Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Ellicott City is a good place to get in the mood for Halloween. The old mill town has its share of spirits both old and new. After grabbing a cup of coffee this afternoon I made a quick spin around town with my camera to try and capture some of that vibe.
My first stop was the former Jordan’s restaurant on Main Street. If you look through the windows you’ll see the tables set for dinner even though the restaurant has been closed for over two months now. That was a little creepy.
Up along the railroad tracks I spotted this abandoned house. As I was taking pictures of it a train approached. The squeal of the train along the rails sent a chill through my bones.

Then of course there is the former St. Marys College. No doubt some brave souls will venture on to these grounds when darkness falls this evening.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Jim Rouse Was Not an Oracle

Photo Credit: City Paper
Bob Tennenbaum was the chief architect for Columbia in the early years. He worked at Jim Rouse’s side as Columbia took shape on the farm lands of Howard County. Recently he remarked to me that he never heard Jim use the word “vision.”

You’d never know that by listening to the debate over General Growths redevelopment plans for Columbia Town Center. Proponents and opponents frequently bring up Jim’s “vision” for Columbia when arguing their points.

Jim Rouse was a real estate developer. All real estate developers are visionaries by necessity. They possess the ability to see homes and shopping centers on empty fields. They can “see” bustling modern marketplaces in dilapidated urban wharves. This is an essential tool to their success because the most important skill a successful developer needs is salesmanship. A developer needs to convince politicians and financiers buy into his plans. To do that he needs to articulate a vision of his plans to compliment his architectural renderings and colorful layouts.

This vision needs to be understood in its context. It is an essential part of the “sell.”

For example: Early plans for Columbia included a dedicated roadway system for mini buses. This was a part of Rouse’s plan that distinguished it from other developments. It was widely touted as a mass transportation innovation in those early years and some of the roadways were actually built. It was later abandoned because it proved to be economically unfeasible.

Does that mean his vision was flawed?

Hardly. Like any developer he simply adjusted his plans and moved on.

That is the other skill required of a real estate developer; the ability to adapt to change.

For example: Rouse worked hard to get General Electric to locate a massive appliance park in Columbia. He believed Columbia needed a combination of heavy and light industry jobs to succeed. When GE decided to abandon Columbia and consolidate manufacturing operations in Louisville, Kentucky, Rouse adjusted his plans. Realizing that Columbia’s labor force was changing from what he originally expected, the company exercised its option to buy back the industrial park from GE and created Columbia Gateway Corporate Park.

Those who “reach back” and point to what Jim Rouse may have said forty years ago seem to forget this. Jim Rouse was not an oracle. He was a successful real estate developer who understood that in order to prosper, you need to adapt.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Financial “Windfall”

In a recent letter to the editor of The Columbia Flier, Wilde Lake resident, Mike Berla wrote “General Growth can expect the value of its holdings in Columbia to increase by many hundreds of millions of dollars, possibly as much as a billion dollars, if it is granted the residential and commercial density it is proposing. A significant share of the windfall created by rezoning should be retained by the public.”

What does he think property taxes are?

According to the economic impact study prepared by Bay Area Economics “the proposed Downtown development would generate approximately $47.6 million in County revenues, an additional $264.4 million in state revenues, and $10.7 million in Columbia Association revenues, while the Status Quo Scenario alternative would generate approximately $3.7 million in County revenues, an additional $22.8 million is state revenues, and $1.0 million in Columbia Association revenues”

And that comes without taking the risk that the developer takes in order to bring this plan to fruition. Talk about a windfall!

Town Center Getting a New Pub

As previously reported by HowChow, Union Jacks British Pub will soon open in the space formerly occupied by That’s Amore in Town Center. The space has now come full cycle from night spot to dining spot to night spot. Before That’s Amore took opened the space was occupied by the Sea Galley which had a pretty good nightlife thing going for awhile.

While on one hand anything that brings even modicum of life after dark to Town Center is welcome, a pub in this location only further points up the deficiencies in the current Town Center layout. Patrons of this restaurant are most likely to park in the surface parking lot across the street from the office building. Crossing over to restaurant requires navigating a crosswalk that runs across a main entry point into the mall and traffic coming from three directions. It is not exactly a pedestrian friendly environment.

On the other hand I suppose it could be a good sobriety test. If you can make it back to your car without getting hit, you’re probably sober enough to drive.

By the way, don’t bother going to the website listed on the banner. It isn’t active yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Verizon iPhone in 2010?

I‘ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have iPhone envy. This affliction has worsened since I got my LG Voyager back in February. I hate this phone. If the iPhone is the Trump Tower then my LG Voyager is skid row.

Its days as my portable communication device may finally be numbered.

According to this story by Rex Crum on, the iPhone may become available on the Verizon network as early as next year.

“Neither AT&T nor Apple have ever said how long their exclusive agreement for the iPhone is supposed to last. Marshall believes the deal will end in June 2010, and Apple isn't immune to having multiple carriers offer the iPhone, as it has reached multi-carrier deals in several countries.

Marshall says he believes "the chances are high" that Verizon will get the iPhone in the second half of next year, partly because adding Verizon as a carrier would help Apple extend its reach in the smartphone market.”

My long days in the app-less desert may soon be over.

Four Stars @ Fort Meade

President Obama has formally nominated Lt. General Keith Alexander to become the commander of the US Cyber Command. According to this story by William Welsh in Federal Computer Week on October 16th, Alexander has been nominated “both for the grade of four-star general and to serve as commander of the Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Md. Alexander also will continue serving as chief of the National Security Agency and Central Security Service.”

Predictions of the economic impact of the cyber security command move to Fort Meade vary wildly from 20,000 new jobs to 50,000 new jobs. This will be in addition to the influx of new jobs associated with BRAC.

The bottom line is that this is a huge economic plum for Howard and Anne Arundel counties.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tales Turns Three

This month marks the third anniversary of Tales of Two Cities. Three years ago this blog began as the last statewide election cycle was in its final weeks. Three years later the silly season is on us again and this time around Tales of Two Cities will be blogging about the races from the get go. I hope to keep it interesting and perhaps a little edgy too.

