Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tony Hawk: The End

Tony Hawk. If you're between the ages of 18-45, he should sound familiar. Aside from the basics, I probably spent 70 percent of my youth skateboarding or playing Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on Playstation.

Tony Hawk stars in Birdhouse: The End. (Banned in Switzerland)

If Tony Hawk stalls your bandwidth click here.

It's the week before finals. My head is steeped in a bittersweet tea of Research and hyper text over at Fairways. Inside Jimi's apartment, the Xbox 360 is the most advanced technology in a room full of crazies.

I just took a break from my work to watch this and it made me flip out all over again. Decapitation, exploding vans, strippers, bull ring, Bucky Lasek; its all there. *The End can be viewed on Youtube in four parts.* I think the video really belongs to the late-night, fire lighting antics of Jeremy Klein and Heath Kirchart.

I hope readers enjoy this. Just to clarify::This has nothing to do with Columbia in any way, it's just for fun. Have fun. I have. After I film, cram & exam, I'll be back [like Arnold Schwarzenegger try'n to play me out like as if my name was Sega]

-House of Pain-

Parting Est Telle Doux Chagrin

I rarely look at the obits of any paper, I'm young and I don't expect to die before I turn 60. Perhaps one day, when I'm chillin in my easy chair eating orange cracker sandwiches with peanut butter, I'll take time out of my day to check and see if any of my friends have passed.

The name Tennenbaum caught my eye this morning as I scanned through the main page of the Columbia Flier. Marcelle S. Tennenbaum, the wife of Columbia architect Robert Tennenbaum has passed.

Robert, if you're reading this, my heart goes out to you man. I'm not married, I don't know what it feels like to lose a wife to illness, but I understand the feelings of loss, grievance and understanding that comes with the passing of a loved one. Peace.

Thank You, Come Again!

When you think of Columbia, what comes to mind? Great schools, tot-lots, the bike guy and restaurants. Its hard to drive more than five minutes without finding a restaurant and damn near impossible to miss a Chinese, Italian or Mexican restaurant. I'm not a big fan of burritos, combination plates and cheap margaritas. Most of the Italian restaurants are overpriced. And if you want good Chinese food, go to Shanghai or Hunan Manor.

Indian food is the shizzle and I prefer House of India. Of course right behind the house is Ackbar, comparable but not the same. HowChow has reported about the possibility of India Delight joining the mosh pit of mango lassis and palak paneers. One more knock off won't hurt right? That's what Atlanta Bread Company general manager Keith Walthers told us in so many words on opening day. A year later, the doors closed for good.

Assuming that India Delight opens shop like HowChow reports it might, my guess is the restaurant would fill the vacant space held by ABC or California Tortilla. Will it survive with House of India and Ackbar dug in less than a mile away?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Space Between

I'm sure some people walk through Owen Brown village center but not me. After the revitalization by Giant Food owner Ahold, the layout of the village center was changed to bring parking lots up close to the stores, eliminating the central court and thus the need to actually walk through the center.

If you think back to the way things were, Owen Brown village center had a central pebble stone plaza ringed with benches. I don't think I ever saw people sitting on all the benches at any one time but they had choices.

Owen Brown village center didn't need revitalization, in fact it was fine the way it was. Giant Food, the anchor store, had entrances facing the center court which encouraged shoppers to walk the plaza. The current incarnation of the village center greets strollers with plain white concrete sidewalks and a grass square surrounded by a thin row of bushes, topped with brick walls.

I'd like to see Giant do something, anything with this space. Plant trees and flowers and insert tables perhaps. This gaping hole sticks out like a sore thumb, a constant reminder of the clumsy hand of the builder.

Breaking Down Bankruptcy: GGP

Sorry folks, did you miss me? Think back . . . decades ago you too were approaching the end of your last semester of college. You were busy right? Well its good to be back and discuss the finer points of bankruptcy law. I'm not an economist or even an economics major but as a journalist, I have the benefit of calling on the knowledge and wisdom of economics professors.

I spent my weekend in correspondence with Joe Pomykala, a professor of economics at Towson University who specializes in bankruptcy law. Hopefully after reading this, you will have a better understanding of the intricacies of chapter 11 bankruptcy in relation with General Growth Properties.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy allowed GGP to freeze it's debt of $4 billion and avoid interest payments to its creditors. Additionally, all legally binding contracts such as leases and labor contracts which exist outside of said bankruptcy can be accepted or rejected at the company's discretion.

