06 March 2008


TC 21

The CA Board of Directors recently approved the budget for 2008/2009 fiscal year. One of the casualties of the budget was the axing of funds to address maintenance and structural problems along the Kittamaquandi Lakefront. This budget item was removed over the protestation of the CA Open Space Division. Now, I understand that members of the highly influential Alliance for a Better Columbia (ABC) have been wailing for years that the CA Board should not give much weight to CA Staff requests, so I took some time the other day to assess the material condition of the lakefront.

One of the first things I noticed were the pylons at the Town Center Boat Docks and along the warf to the bell tower. Long ago, these pylons were decorated with vertical strips of wood (balusters). Today, not a single pylon has all of the wood intact.

Here is a picture of one that is nearly intact:

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In addition, many of the pylons have a substantial coating of green mildew on the north side:

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There are also several pylons that have the tops bored out:

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On a related note, some of the lights attached to the pylons are in disrepair (safety issue?):

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Over at the boat docks, mildew has become a prominent feature:

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And it appears that this mud has been around long enough to allow for some of the dock to be reclaimed by nature:

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Over at the bell tower (which, by the way, when I have the occasion to watch Baltimore TV news, I love the shot of the bell tower and the lakefront during the opening), this ramp looked a little odd to me:

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Upon closer inspection (another safety issue?):

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Moving on to the bell tower, I took a look at the wooden cross bracing, and found this:

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And this:

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It appears to me that the only thing that is holding this bracing to the tower is paint and hope. I would think that with no money for repairs in the budget for the next two years, there may (and hey, I have not run the wind loading numbers here, but really, look at the pictures) be a good chance that this thing could fall over within the next two years. And wouldn't THAT look good on the Baltimore evening news.

The Howard County Framework document calls the Kittamaquandi Lakefront “the heart of downtown Columbia,” and in my opinion, it is our front porch. It is along these lakefront promenades that Presidential Cabinet Secretaries and Royalty once strolled. Today, it is in a sad state of disrepair, has some serious safety issues associated with it, and has one of our landmarks in danger of falling into the lake. I think it is time for the CA Board of Directors to come down from their ivory tower of a board room and listen to their staff. There is a real need for corrective maintenance and repair now. I think the board should listen to Evan Coren (KC) who stated at a recent board meeting (paraphrasing here) “this isn’t the same thing as providing towels at the athletic club, ignoring these issues will get you voted out of office.”

Hmmm…there is an election coming up next month.

Oh, and I didn’t even mention the trash, I just wish we had a place to put it.

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03 March 2008

Call to Service 2008

It’s election season again in the Next American City. All Villages will hold elections for Village Board and CA Board elections will be held in Wilde Lake, Town Center, Hickory Ridge, Harpers Choice, Owen Brown and Oakland Mills. I encourage anyone who wants to contribute to their community to get a nominating petition, have your neighbors sign it, and run for office.

Clearly, each Village will have its own issues; the Village Center in Wilde Lake, Wegmans in nearby Owen Brown and Long Reach, revitalization and the recent departure of businesses in Oakland Mills.

The one issue I hope that does not come up this year is downtown Columbia. For the past few years, some candidates have made a career out of stating that downtown Columbia is the NUMBER ONE issue. I for one have not seen any results from any of these single-issue candidates. Years of service, and very little to show for it.

It seems to me that the downtown Columbia issue is a bit like a scary movie. Initially, there is a lot of buzz and excitement, and you go and see the movie (and it scares the crap out of you). People leave the theater genuinely scared, and some have bad dreams. When the sequel comes out, there is another big circus, and you buy the ticket again. But this time, the movie is not so bad, there are some unexpected moments, and you might even jump out of your seat. By the third time the movie comes around, you realize it is really just a sad guy in a hockey mask. So let’s hope this fear-mongering about downtown will subside this year.

Let’s also hope that this election season will be about issues that can be addressed by the elected boards. Some topics might include those mentioned above and the high number of closed meetings at the CA level, the high CA legal fees, and the inability of the current CA board to get along with each other. Addressing these issues will allow Columbia to be better prepared for future.

Back from Vacation

Just a quick mid-day note: The Compass will be back to posting more frequently starting this week. I suppose it was time for a break. Mind you, no big trips to the Caribbean or the American Rockies, just a little mental time out that has now passed.

In neighborhood news, a quick shout-out/howdy to the Tolson family of Oakland Mills. The Tolsons were featured in the Washington Post Magazine yesterday and it is well worth the read. The story includes several quotes from Evan Tolson (blue shirt, hand on head). Evan and my wife were classmates (K-12) in Oakland Mills. After graduating, Evan found his way into the Navy about the same time I enlisted. He and I were in the same Navy schools in Orlando, Florida. Sometimes the world is very small.