Sunday, February 28, 2010

Playing Ball with Calvin

If you Google “Calvin Ball” the first result is a link to the cartoon strip, Calvin and Hobbes, a syndicated comic strip by Bill Watterson that ran in newspapers for about 10 years. The main character, Calvin, invented a game called Calvinball in which the only consistent rule is that the game may never be played by the same rules twice.

Last Friday, in our latest podcast of “and then there’s that…” on HoCoMoJo, my co-host Paul Skalny quipped that Calvinball was a lot like politics. Our guest for the show was Dr. Calvin Ball, the county councilperson for District 2. His name came up second in the Google search.

Calvin is good guy and he rolled right along with the banter.

Getting It Right

Previously in Tales of Two Cities, I’ve pointed out the Columbia Town Center does not exist in a vacuum. All around us communities are rethinking how they manage growth and looking for ways to maintain their individual identities. In this story by Katherine Shaver and Miranda S. Spivack in The Washington Post today the reporters examine both the successes and challenges of creating “walkable” communities.

“The nation's two largest groups -- baby boomers shedding their houses as they become empty nesters and millennials reaching their 30s and moving into their own homes -- largely prefer densely populated, walkable communities, experts say.

Urban planners project that 86 percent of the growth in new households will be single people or couples without children at home -- and neither group wants to live in remote suburbs or in houses surrounded by big lawns.”

The line between success and failure hinges on getting the formula right.

“Developers still must persuade people accustomed to driving to keep their cars parked, and town centers have to provide the right mix of retail, residential and office space to compete in a crowded marketplace.”

Do the plans for Columbia Town Center have the right mix?

Possibly. There is already a strong retail core with the Mall. The office sector is currently struggling but connecting the existing buildings more closely with residences and stores will help differentiate office space in Town Center from the more typical suburban office parks like Columbia Gateway.

The real question, in my mind is whether the proposed 5,500 housing units will be enough to insure that we get it right.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

A CA Board Perspective

HoCoMoJo has an excellent interview with Tom O’Connor about his perspective of the Columbia Association Board of Directors. Tom served on the board for eight years, including a few stints as board chair.

Tom offers an insider’s take on what is wrong with the board and what can be done to fix it.

Good stuff.

Ethics Complaint Filed Against Swatek

Five Columbia residents have filed a formal ethics complaint against Russell Swatek, the Columbia Council representative from the Village of Long Reach. The complaint, contained in a letter to the Columbia Council board chair, alleges that “his appointment as Spokesperson for Taxpayers Against Giveaways (TAG), has become involved in a private activity that has already and will continue to conflict with his objectivity in protecting and promoting the interests of the Columbia Association and the Long Reach Village Association.”

At a recent Columbia Association board meeting Mr. Swatek was actively gathering signatures for his petition to subject the Columbia Town Center redevelopment legislation to referendum.

The letter, signed by Jud Malone, Phil Engelke, Lin Eagan, Linda Odum and Patrick Von Schlag, cites the boards’ ethics policy which states that board members “must act in the interest of the whole community of Columbia and not simply as a representative of a particular village or constituency. Once all constituent perspectives are established and acknowledged, they must be considered in relation to the perspective of the entire community of Columbia.”

“We are believe that it would be in the best interest of the community of Columbia for Mr. Swatek to voluntarily resign his position as CA Board Member. Should he choose not to take that action we are hereby requesting that this report alleging misconduct by Mr. Swatek be considered as serious and be promptly addressed and fully investigated according to procedures established in CA Code of Ethics documents.”

It will be interesting to see how the board responds.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Scene This Week In…

The legacy of the one two punch Big Kahuna snowstorm is one big mess. Everywhere you look you see broken curbs, broken limbs and dangling downspouts. We got beat up pretty bad.

I spotted this toppled fire hydrant on Oakland Mills Road in Columbia. I’ve seen others like it in Ellicott City too. It appears that they were decapitated by a snow plow blade.

Nearby I noticed these pieces of wood sticking up through a bank of dirty snow. It looks like the remains of a picnic table.

The evergreens have taken it particularly hard. Along Dobbin Road there is a quarter mile stretch of road lined with piles of pine branches.
In Town Center near the lake, this tall spruce was cut off at the knees like Phil Nelson.

The cleanup from our snowmegeddon winter will be long and expensive. It should be a busy spring for the landscapers and the garden centers.

In Ellicott City I found a hopeful sign. Pushing up through a cleared path in the snow was a single daffodil. It was a nice reminder that the first day of spring is only twenty four days away.

It can’t come soon enough for me. I am so done with this winter.

I Haven’t Cried…Yet

The only saving grace during this miserable month of February has been watching the Vancouver Olympic Games. It has given us something besides the weather to talk about.

For some it has also been emotionally draining. According to this column by Lisa de Moraes in The Washington Post today, “Twenty-five percent of men who have watched the Vancouver Winter Olympics have cried.”

I wonder if that includes guys who are crying because they are being made to watch ice dancing with their significant others.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Reversal of Fortune

Last night, in yet another straw vote, the Columbia Association Board of Directors reversed a decision made on Tuesday night and restored full funding for the 2010 Columbia Festival of the Arts. The $95,000 contribution represents 14% of the total festival budget and is largely used to fund the free three day LakeFest in Town Center.

Why the sudden turn around?

I wish I knew that answer. This board, like many CA boards of the past few years, can’t seem to come together on anything of significance unless it reaches crisis mode. Shit, they can’t even agree on insignificant things either. Take the whole gym towel thing for example.

From my perspective there appears to be four members who have difficulty playing well with the others. They are Cynthia Coyle of Harpers Choice and Phil Kirsch of Wilde Lake, Alex Hekimian of Oakland Mills and Russell Swatek of Long Reach. I’m not going to get into any name calling or questioning of any individuals motives here. I just happen to think that they are profoundly ineffectual board members.

The one thing these four do appear to have in common is a tendency to see well established community organizations like the Columbia Foundation, the Columbia Festival of the Arts, and Leadership Howard County as somehow being elitist. They seem to see these organizations as somehow being a threat to what they call Columbia’s “vision”. Ironically, these organizations all have solid boards that consistently produce positive outcomes, whether it be staging a world class summer arts festival or providing grants and support to meet specific community needs.

