. David Workinger from PetsMart was handing out dog treats, tennis balls, t-shirts and what have you. We got some of that too.

You don’t have to bring a dog to come and have a good time at Yappy Hour either. I ran into Mr. HoCo Rising and his beautiful wife, Indiana Jane and they were dogless. They told me that their two dogs were intentionally left at home because they don’t do well with this much other canine stimulation.

There was also a band playing in the parking lot, a nice little three piece ensemble. David Carney, the impresario and host of Yappy Hour told me that they play for free to support the cause and because they happen to like dogs.

As I was leaving I asked a band member what the name of his group was. After he told me I turned to walk towards the car but was still within earshot when I heard him say, “He’ll never remember that.”

I resolved that despite the three or four glasses of wine (Mama Wordbones drove) I was going to go home and write it down immediately just to prove him wrong.

Of course I forgot to do that right away and about an hour later when I suddenly remembered to write it down, I had completely forgotten the name.

Dave texted me later and wrote “The musician is Mandy and Otis. Not aware of a “real” band name.”

The Wine Bin holds Yappy Hour on the third Friday of the month. That would put the next one on June 18th.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Free Lunch

The Stanford Grill had their press preview this afternoon. More accurately it should have been called the blogger free food preview. I didn’t meet any main stream media types but I sure did meet a lot of food bloggers.

I shared a large booth with JessieX, Dara Bunjon, and Harriet Griffiths. Dara writes Dara Does It and Harriet writes Food and Wine Blog. Of course everyone knows who Jessie is.

In the booth next to me was Kevin Rhee. Kevin writes Kevin and Ann Eat Everything with his sister Ann who lives in NYC. He’s a local guy, a graduate of Centennial High. His food blog is pretty funny and I’ve been remiss at not listing it with my other local faves. I will remedy that immediately.

Since HowChow has a real job in DC he wasn’t able to attend this afternoon though I was told he got the invite. And speaking of HowChow, he confirmed today that he will be able to do our podcast next Friday. He will be our first blogger guest.

And getting back to bloggers, I think Jessie and I were the only non food bloggers there. I told my fellow tablemates that I would leave the true critique of the food thing to them. For me, the complete sampling of entre’s they placed on the table was a rare lunch time feast. It was all good and you couldn’t beat the price.

We got desert too. In this case I will make a comment and single out the pineapple upside down cake for special recognition, and this is coming from a guy who’s not a big fan of pineapple.

After the feast was cleared away Juancarlo Parkhurst, the General Manager, showed us around the joint. It’s very comfortable feeling with lots of natural woods and stone. There is a gas fired fireplace in the main dining room with a firebox raised to shoulder height so that the view of the fire can be enjoyed throughout the space.

Best of all, they have a grand piano in the bar area. I’ve always felt that you can’t go wrong with a piano in a bar. It opens up all kinds of possibilities.

Mid Day Report

I haven’t posted as much as I would have liked to this week. It’s been a fairly frenetic week and I’m a little out of shape for frenetic weeks. They’ve been few and far between in my commercial real estate world for awhile now.

I spent a great deal of time in a car this week covering ground from Fort Meade to Gainesville, Virginia. I wasn’t the only local real estate guy spending time in NoVa either. This week, Columbia based COPT announced that they had acquired 15 acres of land for an office development site that is within tin cans and string distance from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Springfield. COPT continues to cozy up close to the defense intelligence community.

This very same community has been much on my radar this week too. The office building we are developing in Emerson just so happens to be targeted towards the same end user. We’ve started telling folks that our project is green, lean and mean. Green because we are building to a LEED Gold standard for energy and environmental design. Lean because we are building one of the largest floor plates in the region in a long rectangle. That translates into a great deal of natural light to flood the space. And finally, Mean because we are also building to a blast resistant standard that is far beyond the building code. It’s like the Toughbook of office buildings.

I’ve also been helping out some main stream media folks this week. They are working on stories about this growing sector of our country’s defense. Cyber is the new BRAC, if ya know what I mean. I’ll have more to say about that once they publish their stuff but suffice it to say for now that the experience was interesting.