These three years have been pretty gratifying for me. Three years ago, before I attached a site meter to the blog, my best guess was that about 200 people visited here every month. Now, thanks to the aid of Site Meter and Google Analytics, I know that a little over 10,000 visitors pass through here every month. Over half of those visitors qualify as being “absolutely unique” which is described by Google as being “the number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period. A Unique Visitor is determined using cookies.” So far this year, the number of visitors has increased every month.

Over the past year or so, I have been approached about selling ad space on Tales of Two Cities and I have now decided to give it a shot. I admit to finding the thought of receiving some compensation for this labor appealing, particularly in these recessionary times. I could use a new digital camera and it would be nice to buy flowers for Mama Wordbones once in awhile. I figure that if I actually generate some revenue I can justifiably refer to blogging as something other than an obsession. I do promise I won’t junk the place up with things like ad words. What you see now is pretty much what Tales of Two Cities will look like with advertising and I reserve the right to refuse to accept any ad that I think would be inappropriate. I don’t need the money that bad.

So what will an ad cost here?

I haven’t quite figured that out yet so I’m going to start by suggesting that anyone interested in advertising here drop me an email at Any reasonable offer will not be refused providing, as previously stated, the proposed ad in question is deemed by the Tales of Two Cities Revenue Authority to be appropriate.

I would also like to encourage readers to submit ideas, hot tips, political intrigues and suspicions of malfeasance. I have no interest in conspiracy theories. Anonymous commenter’s will always provide plenty of that.

Thanks to all the visitors for three good years. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep posting.

Already in Hot Water

Today I am camped out at Kernan Hospital in Baltimore while Peanut has some dental surgery. Knowing full well that my coffee choices would be limited to the basic Maxwell swill that is common in hospital cafeterias, I stopped at my local Starbucks on the way and grabbed a three pack of their new instant coffee product, Via. I figured I’d be able to snag a cup of hot water but I wasn’t sure if they’d charge me.

I should have known better. It cost me a nickel but I’m really not complaining. Though I still don’t think the VIA product tastes as good as the cup I get at the store it is still much better than your typical institutional offering.

This also got me to thinking. If this Via thing really catches on will we see a new demand for instant hot water taps?

How long before the bean counters in the accounting department at the hospital realize that they could probably double the price of a cup of hot water by calling it “Via ready” water?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Say Cheese!

Some members of the Wilde Lake Village Board appear to be having difficulty coming to grips the demographic changes in Columbia and the resultant new retail realities. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun yesterday, “board members have already created a laundry list of stores they'd like in the renewed center - a list remarkably similar to what existed at the center a decade or more ago.”

“The board suggested a coffee shop, hardware store, movie theater, cheese shop and deli among other ideas. A pub, perhaps like the former JK's Pub that once existed in the center, was also mentioned.”

A cheese shop!

I actually worked in the Cheese Shop that was an original tenant in the village center. Even back in those days the store made more money selling sandwiches to construction workers than it did by selling cheese to village residents. The home construction activity eventually moved on from Wilde Lake and Harpers Choice to other villages, business dropped off dramatically and the store eventually closed.

The hardware store and the pub didn’t make it either.

I think the board would better served by learning from the centers history than seeking to repeat it.

Will Trent take on Ken?

Trent Kittleman, widow of former State Senator Bob Kittleman, is openly discussing the possibility of challenging Ken Ulman in the 2010 county executive race. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, Ms Kittleman said she is “forming an exploratory committee to see if I can raise an adequate amount of money.”

The going price for the county executive race is roughly a million bucks. Raising that kind of money requires a marquee name and political capital as well. These are two things that Trent certainly has. Assuming that she can raise the money she likely could give Ken a real contest.

“Kittleman, 64, of West Friendship, is a lawyer and former congressional staffer who served as both deputy transportation secretary under Governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr, a Republican, and later as president and CEO of the Maryland Transportation Authority, leaving office after Ehrlich's 2006 defeat.”

She’s hip to the brave new world of social networking too. Unlike Bob Flannagan who is challenging Courtney Watson for the District 1 council seat, Trent is already on Facebook.

But does she twitter?

Babies and Old Dogs

Our neighbors Melanie and Bart are members of the old dogs club. They are the owners of One Eyed Jack, a thirteen year old black male Labrador retriever with one eye. Melanie and Bart are also expecting their second child.

The other day I ran into Melanie as she was walking back from the bus stop with Jack and we stopped to chat. I commented that Jack seems to be doing well. She shared with me how he has his good days and his bad days lately. She is concerned that he’ll start needing more attention just around the time they’ll be busy with a new baby in the house.

That got me to thinking about old dogs and babies. They both require lots of attention, one on the way into the world and the other on the way out. They both lack the skill to communicate with words about what is ailing them.

Our oldest dog, Lucky, will turn fourteen this January. Already she gets us up twice a night to relieve herself. Much like parents with a newborn, Mama Wordbones and I will take turns getting up out of a warm bed in the middle of the night and going downstairs to let her out. Sometimes this task includes stepping out in the cold night air to help her get up the steps.

Two of the other members of the old dogs club in our neighborhood also have newborns in their home. I suppose the natural progression of things means that in the next few years there will also be a progression of new puppies.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Keeping Us in the Dark Ages

As I was perusing The New York Times this morning I came across a full page ad promoting something called the Zagat Wine Club. The club promises to help members choose wines much like their renowned Zagat Guide has helped diners find excellent restaurants.

“There’s no obligation. You can change any wines or delay delivery. Each case arrives with detailed tasting notes and a full money-back guarantee.”

As someone who enjoys a good glass of wine, this sounded right up my alley.

But wait, in the small print at the bottom of the page was a list of the 32 states and the District of Columbia where the club can deliver. The state of Maryland was not among them.

I’m not surprised. Much as the food workers union fights to limit your grocery choices around here, the Maryland State Licensed Beverage Association works to limit your booze choices.

The MSLBA is the largest trade association in the state. They maintain a powerful lobby that aggressively fights to protect the interests of liquor store owners and dealers at the expense of the consumer.

That’s why we are one of the 18 states where you can’t join the Zagat Wine Club.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bikes for Babes

One of the requests on Mama Wordbones birthday list was a new pair of bicycle pants. She is new to concept of sportswear designed specifically for cyclists. She’s always been more of a tennis girl.

