31 October 2011

Prejudice Comes to New Town

I think it has been said a million times, but let’s begin with a quick review.  Columbia, Maryland was born with two basic premises:  First, a town that is planned from its outset would result in a better city.  Not a perfect Utopia, but a better place for people.  Second, Columbia welcomes people from all races, religions, ethnicities, and economic means.  Diversity is a strength within, and throughout, this community.

These foundation pillars were tested last week during a Zoning Pre-Submission Hearing conducted by the Howard Hughes Corporation.  As reported by Explore Howard and Columbia Patch, long time resident and Town Center Village Board member Joel Broida was quoted as follows:


"Putting in 817 units with rentals is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit, you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."


Joel Broida, a Columbia resident since 1971, said he fears the bulk of 817 new residences could be rental homes.
Renters don't have the sense of investment in a community that homeowners have, Broida told Hughes officials.
"Renters don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."

Sadly, the singling-out of people who live in apartments as undesirable was picked up, and expanded upon, by a few pseudonymoniuos commenters online.

It is rare that I ever hear someone that has lived most of their life in the Next American City voice such clear prejudice against any component of the community.  And to clarify just how sharp this derogatory language is, let us try and remove the economic status veneer from his statements:

"Putting in 817 units with rentals [religious group]s is like setting up a hotel," he said. "When you're a rental unit [religious group], you're transient. You do not become part of the neighborhood. Columbia is great, and I would hate to see it become a transient, hotel-like community."

"Renters [Ethnic group]s don't have pride in the community," he said. "They aren't the ones to pick up that piece of paper someone dropped."

I believe that Columbia must be open to all people.  That is a promise made at its founding and it is a promise that our generation must uphold.  To pursue a policy going forward that Columbia will only be open to people with the financial deep pockets to put 20% down on a mortgage and have high FICO scores will result in a fast track to gentrification.

I think it is imperative to state that folks that live in apartments are much like any other component in our community.  They are mothers and daughters, sons and fathers.  They are our co-workers, retired folks and veterans.  They are teachers and doctors, nurses and accountants.  They work for the government and private industry.  They are janitors and corporate executives.  They pay taxes and worship with us in faith.  They dine in the same restaurants, they vote in the same elections, and they attend Zoning Pre-Submission Meetings.  They should not be the subject of scorn based on the fears and hate of anyone, no matter how long he has lived in Columbia, no matter his position in the community.

hocoblogs@@@

11 comments:

columbia2 said...

Is Mr. Broida so against change that he would violate core values of inclusion and diversity we hold dear here in Columbia? Someone should ask him.

Sarah said...

Thanks for saying what needed to be said.

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable. My family rented from 1972 up to a few years ago in Columbia. We moved from Baltimore to Rockville before then, until my parents decided to settle in the new Columbia and raise their family. My father, a self-made professional engineer. My mother, a homemaker. They had 4 daughters. We loved Columbia and still do as the special place that it is. Columbia is ours. We didn't litter and were taught not to. We did great in school. Paid rent, had all the "attitutdes" that Mr. Broida thinks only belong to homeowners. My parents had many opportunites to buy a home but for their own reasons decided not to. We had many neighbors come and go and stay of every ethnic group, something I count as a special experience that helped mold my appreciation of different cultures and ethnicities. We had few problems with them. We got along great. Of course, this was a different time than now. We had some of the same human problems that homeowners did, if not less. Yes, some renters may be problematic, just as some homeowners, but not because they are renters. If you are that concerned, help renters move to becoming homeowners. But the problems that some people have that you allude to are not because they are renters but because of other societal problems and problems of our times. Give renters a chance.

Nina said...

Maybe everyone else just has much richer parents than I do, or better jobs out of college. I was indeed a renter, and I picked up more than the piece of paper, I did my fair share of pathway cleanups (actually I was more involved in hands-on activity when I was a renter than I am today as an owner with equity). I left for college, came back, and rented an apartment. Met my husband (also at that time a renter), we got married, bought a house down the street. We also seem to be incredibly typical.

Anonymous said...

A swing and a miss. You can't just replace the word "renters" with some specific ethnic or religious group. That doesn't make sense and it's a completely invalid argument.

Many government subsidized home ownership programs are in place exactly so people buy houses and take ownership of their community. You may not like it, but renters are more often bad news than howeowners. Of course, it's a distribution, not an absolute, but that fact remains.

Wendi said...

My very first blog post was about being a renter (http://lifeslittlecomedies.blogspot.com/2010/12/hello-my-name-is-wendi-and-im-renter.html).

People are always surprised to find out that we don't own our home. When we first moved into our neighborhood one of the owners that lived a few doors down was a terrible neighbor - never mowed, no upkeep to speak of really, noisy, unpleasant, uninvolved with the neighborhood and to top it all off, was dealing drugs out of his home. He was eventually raided and arrested and thankfully sold the place (to an owner who has renters). I am pretty sure that the neighbors are glad that owner is gone and happy to have the nice renters that live there now.

Jane Dembner said...

Thanks for posting, Bill. Columbia strives to be a community that welcomes diversity, respects the land and fosters the growth of individuals. These are our founding principles. They are powerful and good guidance that I and many others try to honor as we go about our lives and work here in Columbia. Seems simple enough in concept, and, it seems, more difficult to accept for some during periods of change. Still--keeping our shared values as a community front and center is important and I thank you again for your post.

Barbara Kellner said...

Thanks for posting. This has obviously hit a chord. I was in the audience at the pre-submssion meeting and was shocked and dismayed at Joel Broida's comment. I must add that John DeWolff's answer that followed also dismayed me. He countered with the fact that they would be high end rentals. I don't think either remark reflects what we want to see in Columbia. Broida's remark was so absurd that I don't give it credence. He is a citizen and has a right to say whatever he wants. He doesn't represent anyone but himself. DeWolff on the other hand represents the developer of the next chapter in Columbia's history. I would like him to understand not only Columbia's founding principles but the people who are dedicated to it. It takes time to learn not only Columbia's history but its ethos. DeWolff has not been here very long and has certainly had his hands full. I trust he will be talking to many more people and gather a full understanding and I hope that results in the continuation of the development of Columbia in the spirit of the founding principles of diversity. I am encouraged to read today that Earl Armiger is one of the developers of the proposed rental properties. Armiger gets the Columbia ethos.

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Anonymous said...

I agree...someone should ask him what he meant, rather than relying on quotes from a reporter and snarky innuendo from bloggers.

I know Broida and he is a caring, decent man who believes in inclusion and whose intention has been blown all out of proportion.

Anonymous said...

Santos, and many other regulars here, would fall completely silent without the use of snarky innuendo. I often wonder and worry how influential these self-satisfied, shallow accusations of bigotry are. What will we end up with if we heed the words of preening pseudo-intellectuals like Santos? Perhaps a completely incompetent president with no clue of how to manage the government's role in the economy or so ignorant of contemporary foreign policy dynamics that we find ourselves...

Wait a minute...

Oh crap.