As soon as I wrap up this post I’m heading over to the press preview at the Stanford Grill. I haven’t had lunch yet today so I’m hoping they lay out some good eats.

After that I think I’ll take the old black dog down to Yappy Hour at the Wine Bin in Ellicott City. It goes from six to nine. Nice night for it too.

Larry’s Take

As promised here is the link to the coverage of Mary Kay Sigaty’s event last night by Larry Carson in The Sun.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mary Kays Melting Pot

Mary Kay Sigaty should be happy with the turnout she received for her fundraiser in Wilde Lake tonight. With the notable exception of one local elected Dem, she was heartily embraced by her HoCo colleagues in the State Senate and the House of Delegates. Senators Kasemeyer and Robey were in attendance as well as Delegates Guzzone, Turner, and Pendergrass. Fellow council Dems, Calvin Ball and Jen Terassa were there and Courtney sent her regrets for her absence. Jim Robey offered up a glowing endorsement of Mary Kay on behalf of the Senate and House delegations.
Ken Ulman did his part too. Not only did he strongly endorse her reelection bid he also promised to actively work to help her keep her seat.

Not surprisingly, Liz was the only fellow elected Dem who didn’t post. Then again she did say that she was remaining neutral in this contest.

While I was talking to Guy Guzzone about the reelection prospects of Jen Terrasa, Jen herself came over to join the discussion. Needless to say she disagrees with my assessment that the job isn’t right for her and proceeded to make her case. We’ve agreed to get together for coffee and I told her that I would write a post about our meeting.

I also met Larry Walker, a candidate for the Board of Education. Larry is a fellow Wilde Lake High School alum so I liked the guy immediately.

And speaking of Larry, Larry Carson was there dutifully taking notes while the politicos sang. It struck me that this is the key difference between a real journalist and a blogger. While he was taking notes I was knocking back a couple of glasses of wine. I’ll link to his more studied piece of the event once it’s available online.

And speaking of wine. With the price of admittance to Councilperson Sigaty’s gathering at the Melting Pot restaurant you received two drink coupons. I used my first one right off but when I went back to the bar later for a reload I couldn’t find the second one. As I was fumbling in my pockets looking for it, Jon Weinstein came over and handed me his two tickets. He said he had to leave soon and hadn’t used them. I told him that the surest way to buy an Irishman’s vote is to buy him a drink. He then informed me that his wife was Irish. That makes him not half bad in my book.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Time to Show Some Love in District 4

Mary Kay Sigaty is holding a fundraiser at The Melting Pot restaurant in Wilde Lake Village Green tomorrow. This would be a good time for all those who care about the future of Columbia to show up and show her some love.

I think it would be particularly appropriate for Ken Ulman to attend and shower her with accolades for her work to make the Columbia Town Center redevelopment a reality. I think this is a great opportunity for him to give her a big ol’ endorsement before her alleged primary opponent makes his official announcement on Monday.

I see by her facebook page that Delegate Guy Guzzone is planning to attend but I do not see any other of her Democratic colleagues on the attendee list. I think it’s safe to assume that Liz won’t be there.

There’s still time. The event is from 5:00 to 7:00 and it’s forty five bucks at the door.

The Top Three

The Maryland political blog, Maryland Politics Watch, conducts a quarterly survey of the Maryland blogs that openly publish their blog visit statistics. In their most recent survey, Tales of Two Cities remains the third most visited local blog in the state behind Inside Charm City and Just Up The Pike.

We are gaining some traction though.

“The big story here is the end of Inside Charm City’s streak as the most-visited local blog since January 2008. Howard County’s Tales of Two Cities passed it in both March and April 2010 and Just Up the Pike passed it in March. These three are now effectively tied as the leading local blogs in the state.”

Thank you to all who visit here.

AK Gunning for MK

Count me as one of those who wasn’t surprised by the news that Alan Klein will challenge Mary Kay Sigaty in the Democratic primary for the District 4 county council seat. Last summer I wrote a post about the rumor that his political sponsor, Liz Bobo, was pushing him to make a run for this seat. In the comments section of that post Alan wrote “Liz has never asked me to run for any office. Others have, but not Liz. At this point, I have said yes to no one on this issue.”

I’m not buying that.