While in bankruptcy, GGP may take out new loans which must be paid before the existing debt which are referred to as DIP (Debtor In Possession) loans. The interest rates for said loans are substantially lower than those of the company's existing loans.

Next, GGP develops a restructuring plan to reorganize and streamline it's operation, which creditors vote over. Creditors are usually paid less than the original contract allows. However the creditors should receive payment equivalent to the sum negotiated under chapter seven liquidation.

It should be noted that creditors of the preexisting debt may not necessarily receive cash as payment. In some cases, creditors receive stock in the restructured company. The bakruptcy and restructuring process may take as much as two years to complete. When asked if the process seems unfair, Pomykala says it is legalized theft.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Columbia Cleans Up It's Act

Residents from all 10 villages came out Saturday to help clean up green spaces. Community groups worked with the Columbia Association to pick up trash and remove debris from areas around lakes, parks and village centers.

I biked around lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown and around the village center in King's Contrivance and wherever I looked I saw small groups of children and seniors with grabbers and clear plastic bags filled to the gills with garbage.

Granted this doesn't happen every weekend but its a welcome sight and a great way to spend a mild Saturday afternoon. After 11 a.m., Lake Elkhorn shifted gears for another event, so I went back home. Sorry people, until dogs learn how to poop in a box, I'll stick with cats. Plus they feed themselves occasionally.

Kings Contrivance: Crossed Off

Saturday morning, two hours after my alarm went off, I biked around lake Elkhorn and down to Kings Contrivance village center to cover the clean up. I've been to King's Contrivance before but until now I never really looked at the courtyard surrounded by vibrant shops.

Compared to Owen Brown village center, this place is nice. The 24 hour Harris Teeter is integrated with the courtyard so that one draws you to the other. There is no vacant space like there is in Owen Brown village center and no two shops are alike. For example in Owen Brown, we have Jerry's pizza and Vocelli's pizza. What a dumb idea.

Then I saw it. Beyond the Amherst house in the corner of the lot is a beautiful brick structure. At first I wasn't sure what it was. Then I saw the brick bell tower with the cross on top. Immediately, I crossed King's Contrivance village center off my list. I looked up at the cross, that blatant symbol that says f--k Columbia's interfaith centers and damn inclusion.

I may live near a shell of a village center but at least I don't have to look at any religious symbols on my way to the Sunoco. I don't want any churches, mosques, temples, synagogues or any other religious type buildings in my town. Period. Go to the interfaith centers or go somewhere else.

At least that's my opinion. What's yours?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Left On Lake Elkhorn, Right?

I like to bicycle around lake Elkhorn among other places in Columbia, primarily because I live right on the edge. I'm sure this sounds pedantic to most and excessive to some but I wish people understood which side of the path to walk on in relation to the direction they are traveling in.

In America we drive on the right side of the road going forwards and on the left going backwards respectively. This is a fairly simple concept for me to grasp and for most people I would imagine. Yet every single time I bike around Lake Elkhorn, I see people walking towards me on the right side of the path.

How can you pass a pedestrian or group of pedestrians on the if they walk shoulder to shoulder? Some people walk confidently towards me on the right side of the path as though they truly believe they are in the right. My favorites are the people who walk on either side holding a stroller in one hand and a dog leash in the other; with an energetic dog at the other end of the leash.

I've never hit anybody though sometimes I may give the offender a rat face. This is in no way a major problem but if you're still reading this, thanks for letting me vent my frustrations on you. Have a nice weekend and if you have a little free time tomorrow, go out and volunteer your time to help clean up Columbia's green space!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Cleaning in Columbia

Saturday morning, volunteers and community groups in every village will assemble at 9 a.m., at designated sites for some spring cleaning. Details are available on the Columbia Association website.

View Columbia Clean Up in a larger map

GGP Files For Bankruptcy

Just in from WBAL radio AM 1090, General Growth Properties, the Chicago based developer has filed for bankruptcy.

