December 6, 2011
I have received inquiries from many of you as to whether you had been inadvertently "dropped" from my distribution list. The answer is "no". State public policy issues moved at a very slow pace since my last e-news message in June. The result of the special legislative session in October was to address only one matter - congressional redistricting.
During autumn, I continued to participate with many groups in our community dealing with homelessness, mortgage foreclosures, education, environmental issues, and others.
Lloyd and I had a wonderful vacation at the beach again with our kids and eight grandkids, now ranging in age from 10 to 18! Zach, the oldest, is now a freshman at College Park. How could that be? Again on the Friday after Thanksgiving, our grandkids came to our home and spread out their sleeping bags. That is always one of the most enjoyable nights of the year for us.
We spent most of the month of October traveling in New Zealand. As usual we traveled on our own, with Lloyd mapping out our itinerary. We reserved rooms for a few nights and winged the rest of it. We traveled in New Zealand by car, bus, train, ferry, and plane. A simply beautiful country with very warm people and welcoming social customs. It was somewhat sobering, though actually not surprising, to hear that they believe the current international economic troubles had their origin in our country. That belief in no way dampened their hospitality and friendliness.
Now we are grateful to be home in our beloved New Town of Columbia looking forward to the holiday season.
Howard Community College Interview with Valerie Lash:
In October I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Valerie Lash, Director of Rep Stage at Howard Community College. The interview went back over my years of public service on the Howard County Council, as County Executive, and as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates representing Legislative District 12B in Columbia. Not too surprisingly, this retrospective revealed that the "issues" don't change that much over time. In addition to having a delightful conversation with Valerie, it provided me with an opportunity for reflection on what is truly important in life and the importance of treating everyone with respect and dignity, whether or not we agree with them.
I have such deep appreciation for Valerie's own work bringing us such high quality theater right here at our own community college.
The interview can be seen on cable every Thursday in December on The Valerie Lash show-- GTV Verizon 44 and Comcast 99 @ 11am, 4pm, 7pm.
Wilde Lake Middle School Bullying Program:
I'm sure you have all read of the increasing danger to our young people from bullying. There is also increasing coverage on television of the devastating consequences of this most serious behavior. Recently, Jean Lewis, a Columbia woman and friend who has worked for years with young people in our community, organized a program at Wilde Lake Middle School that was facilitated by the students themselves and resulted in a very candid discussion about bullying. I was grateful that Jean invited me to come and sit with the students during their discussion. I learned so much from these young people as they explained the fear and other negative emotional and physical outcomes of bullying.
(Above) some of the girls who participated in this program along with County Council Chairperson Calvin Ball (back row).
Wilde Lake High School Rain Garden:
In several of my e-news messages during the legislative session earlier this year, I wrote of my legislative work on the issue of storm water management. I also wrote of my work with Ms. Varma, the teacher facilitator for the Environmental Club at Wilde Lake High School, on facilitating the students' building a rain garden behind the school. As a member of the Environmental Matters Committee in the House of Delegates, I have learned a great deal about the efficacy of these gardens and found it gratifying to work with the students to help them understand the importance of their project. We had a very graphic look at the force of stormwater in Howard County during the heavy rains last fall. After months of planning, we were able to get John McCoy from the Columbia Association, former wetlands expert from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, involved. He and Amanda Rockler from the University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension found the necessary funding, and the project took off.
The photo (above) shows the students in the classroom and (right) at the site of the rain garden behind the school. It was truly inspiring to witness the enthusiasm of the students in working on this project.
Columbia Matters, a monthly TV show produced by Mary Weeks of the Columbia Association, filmed the students explaining the importance of their project. Log on to ColumbiaMatters.org to view the show anytime: http://www.columbiamatters.org/
June 14, 2011
Yesterday marked two months since the close of the 2011 legislative session.
Lloyd and I took a two week holiday in Berlin and Prague, stopping off in Dresden from our train ride between the two cities. East Berlin is a beautiful lively city with grand boulevards, great museums and magnificent modern architecture. Right in front of the U.S. Embassy is the most moving Holocaust Memorial we have ever seen, and we've seen quite a few. This memorial occupies 5+ acres of prime downtown space that symbolically is meant to display the people's deep regret about previous German government's actions. In West Berlin we had the joy of visiting with a former Wilde Lake High student and intern in my Annapolis office, Annie Hudson, who is doing a college semester there. Beautiful Dresden, of course, invoked Kurt Vonnegut's "Slaughterhouse 5 ." What can we say about Prague? Simply magnificent.