Ever since Mary Kay found her own voice on the Town Center redevelopment issue, Liz has been peeved. Despite her claims to only be concerned with “statewide issues” she has diligently worked behind the scenes with CoFoCoDo, TAG and HCCA to derail General Growth’s Properties ambitious plans to remake the county’s urban and cultural center. Having now failed at that, she is now working to exact revenge on her fellow Democrat.

Of course Liz still says she is neutral in this dogfight. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, Liz, referring to the Town Center debate, “said she would not openly take sides, though "it's no secret that I agree with [Klein] on this."

Not doubt that Liz and Alan were somewhat emboldened by the victory of Phil Kirsch over Linda Odum in the recent Columbia Council election in Wilde Lake. Phil was openly supported by Liz and Alan while Linda was seen as being more supportive of the Town Center plans.

Still, Alan Klein is about as deep as the water in Lake Kittamaqundi. As someone said to me recently, you can listen to him for about twenty minutes and he seems to put forth a good argument but once you get past that twenty minutes his logic sinks like the muck that lines the bottom of the lake.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Out of Pocket

An anonymous commenter (anon 1:58 PM) in this post wondered where I was today and if I was okay.

I'm okay. I was simply unavailable for most of the day. Thanks for asking.

I spent the day with, what for now at least I’ll refer to as a research team. They had enlisted me to help them understand the breadth and scope of the growing defense intelligence community in our midst. This involved a tour beginning this morning at National Business Park and then traveling on to Annapolis Junction, a loop around Fort Meade, Arundel Mills, Troy Hill, Columbia Town Center, Rivers Corporate Park, Fulton, Maple Lawn, Emerson Corporate Park and ending up at Savage Mill around 4:00 PM.

The stature of the local defense intelligence community just got raised up a big notch with the recent senate confirmation of General Keith Alexander as the commander of the newly created U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade. The economic impact from this development could potentially exceed that of BRAC which is just now beginning to ripple into the local economy.

None of my guests were from around here. One lived closer to DC, two came from Boston and one drove down from Pennsylvania. They were curious about our local culture and lifestyle. I shared my views of our schools, life in HoCo and development. At Emerson we all donned hard hats and yellow boots while our construction superintendent conducted a tour of our office project which is tailored to the specific needs of this new industry.

I left them at the Rams Head Tavern in Savage Mill where we ran into Steve Adler. They talked at length to Steve and the Rams Head manager, Gus Le Grand as well. I then drove all the way back across the county for a 5:00 o’clock appointment with Peanuts doctor.

I never made it into my office. When I got home and logged on I had fifty three emails in my work inbox, five of which were relevant.

And now, finally, I have a moment for the blog.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scene This Week In...

In an attempt to ignite some fire in the souls of the electorate, the HoCo GOP has announced a petition drive for a referendum to amend the county charter making it harder to push through a local tax increase. Dubbed the Taxpayer Protection Initiative, the change would require four votes instead of three to approve any new tax measure by the county council.

Just what HoCo needs, another petition drive.

Despite the extreme budget pressures related to decreased tax revenues resulting from the economic downturn, the council has not raised taxes for the past four years, even with a Democratic super majority on the council. This banner in Ellicott City advertising one of the upcoming performances of the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company perfectly captured my thoughts about this initiative.

On Sunday, Mama Wordbones and I went for a walk around Wilde Lake. This is one of my favorite walks in HoCo. When I lived in the Vantage Point neighborhood in Town Center it was also my regular morning run route.
By the boat house we spoke with a young man who had just finished kayaking around the lake. Mama Wordbones wondered about the health of the lake’s ecosystem and he indicated that if an abundance of waterfowl is any indication, the lake is doing quite well.

The view from the shore seems to further validate his observation.

HoCo Gains, Baltimore Loses

There were three employment related stories in the news the past week. On Tuesday, Legg Mason announced plans to cut 250 financial sector jobs in the Baltimore area reducing their local workforce by about 30%.

On Wednesday, Amports, the operator of two auto terminals at the Port of Baltimore , announced that it will layoff 116 workers as it moves some operations to Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, according to this story by Ryan Sharrow and Daniel J. Sernovitz in the Washington Business Journal, ITT Information Systems is “taking an additional 28,000 square feet of space in the Columbia Gateway Business Park” in Columbia and plans to hire more than 100 people.