"Our core business remains sound and is performing well with stable cash flows. We believe that chapter 11 is the best process for restructuring maturing mortgage loans, reducing the company's corporate debt, and establishing a sustainable, long-term capital structure for the company," said Adam Metz, chief executive. [Steve Goldstein,]

GGP currently has more than $25 billion in debt to pay off. On Wall Street, shares of the company closed at $1.05 Wednesday, tumbling 97 percent over the last fiscal year.

GGP has said in a statement that it has secured a commitment for $375 million in bankruptcy financing from Pershing Square Capital Market, the hedge fund group that owns more than 25 percent of the company.

On a more local level, the company will continue to operate, though under increasing scrutiny from Howard County government and residents. I do not believe their current financial predicament will affect the company's plans to redevelop Town Center.

I've called GGP in Columbia and Chicago, still no quote regarding the bankruptcy filing. I've just made contact with Greg Hamm. I will obtain a quote from Hamm sometime after noon. I'll post quotes and more information as it becomes available!

-The Gonzo Journalist-

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Larry Carson: Reporting on the Reporter

"Well I had dropped out of college . . . a friend of mine suggested I might like being a reporter so I just started calling and applying to the newspapers in Baltimore and I initially got a job as a copy boy at the News American for about six months."

That's how Baltimore Sun reporter Larry Carson got his start in journalism. Carson lives in a town house overlooking lake Elkhorn in Owen Brown. Carson started working for the Baltimore Sun's evening paper in 1969 and moved to Columbia in 1978.

Prior to 1978, Carson lived in northwest Baltimore. He started out as a copy boy for the paper, running takes from the writers to the copy editors. He would also go out on Saturday nights with the police reporters. When an opening became available for a reporter, he took it. Later he became a police reporter or a "leg man," who gathered information in the city and passed it on to a rewrite man.

In January of 1969, his first assignment for the evening sun was to cover howard county. Carson shared an office above the Wilde Lake village center with a morning reporter. He recalls reporting on the hilltop housing which replaced the substandard housing in Ellicott City and the shoddy workman ship of Ryland housing in Oakland Mills as well as the view of the Lark Brown road residents on the General Electric move into Columbia.

As a reporter, Carson has a detached view of Columbia because he tends to keep a distance from things he may end up writing about. He did however share his opinions on what hasn't worked in Columbia, specifically the lack of cohesion in downtown, affordable housing and transportation.

"It's not something that most people prefer to use because it takes a lot of time to get anywhere, the busses are noisy they're not that comfortable. You know, they stop a lot of places before you get to where you're going. It can take you a long time, so I think transportation's another big problem," says Carson.

Carson says the issues facing current and future Columbia are the downtown redevelopment and the revitalization of the village centers as well as the proposal for the 23 story tower. He says a lot of people are concerned about the school congestion and the congestion of major thoroughfares like Route 29.

Space: The Final Frontier

Sorry Trek fans, no voyages today. But if you think about Columbia in the sense of space, then building on vacant lots or recently acquired parcels is the final frontier. Near the intersection of Broken Land parkway and Snowden River parkway buildings are being constructed. The same is true with the intersection of Route 175 and Thunder Hill road.

The lot I'm talking about however lies at the edge of the so called Oakland Mills village center across from Bangkok Gardens where the gas station used to be. Only recently have I found out that there used to be a gas station there--and that's what I love about Columbia, I discover something new everyday.

Everytime I ride the brown route to the mall, I try to imagine what could fill that vacant lot as the bus drives past. Why not build a skate park there? Yeah that seems like a good idea execpt that as soon as you leave said designated skate park you'd get hassled or busted for riding through the so called village center. Absolute bulls--t.

Correct me if I'm wrong but some people have proposed housing of some sort be built on the lot. I think the next logical idea would be to put a gas station back, perhaps with a Subway inside? Unlike the Sunoco in Owen Brown, I don't think it would get robbed because of the Howard County police trailer behind Bangkok Gardens.

In my opinion, this issue needs to be tackled and perhaps bundled with the redevelopment that the village center so sorely needs. It has no drawing power other than the sheer human necessity for bread and grain alcohol.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Stop In The Name Of The Law!

Did you know its against the law to ride a bicycle through the Oakland Mills village center? I didn't know and I didn't give much attention to the black man sitting on the planter yelling at me to get off my bike. At first I thought what's his malfunction?