For now, the arts festival has been spared and that’s a good thing. It also indicates that perhaps those other six board members may have found that, though they may not always agree on everything, at least they know how to play together.

UPDATE: From The Sun website:

"An article in Wednesday's editions on the Columbia Association's budget deliberations incorrectly described preliminary cuts to a $260,000 community grants budget. While the Columbia Festival of the Arts has received annual grants from the community fund, no decisions have been made on what the festival will receive this year. The association has discussed reducing the overall community fund, but decisions on individual recipients are to be made by the association president."

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Simon Out Brookfield In

If the board of directors and management of General Growth Properties gets its way the master planned communities group, which includes Columbia, would be spun off into a new company called General Growth Opportunities. The company reached an agreement today with a Toronto based asset management firm that would split the company in two. According to this story by Alex Veiga in The Chicago Tribune today, the new company “would essentially hold assets the company concedes aren't producing much income currently, including the company's master planned communities and some large retail hubs, such as the South Street Seaport in New York.”

As I speculated in an earlier post, General Growth Properties has turned to Brookfield Asset Management as their White Knight to avoid a hostile takeover by the Simon Property Group. Last week Simon made an unsolicited bid to acquire the company for $10 a share. The deal that GGP’s board made today significantly ups the ante.

“The pact with Brookfield would allow General Growth to raise the money it needs to pay off some $7 billion in debt and interest to its creditors. Stockholders would get $15 a share.”

Brookfield is putting some skin in the game too.

“Brookfield would invest $2.6 billion in cash in exchange for General Growth shares. That would give Brookfield a roughly 30 percent stake in General Growth and the right to nominate three directors to the board.”

The timing of this deal was critical. Next Wednesday GGP is due back in bankruptcy court. Prior to today it had been widely assumed that the company would ask for an extension to submit their final plan. Obviously Simon would have strongly objected to any further delay.

Does this mean it’s over?

Not yet.

Big Box Land Rush

Over the past few weeks I’ve been spending a great deal of time focusing on the retail environment just outside the Washington beltway in both Virginia and Maryland. We are tasked with finding strong retail sites for Bob’s Discount Furniture, a New England based home furniture chain that is expanding into the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. market. Our prime candidates are empty big box stores (30,000 square feet plus).

As I previously posted, we have limited choices and some real competition. Hhgregg has already leased virtually every vacant Circuit City store in Northern Virginia. They recently leased the former Circuit City store at Arundel Mills and I expect they’ll soon pop up in Columbia too. They’ve had a few months jump on us.

There are other new furniture chains out there as well. Room and Board, a Minneapolis based chain recently leased distribution space in the Troy Hill Commerce Center to support new stores in the region. Their first store will be at 14th and T Street in downtown DC.

The hottest retail development around the Beltway is Woodmore Town Centre at Glenarden. The 245 acre mixed use development with almost 800,000 square feet of retail including Wegmans, Costco, Best Buy, and JC Penney. There are no other big box spaces available.

In Columbia, a portion of the former Expo Design Center at Columbia Crossing II has been leased to Baby’s R Us, and there are a couple of large tenants circling the former Comp USA space in Columbia Crossing across the street.

That retail corridor along 175 between Snowden River Parkway and Dobbin Road still has my vote for one of the most ill designed shopping areas in the region.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It’s On

Mr. Foot says it’s on. Aided by his 9th grade forecasting team from Baltimore County Public Schools Crossroads Center his “spot on” forecast for the Baltimore Washington corridor is calling for eight or more inches of snow beginning tomorrow evening and ending Friday evening.

And that’s not all folks…

This Big Kahuna Lite snowstorm will also pack some “winds near tropical force” according to the Foot forecasters.

Batten down the hatches boys and girls, March is about to come in like a lion.

Like Watching Bowling in Slow Motion

At lunch today TW and I were talking about the Vancouver Winter Games. On the TV screens surrounding us in The Green Turtle were images of a curling match between the United States and China.

“It’s kind of like watching bowling in slow motion” TW quipped.

CA Board Second Guessing Nelson

After taking great pains to select a strong president to lead the Columbia Association, the homeowners’ association board of directors is cutting him off at the knees and setting him up for failure while advancing their own personal agendas.

According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, in a budget committee meeting last night, the committee members took a straw vote that “reversed several of CA president Philip Nelson's recommendations, including a decision to keep a part-time community organizer in Oakland Mills and adding another one for Wilde Lake, and to hire a full-time watershed manager to push Columbia's environmental agenda.”

"Board member Russell Swatek of Long Reach said at the meeting that he particularly wanted to cut the grant to the county's Economic Development Authority because he often personally disagrees with its positions on public issues.”

It’s really a shame. From all appearances Phillip Nelson is a highly capable manager but unless the board stops micro managing and lets the man do his job they are just wasting the lien payers’ money. They should have just hired a monkey.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Happy Birthday George

The summer before I set off to Cleveland for college I received my first and only fake ID. It was a real Maryland driver’s license. It just wasn’t my drivers’ license. It belonged to a guy named George John Hipple. He was four years older than me which meant that in Ohio Mr. Hipple could legally purchase adult beverages. Back then an eighteen year old could at least purchase beer and wine in Maryland. I needed a fake ID before I headed north.

I acquired Mr. Hipple’s drivers license from a buddy who worked for CA at the Lake Kittamaqundi boat docks. In order to rent a boat a person needed to leave his or her drivers license until they returned with the boat. Many a young couple returned to the docks a little distracted after a day on the calm waters of the lake whose name means meeting place. They often forgot to ask for their license back. By late summer there was a good selection to pick from.

In this ancient time a Maryland drivers’ license did not carry a photo. George John Hipple was simply described as, white, 5’10”, 170 lbs, blue eyes. Close enough.

You still had to be careful though. Every once in awhile, a suspicious clerk might try and trip you up with a question like “when’s your birthday” while holding the illicit identification away from view. Over thirty years later I still remember the guy’s birthday. It’s the same day as that other George.

Happy Birthday Mr. Hipple, wherever you are.

The Biggest and the Greenest

That’s how Ken Ulman described the new Howard County Library Charles E. Miller Branch and Historical Center. The groundbreaking for the new building was held this morning in the parking lot of the existing library in Ellicott City. The new building will be roughly three times larger than the current branch.
This being an election year several local pols turned out to mark the occasion. Since it was about 40 degrees and damp they kept their speeches relatively short. In addition to Ken there was Congressman Elijah Cummings, Senator Jim Robey, Delegates Guy Guzzone, Gail Bates and Warren Miller and Council Chair Courtney Watson.