It comes as no surprise that the jobs being added at ITT are in the cyber security field.

“The company’s Advanced Information Systems division is also a key player in the military’s war on cyber security.”

We are extremely fortunate to have a growth business in our midst.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grand Finale

As Mama Wordbones and I were walking around Lake Kittamaqundi this afternoon we talked about the impending demise of the bell / flag tower on the pier. After hearing about the plans for its removal a couple of weeks ago we were sort of surprised to see it still standing.

That’s when we came up with what we thought was a great idea.

Why not rig the tower for a controlled demolition as part of the grand finale of the 4th of July fireworks at the lakefront this summer?

You know, sort of like they when they take down an old hotel in Las Vegas.

There are, no doubt, a million reasons why this is probably a bad idea but it could provide a fitting end to this Columbia icon and would probably be pretty cool to watch too.

A Lively Discussion of Music and Politics

The news discussion portion of our podcast, “and then there’s that…” ran a little longer than usual this week. Paul and I got into a lively discussion about the HoCo GOP’s Taxpayer Protection Initiative and my recent endorsement of Dennis Schrader for the District 3 council seat.

And once again dogs were big in the local news. Whether it is a county police SWAT team shooting a family dog or an altercation involving a pit bull, local residents can’t seem to resist weighing in on all matters canine. The most recent story in The Sun about the pit bull that attacked and fatally wounded another dog in the Woodlands neighborhood has generated 49 comments so far, rivaling the feedback received for more heated issues such as the Town Center or Doughoregan development plans.

Our guest this week was Jean Parker, the general manager of Merriweather Post Pavilion a job she’s held for like forever. What many people may not realize is that Jean is a HoCo local girl who went to Mount Hebron High School. Jean shared her thoughts on the past present and future of the outdoor performing arts facility in a fun and informative exchange.

You can listen to the latest podcast here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Worst Busiest Starbucks

“I hate this Starbucks but I’m in here all the time,” Courtney Watson shared with me as we walked out to parking lot together this afternoon. I had stopped by the Route 40 coffee shop on my way back home after dropping Peanut off at Kiwanis Wallis Park. I spotted Courtney getting her drink while I waited for mine.

I wholeheartedly agree with her about this particular Starbucks. Out of all the Starbucks in HoCo, I like his one the least. It’s crowded, the outside tables are inches from the cars parked in front, and the parking itself is awful. Still, I go there whenever I’m on that side of town…like today.

Courtney told me she had been out canvassing for the past four hours and needed a cool drink to soothe her pipes. She and her campaign team had been circulating through the Kerger Road area of Elkridge earlier today. I asked her what she was hearing out there on the streets of Elkridge.

“There’s a lot of frustration with the federal and state levels,” she told me, but not so much on the local level. She felt that on the council level at least there was more of bipartisan spirit among the people she met today. She said that, for the most part, the people she encountered were willing listen to what she had to say, like the man one of her canvassers encountered. When asked if he’d like to speak with the current council president who was a couple of streets over at the time, he responded “Sure, send her over. I may as well hear what she has to say. I talked to thebald headed fellow last week.”


On the other hand it can’t hurt to have some sort of recognizable feature when you’re running for office.

Doggie DNA

As a dog owner, one of my “pet” peeves is fellow dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets. It only takes one inconsiderate bastard in a neighborhood to make the other dog owners in the hood look bad. Unless someone is caught in the act, it is impossible to say for certain whom the poop perpetrators are.

Well perhaps not impossible. According to this story by Jill Rosen in The Sun, a condo association in Baltimore is considering "mandated DNA tests for every dog in the building” in order to help them identify the excremental offenders.

“Under the proposal, every dog at Scarlett Place and guest dogs would be swabbed for a DNA sample — owners would then have to pay $50 each to cover the test and supplies. Dog owners would also pay an extra $10 per month per dog to cover the cost of having the building's staff scoop poop and send it to a lab. Feces, like saliva, contain tell-tale DNA.