Last Friday, I was biking back from an interview with Linda Morris at the lakefront. I ride across the pedestrian bridge and took a detour through the village center to take a few pictures. On my way out, pedaling casually, the man stopped me and said I had to get off my bike and walk it or he'd call the police. "OK man, you do that, have a nice one," I replied coolly. Just to be sure, I read the list of rules on the corner of the block of stores on my way out.

Lo and behold, the use of rollerskates, scooters, skateboards and bicycles is prohibited. What a stupid rule I thought. While we're on the subject, Oakland Mills is as much a village center as Al Roker is a fortune teller. Sure it has the makings of a village center with a grocery store and a string of shops. But behind that, aside from the ice rink, there's nothing. It sucks.

As I pedaled out of the village center by Bangkok Gardens, I remembered the pale blue trailer near the bus stop that houses Howard County Police, oops. As I turned the corner, down the sidewalk, I glanced back in time long enough to see a cruiser rounding the corner. What a waste of resources.

The Walk Stops Here

I live in the village of Owen Brown and I often bike through Dobbin and the surrounding villages. Wait, lets back track, which is hard because there aren't many paths in Dobbin to begin with.

On days when I know I'm in class, I try to plan a few posts ahead of time to keep you interested. Over the weekend, while biking to photograph the closing of Z-Pizza, I thought of writing about the lack of connecting sidewalks in the Dobbin area.

Turns out Wordbones beat me to it. He's written about the lack of sidewalks in the Snowden area but I consider the areas linked. While interviewing Larry Carson of the Baltimore Sun Monday, he also mentioned the issue.

I'll give you an example. Lets say you live on Downdale Place in Owen Brown. A sidewalk runs along the edge of Oakland Mills road. Its a nice day out and you feel like walking to Dobbin Donuts & Deli for lunch. As soon as you get to the brick church you notice there's no sidewalk on the other side of the road!

This is a common occurrence in the Dobbin/Snowden area. Across Dobbin road from the Blockbuster video, there is a path that runs behind Dobbin and Owen Brown and into Oakland Mills. Once you walk up the hill from that path you'll have difficulty getting to the other side.

The point I'm trying to make is that there are no sidewalks or crosswalks in places where there ought to be sidewalks. Columbia was supposedly designed to let residents walk to schools and village centers, why not restaurants and retail? There are sidewalks in some places and those simply stop as if to say "go back and get in your car and drive the rest of the way!"

Residents who live off of Carved Stone should be able to cross the street and walk to the strip mall for pho, but they can't because the sidewalk doesn't connect to the retail outlets. Instead they are required to either walk through a camoflauged cut or get in their car and drive.

The pedestrian and bicycling situation in the Snowden/Dobbin area is really f--ked up and needs to be fixed!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Columbia's Community Split On ZRA-113

Derek Simmonsen over at the Columbia Flier brought this to my attention Monday. According to the report, of the 103 people who testified to the county planning board on ZRA-113, half were for it and half were against it.

Titled 51-51 Split, this report provides a snapshot of the community or at least those who are concerned and active within the community. To a certain extent I think every one of us feels a certain amount of apprehension at the thought of a developer coming in and restructuring our downtown area.

Perhaps its because we are sick of the way things are and we are worried things might get worse as a result? Maybe we think General Growth Properties has the right idea but the wrong vision? Whatever the case I don't think there are many of us who are opposed to any development. I think we can all agree that something needs to be done and that's a start.

The planning board begins closed session deliberation on the plan Monday at 6:30 p.m.

Speed Cameras in Columbia

According to an article in the Columbia Flier, proponents for a plan to install speed cameras in Howard county like Ken Ulman and James Robey might just make it happen.

Speed cameras seem like a good idea right? Not in my opinion they don't. Why? Because speed cameras don't address the cause, they address the effect. If you're driving down Broken Land parkway and see a speed camera what are you going to do?

Slow down if your smart and when you pass, speed back up, right? So the speed cameras may in fact act as a deterrent when vehicles are within its field of view but as soon as they aren't they accelerate again.

Opponents in Annapolis disagree with the statement made by Ulman, linking the installation of speed cameras to public safety. They argue that its all about revenue. What do you think?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Linda Morris - Happy Child

Linda Sachiko Morris isn't a resident of Columbia but she goes to school here, at Howard Community College. During our interview, she pointed out that her middle name pronounced with emphasis on the second syllable, means happy child. As a child she's grown up in Wheaton and Laurel.