Spring is a busy time with our grandkids' softball, soccer and lacrosse games. Our oldest grandchild, Zachary, graduated from Centennial High School and will be attending the University of Maryland in the fall. On May 1, his 18th birthday, about 50 of his friends and our family members took the metro from Silver Spring to D.C. where Zach led the annual 5K walk/run for brain tumor survivors from all over the country. We all wore bright tee-shirts imprinted with "Team Zach - Happy 18th Birthday". I've never seen a more beautiful sight than Zach leading the tens of thousands of runners and walkers through our nation's capital.
Since the session I have given several legislative wrap-ups to various organizations in our community. I have also been catching up on what's going on here at home in Columbia. I spent most of last weekend at the Lakefest put on by the Columbia Festival of the Arts and saw many of you there. Ever since the festival began way back when I was serving as County Executive, I have planned my summer around this great tradition. Lloyd and I are particularly looking forward to seeing Ed Asner as FDR this week.
We are also looking forward to attending the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the stabilized ruins of the Patapsco Female Institute high on the hill in Ellicott City. When we started the project to stabilize those ruins, once again during my county government days back in the 80's, it never occurred to me that it may become the summer home of an excellent Shakespeare company. What a perfect blend. Along this line of thought, Lee Preston, a teacher for many years in Howard County, has published his long awaited book, "Archaeology in Howard County." Lee has worked with countless students in our community and features the Patapsco Female Institute along with many other historical sites in his excellent book. In the most recent "Howard Magazine," the Institute is also featured in the form of the very creative paintings of local artist, Mary Jo Tydlacka.
Two recent uplifting occasions were the graduation ceremonies for Wilde Lake High School and Howard Community College – so many talented and committed young people with positive aspirations. I was sorry to miss the Atholton High School graduation this year because it occurred while I was away on my annual week-long silent retreat down by the James River in Virginia. This is the sixth year I have attended this mindfulness retreat, and it has become quite dear to me, helping me to remain focused and clear throughout the year.
The afternoon of May 18 was a very poignant one: I attended the funeral of Tina Cole at the Wilde Lake Interfaith Center. Many of you will remember Tina as the woman hired by Jim Rouse many years ago to oversee the use of the then called Kittamaqundi Room in the then Rouse Company Headquarters Building. Many an occasion was held in that room, and Tina was always present at the entrance to greet everyone as they arrived and to tend to whatever was needed to make that particular event run as smooth as silk. Tina was a lovely woman who loved life. I am grateful to be able to remain in touch with her daughter, Victoria and her granddaughter, Ilana.
It was also during my retreat that Christopher Leinberger spoke at the Spear Center in the now Howard Hughes Building. I have spoken with many people who did attend this event sponsored by the Columbia Association and Howard Hughes Corporation. They uniformly spoke of many positive ideas in the presentation and also of the need for better transportation connections to make some of those ideas workable.
Last week, John DeWolf, who is heading up the Howard Hughes operation here in Columbia, invited me to his office for a meet and talk. I don't think it is an exaggeration to say that he spoke with true reverence for Jim Rouse and the headquarters building, which he refers to as "the temple". On leaving after our hour or so conversation, I felt more encouraged than I have for years about our world-renowned planned community and its future.
Wilde lake Village Center:
Click here to see a letter that I sent to the members of the Wilde Lake Village Board last month (May 2011). The professional planners and architects I mention have requested the opportunity to present their alternative plans to the community. So far the board has not acted on that request. I find that quite sad and troubling, along with the fact that the village center has been neglected for so long. I believe it would have been appropriate for the county government to intervene, particularly given the historic significance of the center. Perhaps that may still occur.