If the lab identifies your dog as the pooper, that's a $500 fine.”

While this may seem a bit extreme and perhaps a bit unfair to those who properly police their pets I can understand the frustration of the non pet owners.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Cyber Report

I stumbled across the CyberMaryland report the other day. It’s a glossy sales pitch published by the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development for what the state is calling the “Epicenter for Information Security and Innovation.”


Anyway, the report makes the case for Maryland as a leader in the rapidly growing cyber security field. As our governor so eloquently states in his message on Page 3;

“Already a national epicenter of federal cyber security activities, Maryland is home to: the National Security Agency, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Defense Information Systems Agency headquarters beginning in 2010. Coupled with the expected location of the U.S. Cyber Command headquarters this year and the pending Department of Defense expansions of the intelligence and communications responsibilities at Fort Meade and at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland is the base for our nation’s efforts to defend and protect U.S. information networks.”

Amen to that brother Martin.

By the way, I counted five pages out of nineteen that included a picture of the gov including one with the prez, his new buddy.

The bottom line is that Maryland has a pretty compelling story to tell about it’s cyber security credentials and pedigree. They were doing cyber security over at Fort Meade long before anyone even thought about calling it that.

The report gives you a nice overview of the resources and talent in Maryland. What I didn’t like was the online interface provided by something called ISSUU . I found the navigation frustrating using a touch pad. Pages kept jumping around all over the place. I decided to download it instead but in order to do so I had to join ISSUU.

The joining process was equally cumbersome. I got locked out at one point and had to reboot my browser in order to get back in. Oh the trials I endure to blog

I’ll try and save any interested readers the same trouble by somehow linking my downloaded PDF version to this blog. I have no clue about how that might be accomplished and I am certainly open to suggestions.

Car Talk Two

The prognosis is in. The repairs to the BMW will run just over $1,200.00. While this may seem high to anyone who’s never owned a German sports car, I can tell you that it is on the low end of what I had anticipated. Danny Grant called me yesterday and told me that the car will be ready today. Decision time approaches.

There is another twist to this car dilemma. I neglected to point out in the previous post that the BMW was my mother’s car. When she passed away a little over six years ago, I purchased the car out of the estate. It had 14,000 miles on it at the time. She had waited until she had successfully raised seven kids, largely on her own, and was in her late seventies before purchasing a sports car that she had always wanted.

This of course only further complicates my decision process.

On the other hand, my very practical mother would undoubtedly advise keeping the SUV and offing the Beemer.

For now, I’ve decided to enjoy the car for the rest of this month. This is a great time to enjoy a car like this and that is exactly what I intend to do. Decision deferred…for now.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

District 3 Council Endorsement

It’s a long way to November but it’s not too soon to start lining up behind some of the contenders. In fact, I think I’ll spread out my picks over the course of the next six months or so in order to present the case for each individual, as opposed to doing them in groups. I’ll start with the easier ones.

It will probably come as no surprise that I like Dennis Schrader in his bid to reclaim the District 3 council seat he held from 1994 to 1998. Jen Terrassa is the first term incumbent.

Jen Terrasa is a nice person who works hard. I just don’t think the job agrees with her.

Dennis, on the other hand, is the kind of person who understands the dynamics of the burgeoning cyber security sector and how our county can best benefit from it. I find him to be a political moderate as well. His experience in planning and development with the University of Maryland Medical Center would also be a real asset to have on the council as the county begins to embark on it’s next growth spurt.

Until last November when he was our guest on “and then there’s that…,” I probably knew his wife Sandy better than him. The more I know him, the more I like him. You can listen to that podcast here.

Another Day in Paradise

The forecast today in the header of The Washington Post read “Partly Sunny.” Mostly cloudy would have been more appropriate.

This morning, as I grabbed a cup of coffee with Bert Wilson at Bean Hollow on Main Street, Gretchen Shuey asked me how I was doing.

“Just another day in paradise,” I replied.

With our coffee in hand Bert escorted me across the street to his Main Street renovation project. Bert’s wife Suzanne, and “T” Garland are the soon to be proprietors of The Obladi, a four room inn in the building that for many years was occupied by Alda Bapiste Castaldi, the longtime HoCo seamstress who passed away in 2006. In yet an another example of how small this county is, Alda even made Suzanne’s wedding gown back in the day.