I first met Morris when I covered the SGA leadership series last Friday at Howard Community College. She comes off as articulate, energetic and intelligent. Its no wonder she has an interest in political science, a field she is well suited for. After meeting Mary Kay Sigaty through the Rouse scholar program, she asked Sigaty to speak to the SGA.

Morris went to high school at Reservoir where she developed a passion for journalism. She says she managed a 3.2 average even though she had a problem with attendance. While earning her associates degree in philosophy and religious studies at HCC, she ran for and won the position of SGA president.

Among her accomplishments as SGA president, Morris organized a Rock The Vote event, encouraging students to register to vote and worked with students to cook shepard's pie for the Grassroots shelter.

Finally I asked Morris "what is there to do in Columbia?" I could tell by her response that it was a hard question to answer.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last Call For Z-Pizza

When I worked for Atlanta Bread Company, I remember our manager boasting that we would outlive Z-Pizza and Orinoco Coffee. He said our pizza and coffee were better, I said he was an idiot. As it turned out, both shops outlasted ABC. Soon after it closed, Orinoco followed, along with California Tortilla. Now all that's left is the Asian cafe.

The fare at Z-Pizza is fair but I'd rather go to Jerry's for a pizza. Ultimately, I think that Z-Pizza had the same problem that ABC had. They entered an already competitive market with Ledo's, Jerry's, Pizza Hut, Vocelli's and Domino's. Part of the reason ABC failed was because Panera Bread was already operating and lets face it, ABC was a knock off that got knocked off.

Ryan, one of the managers at Z-Pizza told me the shop had closed at 8:00 p.m. He said they had run out of dough and toppings so they closed early, on their last day of business.

"From what I hear, its an issue between the landlord and the owner but I'm not really sure what really went on with them," says Ryan. "So I just found out Thursday that they were shutting down, Thursday morning."

Secret of the Pho

In Owen Brown, there's a Vietnamese restaurant called An Loi. It's a small, hole in the wall restaurant known for its pho, pronounced fa. Every time I sit down for beef wrapped in grape leaves, a tri-color bean dessert or their famous pho, I see Vietnamese residents sitting down for lunch or dinner. A good sign.

In the past I've asked HowChow and last night I asked the staff as well. "What's in the broth for the pho?" They say its a secret, that they can't tell me and that the recipe is too complex to whip up in 30 minutes. They know that I know that they know but they won't tell me what's in the broth.

The broth is slightly sweet, salty and buttery too! My tongue detects no spices or herbs. Every spoonful is a symphony and a mystery! So now I'm asking the readers of this blog for their help. Of course you win a prize if you can tell me what's in the broth!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Village Center Vitality

There are nine village centers in Columbia. Almost all of them have undergone "revitalization" in some form or another. Some village centers have sit down restaurants, others have interfaith centers, but which village center can be called the best?

I'm asking readers for their opinions on the village centers. Which village center attracts the most residents? Which village center has the best mix of shops? Which village center has the best liquor store? In essence, which village center is your favorite and why?

I'm not done. Don't just tell me which village center is the best, tell me which one is the worst. Which village center deserves the most attention and why?

Jud Malone

Jud Malone lives in Town Center. He moved from Atlanta to Columbia in 1994 with his wife. Malone grew up in Thomasville, in the segregated south. College deferment kept Malone out of the draft and motivated him to earn a degree in marketing.

Malone is a member of the Urban Land Institute and considers himself to be an advocate for affordable housing and a community activist. He also works with a community group called Columbia Tomorrow.

Malone now works with Columbia Tomorrow on issues such as cultural preservation, Symphony Woods, zoning regulation amendments and the revitalization of downtown.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Q & A: The Columbia Bike Guy

After checking my analytics, I've noticed that the Athar Habib post is one of the most viewed on Columbia Blog Project. I've arranged an interview with Athar, another day-in-the-life type of piece.

In preparation for my interview, I'd like to give curious readers the opportunity to pose questions to Athar in the form of comments on this post. Please provide your full name with the question you are asking.

