Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

While you’re here! Help us win a free green roof.

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, December 3, 2010

St. Paul’s Catholic Church

Non-Profit Overview

St. Paul’s Catholic Church was built in 1838 on a hill overlooking historic Ellicott City. We have stood on that perch proudly loving, praying for, and serving the community for over 170 years. We are not tired nor are we old, we are ever new and full of the same energy and zeal of our glorious patron St. Paul. Some may look at us as a museum or an old relic with rich history, but nothing could be further from the truth. We have grown in the past and have taken over the use of old banks and convents, which we still cram with ministries to kids, elderly, homeless, sick, young adults, those hungry for food and/or knowledge, saints in the making, and everyone else. We are going to build a New Evangelization Center. It will speak to the community that while our mission of loving, praying, and serving all people has not changed we are striving to meet the needs of today. Needs that require us to move forward in technology and needs that call us to responsible stewardship of the environment. The profile of who we are as a non-profit is wrapped up and made tangible and real by our New Evangelization Center. We are active and alive. We go out into the community to love, pray, and serve in an effective way. A way that responds to the most important concerns and needs of the modern world, which we believe is summed up in giving people hope for the future. Essential to giving the world hope for the future is caring for the environment. Without first being good stewards of the Earth our message of hope cannot be heard. That is why from the roof on down our New Evangelization Center can be seen as the manifestation of who we are – a living, growing, hopeful, caring, praying, active, serving, and loving Church.


Posted in General | 2 Comments »

November 2010 Aftermath

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, November 4, 2010

Well, it is over – election day. Nationally the GOP did very well. It will be an interesting 2 years. I hope the House, Senate, and White House figure it out.

Locally? Larry Carson put it best “Status Quo”.  Absentee ballots still need to be counted.  There may be a couple changes but it is doubtful. I agree with Larry that it will likely impact the Board of Election candidates more than anyone. 

Will it have an impact on the District 1 race? Probably not but I will watch.

As to the Register of Wills? I think it will go Kay Hartleb’s way. Why? Same situation four years ago. Kay was slightly ahead at the end of the election. When absentee ballots were counted she took a very large lead over her opponent. I don’t see why that would change four years later.

All night long Kay was trailing Byron McFarlane. I didn’t think much of it because the number of polls reporting was very low. I admit that I did worry a little. But when the board of elections posted their update at 11:43PM Kay was leading and the report at 4:48PM yesterday solidified it.

Reports from Democratic Headquarters were that Byron MacFarlane thought he had it in the bag (he may still win) and celebrated a bit too early. Darn modern technology.  (This comes from a conversation between the reporters covering poll watching parties at the democratic and republican spots).

I wanted to address a letter that appeared in the Ho Co Times suggesting that the lawyers who were writing letters or otherwise supporting Kay in this election were doing so to influence the office of the Register of Wills. Really? Really?  Here is what the letter said:

“The incumbent has received 100 percent of her campaign contributions in Maryland from lawyers and law firms. In contrast, Mr. Macfarlane has not taken a single penny from practicing estate lawyers in Howard County… candidates take contributions from the very people who will bring clients before them for supposedly impartial treatment.”

Influence what? What is that office going to do for a lawyer other than be effecient and as perfect in everyway as possible? What was that writer suggesting – that Kay Hartleb was going to triple the size of the clients estate?   The Register of Wills is an administrator.  They don’t rezone property.  Also, the writer states;

“She and her supporters have claimed that her opponent, Democratic attorney Byron Macfarlane, has never practiced estate law, even though a quick look into his record proves otherwise.”

The records states he hasn’t and he admitted it in a public forum.  He said; “I have never been the attorney or record but I helped my family.”  Yeah?

Seriously – does that writer have any idea about the office of the Register of Wills (doesn’t sound like he knows more than Byron MacFarlane).  The simple fact is MacFarlane remains unqualified for the position and the lawyers who support Kay don’t want Howard County’s Register’s office to get sloppy, inefficient, slow, error ridden, etc.  Not that the office under MacFarlane would be like that but during a transition period with staff turn over it would be until he could right that ship.  It is natural and the best manager can’t avoid it.  Those attorneys supporting Kay don’t have time to deal with a freshman Register of Wills and made it clear in their support of Kay.

Posted in David Keelan, Democrats, Howard County, Republicans | 4 Comments »

Ground Rents and the U.S. Constitution

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Baltimore Sun reminds its readers in today’s edition that ground rents that are not registered with the State of Maryland will soon be extinguished. Ground rent owners must register in person by Wednesday, 9/29/10, or postmark their application before Thursday, 9/30/10.