Anyway, about two weeks ago when we were in the Race Pace store in Columbia, she had a discussion about the “comfort” issue with bicycle seats with one of the Race Pace guys, Jay Mulholland.

“You wear bike pants don’t you?” he asked.

“What are bike pants?” she replied.

That conversation and subsequent tutorial on the importance of having both the right seat and the proper pants ended up with him telling us of a new bike shop exclusively for women.

“It’s the first of its kind in the country.”


Today we paid a visit to Bella Bikes in the Normandy Shopping Center next to (no surprise) Race Pace Bicycles. The stores are closely affiliated. In fact they are so closely affiliated that you have to walk into Race Pace in order to get into Bella Bikes.

Still, it is very much a separate operation and is run by an affable Colorado native, Diana Smith. In short order she had helped Mama Wordbones pick out some shorts to try on and we ended making a purchase.

I’m not sure about the claim to being the “first bike shop in the country devoted exclusively to women” but if it’s true that’s pretty dam cool.

My Politics

Most blogs that are identified as political blogs tend to take a well defined ideological approach to their postings. They are typically aligned with either the Democratic Party or Republican and a few align themselves with the Libertarians.

I don’t consider myself any of the above but since winning the Mobbie for Best Political Blog, I’ve become a little more sensitized to these labels. Whenever I write something that takes a shot at a Republican, some commenter’s label me as Democrat. Whenever I write a post about growth and development other commenter’s label me as a Republican.

My politics are really quite simple. I am one of the approximately 35,000 residents of Howard County who list themselves as Independent or Unaffiliated. I also happen to be decidedly pro business and I’m more attracted to the common sense approach to politics espoused by former county executive, Chuck Ecker, who just happens to be a Republican.

I have voted for and supported members of both parties whom I believe come closest to that ideal. For example, in the last statewide elections, I voted for former Republican governor Bob Ehrlich and for current Democratic county executive Ken Ulman.

I strive to be an equal opportunity offender.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Global Center for Information Technology

This morning at a BRAC symposium sponsored by the Baltimore Business Journal, Tom Sadowski said that Central Maryland is on track to become the global center of information technology due largely to the impact of BRAC.

Hyperbole aside, there are some hard numbers to back up his assertion. The relocation of the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) to Fort Meade from Northern Virginia puts the military equivalent of Google, Microsoft and the Internet right in our backyard. The government is projected to spend over $100 billion on defense IT over the next few years with 80% of that money going to private contractors.

Tom Sadowski is the president and CEO of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore. Joining him on the panel were Rosemary Budd, North East regional program manager and principal with Booz Allen Hamilton, Tom Mottley with RKS Realty, and James Richardson, the director of the Hartford County Economic Development Authority.

The panel also stressed the need to attract a younger, highly skilled workforce. Over 50% of the employees relocating to both Aberdeen Proving Grounds and Fort Meade will be “retirement eligible” in 2011.

This mornings meeting was held at the new Westin Hotel at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport. This was the first time I’ve visited this property and I found it to be pretty impressive.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

“It’s Nuts”

Tuesday night Mama Wordbones and I attended the Baltimore Speaker Series October event which featured Jean-Michel Cousteau. After his hour long presentation on the world’s waters he took questions from audience. The first question was “Do you drink bottled water?”

“No,” he replied and proceeded to explain that he believes the water from the average tap is as good as anything in a bottle. After offering his views on the myriad of reasons why he thinks this is a disturbing trend he summed up by saying simply,“Its nuts.”

Not surprisingly, he holds the same view of plastic grocery bags.

Red Meat for the Faithful

Just as the overblown story about Longfellow Elementary School students singing a song about President Obama was running out of steam, Delegate Warren Miller refueled the fire. In this story by Brittany Morehouse on, Miller had this to say:

"You could very easily change these lyrics and put George Bush in there and there would be an outcry," said Warren Miller, the Maryland delegate who represents Howard County. "I think they're over the top. I think there are other countries that I could name where the children are required to do this for their dictator leaders."

Come on Warren, that’s a little lame and you know better. All statements like that do is to further fan the flames of political intolerance. From all appearances, the school children were merely celebrating a message of “Yes We Can.” The election of the nation’s first African American president just happened to be the embodiment of that message. If Obama were a Republican I doubt you would have said anything.

What really got me though was his feigned concern for the Longfellow teacher who has been harassed with threatening phone calls and messages. "That's one of the reasons we need to take politics out of our school system.”

And isn’t that precisely what you are doing by weighing in on this Mr. Miller?

All Miller is doing here is tossing more red meat to more radical elements of his party. That seems to be something he’s enjoyed doing lately.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

My Buddy Junior

I think I may have said it before but just in case I’ll run the risk of repeating myself. I hate my phone. My new phone hasn’t stood a chance with me ever since I saw my first iPhone. I have iPhone envy.

Still, occasionally I have been pleasantly surprised to discover a new feature of the phone. I’m not much for manuals so I normally discover these things entirely by accident. So it was when I discovered I could use voice commands to call the saved numbers on the phone. This is no small deal for me. One of many indignities of getting older is the deteriorating eyesight thing. All my young life I had 20/20 vision. All of my old life I spend looking for reading glasses. Reading the screen on my mobile phone without glasses is a complete exercise in futility. Being able to simply tell the phone what to do is huge. It’s not perfect but it usually works pretty well.

Until yesterday.

I was driving home and I decided to return the call of one of my college buddies, JR. “Call JR,” I told the phone.

“Did you say call Gags?” the mechanical female voice responded.

“No,” I replied.

“Did you say Jim?” it asked this time.

“No,” I replied.

“Did you say Denise,” it asked.

Now I’m thinking it’s really off, “No,” I replied with a slightly agitated tone.

“Please try again.” It gave up after three tries.

“Call JR,” I said as clearly and succinctly as I possibly could this time.

“Did you say call Gags?” it asked and proceeded to repeat the exact same progression of wrong choices.

Then I had my “Aha” moment. “Call junior,” I said.

Bingo. It worked. Houston we have contact.

Federal Lawsuit Update 5

It’s kind of hard to keep track of the myriad of lawsuits filed by Paul Kendall and his merry band of plaintiffs. I often get confused as to which one was filed over the referendum debacle, which one was filed to stop the Harris Teeter and Wegmans grocery stores and which one was filed to overturn 15 years of county zoning decisions.