Suzanne and T are giving the old place a real once over. All the mechanical and plumbing systems have been replaced, new windows and skylights have been installed and the former brown siding has been replaced with purple siding.

“That’s actually plum, “Suzanne told me.

I asked her if the historic district commission was okay with that color. She told me that not only were they okay with it they were also great to work with. She told me that Ken Short conducted a complete forensic study of the building and determined that it dates back to 1838.

They plan to begin hosting guests on August 1st.

And yes, the name does come from that Beatles song.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Strange but True

I’m beginning to get the hang of using my new smart phone though I have gone through a bit of an adjustment period. It is a far different experience from my last phone. This phone demands a more complex relationship with me.

The most outwardly notable accommodation I’ve made so far is wearing one of those cyborg looking earpieces. No longer will I cast a judgmental look at those who wear them constantly throughout the day as a fashion accessory. Now I understand. It’s a pain and a hassle to turn the thing off and on even with the fancy Jawbone headset the Verizon guy sold me. It claims to use military technology to eliminate noise. It does a good job too. Mama Wordbones tells me she can hardly hear me.

There are a few glitches on the data side too. Yesterday when I pulled up Jim Kraft from my contacts, I got his name and information but Gail Bates picture.

And they say politics makes for strange bedfellows.

Referendum Fatigue

Just when you thought you may have heard the last of countywide referendums for awhile, the HoCo GOP has announced a referendum effort to limit the ability of the county council to raise taxes. Dubbed the Taxpayer Protection Initiative, the referendum would amend the county charter to require four votes instead of three to pass any local tax increase.

Is this a case of much ado about nothing?

Despite extreme budget pressures which led to furloughs and hiring freezes, the county hasn’t raised local taxes in the last four years even though there has been a solid Democratic majority on the council.

I suppose it makes for good election year rhetoric though I do think that we are fast approaching referendum fatigue in HoCo. Once again we’ll have claims that some petition gatherers are misrepresenting the issue and that the signature requirements in HoCo are an affront to democracy and mom’s apple pie.

In This Months Business Monthly

“You went a little light this month.” Mama Wordbones said after I read her my May column for The Business Monthly, “you didn’t try to stir anything up.”

True, though I don’t necessarily feel compelled to “stir something up” every month I suppose that more often than not my column gravitates towards the more controversial topics in HoCo.

Not this month. This month I just sat back and enjoyed the ride as we visited CG’s campus for a weekend.

You can read this month’s column here.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

45 Gigapixels

I first became aware of this 45 gigapixel photo from a post on the Two Sentz blog. It’s a panoramic view of the huge Burj Khalifa Tower development in Dubai. It is amazing how far you can zoom in and pick out the smallest details all over this massive project whose centerpiece is the tallest building in the world.

As I looked around I began to notice that, for all of this construction going on, there were very few workers in the picture. A close inspection of the building cranes revealed that most were idle.

I think they may have run into a little over building problem in Dubai.

The link to the photo is here. The video is shows a bit about how it was made.

Coming Soon to a Sears Near You

The two Sears stores in HoCo may soon spout new stores within the stores. The parent company, Sears Holdings, has launched a nationwide initiative to lease portions of their existing stores to other retailers. According to this story by Jonathan O’Connell in Capital Business, the company “is ratcheting up efforts to lease or sell space at existing stores across the country, creating an online registry of its properties and listing nearly all of its stores there for interested tenants and buyers.”

The website shows the 15,733 square foot auto center in the Columbia Mall as a potential “opportunity” as well as the 85,664 square foot Sears Essentials store in the Chatham Station Shopping Center.

"Over the course of the recession, retailers, shopping centers, everyone has had to get more creative and look for more sources of revenue," said Jesse Tron, a spokesman for the International Council of Shopping Centers. He said customers frequently don't know the difference between a tenant and other Sears departments. "They basically just build out a little section of the store so you don't even feel like you're in another part of the store," he said."

I wouldn’t be surprised if Sears ended up leasing the Chatham in its entirety to another retailer or two. The rebranding of the former K Mart to Sears Essentials seems to have failed to generate much excitement with shoppers.