Wilde Lake High School Rain Garden:
I have been working with Ms. Varma, the very dedicated teacher at Wilde Lake High who staffs the school's Environmental Club, for some time now in an effort to build a rain garden on the school grounds. Mr. Whitaker, the Principal, has been very supportive, and this year, with the help of John McCoy from CA, formerly with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, we are getting results. The club was headed this year by senior, Karen Berry, who lives in Longfellow and has worked very hard to make the rain garden a reality. I'm so pleased it came to fruition before she graduated. It is so encouraging to see how the students in this school, located near the very environmentally sensitive Middle Patuxent River, understand and appreciate the importance of tending to our streams and rivers if we are ever to hope for a cleaner Chesapeake Bay. Furthermore, they're willing to work to this end.
Elementary School Congressional Forums:
I spoke at the Congressional Forum at some of the elementary schools this year as I have in years past. Observing fifth graders learning with enthusiasm and dedication about our Constitution and how it works – balance of powers, public good v. individual rights, etc. – is very encouraging. Particular in the face of what is occurring in Libya, Syria, Morrocco and other nearby nations, we realize that democracy is precious and fragile. It is indeed good that our young students are learning to appreciate this so they can protect our own democracy here in the United States.
When I was beginning my years of public service back in the 70’s, Silas Craft, a dedicated educator in our county, was one of my mentors. Each year I attend the fundraising event for the HCC program named in Silas’ honor – Silas Craft Collegians. This is a great program which gives its students the opportunity for valuable educational experiences. I had deep respect and admiration for Dr. Craft, and so I treasure this photo with his widow Dorothye, sent to me by Kate Hetherington, President of HCC.
Donna Richardson, for Comcast Newsmakers in Annapolis, interviewed me about jobs, corporate tax revenue, the environment, and campaign finance reform. Watch the interview (about five minutes total) by clicking the link:
Last evening I held my annual town meeting at Kahler Hall. It was well attended with more than 100 people who participated in our usual lively discussion on issues before the legislature. We spoke of the budget, the creation of jobs, environmental concerns regarding our streams, rivers, and precious Chesapeake Bay as well as sustainable energy issues. Many of those in the community who have expertise in these various issues were present. I received questions on education, transportation (particularly public transit) and access to health care, particularly regarding mental health care.
This year we were happy to have with us Paul Lemle, a dedicated teacher from Wilde Lake High and a group of his students who accompanied him. It is so encouraging to see their interest in the many serious issues before us.
I was also very happy that two individuals who are now homeless and living next to the central library at Town Center joined us. They chose not to identify themselves during the meeting, though they talked with me privately both before and after the meeting. We who live in one of the richest - if not the richest - county in the United States must show compassion for the homeless among us. I was interviewed by a reporter from the Washington Post yesterday about some homeless people spending part of their day in the Columbia mall.
During these difficult times, easing the agony of homeless human beings must be one of our highest priorities. Thankfully, there are several non-profits and numerous volunteers working to provide shelter for these individuals. Clearly, individually we need to do more, as does our governments. I, like other elected representatives, am proud of many aspects of our county and love to talk about them. It is also incumbent upon us to give faces to the homeless among us who have all of the same human needs, desires and emotions as the rest of us. Let us remember, "We must be the change we want to see in the world."
Kate Hetherington, President of Howard County Community College (HCC), and several HCC Board members visited Annapolis in support of funding of community colleges. The past several years of a very tight economy have driven home the very important role that community colleges play in preparing our young (and some not so young) people for life – though Liz has believed this to be so for some time. We are so appreciative of the great work that these individuals do in our Howard County community. Liz is proud to have the HCC campus located in her legislative district very near her home. She and her husband, Lloyd Knowles, are frequenters of excellent arts programs at the college. Liz also attended and said a few words at the recent groundbreaking for HCC’s new Health and Science Building which was supported by significant state funds. This project is one which will benefit Howard County’s residents from all economic levels, in keeping with the principles Liz uses in determining her priorities as a legislator.
The Howard County Education Association(an organization of teachers in our county) recently held a meeting with legislators to discuss issues relating to teachers and education in the current legislative session. Teacher pensions was one of the main topics, and one which will receive further coverage in future messages. Mr. Lemle, who serves in the position of Chair of Government Relations with HCEA and is also a teacher of Social Studies at Wilde Lake High School, brought several Wilde Lake students to participate in the discussion. Liz is very grateful to have such great students and such a great school in the legislative district she represents her in Annapolis. She visits the school to meet with students on a regular basis on many issues, particularly the environment.