What I do know is that on Monday, United States District Judge J. Frederick Motz dismissed another one. This time it was Civil Case No. JFM-09-660 which was filed against the county and state Board of Elections and Ann M. Balcerzak, Betty Nordaas, Robert Walker and Linda Lamone.

The judges’ order was short and sweet.

1. The motion to dismiss filed by defendants Balcerzak and Nordaas is granted;
2. The motion to dismiss filed by defendant Howard County is granted; and
3. Plaintiff’s claims against all defendants are dismissed.

Anyone wanna bet they’ll file another motion to reconsider?

Thanks again and a wag of the wordbones tail to reader and commenter Lotsabogeys for keeping me current on this litigation.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

It’s a Traffic Data Collection Device

This past June I wrote a post about an odd looking contraption I spotted at the intersection of Roundhill Road and Doncaster Drive in Ellicott City. I made a couple of attempts to find out what it was but came up empty.

Today I saw another one.
This time it was set up at the intersection of Berger Road and Gerwig Lane in Columbia. I parked the car and went over to check it out. That’s when I saw this tag on the black box at the base of it.
I’m still not sure what type of data it is supposed to collect but three months after one of these things appeared in Ellicott City the intersection changed from a two way stop to a four way stop.

Stay tuned.

The History of the Proposed Walgreens Site

Walgreens proposal to build a new pharmacy on the site of the former BB&T bank branch site at the corner of Thunder Hill Road and Rouse Parkway has become another battleground for the forces opposing change in Howard County. Not surprisingly, those same forces are spreading misinformation about the site.

For example, in a posting on the Howard County Citizens Association listserv, Bridget Mugane wrote that “Jim Rouse's plan left the site quietly suburban.”

Not quite true Bridget. The original plan for the Twin Knolls Business Park, which includes the Walgreens site, called for a total of 350,000 square feet of commercial space. When The Rouse Company sold this 2.6 acre parcel to Elkridge National Bank in the early eighties, they were disappointed when the bank announced that they only planned to put a 2,000 square foot branch on the site. The site has a capacity for at least 18,000 square feet of commercial space and the company felt that this was a missed opportunity to make a “statement” at this highly visible intersection.

Over the years, as the bank changed from Elkridge National to FCNB and finally BB&T various scenarios were floated to redevelop the site, with and without the banks participation. In many ways, the Walgreens store is the final realization of The Rouse Company’s true plan for this site.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Could a Green Can be in Our Future?

Tonight, on the NBC Nightly News, there was this story on the latest trend in recycling from San Francisco where they are using green cans to collect food waste.

I like that the composted material has been embraced by the California wine industry. Perhaps a similar program here could help raise the quality of Maryland wines.

What She Said

Jessie Newburn is a long time friend of mine. We’ve known each other since the early nineties. Back then she promoted herself as a Certified Grammar Goddess and her company was called Do the Write Thing. From leased office space in the old Oakland Mills village center office building, she wrote many a resume for Columbia professionals. These days she works for Nemetschek Vectorworks in Columbia.

Throughout the years she’s always been the quintessential Columbia girl with her fingers firmly on the pulse the community, not just through the eyes of her generation but with a perspective of generations other than her own.

This was clearly demonstrated in this excellent blog post she wrote yesterday.

Though it is a little uncomfortable for a Baby Boomer, albeit late Boomer, like me to read, it really speaks to the dynamics of social discourse. I found it to be particularly relevant to the current debate over the future of Columbia Town Center.

For the most part, those leading the opposition to change in Columbia and Howard County for that matter are predominantly from the Boomer generation. Take a look. You’d be hard pressed to find anything more than a token Gen Xer among their leaders. That’s not to say that the proponents of change are without their share of Boomers too. I guess you’d just have to say we’re more enlightened.

That should fire up a few comments.

Anyway, go ahead and read Jessie’s post and draw your own conclusions.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Scene This Week In…

In an earlier post I wrote about the Halloween décor of my neighbor, Peter. Well Peter is a Philly guy having moved here about three years ago. He remains a loyal fan to his hometown sports teams and when the Phillies became the National League East champs, that his coterie of witches, spirits and monsters all suddenly sported red Phillies caps.

Tis the season.
Over in Columbia, it was these trees at the Kings Contrivance village center that caught my eye on an otherwise dreary fall day. For all the griping I do about the weather I do appreciate the color show we get in return in the both the spring and the fall.

The Hard Truth about The Rouse Company

Now that General Growth Properties has begun their pitch to the county council for the legislation that will allow their redevelopment program for Columbia Town Center to move forward, the spirit of Jim Rouse will inevitably hover over the proceedings.

Alan Klein, the spokesperson for CoFoCoDo, got things started last week when he commented on GGP’s presentation to the county council. According to this story by Don Markus in The Sun, Klein thinks that GGP’s priorities are different than those of Rouse.

"Jim Rouse listed making money at the end. These people, their job is to make money," Klein said. "If they don't make money, they will be sued by their shareholders. They've got a business to run. Their job is not to do well by Columbia; their job is to do well by their shareholders. We're not dealing with Papa Jim Rouse like we were before. We've got to grow up."

Papa Jim Rouse?

First of all, Alan’s statement that Rouse “listed money at the end” is a misnomer. Rouse had three goals for his company; to improve the lives of the people in the places the company did business, to provide a good place for his employees to work and to produce a profit for his shareholders. He believed all these goals were equally important. I know this because I worked for the company.

Secondly, Jim Rouse had very little to do with Columbia development after 1974. I’m not certain of the exact date but when Jim stepped down as President and CEO and installed Matthias DeVito in his place the company was in deep financial doo doo. Columbia almost took the company down. Now sooner had they occupied their shiny headquarters building on the Columbia lakefront, then 500 employees were laid off. Some still refer to this as the Christmas massacre as it occurred in mid December.

Everything built in Columbia after 1974 was driven by a simple profit motive, not some benevolence of a mythical character Alan calls “Papa Jim Rouse.”

In many ways Columbia is fortunate that GGP replaced The Rouse Company. The Rouse Company’s plan for Town Center was to sell land to anyone at the highest price. They really had no master plan. As far as I’m concerned, if anyone is channeling the true spirit of Jim Rouse these days its Greg Hamm.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Which Part of “All” Didn’t You Understand

Yesterday, Peanut and I dropped by the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library. We had some books to return and she was given ownership of that task.