In the audience were Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty, Clerk of the Court Marge Rappaport, Board of Education members Frank Aquino, Ellen Flynn Giles, Larry Cohen and Pat Gordon and Maryann Maher, a Democratic challenger for one of the District 9A House of Delegates seats.

A few random observations:

Despite the cold Warren Miller wore no overcoat and spoke the fewest words. I didn’t see him smile once. Maybe it’s because he was cold.

Congressman Cummings drove himself to the event in his black Mercury Mountaineer.

While all the other dignitaries were given spades to “break the ground”, Ken Ulman was given a snow shovel.

The ground that was broken was actually a little mound of dirt on the sidewalk surrounded by mulch that was created just for the photo op. Since there was no sediment control fence in place on the site it will likely be awhile before the ground for the new building is truly broken.

Courtney Watson likes to wear the color red.

And speaking of Courtney…she noted that the current Miller library was built in 1962…the same year she was born.

The new library is planned for completion in December 2011.

Food for Thought

While waiting for my coffee at the Little French Market in Ellicott City yesterday I spotted this plaque on the wall.

I like the sentiment but I think it’s easier said than done. I’m just not that easily frightened.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Doughoregan Detractors Dealt Defeat

Last Thursday the Howard County Planning Board unanimously approved the Carroll family plans to develop 325 single family homes on 200 acres of the 892 acre historic Doughoregan Manor estate. A key element of those plans is the extension of the county public water and sewer area to service the new homes According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun, the Planning Board “found that moving the utilities is consistent with the county's General Plan. And recommending the zoning change seemed almost automatic if the utilities are extended, board members said.”

Some of the Carroll’s neighbors are not at all happy about this decision.

"They completely ignored all our advice about a million-gallon [wastewater] treatment plant. This is a major imposition on our environment," said Charles Staples, who lives near the estate's eastern boundary.

Opponents also have complained that the Carroll development project would increase traffic in the area and would require millions of dollars in public services while the public remains barred from the county's only National Historic Landmark.”

This has the potential to be a hot button issue in the District 1 council race. Current council chair Courtney Watson is facing an expected challenge from Bob Flanagan and, knowing Howard County, development projects have a way of stirring the electorate. The final decision on both the extension of public water and sewer and the requisite zoning change will be made by the county council, presumably before the election.

This could prove to be a tricky issue. If they support the development they risk having the anti development forces mobilize against them. If they oppose the development they could face the outcry of the environmentalists. While this may not be Smart Growth, as Planning Board member Paul Yelder pointed out, it is still preferable to what the Carroll family could do with the property under existing zoning.

“The Carrolls have the right under current zoning to build about 400 homes on large lots using wells and septic systems throughout their property. Instead, they want the county to allow public utilities so they can push the new homes together on a rezoned section of about 200 acres in the northeast corner of the estate.”

Considering how long the Planning Board dithered on the Columbia Town Center redevelopment plans, I am amazed at the speed in which they reached this decision.

Federal Lawsuit Update 8

The latest attempt to overturn zoning decisions on the Columbia Wegmans, the Turf Valley Harris Teeter, the Thunder Hill Walgreens and fifteen years of other county zoning decisions was dealt yet another setback last week, this time in the state courts.

When U.S. District Judge J. Fredrick. Motz originally dismissed the lawsuit filed by Susan Baker Gray on behalf of Paul F. Kendall, Frank Martin, Carvel Mays, Jr. and Phillip Rousseau, the judge indicated that this was a matter for the state courts to settle not the federal courts. So, backed by their union buddies, Ms Baker and her merry band of plaintiffs took their case to the state courts.

Howard County, the defendant in the case, subsequently filed a motion to dismiss.

According to Lotsabogeys, a regular reader and commenter here, last week the courts granted the motion to dismiss.

Perhaps these guys should get themselves another lawyer.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Latest Hang Up

I’m canceling the landline telephone in my home. Mama Wordbones actually suggested that I do this four years ago. “It’s a waste” she said.

I kept it anyway. Having a real honest to god wired home phone just seemed like the normal thing to do. Forget the fact that we hardly ever use the thing. Everyone in our household has their own mobile phone. For the most part the only calls we get on the home phone are from telemarketers.

I’m actually kind of late to this game. According to this article by Daniel Gross in Slate Magazine, “the number of land lines has fallen somewhere between 4 and 6 percent in every year since 2000.”

“The growth and convenience of wireless have played a role, and so, too, have the rise in broadband Internet access and the availability of phone service from cable companies and outfits such as Vonage and Skype.”

The tipping point for me came during The Big Kahuna snow event. Somewhere between the first and second act of the blizzard we lost service on the home phone. We weren’t sure when it actually occurred and we didn’t miss it all. I didn’t even bother calling for a repairman until earlier this week.

Last night, as we sat at dinner at Café du Paris in Columbia, we calculated that the monthly cost of having a home phone is roughly the equivalent of a decent bottle of wine.

Once I thought about it in those terms the decision was fairly easy.

Friday, February 19, 2010

An Evening with Liz: Partie Deux

Last night the Legislation with Liz show was about more than Town Center of course. This was an evening of love after all, a step back in time if you will. Fittingly, there was poetry, politics and pot.

Liz kicked things off with a heartfelt reading of a poem by Lucille Clifton I think. Lucille, who was often in residence in Columbia, passed away last week. I admit that I wasn’t really paying much attention at that point. I was more interested in who was there.

I sat just behind Maryann Maher, one of the Demcratic challengers for a District 9A House of Delegates seat. That seat is currently held by Republicans Warren Miller and Gail Bates. Marianne was sitting next to Angie Beltram. I guess those two are buddies. Marrianne said she hadn’t heard of Tales of Two Cities so I gave her a card with the website URL.

Alan Klein, the spokemo for CoFoCoDo was there as well as Steve Meskin and Frank Martin. I just gotta say that Marty looks great. I went to high school with this guy and he looks a good ten years younger than me. I hate him.

Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty sat to my left, listening and working her blackberry. There was a little drama at the end of the question and answer period too. Liz didn’t see Mary Kays hand raised for a question and was about to cut off questions before Ann, her legislative aide, intervened. Mary Kay didn’t really have a question though, she just wanted everyone to know about Plan Maryland.

At one point, Liz took a break from questions and introduced Kelly, Kim, Jeff and Davey, a foursome of twentysomethings about to embark on an adventure to help the environment. They have formed an organization called Pick Up America, “a walking adventure to pick up trash around the country and inspire a transition to a zero-waste economy.”

That was pretty cool.

One of the last questions came from an audience member who wanted to know where Liz was on medical marijuana. She first replied that she really “had no opinion on medical marijuana” but then concluded by saying “with her heart she likes the idea.”

It’s a shame no one asked her whether she or Lloyd ever smoked marijuana.

Liz wrapped up the evening with another poem, I think. By this time I was at the door talking to Jon Weinstein, the other Democratic challenger for District 9A. It turns out that we’re neighbors, but then again, aren’t we all?

Liz Love Fest Lite

Last night I attended Delegate Liz Bobo’s Legislative Update at Kahler Hall in Columbia. This is an annual event for the long serving District 12B representative and a regular gathering for her faithful supporters. Last year Larry Carson, The Sun reporter, dubbed it the Liz Love Fest.

This year the gathering was a somewhat smaller turnout of her true believers and there a little less love. Some of those in attendance weren’t her fans at all including those who were unhappy with her behind the scenes support of the opponents of the Columbia Town Center redevelopment legislation. When Chris Tsien asked her whether she felt that that the county council and the county council “abdicated their responsibilities” when they passed CB 58 and CB 59 as the opponents claim, she disingenuously replied that her “number one priority” was state business not county business and that she had “no idea whether they abdicated their responsibility."

Jud Malone asked her point blank if she supported the effort to put the Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation up for referendum. After a little prodding Liz said that she “is not endorsing the referendum” effort. Oddly, she followed this statement by saying that she is not taking any position on this issue.

Isn’t her statement that she isn’t endorsing the referendum effort a position?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Simon Getting Anxious

David Simon is unhappy. The Chairman and CEO of the Simon Property Group thinks the board of General Growth Properties is “inappropriately speculating with creditors' money ,” by not immediately accepting their $9.00 a share bid for the company. In a letter to GGP’s Chairman yesterday, Simon said “the current state of the retail industry and your company’s past history of risky financial choices, your lack of urgency should deeply concern creditors and shareholders.”

This got ugly fast and the rhetoric is becoming increasingly hostile. Simon made the initial offer to GGP’s board on February 8th and went public with the offer on Tuesday when GGP didn’t jump right on it.

“We have not received a substantive response to this offer from GGP or its advisors, nor any indication that you are prepared to enter into serious discussions so as to make our offer available to your shareholders and creditors. Accordingly, we are today making our offer public.”

In response GGP said in essence, thanks, we’ll get back to you.

“We and our board of directors have given considerable thought to your indication of interest and have concluded based on discussions with other interested parties that it is not sufficient to preempt the process we are undertaking to explore all avenues to emerge from Chapter 11 and maximize value for all the Company’s stakeholders.”

Of course some folks, such as GGP’s largest shareholder, think the Simon bid is a lowball offer and that the value of the company is much higher. Today the stock is trading at $12.72 a share.

The CEO of GGP has so far remained pretty cool in this exchange. In a letter to David Simon today, Adam Metz reiterated that GGP is working “to maximize value for the company and its stakeholders and we are engaging in a process that is intended to accomplish that result in an expeditious manner. Understandably, your objectives are not aligned with ours. We hope you will, nonetheless, participate in our process.”

As I said before, this is far from over.

It’s been a Long Cold Lonely Winter

This morning, when I walked outside with the dog to get the morning paper, it seemed warmer. It was still thirty four degrees but after the past few mornings when the mercury hung just below 20, this morning it felt downright balmy.

How sick is that?

This has been a brutal winter. Usually, winters in Maryland are sprinkled with a sixty degree day here and there but not this winter. Since Thanksgiving it has felt like one long cold spell. I’ve even forgotten what nice weather feels like.

I am so done with winter. Even my dog has had it. Last night when we went out for our walk by the time she got to the end of the driveway she turned around and headed back towards the house. Now word comes from Mr. Foot and his forecasters that, as early as Sunday, we could see another major storm.


At this point we will be lucky if we see our lawns by Easter.

BWI is Flying High

BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport has been recognized as the number one airport of it’s size (15 to 25 million in annual traffic) in the world by Airports Council International, an industry group made up of 1,633 airports in 179 countries. The annual Airport Service Quality passenger survey takes into consideration “the ambience of the airport, cleanliness of the terminal, comfort of the waiting areas, availability of washrooms, cleanliness of washrooms, courtesy and helpfulness of the airport staff, business lounges, ease of making connections, passport / ID inspection experience and good shopping facilities.”

Seoul Incheon International Airport was rated as the top overall airport in the world.

In my opinion, BWI has long been the most passenger friendly airport of the three regional airports. It is a key element in the economic health of Howard County.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cyber War Game

Yesterday a cyber war game was held in Washington, DC that exposed the vulnerabilities of our nation to a coordinated cyber attack. According to this story by Ellen Nakashima in The Washington Post, the simulated attack was intended “to demonstrate to a complacent public the plausibility of an attack that could in many ways be as crippling as the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes. Organizers said they wanted to prod Congress and the Obama administration to act.”

Congress appears to be sitting on its hands. Dr. Robert M. Gates, the Secretary of Defense, had initially intended for the proposed U.S. Cyber Command to be fully operational by this October but so far the necessary legislative approvals have reportedly been held up in Congress over privacy concerns.

Swatek to Lead Petition Drive

The petition drive to put the Columbia Town Center redevelopment enabling legislation up for referendum is being led by Russ Swatek, the leader of a newly formed group that is calling itself “Taxpayers Against Giveaways.”

Taxpayers Against Giveaways is falsely claiming that General Growths plans for Town Center “will increase traffic congestion and impose future additional burdens on Howard County taxpayers and Columbia Association lien payers.”

In truth, the enabling legislation will reverse the declining fortunes of the Columbia’s downtown and, according to an independent study by Bay Area Economics, the proposed redevelopment program “would generate over $4.8 billion in total economic activity and 3,140 jobs in Howard County ” in the construction phase alone.