As the Sun reports: “Ground rent dates to Colonial times in Maryland and was used by rowhouse developers in the 20th century as a way to make purchases more affordable. But a Sun series in 2006 found that a handful of investors seized hundreds of homes over unpaid bills, reselling them and legally keeping the proceeds. Some of the homeowners said they never received the bills. Intent on reform, the General Assembly passed laws that prohibited such ‘ejectments,’ barred new ground rents and required registration of existing ones.”

Technically, the holder of the ground rent actually owns the property, and leased the property (in perpetuity) to the occupants commonly thought of as the owners of the property for what now seems to be a nominal amount. The typical ground rent in the Baltimore area calls for payments of less than $100 per year payable in semi-annual installments. If the semi-annual rent was not paid, the ground rent owner could go through a legal process to eject the “tenants”, which made the ground rent safe because it operated as a kind of “super mortgage”, being even ahead of the “tenants'” mortgage lender. The typical ground rent could be redeemed at a 6% capitalization rate, i.e., the tenant of a $90/year ground rent could get rid of it by paying the ground rent owner $1,500 ($90/6%).

I personally have never been a big fan of ground rents. A number of my clients own one or a handful of ground rents. Although they offer an attractive yield in today’s market, they are a pain to deal with. Unless the homeowner was willing to redeem the ground rent, the only way to get rid of them was to sell them to investors who would buy them at a substantial discount (maybe $750 for our sample ground rent). A handful of investors bought up hundreds or even thousands of ground rents in the Baltimore area, and brought the full force of contract law down on some delinquent homeowners, charging excessive fees for ground rent payments that were somewhat late, and ultimately even regaining outright ownership of some properties when the “tenant” did not cure the defect in the mandated time.

The General Assembly responded to the Sun’s series by passing legislation that (1) prohibited the creation of new ground rents, (2) eliminated completely the ground rent owner’s right to a eject a delinquent tenant, and (3) required that all existing ground rents in Maryland be registered in a central registry by 9/30/10 or be forever extinguished. I don’t dispute that there were abuses that should have been addressed, but as in often the case the politicians in Annapolis over-reacted. I see no problem with the prohibition against new ground rents, but I do have a problem with the General Assembly completely taking away the ground rent owners’ ability to enforce their rights.

As I recall, there is this inconvenient thing called the U.S. constitution that prohibits any state from passing any “Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts” (Article I, section 10), which is exactly what Maryland has done. In addition, the Fifth Amendment (among its other prohibitions) provides that no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.” It sure looks to me that the Maryland General Assembly has taken away property from ground rent owners without any trial or compensation. For the owner of a single ground rent that might be worth only $750 to begin with, it doesn’t make sense to spend tens of thousands of dollar to fight this fight on principle. And the ground rent owners who own enough ground rents to make such a fight worthwhile are the unsympathetic characters whose abuses were exposed by the Sun. It looks like another bite at our Constitutional rights.

Posted in Jim Walsh, Maryland, The US Constitution | 2 Comments »

There’s Something Going On

Posted by Jim Walsh on Thursday, September 16, 2010

The past 36 hours or so (i.e., since the night of the primary election) have convinced me that there is a seismic shift going on politically the likes of which I’ve never seen before.

First, an anecdotal observation. This morning I drove from home (in Woodbine) to meet a client at Leisure World (a large age-restricted development in Silver Spring). On the way down Georgia Avenue, and then across Norbeck Road heading back to my office in Columbia, I noticed a handful of Ehrlich signs here and there. But I did not see a single O’Malley sign in my travels to and from Montgomery County, which is one of the bluest counties in this most blue of states. Even driving through the liberal hotbed that is Columbia, I see a roughly even split of O’Malley and Ehrlich signs. This is only anecdotal, but I am convinced that there is practically no enthusiasm this year for O’Malley.

Second, this morning I read that the latest poll done in the Ohio governor’s race has John Kasich (R) up 17 points over Ted Strickland (D). For those of you not familiar with the politics of my home state, the stunning thing about this poll is that Strickland is the INCUMBENT who was leading Kasich by 5 points in the polls in late June. Strickland is not mired in any scandal, and he has not made any significant campaign gaffe. The worst thing that Strickland has done so far in this campaign is a YouTube video clip showing him in a Howard Dean type tirade about how Republicans hate America. But that clip was not major news and the tirade occurred only about 10 days ago, when Strickland was already trailing badly in the polls. Across the Great Lakes states, it looks like governorships of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois are going to flip from Democratic to Republican.