On the other hand the auto center at the Columbia Sears has already been leased to a private operator for years.

Car Talk

I like cars. While I wouldn’t exactly call myself a car nut, I do posses a little more than a passing interest in automobiles. As such, I actually own two cars, one of which I drive every day and other of which has sat in my garage unused for the past year. It is currently nonfunctioning.

Since the one car has been out of service I’ve come to realization that I really don’t need two cars. It is almost the same realization that some owners of swimming pools get when the kids grow up and move out. The fun factor begins to be outweighed by the expense and the hassle.

This past weekend I decided to simplify that part of my life and divest of a vehicle. Now I need to figure out which one.

The car that is currently functional is a 2004 Ford Explorer with about 70,000 miles. The dysfunctional car is a 2000 BMW 323i with about 40,000 miles. The Explorer has proven handy for bicycle outings and yard work. The BMW is just a fun car to drive. Right now I’d have to say that it’s the emotional favorite.

This morning I had the BMW towed to Benchmark Motors. When I got there I spoke with the owner, Danny Grant. The last time I had this car serviced I took it to Russell BMW in Catonsville. To say that I was disappointed with their work would be an understatement. Benchmark had come highly recommended.

“I need you to help me decide which car I should keep,” I told Danny.

He’s supposed to give me his prognosis by Friday.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stanford Grill to Open May 24th

Okay, I admit I got it wrong the first time when said The Stanford Grill would open in March. At least I owned up to my premature speculation when I later posted that it would open in mid May.

May 24th still counts as mid May, doesn’t it?

I received an email today from the new restaurants PR firm informing me that The Stanford Grill, “a restaurant offering fresh American cuisine made from scratch every day, opens May 24 at 8900 Stanford Blvd. in Columbia.”

That’s the former Lone Star Steakhouse in case you haven’t been keeping up. It’s one of those uniquely Columbia locations that you can see but you can’t figure out how to get to.

It looks and sounds like it might be worth the effort to try.

“Stanford Grill offers traditional and distinct chef-inspired American entrees, specializing in hickory-grilled steak, Eastern Shore crab cakes, wood-grilled fish and wood-fired rotisserie chicken, which guests can pair with red or white wine. Further, Stanford Grill features a full bar offering alcoholic and nonalcoholic drinks, specializing in fine wine and creative cocktails.”

It doesn’t look much like the old Lone Star. The new owners, Howard County based Blue Ridge Restaurant Group have easily spent a million bucks giving the former roadhouse themed building an extreme makeover.
I’ll have more to say about the watering hole the weekend prior to the opening. Somewhat surprisingly this blog helped me snag an invite to the “press preview” prior to opening which I’m hoping includes plenty of free drinks and food.

Stay tuned.

Bob’s Got a Good Point

As Maryland’s Transportation Secretary under former gov Bob Ehrlich, Bob Flanagan was a proponent of mixed used development at rail stations. As a candidate for county council he has come out against one of two major rail station development proposals in HoCo.

Bob’s got a good point here. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, his opposition to Preston Partners attempt to rezone the former Coca-Cola site in Hanover from its heavy industrial zoning to Transit Oriented Development (TOD) is based on the "very real need for industrial and manufacturing property," in HoCo.

Industrial developers have actually coveted this site for years. When Coca-Cola ultimately decided to divest of this land they solicited offers from the development community. Most of the offers they received back were based on an assumption of some combination of warehouse, flex and single story office product permitted under existing M-2 zoning. Preston outbid their competitors by betting that they could secure a zoning change to TOD that would allow for a mix of high density residential, retail, and office instead.

In order for a property to be considered for TOD zoning it must be “within 3,500 feet of a MARC Station.” That’s just over a half mile. If you go by road distance, the Coca-Cola parcel is a little over a mile away which would seem to put it beyond the reach of qualifying for TOD.

Not so fast, Preston declared. They have pointed to a road easement granted to the parcel dating back to 1749 that runs along the railroad tracks. This easement put the edge of property within that half mile limit.