I'd like to thank Michael Prescott Davis for the picture of Athar accompanying this post.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Columbia Flier & Crime

An article in the Columbia Flier, written by Luke Broadwater, really caught my attention. A while back, Long Reach village applied for a grant to deal with gang related problems. Two weeks ago, a friend of mine, lets call him Frank, told me he's seen an increase of gang related activity around town. Frank keeps a gun on him at all times and knows the streets.

Frank told me about an MS-13 gang member who threatened him and some friends outside of the Dunkin Donuts in the Harper's Choice village center. Frank says a blue four door sedan with tinted windows pulled up where he and some friends were sitting, smoking cigarettes, and hanging out. A hispanic man pointed a gun at the group and asked them if they had a problem.

Frank lives behind the Sunoco gas station in Owen Brown. He says there have been drug busts on his street (Kerry Hill court) before. Frank stays out of Knighthood Lane, Quiet Hours and Talisman Lane in Owen Brown. Like me, Frank uses the buses for public transportation. Every bus driver I've spoken to has told me in so many words that the brown route is no joke.

Another article by the Columbia Flier prompted me to scroll through the comments. Whether or not the murders and various crimes in Columbia are gang related isn't the issue. The fact that the police presence isn't great enough is. When I took the picture for this post, I asked the officers why they were walking around the village center at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday. They told me they make rounds to make their presence known when they have the time and that their work keeps them busy elsewhere.

I think the police presence needs to be stepped up in all of the neighborhoods. Redirect police resources away from trying to catch Johns in Jessup.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sigaty Speaks At SGA Leadership Series

Friday afternoon after their weekly meeting, the students of Howard Community College's Student Government Association received a visit from Howard County council members Dr. Calvin Ball & Mary Kay Sigaty.

"I was definitely excited to hear them speak, all of their insight was incredibly inspiring and interesting," says SGA president Linda Morris. "We're really grateful that they took the time to come speak at our meeting too . . . and their words were so motivating. Its great for students to connect with their community leaders and to see that they really are working to serve us."

The county council members answered questions about experiences and expectations, role models and recommended reading. Dr. Ball even brought his books with him, at the top of his list is Dale Carnegie's How To Win Friends & Influence People.

The SGA discussed ideas for fund raising and community activism in the surrounding neighborhoods of Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge and Town Center.

Monday, April 6, 2009

To "the" Readers of Columbia Blog Project:

I say "the" readers because you aren't my readers. I don't control the conversation, I engage in it, because the conversation has been taking place since 1967.

The success of Columbia Blog Project has exceeded my expectations in three short months. Every morning, after I put in my contacts, I check my analytics. Today, I'm expecting CBP to break the 4,000 hit mark.

I don't measure the success in hits however. While making calls yesterday, one of the men who answered thanked me for what he called a great public service. As a journalist, I feel there is no greater compliment I could receive. For that reason, I've measured the success of CBP by the feedback.

Some of the feedback has been negative though. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank a certain someone. She recommended I create a disclaimer regarding comments. Aside from the rules of engagement set forth by most disclaimers, I've added a clause which states in simple terms; if you're leaving a comment, keep it pertinent to the post but if you just feel like taking me down a peg, don't waste your effort, I 'lol' . . . and delete the comment. If you'd like to send me hate mail, I'd like to read it and possibly post an excerpt. Here's the address:

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you the reader. If you've left a comment, thank you. If you've scanned a post or two, thank you. If you've downloaded the free podcasts or watched the video and sound slides, thank you. And if you'd stop . . . just for a minute--and tell me how I'm doing, I'd thank you for it.

Its funny, in every interview, I ask what's worked and what hasn't? So tell me how I'm doing? What would you like to see more of? What post concepts haven't worked well? I want to get to know you as well. Tell me about your blogging and info-snacking habits. When are you reading my posts? Are you scrolling when you should be working, or after dinner? Are you a daily digest, or a weekend web-head?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Delegate Bobo's Voting Advice

During my interview with Elizabeth Bobo, she pointed out that prior to 2008, only stationary with a delegate's printed name was restricted from personal use. After 2008, the restriction was amended to include e-mail addresses.

Click HERE to listen to Bobo's response to the complaint filed by Jud Malone. The e-mails in question

Bobo says its up to the ethics board to decide whether or not she has done anything wrong. In my opinion when anyone asks you who they should vote for, your answer should be "research the candidates and make your own decision!" When a party affiliated politician offers advice about candidates, that candidate will most likely recommend the candidate who is either affiliated with their party or shares a similar view on the issues.