“In addition, renovation of the Merriweather Post Pavilion would lead to an estimated 46,000 additional visitors per year and support approximately $1.35 million annually in increased revenues and County visitor expenditures.”

The arguments that Russ Swatek and the Town Center redevelopment opponents are making are not backed up my any studies that I am aware of.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Simons Bids $10 Billion for GGP

Simon Property Group ended months of speculation today when they announced a $10 billion offer for General Growth Properties. According to this story in Crains Chicago Business, the Simon offer “includes about $9 billion in cash and would pay off all General Growth’s unsecured creditors…”

“Simon’s offer would provide a full cash recovery of par value plus accrued interest and dividends to unsecured creditors, “the holders of its trust preferred securities, the lenders under its credit facility, the holders of its Exchangeable Senior Notes and the holders of Rouse bonds, immediately upon the effectiveness of a definitive transaction agreement,” the release says. “

This is far from over. I fully expect the GGP board to say that this offer is too low. The Simon bid values GGP shares at around $9.00. GGP’s largest shareholder, Pershing Capital, believes the company is worth more than $12.00 a share. I would also expect that we will hear of a rival bid from Brookfield in the next few days.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Hidden in Plain Sight

It’s one of things that you don’t think about until it’s usually too late. All across the county, fire hydrants lay buried beneath the snow, hidden from plain view. Though the fire department has a general idea where each hydrant is located, do you really want them spending time digging it out while your house burns?

I dug one out this afternoon. It took less than 15 minutes. You can too.

There are several efforts underway to mobilize the population to help out. In a recent facebook posting Ken Ulman even provided a link to find the individual hydrants in your neighborhood. Just type in your address and voila!

I realize everyone has a little snow shoveling fatigue by now but this simple little task could make a world of difference in a bad situation.

Presidents Day 2010

Today isn’t really any presidents’ birthday. Abraham Lincoln’s birthday was last Friday and George Washington’s birthday is a week from today. Prior to 1971, the federal holiday was always celebrated on Washington’s actual birthday on the 22nd. In 1971 the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February in order to create a three day weekend holiday. As a result, the federal holiday, which is still officially called Washington’s Birthday, doesn’t fall on any our 44 presidents birthdays.

My personal favorite of the 44 commanders in chief was Theodore Roosevelt. For those who are also fans of our 26th president, I wholeheartedly recommend the biographies Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris or Theodore Roosevelt a Life by Nathan Miller.

And just for the record, today is actually a famous world leader’s birthday. In 1710, King Louis XV of France was born on this day. Happy Birthday Louie!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Go HoCo

Tom, a regular commenter here, in responding to this post about Google’s planned broadband demonstration project, made a request.

"Dennis will you submit our proposal? I'm afraid if it gets into the political/public arena a group will form that thinks our networks are already too crowded."

Google is accepting expressions of interest from communities interested in hosting a showcase project of cutting edge super fast broadband internet. Only “elected officials” can formally apply to have their communities considered. Non electeds like me can only nominate.

So I did as Tom asked and nominated Howard County.

Then, taking a page from what I learned from Ilana Bittner on our most recent podcast of “…and then there’s that…”, I started a facebook page called “Google Howard County.” In little over 24 hours 34 people had already signed on.

There are still many unanswered questions about what exactly this project actually entails. It may turn out in the end that it really isn’t a good fit for HoCo but there’s no harm in taking a closer look. The opportunity to be a showcase of the next generation of broadband technology should not be taken lightly.

You can be certain one thing. There will be plenty of competition for this technology plum.

Happy Valentines Day

Forgive my cynicism but I’ve always believed that Valentines Day is a little lopsided between men and women, not to mention florists.

In The Washington Post Magazine today, Gene Weingarten wrote a very funny column about sappy Valentines cards.

"Darling, as I was wandering the aisles in CVS in search of antifungal ointment, I was thinking about the depth of my love for you; but, because I am too lazy or dimwitted or emotionally anemic to come up with an original thought, I decided to spend a buck and a half for a few mawkish cliches hawked up like loogies by a failed writer who has sold his soul for a paycheck from the Humongous Greeting Card corporation, which has then subjected his work to editing by a focus group to make sure it has no inadvertent trace of juice or passion that might offend someone in the suburbs of Des Moines; conversely, it may be an attempt at humor as weak and strained as a jar of Gerber pea and pear baby food. So, here it is! I hope you like it, sweetheart! Can we have sex now?"

And just to dispel any notion that I’m totally heartless, I actually made Mama Wordbones a card this year.

She liked it too. Happy Valentines Day.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Room

It’s a front page above the fold story in The Washington Post and The Sun. Though The Big Kahuna and Kahunageddon 2.0 have left us they left behind a legacy of snow mountains and snarled traffic.

It took me an hour to get from Columbia to Ellicott City last night.
The problem is twofold. One, the roads are operating at a greatly diminished capacity with lanes still clogged with snow. Two, the road crews are still working to open up the roads even as residents attempt to return to some degree of normalcy.

This snow is taking up a lot of space.

In Ellicott City this afternoon there were virtually no parking spaces available on Main Street. The snow was occupying them.

In Parking Lot D the snow was hogging at least 15% of the remaining parking available.

We’re going to be living with this stuff for awhile.

And yes, finally after one week, I got both newspapers delivered today. One was sitting in the driveway when I woke up and the other arrived after lunch.

The later delivery was probably tied up in traffic.

Flat Roofs and Heavy Snow

Yesterday morning I received a call from a tenant in one of our buildings in Annapolis Junction. Another tenant in the same building had called the fire department because they thought the roof was failing. By the time I arrived on the scene the ladder truck from the Savage station was already on the scene.

The tenant had called the fire department when they noticed that some of the sprinkler heads had dropped down slightly from the suspended ceiling tiles. They were concerned that this indicated that the roof was sagging and it was in danger of collapse.

Actually, the roof was actually doing what it is designed to do. The structural steel of the building includes cambered beams which can drop slightly when excessive loads build up on the roof. Since the sprinkler pipes are often attached to these beams they will move with it.

Someone asked if we were going to send up a crew up on the roof to shovel off the snow. No, I answered. That actually risks doing more damage to the roof. The best thing to do is to make sure the roof drains and scuppers are clear so that as the snow melts the water has someplace to go. In this case, the drains and scuppers were clear and the water was draining as it was designed to do.