Denial of TOD zoning to Preston won’t necessarily preclude a TOD development at the Dorsey MARC station either. Though significantly smaller in scale, the large surface parking lot adjacent to the station has the potential to be redeveloped with structured parking and a mix of residential and retail uses.

The Cyber Security Corridor

The pieces are rapidly falling into place for the I-95 corridor between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore to become the world’s center for the nascent cyber security business. According to this article by Marjorie Censer in Capital Business, “More than a dozen companies with locations near Fort Meade have indicated they are expanding cyber practices, according to the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.”

It’s all about location, location, location.

“The government is doing its part by relocating the Defense Information Systems Agency from Falls Church to Fort Meade, Md. and establishing U.S. Cyber Command and the Navy's U.S. Fleet Cyber Command at Fort Meade. The base, just south of Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, is already home to the National Security Agency.

The southern anchor could be the new Department of Homeland Security headquarters going up in southeast Washington. In between, sits NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, off the Baltimore Washington Parkway, and the University of Maryland's College Park campus."

Of course I do have a vested interest in seeing this happen with our speculative office building project in Emerson now just five months away from completion.

Bring it on!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Politician as Planner

According to Courtney Watson, twenty percent of the county councilpersons time is spent on zoning issues. Since the council also sits as the zoning board they are tasked with some of the same challenges faced by planning professionals, weighing individual property owners’ rights and interests against the greater public good.

After Courtney placed the one dissenting vote against Pat McCuan’s planned redevelopment of the property at the intersection of US Route 1 and Montevideo Road I asked her what her objections were. She told me she “wasn't sold on the additional drive through lanes allowed for the restaurant…. It doesn't mean I don't like the project, but that I wasn't convinced the changes needed to be made to make the project viable.”

It’s a tough call. The ability to have a drive thru window is often a prerequisite for attracting a chain restaurant. According to this article by Tom Vanderbilt in Slate, “drive-throughs account for some 65 percent of McDonald's U.S. sales—a stunning demonstration of the radical shift in traffic culture, and increase in driving, since the early 1970s. The window has become so crucial that McDonald's actually demolished an outpost that was slated for renovation in San Luis Obispo, Calif., after the city upheld its ban on drive-throughs. (A company spokesman said, "We can't build a million-dollar McDonald's and not have a drive thru. We just can't do it.")”

Without the ability to provide a drive through window for a restaurant, the developer may not be able to attract a restaurant. Without a national credit restaurant chain to anchor the project the developer may not be able to secure financing. Without financing the project won’t be built and the redevelopment of the Route 1 corridor could be further delayed.

On the other hand, San Luis Obispo isn’t the only municipality taking a hard look at drive through windows “as people question the drive-through's environmental impact, its place in the evolving landscape of obesity (a 1,420-calorie Hardee's Monster Thickburger without having to leave your seat!), and even who has the right to step up to its crackly intercom.”

The politician planner is left to decide which of these paths is in the best interests of the community.

Playing With My Phone

I never played with my old mobile phone. Aside from texting on occasion I pretty much used it for what it was, just a phone. I can’t say the same thing about my new smart phone. I’ve been playing with it off and on all weekend.

The difference is the whole apps thing. Truly, as the Apple iPhone commercials often point out, there is an app for that no matter what that actually is. So far I’ve added apps for measurement conversions, real estate, and writing. I’ve added one that turns the phones camera strobe into an LED flashlight and one that uses the phones GPS function to tell me where I can buy the cheapest gas relative to my current location.

I’ve added silly stuff too like the app that lets me use Samuel Jackson quotes from the movie Pulp Fiction for ringtones and another that identifies the constellations in the sky overhead. I’ve also added apps and then quickly deleted them like an app of useless facts. I decided that I already have enough of those.

The shear number of these apps is almost overwhelming and so far the ones I’ve downloaded have all been free. Many of these free apps contain a line or two of advertising at the bottom of the screen which seems to explain why they are free to the user. Build a great app and the advertisers will pay to hitch a ride.

I never knew a phone could be so much fun.

As far as the whole Apple versus Google phone thing I have to say that I really don’t have iPhone envy anymore. While Apple’s smart phone is much more elegant than the Droid, the fun factor seems to be about the same.