“You know where to put them don’t you?” I inquired as we hustled inside from the cold and wet afternoon.

“I only know where the DVD’s go,” she responded just loud enough for Donna LaBelle to hear her. Donna was working the Information Desk.
Before I could say anything Donna pointed to large red sign with white letters above the return slot. "All" is in caps.

“We get asked this a lot,” she said.

I guess I'm not surprised.

Friday, October 16, 2009

At Least this Weather Is Good for Something

The weather has now taken a turn for the worse. The days of cold are upon us and the prognosis for the months ahead is bleak. According to this story by Frank D. Roylance in The Sun today we can expect a “colder-than-average winter in the Mid-Atlantic states...”

The meteorologists are divided on the snow forecast though.

"We've seen with El Nino winters [like this one] a couple of years with absolutely no snow in this area. But we've also seen winters with some record-breaking snows. It's a feast-or-famine type of situation," said Mike Halpert, deputy director of the Climate Prediction Center.”

If today is any indication, the onset of a nasty winter bodes well for The Mall. This afternoon Peanut and I paid the downtown marketplace a little visit. We weren’t the only ones. The place was packed. Finding an open table in the food court was challenging. The combination of a school holiday and the cold wet weather was great for business.

One of the Things I Hate about Computers

At home, I generally leave my laptop on with the lid closed when I’m not using it. While this may not be very energy efficient it certainly saves a lot of time. For the most part I have been well served by this strategy but every so often it backfires.

Yesterday, as I rushed to get Peanut out the door, in the car and off to school, I went to shut down my computer so I could pack it up for the office. I did not budget for 15 updates. Anyone who has ever gone through a similar drill on school day mornings knows full well that seconds count. There is very little tolerance for unanticipated delays like this.

I believe some childless engineer at Microsoft actually knew this and quietly chuckled as they imagined the resultant panic as the updates slowly downloaded.

All I could think of was “Didn’t I just do this last week?”

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Bishop and Me

As all my fellow procrastinators know, today is the absolute final day that you can file your 2008 taxes without penalty. That’s right, 2008. The final time of this final day is the hour before 5 when the Post Office closes.

That’s where I was today at 4:45 PM. There was a line. It was a long line.

For the most part, my fellow postal patrons were a quiet group. They silently accepted their fate of standing in the que waiting for one of the two open windows to free up. It moved slowly.

I decided to engage someone in a conversation to pass the time. In front of me was a twenty something woman. She was attractive and fashionably attired. She also appeared to be a little self absorbed.

Behind me was a tall broad shouldered guy wearing a cowboy hat, jeans and a denim jacket. He was an old dog like me. I made a comment about this being a popular place today.

“Tax day,” he replied.

Indeed. I introduced myself as a fellow tax procrastinator.

“Bishop Robinson,” he said shaking my hand.

Bishop and I proceed to have a lively conversation about work (he’s an attorney), family, and the indignities of age. Bishop is five years older than me. He recently had knee surgery. I didn’t tell him about my health event.

“Did you grow up around here?” I asked.

“Baltimore,” he replied. My dad was used to be the police commissioner.

That’s a fact. Bishop Robinson was the first African American Police Commissioner in the City of Baltimore.

Before long the time had passed and we found ourselves at the head of time. We exchanged business cards and agreed that it might be good to keep in touch. I shook his hand and approached the next available postal worker.

“Is it always like this on October 16th?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied but with the cutbacks we are so short staffed. I’m sorry.”

“No problem,” I replied, “no problem at all.”

Delegates Bates and Miller say “No Thanks.”

According to this story by Aaron C. Davis in The Washington Post, Delegates Warren Miller and Gail Bates are the only Howard County state legislators who have not agreed to symbolically forfeit some of their state pay in a show of solidarity with state employees. Due to the state budget crisis, all state employees were forced to take up to 10 days without pay this year.

Senators Allan Kittleman, Jim Robey and Ed Kasemeyer agreed to return a portion of their state pay along with Delegates Guy Guzzone, Frank Turner, Liz Bobo and Shane Pendergrass.

While the gesture is nice it still doesn’t quite add up to the sacrifice the employees are being forced to make.

“State lawmakers (who work a 90-day legislative session, attend meetings in between, and often hold other paying jobs) have calculated the amount they will return to the state treasury based on a theoretical 365-day work year. That means for 8 days pay they lose $966.72. State workers making the same amount had to give up $1,338.46, based on a 40-hour work week.”

This should provide some juicy campaign mud for anyone challenging Bates and Miller in 2010.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Balancing and Phasing

The videos prepared by General Growth Properties in support of their proposed redevelopment of Columbia Town Center were the real highlight of the presentation to the county council Tuesday night. The line up of Cornell professor Ann Forsyth, Regional economic guru Anirban Basu and Roger Lewis, architectural columnist for The Washington Post, was exceptional both for the depth of their collective expertise and their ability to articulate their views. After the first video the audience returned a polite applause. This type of public demonstration of approval in a county council meeting is rare.

Anyway, this is the last of the videos I’ll post here. There are three others in addition to this and they are all available on HoCoMoJo here. They are all good. They are all worth watching.

Actually, these videos were all produced by Columbia based Pixel Workshop videographer Dave Bitner. Dave also produced this video of Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty explaining the challenges and opportunities for Columbia’s village centers. Nicely done and wag of the wordbones tail to Pixel Workshop and HoCoMoJo.

I particularly like this video because it looks at Columbia from a very regional perspective. When Anirban says “Oh yeah I remember Columbia, that’s where we used to go for Christmas,” it struck to the heart of my own concerns about my hometown.

Find more videos like this on HoCoMoJo

Making a Special Place

Last night, as part of the formal presentation by General Growth Properties of their redevelopment plans for Columbia Town Center, they showed four short videos with commentary by Anirban Basu, Ann Forsyth and Roger Lewis about various elements of the plan.

Anirban Basu is an economist and the Chairman and CEO of the Sage Policy Group. Ann Forsyth is a professor of City and Regional Planning at Cornell University and Roger Lewis is a columnist for The Washington Post and professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Architecture.