Third, Christine O’Donnell defeated ex-Governor and current Congressman Mike Castle in the Delaware primary for the Senate seat previously held by VP Joe Biden. Normally an insurgent can beat a party favorite only when there is an very low turnout in the primary, and the insurgent’s villagers with torches and pitchforks are the only ones who show up at the polls. What was especially interesting about O’Donnell’s victory is that the turnout in Delaware was three times the average primary turnout.

All the pundits immediately said that the Delaware voters were crazy and the Republicans had just lost their chance at picking up that Senate seat, and hurt their chances to gain the majority in the Senate, citing polls showing Democratic nominee (New Castle County executive) Chris Coons with a 16 point lead over O’Donnell. Karl Rove promptly bashed O’Donnell for her past financial problems and quirks. Even before O’Donnell concluded her victory speech Tuesday night, the Republican Senatorial Committee said it would not be supporting her in the general election. Castle, in his concession speech, did not congratulate O’Donnell or even mention her by name (reminiscent of Maryland’s own sore loser Wayne Gilchrest in 2008). Why the outrage at O’Donnell, particularly from Republicans? What happened to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment “Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican.”?

Some Republicans dislike the Tea Party movement for its impact on the Delaware, and Alaska, and Nevada primaries. They like the enthusiasm that the Tea Party has generated for conservative candidates, but resent those same Tea Party-ers for upsetting the apple cart for some party insiders. Those Republicans are trying to have their cake and eat it too. You can’t expect a group to be enthusiastic about the political process unless that group can have an impact.

There were online reports that Karl Rove was working behind the scenes for the Castle campaign, so maybe he was just ticked off that his horse got beat. Even so, Rove is a political professional and his blast was a head scratcher. For those fans of conspiracy theories, I read one comment suggesting that Rove had done O’Donnell a huge favor. Now she was the underdog again, berated and dismissed by fellow Republicans. She was immediately transformed from a kooky fringe candidate to a sympathetic rallying point for conservatives across the country. On the day after the primary election, O’Donnell collected $750,000 in donations. By noon Thursday, she was up to $1,000,000. At the very least, she will have enough money to range a credible campaign, and the Democrats will still have to spend a significant amount of money in Delaware that they could have used elsewhere. Two days after the election, Coons’ lead over O’Donnell was down to 11 points. Now Delaware may be a blue state, but Chris Coons is no Joe Biden. He does not engender enthusiastic support. I think the momentum is shifting back to O’Donnell. I fully expect that any poll done the week of 9/19 will have her down by no more than 8 points. At the very least, O’Donnell is still going to make a race of it.

Let me try to connect some dots.
(1) There is no enthusiasm among Democrats.
(2) Republicans and independents are more likely to vote this year and they are angry. Ohio is the ultimate swing state, going back and forth between Republicans and Democrats. If an incumbent Ohio governor with no scandal or major gaffe is down 17 points, I’m extrapolating that Republicans have maybe a 12-15 point advantage over their base line of support this year.
(3) Christine O’Donnell is attracting money and support at an unprecedented rate.

Now let me go far out on a limb and make some predictions:
(1) Republicans take the House.
(2) Republicans take the Senate.
(3) Christine O’Donnell wins.

Posted in Democrats, Ehrlich, Jim Walsh, O'Malley, Republicans | 3 Comments »

Absentee Ballot Requests – A Cautionary Tale

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My college daughter, who is now 18 and eager to vote for the first time, registered to vote this summer and requested online an absentee ballot for the primary election. After never hearing back from the Board of Elections, she called and was told that the Board had no record of her request. By this time it was too late for her to request an absentee ballot. For the general election, we will be sure to download the absentee ballot application and I will hand-deliver it to the Board of Elections.

Posted in Howard County, Jim Walsh | 1 Comment »

Howard County Board of Education Primary Results (Unofficial)

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Vote for four:
1. Sandra French 17461
2. Frank Aquino 17363
3. Larry Walker 10569
4. Brian Meshkin 9748
5. David Proudfoot 9707
6. Cindy Vaillancourt 9412
7. Robert Ballinger 8860
8. Leslie Kornreich 8006
9. David Gertler 6525
10. David Thalmeier 5678
11. Marcelino Bedolla 4724

Posted in Education, Howard County, Howard County News, Jim Walsh | 3 Comments »

Howard County Republican Primary Results (Unofficial)

Posted by Jim Walsh on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Senate 13 – Kyle Lorton 2853 / Jody Venkatesan 2010