Jud Malone, who filed the complaint against Elizabeth Bobo, provided me with copies of the 2007 & 2008 e-mails, Ethics Committee letter and PIA request. Click HERE to view these documents.

When I walk into the polls at the Owen Brown interfaith center, I don't want people coming up to me and telling me who I should vote for. Only Bobo knows if people e-mailed her or if she e-mailed them but as Bobo said "there are opinions and there are facts," and the fact remains that she influenced the decisions of others using a state appointed email address.

I'm a journalist, not a politician so I don't know what is common practice in Annapolis but I don't agree with Bobo's actions. Is it right for any incumbent to use resources paid by the tax payer to influence elections of any kind?

March Crime Report

This is a cumulative listing of crime in Columbia for 2009. Commercial crimes are green, residential are red and vehicle thefts are blue.

View Larger Map

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cy Paumier On GGP: Uncut!

The last part of my interview with Cy Paumier focused on General Growth Properties. This portion is insightful to say the least and I feel that podcasting it will benefit the public. Click HERE to listen.

Do you agree with Cy Paumier's opinions on General Growth Properties? What are your opinions after hearing this portion of the interview?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Cy Paumier

Go to any of the village centers and look around . . . what do you see? Most likely shops and concrete and bricks. Who worked on planning and designing those village centers? Cy Paumier did.

Paumier grew up in Canton, Ohio. He says growing up in Canton was somewhat similar to Columbia in the sense that the town had a concept of a village center and a black population close to 20 percent. Paumier received his bachelors in Ohio in landscape architecture. From there he went to Harvard for his masters in urban design.

By the time he was working on Nun's Island in Montreal, he heard about Jim Rouse and Columbia through the press. He moved into Bryant Woods in 1969 and went to work for the Rouse Company as land planner.

"The people that moved here in the early years were obviously pioneers in the sense that they knew they might be living next to an African American family or somebody else, some other nationality. So you didn't move here unless you were prepared to be a part of an integrated experience with people of all backgrounds. And I think that made for a rather exciting community. "

In 1972, with the economy in recession, Paumier left the Rouse Company and joined Land Research/Design International with several friends and former Rouse Company employees. LRD worked on The Woodlands among other projects. In 1976, LRD rewrote Columbia's zoning ordinance, mandating that no more than four town houses could be built in a row.

While on the topic of housing, Paumier comments that of all the townhouse developments in Columbia, his favorite happens to be the one where Elizabeth Bobo lives, in Harper's Choice.

So what hasn't worked in Columbia and what has? In Paumier's opinion, cul-de-sacs.

"Maybe the one thing that didn't work as well was the Cul-De-Sac which at the time everybody thought was God's gift to the city planners. But it turns out its probably safer to live on a Cul-De-Sac but it also doesn't help to encourage a sense of community because you don't get any linkage.”

Symphony Woods, he says was never fully realized because there was no real plan in mind for the open space area, no paths, no amenities, nothing but Merriweather Post Pavilion to draw people in and nothing after to keep them.

"No one's ever really cared enough about it to do a plan, CA hasn't been encouraged, nobody in the community has been saying we ought to create a great park there. So along comes General Growth [Properties], General Growth's got a couple hundred acres that they've got to develop right? They've got all the land in the world to develop, why don't they just focus on what they own. I mean they don't have to start taking CA's land . . . its crazy!”

Paumier agrees that 10 percent of the trees in Symphony Woods are dead and need to be removed. Sunlight, he says, is the key to a great park. With all of the trees, dead or alive, there isn't enough light getting through to make Symphony Woods a functioning park. Part of his plan is to remove the dead trees and install paths and a central water feature. He wants to see the woods become a children's park.

On the brighter side, Paumier says the education system has worked, the diversity has worked and the village center's he helped design still work.

"I think the neighborhood village concept is the single most important concept and to the extent that all but maybe one or two of the village centers are working.”