This is the first of four videos, it’s a little over four minutes, well worth the time.

Find more videos like this on HoCoMoJo

Everybody Knows this Kid

TW sent me this picture this morning. As he said, "everybody knew a kid like this."

His expression is priceless.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Sick Alternative

In a comment on the Howard County Citizens Association listserv about the proposed new Walgreens pharmacy at the site of the former BB&T bank branch, Barbara Russell suggested that there is already “a pharmacy located across the street from the Walgreen's site on One Knoll North. Walgreen's would be providing competition for that valued Oakland Mills business as well.”

Across the street?

How about across the highway.

click to enlarge
The “valued Oakland Mills business” she lovingly refers to is located at the end of a quarter mile drive with no sidewalks. It isn’t even connected to the village pathway system.

This “valued Oakland Mills business” doesn’t exactly offer the greatest store hours either. Walgreens is open 24 hours.

I happen to think the residents of Oakland Mills deserve better than this.

Let’s get it Started

Tonight General Growth Properties will finally make its case for the redevelopment of Columbia Town Center to the County Council. Getting the councils approval is the last legislative hurdle to get these plans moving towards reality.

The plans have been tweaked some since GGP first started this process five years ago but for the most part the key elements remain. The conceptual plan finally approved by the planning board after nine months of meetings and deliberations would allow for 5,500 new housing units, 4.3 million square feet of new office space ,1.25 million square feet of new retail space, road improvements and cultural amenities including a major renovation of Merriweather Post Pavilion.

Tomorrow night the Howard County Economic Development Authority will present the results of a study it commissioned on the economic impact of GGP’s plans.

Thanks to a deal reached with the Ellicott City Cable Company, anyone with a computer and an internet connection will be able to watch these proceedings live via streaming video.

Right now the prognosis for GGP getting the council’s approval to move forward looks good. I won’t jinx their chances by naming the council members who are generally supportive but it appears they have the support of three of the five members. Since this is the beginning of a new election cycle it will be very interesting to watch where the chips fall.

Monday, October 12, 2009

GOP Taking a Pass?

Noticeably absent in the news coming out of the county Republican camp is any mention of a potential challenger for Ken Ulman. While local Republican heavyweights like Bob Flanagan and Dennis Schrader seem to be positioning themselves for a 2014 executive race, I have yet to hear of anyone willing to take Ken on in 2010.

That’s no surprise. The race for county executive could easily cost a million bucks and Ken has already raised at least half that. He’s fairly popular too, raising the bar even higher for any potential challenger.

It reminds me a similar county election in 1994 when a very popular Chuck Ecker was running for his second term as county exec. The best the Dems could do that year for a challenger was none other than Susan Baker Gray.

Maybe Joan Becker from the Howard County Republican Party should give her a call. It's no secret that she would like to change a few things around here. Then again, there is always Godless Bob. He's not happy with Ken either.

Scary Neighbors

It used to only be the Christmas holidays when people would go over the top decorating their homes but now it is becoming increasingly popular to do so for Halloween.

My neighbor Peter is a prime example. Each year he goes all out for Halloween. A couple of weeks ago I saw him working in his garage on what appeared to be a coffin.

“What are you making in there, a coffin?” I yelled across the street.

“Yeah,” he replied.

I thought he was joking. I thought wrong.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Thank you

The voting for The Mobbies ended Friday. The “unofficial results show Tales of Two Cities as the number one in the political blog category and number three in the neighborhood blog category. Official results will be made public on Wednesday.

Here are four observations about this competition:

1) Number 1 political blog?
I mean, yeah sure I write about politics but only hyper local politics. I would think one of the more dedicated political blogs like The Hedgehog Report would be a better choice but he wasn’t even nominated.

2) I personally nominated one local blog, Dinosaur Mom Chronicles, in two categories, Family and Personal. She finished 9th in the Family and 11th in Personal.

3) In my opinion this was an odd way to select top area blogs. At a minimum, it seems that the contest would have been better served by a combination of public and editorial board nominations. Besides The Hedgehog Report, there are other excellent Maryland blogs that weren’t even nominated.

4) Though he didn’t finish first in the Food category, local food blogger HowChow was in the top ten of the Best Overall Blog for most of the competition. The Mobbie website doesn’t show the “unofficial” standings for that category. I guess we’ll just have to wait until Wednesday.

I am grateful for all those who took the time for vote for this blog. I freely admit that I wanted to win something. I’ve come to accept that I do have a small competitive streak.

More news on Wednesday but for now, thank you.

A Formidable Challenger

Last month I wrote a post about the rumor that Bob Flannagan would challenge Courtney Watson for the District 1 County Council seat next year. It is no longer a rumor. Bob has officially tossed his hat into the ring with the launch of this website.

Bob is a formidable challenger for Courtney. District 1, which includes portions of Ellicott City, Elkridge, and Hanover, is a swing district. Prior to Courtney, the seat was held by Republican Chris Merdon. This could turn out to be one of the more interesting contests in the next year’s elections.

Bikes for the World

Yesterday we took Mama Wordbones' bike over to Race Pace in Columbia for a tune up. While she was discussing seat design and bike pants with Jay Mulholland, I went back outside to check out the used bikes for sale. Race Pace will take a trade in of a bike on the purchase of a new bike as long as the trade in is in “pretty good condition” according to Jay. The used bikes lined up outside gave testament to that fact. They all looked new.

“What about those bikes that don’t pass muster for a trade in?” I wondered.

“We donate them to Bikes for the World,” Jay told me.

Bikes for the World takes old bikes (along with a $10 donation), refurbishes them and sends them along with parts, tools and other bike stuff to “to community development programs assisting the poor in developing countries.”

I like this. Anyone who has kids knows the progression of bikes they through as they grow. This is a great way to not only recycle an old bike that no longer fits but it also provides a learning opportunity for the kids.
A big wag of the wordbones tail to Race Pace and Bikes of the World.

Friday, October 09, 2009

It’s That Time of Month Again

This coming Sunday, October 11th, will be the fourth Second Sunday Market in Ellicott City. This monthly outdoor event just keeps getting better each time around and, so far at least, the weather prognosticators are calling for a nice fall day on Sunday. Mama Wordbones and I will most likely drop down early so I can be home in time for the one o’clock kickoff.

