10 January 2008

Company Town

Last week Martin Berdit of Harpers Choice had the following letter “What fills vacuum as county forfeits planning function?” published in the Columbia Flier. I submitted a response that was published this week “County, developer should collaborate on downtown” (scroll all the way down ). Please share your thoughts on the issues raised in these two letters…


Freemarket said...

I think you nailed it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Freemarket, I think you nailed it.

I thought the same thing when he asked is Columbia was to become a "company town." I mean where as he been. Columbia is and always has been a "company town."

Anonymous said...

To say that 'negotiation' and 'settlement' are adversarial is quite a stretch.

Anonymous said...

"Howard County and General Growth Properties Inc. should be working collaboratively, on the same team, and should be working toward the same goal: a vibrant, lively downtown with a variety of recreational, cultural and economic draws." Is it teamwork if one member of the team excludes others (the community at large and the press) from the huddles like private meetings? Or, is that indicative that the community at large and the press are seen by some in the huddles as being on the opposing team?

Collaboration can best be accomplished by retaining the process within institutions and events where the fiduciary obligations are to the public as a whole and are required to work openly, not by intermittently diverting the process into the hands of a private, third-party with distinctly different fiduciary obligations. REITs, in general, are obligated to be a team player up to the point where it maximizes return on investment and operates within the law, but no further.

If you check previous "game" highlights, the multi-year Glendale, CA game may be insightful as to what kind of teamwork could be on the horizon. Metaphorically, a lot of flags have been thrown and a lot of players have been banged up in that game, including that community, a competitor, a customer, GGP shareholders, and, yet to be determined, possibly even retired teachers' pensions who had partnered with GGP. With all the coverage you've done of GGP projects elsewhere, if I'm not mistaken, that's one highlight reel you've yet to show here. Wouldn't prudence invite such a replay, helping all teammates know each other better, especially when sharing the field (or trying to) with much, much larger players?

Framing this process in terms of a game with just two courts or just one goal line does seem pretty inaccurate. Different parties involved in this process each have different ideas of what goal line should be worked towards. The framework, as the original letter to the editor alluded, is too vague describing which goal line should be sought. Perhaps such vagueness is for political expediency to allow the process to progress, but diligence is necessary to avoid arriving at the wrong goal line. In our case, it won't be just two points given away for a safety, it could be traffic in and near Town Center becoming absolutely miserable, very costly, and inconvenient (as two studies have now detailed), huge, ongoing financial obligations being assumed by County taxpayers for multiple additional services, and a myriad of sacrifices of open space and environment.

But, heck, if the ball gets handed back to the County just five yards from whatever goal line is closest at the time, we may as well just let the ball be run in for the score, right? Go team.