Jud Malone On Bobograms

I just finished interviewing Columbia resident Jud Malone. Part of our discussion concerned Elizabeth Bobo & her (un)ethical e-mail controversy. From a journalist's perspective, one of the greatest benefits to reporting through a blog is being able to skip the editorial process. With that in mind, HERE is my conversation with Malone concerning Bobo. Tune in tomorrow for Bobo's response.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

2010 Census Circling Angelina Addresses

I hope the headlines hits on Google. Guest speaker David Alexander from the Baltimore Sun lectured our class today on SEO optimization, coding keywords for headlines like search engine slugs for spiders. I saw a 40ish-year-old blond woman in a shiny black sedan circling Angelina circle at 7:45 p.m., on my way to the mailbox.

At first I thought she was lost, looking for a house number, maybe a family member making a reunion? "2010 Census, I work for the government, we do this every 10 years . . . didn't you learn about this in school?" she said. I stared back at her blankly, its spring 2009 I thought. I remember feeling burned, searching census bureau data for sociology class assignments on the dot-gov site. 2000 never felt recent or accurate enough, but if they did it my way, the bill would give Geithner gastrointestinal distress, rivaling our field trip into Iraq.

Approachable, polite and eager to lengthen the life of her Marlboro light while time and light faded into the gray. I was walking to the mailbox with my copy of the Columbia Flier. I decided to place the ads at the communal mailbox as a sort of common courtesy & that's when I saw her. After learning she had ties to 75 and worked for Rouse, Mort & Robert, she rolled away. I photographed the car on a sort of afterthought impulse.

I will give one hundred grand to anyone who can locate Baltimore Sun deputy editor David Alexander. Good hunting--think of it like Highlights for hypertext

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

idX Brings Business To Columbia

Earlier Wednesday, Wordbones reported on the idX move in Snowden from Odenton. After reading this, I got on the horn to Frank Grelle, the general manager of idX's Baltimore division to get the scoop.

idX manufactures shelves, tables and other store fixtures for Kohl's, JC Penney's, Marshalls and other retailers as well as financial institutions. Based in St. Louis, Mo, idX has offices in Louisville, Seattle, Toronto and Shanghai. The company bought out Russell Williams Ltd in 2005 which was originally based in Columbia but moved to Odenton.

idX in Odenton currently operates out of two buildings catty corner to each other. Grelle describes the move into the Snowden building as more efficient for the operation.

"As we continue to grow, I really needed to be in one building so that I don't have to move finished from the manufacturing building, onto a trailer, move them 50 yards and unload them into a warehouse."

idX is moving it's operation to 8901 Snowden River parkway because the new location has many more dock doors than their Odenton location. The additional space of the Snowden location will also allow Grelle to house all of his production lines under one roof and make the distribution process easier.

“We might ship to 15 Kohl's stores in a matter of three days, so when you've got limited dock doors, you can't stage in advance because you can't block a dock door. In the new building we can say this is store A, this is store B, this is store C, this is store D and we can stage the product that goes on to the truck that's going to that store in advance.”

So will the move into Columbia bolster the local economy and create more jobs? Grelle says yes, but not right away.

“The move probably by itself probably isn't going to create more jobs, you know, other than the jobs created due to tenant improvements to this facility, but by gaining these efficiencies in planning for the future, that's going to help us gain more business which will in turn create jobs.”

Grelle says the company hopes to complete the move into Columbia by July of this year.

Read Between The Lines

An advertisement on the Explore Howard website caught my eye this morning as I scanned the site for something newsworthy to post on. I'm not an advertising major but I enjoy studying the semiotics of print and T.V. ads for their hidden meanings. What does this ad say to you?

Ok you've got a black woman holding a red bag, nothing out of the ordinary here. Shop the VC the ad reads, value & convenience very close to home. To me, the ads reads shop local, keep the village centers alive, don't hit up the big boxes.

Then it hit me. The ad for Columbia only lists six village centers! So what if you live in Owen Brown, Oakland Mills or Long Reach? Don't they have village centers as well? To me this ad says, stay out of East Columbia, it sucks, the village centers are dead. We've let developers come in and fuck them up and now we'd rather you didn't even bother going. Go to these upscale village centers instead.

Take Wilde Lake village center for example. What could that woman possibly have in that bag that isn't seafood, hair care products or alcohol? Would you rather her shop at a village center without a grocery store or a village center without a computer shop? The image of the red bag suggests the kind of shopping she could only do at big box or the Columbia mall.

So am I reading too much into this? Does the ad scream bias to anyone else, or should I put my contacts in before something hazardous happens?