House 13 (vote for 3) – Ed Priola 3518, Jeff Robinson 2778 and Loretta Gaffney 2509 / J’Neanne Theus 2022

Republican Central Committee (vote for 9)
1. Laura Kittleman 9061
2. David Bates 6944
3. Diane Butler 6424
4. Dave Myers 6144
5. David Wissing 5803
6. Loretta Shields 5646
7. Kathleen Newberry 5316
8. Janet Moye Cornick 4981
9. Karen Winterling 4836
(Only men named “David” are allowed on Central Committee.)
10. Betty Evans 4383
11. Joel Rosenberg 4121
12. Ellen Harrison 4004
13. Christopher Oxenham 3509
14. Edward (?) “Chick” Chickanis 3343

Posted in Howard County, Howard County News, Jim Walsh, Republicans | Leave a Comment »

Who is Jack Dawkins?

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, September 6, 2010

I hope Mr. Dawkins doesn’t mind me using his name or refering readers of this blog to his comments in reference to Mr. MacFarlane’s announcement that Mr. MacFarlane will be running for the Register of Wills.

Mr. Dawkins replied to Mr. MacFarlane’s announcement as follows:

I am an attorney and I practice estates and trusts law. We handle dozens of probate administration cases each year in Howard, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel County, as well as DC and Virginia. I am a life-long indepedent voter, but I almost always vote for a democrat in elections. Howard County has the best Register of Wills office around – PERIOD. I’ll be doing everything I can between now and this election to make sure people know what a great job Kay Hartleb does in this office.

Thank you Mr. Dawkins for such a ringing endorsement. Coming from one who works frequently with Kay Hartleb’s office (and many other Registers at that) this is a most welcome testiment. One may refer to other such testimonials on Kay Hartleb’s web site

Posted in David Keelan, Democrats, Howard County, Republicans | 1 Comment »

MacFarlane for Register of Wills but Where?

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, September 6, 2010

Raising money for a political campaign ain’t easy and it aint fun.  But it is a necessary function if one intends to win the office that one is running for.  To that end I thought I would review the fundraising results of Byron MacFarlane’s campaign for Register of Wills.

Frankly, I am just curious to learn how strong support for Mr. MacFarlane’s campaign is in Howard County and where it might be coming from.  Here is the breakdown:

27.5% of his support comes from organizations (not individuals).  The largest contribution(s) came from an organization based in Baltimore City (MacFarlane Yost, LLC).

8% of his support from individuals comes from out of state

42% of his support comes from the county (54% of that from Columbia).

In short, the vast majority of support for Mr. MacFarlane’s campaign comes from other than Howard County which really raises the question.  Who is supporting him and why?  If he can’t raise his money from Howard County who is he serving?

Total Contributions  $  13,472.16 Percent of all % HoCo
Individual  $    9,756.05 72.4%  
Organization  $    3,716.11 27.6%  
Out of State   $    1,850.08 13.7%  
Maryland  $  11,622.08 86.3%  
Non Howard County  $    9,170.15 68.1%  
Baltimore  $    4,121.91 30.6%  
Howard County  $    4,302.01 31.9%  
  Clarksville  $        170.00 1.3% 4%
  Columbia  $    2,318.29 17.2% 54%
  Dayton  $          50.00 0.4% 1%
  Elkridge  $          48.25 0.4% 1%
  Ellicott City  $        663.97 4.9% 15%
  Glenelg  $          50.00 0.4% 1%
  Glenwood  $          25.00 0.2% 1%
  West Friendship  $          25.00 0.2% 1%
  Woodbine  $          25.00 0.2% 1%
  Woodstock  $        926.50 6.9% 22%
Number of Contributions 138    
Contributions from HoCo 58 42.0%  
Contributions other 80 58.0%  

Posted in David Keelan, Democrats, Howard County | 2 Comments »

Congratulations Byron MacFarlane

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, September 3, 2010

Byron MacFarlane boasts his endorsement by the African Americnas in Howard County.

On his blog (even though you can’t comment there).

August 31, 2010 – 5th Campaign Endorsement

Earlier this week we were very proud to earn the endorsement of the organization African Americans in Howard County! We are so fortunate to live in such a vibrant, diverse community which recognizes this as one of our greatest strengths. This marks our 5th endorsement in the race for the Register of Wills!

Another carefully worded statement. It is true that the MacFarlane campaign recieved the endorsement of this wonderful organization – but only for the Democtratic Primary. There is a big difference between saying – yeah in the primary we will support you against the other guy than to come out and say – yeah we want you to be the next Register of Wills.

Posted in General | 3 Comments »