Last month, at the primary candidate’s forum in District 4 / 12B, when Alan Klein solemnly spoke of Columbia’s values I had a good chuckle. I mean here is a guy who only moved to Columbia in 2004 and yet he spoke as if he was one of Jim Rouse’s original disciples.
He did get me thinking about what some refer to as “Columbia’s shared values,” as if such a thing actually exists. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a fine thing for people to be accepting of others. I grew up with all that in Columbia, but as I grew into an adult and traveled outside the new town to continue my education I came to discover that Columbia wasn’t really all that unique in this regard. The genius of Jim Rouse was in how he packaged it with all of his other community innovations (open space, open schools, etc.) to sell his massive real estate development to the home buying public.
And not everyone who came to Columbia in those early years bought into everything Rouse espoused either, like my mother.
Our family moved to Columbia in 1968 shortly after my father died. In reentering the workforce, my mother took a job with the Food and Drug Administration in Rockville. At the time, most of her friends were living in the Baltimore area and so the choice of Columbia was largely based on location.
That is not to say she wasn’t sold on the other attributes of the planned community. She liked the open space and the other amenities like the neighborhood pools and mini bus service. She didn’t care much for the interfaith centers though. Mom liked her traditional church and she didn’t need Jim Rouse to tell her how to be ecumenical. In all other ways mom was an involved member of the new community, volunteering on boards and committees. That was just simply a community value that she never shared.
You can read this month’s column here.