The county engineers came and took a look. They generally agreed that the roof was fine but still required the owner to bring in their own structural engineer to confirm that the building was indeed safe. After several hours of downtime during which the employees enjoyed a free lunch, the building returned to normal operations.

I can’t really blame the tenant for panicking after our governor went on TV and warned that there would likely be roof failures due to The Big Kahuna.

And there were a few roof collapses in the area, ironically at firehouses in Sykesville and Dundalk.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Google Broadband

Google wants to push the development of “super-fast open broadband networks.” According to this story by Miguel Helft in The New York Times, Google is looking for a few selected communities where they can build demonstration networks that would allow “people to surf the Web at a gigabit a second, or about 100 times the speed of many broadband connections.”

“In Google’s vision of the future of the Internet, the live streaming of 3-D medical images from a rural health clinic to a specialized medical center or the downloading of a full-length movie in a matter of minutes would become commonplace.”

The company will be soliciting proposals from interested communities over the next six weeks with the goal of having a working system in place by the end of the year.

With our history of innovation in fiber optics from local companies like Ciena, I think Howard County would make a nice test bed for this project.


The call came late yesterday afternoon. Could I come over to hospital and help get some nurses home with my four wheel drive?

I was being given a shot at redemption after my initial volunteer service failed.

Between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30 PM I ferried Ms. Janet, Ms. O and Ms Lee to their homes in Ellicott City and Columbia. The nurses told me that the hospital was a little jammed with patients who were ready to be discharged yet unable to leave because they couldn’t get picked up. Meanwhile new patients continued to flow in.

I got a short break between my 6:00 assignment and the end of the nursing shift at 7:00 PM so I dropped into Clyde’s for a burger. The bar was full but there were plenty of open tables in the restaurant. I sat at the bar with Bill McGregor, the football coach of DeMatha High School in Hyattsville. He lives in Ellicott City and came over to Clyde’s to cure his cabin fever.

“How are the roads?” he asked.

My stock answer is that the roads are passable but far from safe. You could easily be tooling down the road and without warning the two lanes of traffic become one. Ice is a problem too as well as the fact that at most intersections your visibility of oncoming traffic is blocked by mounds of piled up snow.

I laughed and told him that a teenager would probably say the roads were fine but an old dog like me urges caution.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Time to Surrender

I made it into my office in Columbia this afternoon. For the most part the roads are clear, though a lane or two are missing here and there. The parking lot at my office is as clear as it was on Tuesday morning.

Our landlord, Mark Shearer, stopped by after he saw my car in the parking lot. Apparently I am one of the only people who came into the office today in the whole complex. I asked Mark how his properties were holding up. Mark oversees over 4 million square feet of commercial space throughout the Baltimore Washington corridor for AMB Property Corporation. Tuesday morning he had told my colleague TW that he thought he might lose a roof somewhere.

“We haven’t lost any yet,” he told me. He has crews up on the roofs clearing out the roof drains and scuppers so that the melting snow has a place to go.

“Thank god for thirty five degrees and sunshine,” he said.

On my way in I spotted this guy stuck in the snow at the end of a driveway. This is no time to surrender. We could get another 4 inches of the white stuff by next Tuesday night.

For veteran snow warriors like us four inches just seems like a dusting.

More Snow on the Way

This is probably the last thing that folks around here want to hear but, as they say, it is what it is. According to Mr. Foot and his forecasters, we can expect another storm on Presidents Day.

“The good news is next week will probably feature just one Big Kahuna, a stark improvement from TWO blizzards over five days, huh?"

At this rate the kids will be in school until the 4th of July and we won’t see our lawns again til Easter.

The Morning After

As I am writing this post the sound of snow blowers can be heard all around me. In my neighborhood, the guy with the biggest snow blower is out helping every neighbor he can get to. Jack is a good man.

Surprisingly, our street was pretty clear this morning at 9:00 AM so after clearing out our drive, I took a spin down to Ellicott City to check things out. Once again, one of the few merchants open was the Little French Market. I stopped in for a coffee with Amy. She has been serving coffee to storm weary patrons since The Big Kahuna first hit last Friday. She hasn’t been to her home in Clarksville in a week. K2, the owner of the Little French Market, put her up in her home on Church Street so she has been able to walk down and open up the shop. She’s been putting in some fairly long days.

“I can use the money,” she told me.

Of course the ones really putting in the hours are the snow removal crews. Most of the plow operators have putting in 18 hour days to try and stay on top of things. According to this story by Larry Carson in The Sun today, that is little consolation to residents who should actually know better like Angie Beltram.

"All I know is, our street is one of the last" to be plowed, Beltram said, though she hadn't fully explored the neighborhood. She paid $200 to a landscaping crew with a snow-blower to clean off her driveway. County officials said Beltram's belief is a common one after a heavy storm, except that of course, everyone can't be last.”

Ms Beltram of all people should know better since she once served on the county council.

The task facing county and state crews is daunting.

“Residents often don't know why a plow left a section undone. The truck might need gas, the plow might break, a parked car might block the way, or a plow might be called to help an ambulance, fire truck or police vehicle, which happened frequently at the height of the storm Saturday and Sunday. The truck drivers also may need rest. Irvin said the county provides cots and food at highway shops and tries to rest the 130 drivers periodically for 4 or 5 hours between shifts. Many returned home Monday night to rest up for the Tuesday night/Wednesday storm.”

In other words Angie, take a chill pill and stop whining.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Dump

This morning as Kahunageddon 2.0 was just starting to kick into high gear, my neighbor Jack and his son showed up at my driveway with his Husqvarna 1827B Snow Thrower. It’s a beast.

No sooner then he starts into my driveway an object spits out the shoot with the snow. It was today’s edition of The Sun. Impressive.

Fortunately the blades didn’t mangle the main sections and so when I went back in and dried off I had a nice fresh newspaper to enjoy with my coffee.

Parking space turf marking warranted this front page story by Timothy B. Wheeler. Though reserving a parking spot on a public street is illegal the new mayor has “pledged not to enforce the ban.”

That doesn’t sit well with everyone.