And oh yeah, that’s Caesar on the left side of the banner.

No Apologies

A commenter named Local Gal suggested I should “retract your personal attack and apologize” for my latest post on the lawsuits filed by Paul Kendall and his merry band of plaintiffs.

Sorry. I won’t be doing that.

Another commenter, Bob O, observed that I “seem a bit emotional about this.”

Since I do respect the readership of Tales of Two Cities, I feel somewhat obligated to explain why I won’t be apologizing and why I will continue to proffer acerbic commentary on these plaintiffs and their attorney, Susan Baker Gray.

It’s simple. I’m angry.

I am angry about the reckless abuse of our judicial system. I believe these litigants know full well that the odds of them prevailing in these actions are formidable yet they continue, forcing the county to expend taxpayer money responding to them.

Worse, since the judicial process can be unpredictable, there is always the outside chance that some judge may rule their way. If that occurs it would have a devastating impact on the economic health and quality of life in our county. The fallout from reversing fifteen years of zoning and land use decisions would spawn countless other lawsuits engulfing the county in a litigation tsunami that could bankrupt the county; great for the lawyers, very bad for the rest of us.

I think the county’s attorneys captured my view perfectly when they described these lawsuits as “vexatious, frivolous litigation designed to harass and intimidate public officials and to simply delay and obstruct any development with which they personally disagree.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Happy Birthday Helen Bubeck!

Helen Bubeck turned 100 last Saturday. She moved to Oakland Mills in 1971 and lived in the village until two years ago when she relocated to Hickory Ridge and became a resident of Sunrise of Columbia.

“When you go to see her there she looks better than many of the residents who are younger than her,” her grandson Chuck Bubeck told me.

Chuck and I were classmates at Wilde Lake High School in the early seventies. His family moved to Columbia in 1969 and his grandmother followed two years later.

“She was three years old when the Titanic went down.”

According to this story by Medina Roshan in The Howard County Times, “she continues to enjoy spending time with her family and maintains her sense of humor and curiosity.”

Happy Birthday Helen!

Federal Lawsuit Update 4

Yesterday, Paul Kendall and his merry band of plaintiffs filed an amended complaint in Circuit Court that seeks to turn back fifteen years of zoning and land use decisions in Howard County. After being twice rebuffed in federal court, they are now seeking redress in the state courts.

The amended complaint no longer seeks to sue county employees individually and no longer seeks ten million bucks. Instead they are seeking “reasonable attorney’s fees and cost of suit incurred.” This time around they also threw in a whole host of development projects they’d like to derail including improvements to Route 32 and the proposed Thunder Hill Walgreens.

Paul Kendall, Frank Martin, Phillip Rousseau, and C. Edward Walter, along with their attorney Susan Baker Gray, are no friends of Howard County. Though they stand little chance of prevailing in their “vexatious, frivolous litigation designed to harass and intimidate public officials and to simply delay and obstruct any development with which they personally disagree,” that doesn’t seem to bother them one bit.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

In Memoriam…Greg Masi

It was with great sadness today that I learned of the passing of one of my commercial real estate colleagues, Greg Masi. Greg was an old dog like me and one of the first guys I met in the business when I moved back from California in the late eighties. Back then he was the guy to see for leasing office space at the airport. In recent years Greg had moved to Columbia working first as a broker for Transwestern and most recently with Manekin.

Greg always was the consummate professional who served many business clients throughout the area. If he knew you, you were always greeted warmly with a smile and a handshake. His presence will be missed.

Nobody Gives Me Squat

If they did I’d be more than happy to tell you about it. Good thing too. According to this story by Tim Arango in yesterdays New York Times, bloggers may soon be required to fully disclose any compensation they receive from advertisers and marketers.

“The F.T.C. said that beginning on Dec. 1, bloggers who review products must disclose any connection with advertisers, including, in most cases, the receipt of free products and whether or not they were paid in any way by advertisers, as occurs frequently.”


Nobody has ever given Tales of Two Cities anything but comments. That is not to say I won’t accept stuff if anyone was adventurous enough to seek my opinion about their stuff. I respect all readers of this blog and I pledge to you that I will always disclose any connection with an advertiser and anyone who gives me free stuff.

Dogs @ Work

Dave Carney is a dog guy. Since he puts in long days as the proprietor of the Wine Bin on Main Street in Ellicott City, he is not content to leave his dog at home. Instead, Chloe comes to work with him and often greets his patrons at the door.

This past Saturday, as I was waiting for Dave finish working with another customer, I snapped a few photos of Chloe sitting in the doorway. I like this shot the best.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Opening Day

The Harris Teeter store in Maple Lawn opened this evening at 5:30 PM. Finally.

In This Months Business Monthly

My column this month got started because I was afraid they were going to take away my favorite running trail. When I heard that the county was seeking a vendor to build and operate a small solar demonstration project on the former landfill on New Cut Road my immediate concern was how this would affect the half mile gravel loop that rings the top of the property. Admittedly, it was all about me.

I should note here that the property is posted “No Trespassing” so my running on this path makes me an outlaw. I’m not the only one either. I often encounter other runners and walkers out there as well. It is actually a beautiful spot now that the landfill has been capped and closed.

In any event, as I looked into to this proposed solar project at the closed dump I inadvertently ended up at the current dump, Alpha Ridge, which really isn’t much of a dump anymore. Alpha Ridge is really just a transfer station now. The vast majority of the garbage collected in Howard County doesn’t stay in Howard County. It hops on a train for a ride down to King George County in Virginia. In the world of garbage economics, this has been a good deal for the county but that good deal is about to end. The counties contract with the King George landfill expires in 2013 and it is a pretty good bet that the rate that King George charges us for taking our trash is will increase significantly.

There is another alternative. Instead of renewing the landfill contract and playing around with solar demonstrations, the county should pursue a waste to energy project. In my mind that makes more sense than allocating resources on a solar demonstration project. Sun is not an abundant resource in Maryland but garbage sure is.

You can read this month’s column here.

Monday, October 05, 2009

The War against Wegmans

Make no mistake about it, the food workers union sees Wegmans, and to a somewhat lesser degree, Harris Teeter as a major threat. They have provided financial and logistical support to any effort aimed at derailing the development plans of these two non union stores.