“A strong public property faction has been given a voice in a Facebook group titled, "Just 'cuz you left a plastic chair where your snow-covered car used to be.." Started by Brian Connelly of Baltimore, it has a photograph showing the front end of a sport utility vehicle bearing down on a plastic lawn chair occupying an empty parking spot on a snowy street.

Group member Chris Farrell commented on the page, "These are public streets we're talking about right??? So if I clear off a picnic table at a public park, that's mine? For how long? I can just kick people off any time I come back?"

Clean up from this storm is going to take awhile and I’m not just referring to the snow. There are trees down everywhere. In our own backyard the Leyland Cypress trees we planted four years ago are getting pretty beat up.

In this story by Susan Reimer reports that “Local arborists have been swamped with calls to deal with damage to historic cherry trees, common oaks and towering evergreens loaded down by the overwhelming snowfall.”

She interviews Frank Fogle, an arborist with Davey Tree.

“Evergreens are suffering most, said Fogle. "Think of all that snow on a fly-swatter, and then think of all that snow falling on a kitchen whisk. The snow is filtering through the oaks and the other hardwoods. But it is lying really heavy on the spruce, white pines, cypress."

Then again hope springs eternal…

"Trees are made to be flexible," Fogle said. "Well, maybe not this flexible. But we are advising clients to just leave it alone. When the spring comes and the sap rises, you'd be surprised how they bounce back."

A Perfect Trifecta for HoCo Bonds

The Fitch Rating service has assigned a “AAA” to over $100 million of new county general obligation bonds. In assigning the top rating Fitch had good things to say about how our local government handles it finances.

“Historically sound financial management and planning has created a level of financial flexibility and cushion that serves to temper the impact of declining income tax and state aid revenues on the county's credit profile.

“Overall debt levels are moderate reflecting the county's controlled approach to growth, rapid principal amortization, and use of pay-go capital.”

This speaks well not only for the current but previous administrations as well since the service also “reaffirmed” over $800 million in existing general obligation bonds.

The higher the rating, the lower the borrowing costs.

Well done.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Scene This Week In…

Given the dramatic transformation that has taken place with the local landscape over the past few days the “STW” pictures in the right column were looking quite dated.

I’ve been taking a ton of pictures too.

First off, is the guy with the shades, cigarette hanging out of the side of his mouth, who was spinning a Caterpiller 928G front end loader around a cul de sac with speed, precision and grace. He came within inches of mailboxes and took out nary a one.

He was actually fun to watch.

The CAT Guy was actually part of a hit team that suddenly descended upon our neighborhood late yesterday. Until that point our roads had been largely impassable without a four wheel drive since Friday night. The county wasn’t responsible for clearing our roads either. They have yet to be dedicated to the county by the developer so that means the developer still has to clear the snow.

They tried to keep up with The Big Kahuna but the equipment they bought to the game was not up to the task. By early Saturday morning they were beaten back and not heard from again. Calls and emails to the developers’ management office went unanswered.

Then a neighbor called Dr. Taylor at home. Dr. Bruce Taylor is the namesake Taylor of Taylor Village in Ellicott City. That neighbor then shared Dr. Taylors home number with the neighborhood email list.
Before you know it we’ve got the CAT Guy doing his front end loader snow dance on our streets. CAT Guy had help too. Dr. Taylor himself was piloting a black SUV with a plow on the front.

“I appreciate your patience,” he said to me as I stood watching the heavy equipment performance from my driveway.

“I’m impressed to see you out here too,” I replied.

He further explained that that the phones and computers had gone down at the management company offices, hence nobody could answer phones or emails.

In Columbia some merchants have taken advantage of the new roadside snow mountains to openly flaunt the towns strict sign guidelines.

I spotted this advertisement for Ledo’s on Oakland Mills Road. I was also told that there were others around town as well.

Witness to History

Mr. Foot and his forecasters are saying that this one two punch of snow storms is one for the history books.

“… nothing like this has ever happened before, not even 1888, 1899, 1922 or 1958. Forget 1966, 1983, 1996 or 2003. Two blizzards along I-95 in one week? It can be dangerous living on Earth, and you will be living out history right before your eyes.”

At least we’ve got that going for us.

In This Months Business Monthly

During my teenage years Columbia was a rocking place. The new town was expanding at a frenetic pace. As the first generation of kids who grew up in the planned community, there was no doubt in our minds that this growth would continue and that we’d end up with a real city much like the foam core model on display in the Exhibit Center in Town Center.

That didn’t happen.

For a variety of reasons Columbia got off track. The town grew but it lost its edge of innovative planning. The newer neighborhoods and villages were indistinguishable from new community developments almost anywhere. Columbia's Town Center continued to add office buildings but no character. Reston, which had been overshadowed by Columbia for years, reclaimed the community planning spotlight with a wildly successful pedestrian oriented Town Center.

That will all change now and though this change is good it is none the less unsettling for those who grew comfortable with what Columbia had become.

You can read this month’s column here.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Big Kahuna Likes Beer

The Big Kahuna provided the perfect beer cooler at my neighbors Super Bowl party yesterday.

Marking Turf

If you have ever lived in a shared parking situation you are familiar with the turf battles that go hand in hand with a big snow storm. Once you clear out your car and the parking space it was in, you believe you own that spot.

Certainly, in many cases each unit has a reserved spot or two but who can see the numbers when the snow is this prolific? While the person in the photo used what appears to be a lovely little café table as placeholder, folding chairs are often the preferred method for marking a claim.

The problem is that the visitor spaces are always the last spaces to get cleared.

As I drove about this afternoon I also noticed that all homeowners associations are not equally up to the task. I saw townhome communities that were cleared and others that looked like they hadn’t seen a plow since Saturday.

Monday Morning Memo

Just as things begin to clear up around here we learn that a second major storm is headed our way tomorrow afternoon. According to Mr. Foot and his forecasters we can expect, “snowfall by 7 PM Wednesday to reach or exceed 12 inches along the I-95 corridor from Baltimore north to Philadelphia as well as southeastern PA.”

Great. Where are we going to put this stuff?

Late yesterday afternoon, just as we were preparing to trek down the street to JD and Danielle’s annual Super Bowl party, my Sunday newspapers finally arrived. As I was perusing them this morning I noted that Elkridge and Savage got a mention in The New York Times yesterday.

“Matthew Kramar, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sterling, Va., ticked off some of the big regional snow totals, mostly in the higher elevations — 33 inches in Bayard, W. Va., and in Smith Crossroads in Morgan County, W. Va., 32 inches at Howellsville, Va., 29.5 at Frostburg, Md., 28.5 inches at Savage, Md., and 30.3 inches at Elkridge, Md., southwest of Baltimore.”

Fellow local blogger HoCo Rising took this nice little video of the conditions in the Village of Dorsey’s Search in Columbia.
In previous posts about The Big Kahuna I failed to mention the spectacular sunset on Saturday evening. Bob O captured that moment from his home in the Turf Valley Overlook neighborhood in Ellicott City.
I am about to venture out to take Peanut to her moms house in Catonsville. After that I need to swing by the office on Dobbin Road in Columbia. I’ll put up another post when I get back.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mercy Mission: Fail

I had originally intended to be a volunteer driver for the hospital during this storm. They are always in need of people with four wheel drive vehicles to ferry nurses and doctors back forth from home at times like this. I dutifully stopped by the security office and signed the requisite forms a full day before the snowflakes fell.

Friday afternoon, as The Big Kahuna was just getting cranked up, the security office called me. I was asked what time I would like to sign up for. Since my daughter was with me this weekend I had to consider a time that would work around that. The nursing shifts change at 11 PM and 7 AM so I committed to 5:30 AM to 9:00 AM. I was told I’d be called during that time if needed. When I got home I parked my truck at the end of the drive to make it easier to dig out, figuring that The Big Kahuna would really be hitting is stride about that time of the morning.

I figured right.

I awoke at 4:45 AM. I didn’t need an alarm. An incredibly bright flash of lightning lit up our bedroom and was very shortly followed by a boom so loud it shook the windows. It sounded like it hit the backyard. I could TBK hitting the windows and the side of the house. He was an angry storm

As I came downstairs and looked out the window I noticed that my neighbor Art was pulling out of his driveway. At first I figured this a good sign and that I’d have no trouble getting out too. Then he stopped. He drove about 100 yards up the street and stopped.

I suited up and went outside. Art works at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. He was trying to get to work. By the time I trudged up to his car he had already decided to abort. He said that the hospital told him to stay home.

I trudged back home. There was no way I was getting out.

The fact of the matter is that the hospital never called me either. I suppose that they were advised that any ride, even in a four wheel drive vehicle, would be ill advised at that point in the storm. That saved me the embarrassment of saying that I was unable to fulfill my obligation.
Sometime during those early hours of Friday, our street was plowed for the last time. A guy in a pickup truck made a valiant but futile effort to hold back the big guy . He soon retreated with his plow between his wheels.

Sunday Morning

The snow has stopped, the sun is shining and it’s cold. I was finally able to get out of the neighborhood and down to Ellicott City. Though our street hasn’t seen a snow plow since the wee hours of Saturday, I was able to push though it. It is Sunday after all and Sunday means spending quality time with the newspapers. I had accepted the fact that home delivery was apt to be suspended for the next few days.

It turns out that we are lucky. Just beyond our house the roads have been reduced to a single track in the snow. Those folks aren’t going anywhere.

In Ellicott City, The Little French Market was open. K2 had walked down from her house on Church Road to open the shop. She said Church Road had not been plowed. They had plenty of coffee and some bread but the pasty supplies were depleted.

Freshly fueled with a large Americano I set out for the Long Gate Shopping Center on Montgomery Road. For the most part the main roads are passable but caution is advised. The highway ramps look dicey and the roads are a little slick.

I couldn’t find a Sunday newspaper anywhere.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Thunder Hill

Chip sent in these pictures from his house in the Thunder Hill neighborhood of Columbia.

“My dog is up to her neck and my daughter Kaylee can change the light bulb in our light post with all of this snow. Then there is a picture of our patio furniture.”
I’ve been getting lots of pictures of patios and decks. It is obvious that these are taken from the comfort of a warm home. How about suiting up and venturing out a little like Doji?

Town Center Lakefront

A blog reader named Doji sent in a couple nice shots from the Town Center lakefront. He writes, “During the Dec blizzard, no one from Columbia was quick to email you photos. This time, Columbia represents! I walked there (with great difficulty) from my apartment. Everything is, of course, closed today.”
Thanks Doji. Great shots.

Mid Day Saturday

So far my plan for being a driver for the hospital isn’t going so well. Though we have dug ourselves out quite nicely our street is largely impassible. Mama Wordbones and I just finished taking a walk from end to end and concluded that while I could probably make it out I could just as probably get stuck I think I’ll wait a little longer.

Columbia Talk informs us that the hospital is still looking for volunteers with four wheel drive vehicles. The number to call is (410) 740-7911.

Courtney Watson sent along some handy tips for dealing with The Big Kahuna.

Remember to try and clear your own gas vents, and heat pumps around your house.

* Shovel snow in layers and in small increments of time.

* Power outage information can be found here:

* Snow plow tracker can be found here:

* If you know someone without power, and they have a medical need to be removed from the house, have them call 911

Courtney also reports that a s of 11:30 this morning Elkridge has reported 33 inches of snow. I think Elkridge is the big winner of snowfall total.

I saved my neighbor Karen with a six pack. While Karen had provisioned her home well with “wine and chili,” she came up a little short in the tp department. With two adults and three kids in the house that could get bad fast. Fortunately for her we had only recently made a Costco run for this particular item. We not only had a spare roll. We had a spare six pack.

I am also happy to report that we received some storm photos from readers and I’ll begin posting them soon. Right now it’s break time. We have been shoveling snow for the better part of the day. It’s time to pour a glass of wine.

Pre Dawn Saturday

We’re not going anywhere, even with four wheel drive. My on call shift with the hospital started a half hour go and thankfully I haven’t gotten a call yet. I got up at 5:00 AM and the black dog and I went out to reconnoiter the situation. It was knee deep in the street.

One of my neighbors is an anesthesiologist at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. He was pulling out of his driveway as I was sizing up the situation. He got about 200 yards up the street and before retreating back home.

I slogged through the snow to talk to him.

“I called the hospital and they told me that basically anyone who was already there was staying there. They aren’t even sending out cars to pick people up.”

I can only assume that the same the same holds true for HCGH.

We even had lightning this morning. That was a little freaky. The Weather Channel is saying that we’re getting three inches of snow an hour.

I’m heading back to bed.