In Maryland, the battle is currently being waged in Crofton and Columbia. Wegmans has announced plans to open stores in both communities and in both communities the union has marshaled its resources in an attempt to stop the stores from opening.

They haven’t always been candid about their actions either.

According to this story by Joshua Stewart in The Capital last year, “A prominent Crofton activist who testified against development atop a fly ash landfill in Gambrills may have violated ethics rules by failing to inform legislators he is a paid lobbyist for a food workers union opposed to a supermarket over the site.”

“If the bill was amended as Mr. Jacobsen proposed, it would stop developer Greenberg Gibbons Commercial from building the Village at Waugh Chapel South, a project with homes, restaurants, a movie theater and a Wegmans grocery store, over a 13-year-old fly ash landfill.”

In Columbia, the union literally created the lead plaintiff in the main suit challenging Wegmans. According to this story by Nate Sandstrom in the Howard County Times last year, an intern cold calling for the union enlisted Phillip Rousseau after knocking on his door.

“Rousseau said he joined the group after a man named Craig Martin approached him at his home this fall and said he represented a group concerned about traffic in the area. Rousseau said he later learned Martin worked for a union group, although he did not know which one.”

The unions concern for fly ash and traffic is fungible. If Wegmans elected to become a union shop, their concerns about rights to petition, traffic, and fly ash would disappear along with their support of the opposition groups, including the federal lawsuit plaintiffs, Paul Kendal, Phillip Rousseau, et al.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bouncing Around with Ken and Randy

When I asked Peanut if she would like to go to a picnic with a moon bounce yesterday, she jumped right at the suggestion.

“I only get to play on a moon bounce once a year,” she informed me. The presence of a moon bounce was all she needed to know to make a decision.
This afternoon Peanut and I ventured out west to Nixon’s Farm for Ken Ulman’s annual family picnic. Once we determined that the moon bounce was in fact up and operating, we parted ways, her to bounce and me for some BS and beer.

Among the politico’s I spotted, in addition to our county executive, was Jim Robey, Calvin Ball, Courtney Watson, Guy Guzzone and Liz Bobo. I am sure there were others but I wasn’t paying much attention when Ken gave the talk where he recognizes and thanks everyone.

Instead of listening I was talking to Randy Nixon. Nixon’s Farm hit a rough patch earlier this year when Columbia Bank moved to foreclose on the property forcing Randy to seek protection under the bankruptcy laws in order to save the farm. He says that things are all working out and he hopes to get underway with his new development next spring. It will be a first of its kind housing project for Howard County, providing both assisted living and multi generational housing. Two thirds of 100 plus acre farm will be preserved as open space.

Randy and I promised to get together for lunch so I hope to be able to provide more details soon.

Anyway, Ken’s picnic at Randy’s farm was a nice affair and we were having fun until Peanut hurt her leg on the moon bounce.

We limped on back home.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

A Modest Proposal

I believe that we all share a responsibility for suggesting ways that our beleaguered state budget can be trimmed without further adverse affect on crucial programs. I have been thinking about this for some weeks now and today, while preparing breakfast for two eleven year old girls, I felt a new urgency.

Fortunately, an idea came to me, as ideas often do, while reading the morning paper. After getting out a calculator and running a few numbers I came up with a way the state can save over $6 million dollars a year immediately. The best part is that every politician who votes for this idea will be seen as a hero. How good is that!

My idea?

It’s simple, as most good ideas usually are. Abolish the House of Delegates.

Think about it. I’ll wager that the majority of the citizens of the Free State would be hard pressed to name a Delegate who represents them so who would really miss them?

It’s not like the 47 senators can’t cover things. We are a pretty small state after all, 42nd out 50 in land area. Do we really need 141 Delegates running around and mucking things up?

Of course I don’t expect that any of the incumbent Delegates would be too keen about my plan. Right now they’ve got a pretty sweet deal going on. They get paid $43,500 plus another $500 for “expenses” for ninety days of work. They really aren’t responsible for all that much either, not like the demands and responsibilities of someone like a county councilperson. That’s a real job. Plus, they always make a big deal when they “give” our money back to us, like they personally were writing the check. I hate it when they do that.

They should embrace this idea though. The public would be impressed by such an unselfish act of political courage not only for us but for future generations of Marylanders, like my two breakfast girls.

Heck, if they did this, they could become so popular that they might even get elected to a real job.

Another International HQ for HoCo

According to this story by Matthew Hay Brown in The Sun, Bon Secours is moving its world headquarters from Paris to its campus in Marriottsville.

"The congregation's headquarters will move from Paris to Marriottsville, currently home to the Sisters of Bon Secours, U.S.A., their health system and their spiritual center, on Dec. 1."

I don’t if this will result in a large influx of new jobs like some other recent developments but, at a minimum, the spiritual stock of the county just went up a notch.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Good Time to be a Geek

According to this story by Lolita C. Baldor in The Washington Post today, the Department of Homeland Security may hire up to 1,000 “cyber experts” over the next three years.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who made the announcement on Thursday, said the hiring plan reflects the Obama administration's commitment to improving cyber security. The move gives DHS officials far greater flexibility to hire whom they want, outside of more stringent federal guidelines. And it will also allow more latitude in pay.”

Coupled with the previous announcement that the Department of Defense “cyber command” will most likely be located at Fort Meade, there is a pretty good chance that many up these jobs will be located in our area.

I really should have paid more attention in my math classes.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Scene This Week In…

Symphony Woods is a pretty popular place these days, in conversations at least, as an actual gathering spot, not so much. Who knew that it was even closed?

Sure, driving by you could see the crowd control netting but my first thought was that it had something to do with the long delayed tree maintenance. Closer inspection revealed that the park is in fact “closed.” At least that’s what these signs attached to the fence say.

Suddenly CA is very concerned about Symphony Woods and I suppose that is a good thing. Still, “turf restoration” sounds more appropriate for a golf course than for a woodland park.

As if we didn’t need another reminder that we are entering into the cold months, I spotted this notice on the windows at Rita’s on Frederick Road in Ellicott City. After October 10th we will have to wait until the first day of spring next year to enjoy a Rita’s Italian ice.

If it weren’t for football I’d be very depressed.