Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Columbia Beautification Awards

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, July 24, 2006

CORRECTION:  I said this was the first award.  It is actually the secon annual award.  Other than that I stand by my comments.  Thanks for pointing out my error Hayduke. 

I wasn’t going to write this.  I kept on thinking about it.  I have been thinking about it since July 5th when I last looked at the list of registered candidates for public office in Howard County.  It seemed a little petty to me, then something else happened to prompt me to think about this once again. 

I looked again today, specifically I looked at the list of candidates for Howard County Executive.

You know who I mean.

Merdon, Ulman, and Wallis.

What I noticed on August 5th was that Mr. Ulman and Mr. Wallis had both listed their County office telephone numbers as their campaign’s public telephone number.  Mr. Merdon used his campaign phone number (how novel).  If you have ever filled out the paperwork as a candidate for public office before you would know that when they ask for your public telephone number it should be the number that the PUBLIC can reach your campaign.

Today I noticed Mr. Wallis noticed this mistake and he has changed his public telephone number to his home phone number.  Good move.

On the other hand Mr. Ulman is still listing his County Council telephone number as his official campaign telephone number.  I am certain Mr. Ulman doesn’t intend to use County resources to manage his campaign and once he is aware of the oversight he will take immediate corrective action.  Although I don’t think it his intention to overwhelm the County Council offices with callers wanting to support his campaign, he should avoid the appearance of utilizing County resources for his campaign.  It just seems sloppy.

As I said earlier, I would not have brought it up if I hadn’t seen Mr. Ulman’s Beautification Award letter.  Someone told me about another letter and is sending me a copy.

I am also sure he will provide assurances that his recent bevy of letters to promote the (coincidentally) First Annual West Columbia Beautification Awards on County Council letterhead at County Council expense wasn’t intended to get additional name awareness in his Council District.  Why isn’t the Columbia Association promoting beautification projects and announcements?  Don’t they have a budget for that?  Ulman had to have sent out a minimum of 1,000 letters at a cost of about $1.00 each.  Why hasn’t the rest of the County heard about this beautification project?  Don’t the papers think it is newsworthy?  Even CA Matters didn’t mention it – not a peep.  Why not beautify Howard County?  Is Columbia the only place he is focused?  I don’t mean to go down a rabbit hole.  Where was I?  County resources.  I hope he stops it.

Mr. Ulman are you going to follow Mr. Merdon’s and Mr. Wallis’ lead and use your campaign phone number (assuming you have one) and are you going to quit sending out silly letters at taxpayer expense until the election is over?

Maybe this would be more appropriate.

Steve Wallis can send out a letter in his schoold district, at school expense of course, announcing a Wilde Lake beautification project.  The kid who comes to school with the cleanest pair of shoes will receive an award.

Chris Merdon can send out a letter to residents of Elkridge , at county expense of course, announcing the cleanest car project.  The street with the highest number of clean cars wins an award.

Now of course Mr. Wallis and Mr. Merdon will, like Mr. Ulman, have to recruit a half dozen or more people to act as judges and volunteer their valuable time.

Mr. Wallis will have to send those volunteers to the kids homes before they get on the bus or walk to school and risk scratching those shiny shoes.  It will be a lot of work driving up and down the streets checking out all those beautiful houses, er I mean shoes.

Being a Merdon supporter I would not mind going out to Elkridge and troll the streets for the street with the largest number of clean cars.  But I can’t.  This is a County project – what?  Columbia Association people did the judging for the Beautification Awards?  Then why did Mr. Ulman send the letters?  So I guess I can go out.  I can’t wait.  I am as excited as maybe the people from the Columbia Association were.

Their will undoubtedly be a great deal of interest during an election year for the “cleanest shoes” and “the street with the largest number of clean cars” awards.  The time and expense will surely be worth it.

20 Responses to “Columbia Beautification Awards”

  1. Mary Smith said

    Yes, Merdon has a campaign phone, a headquarters, and some very large, expensive signs, one of which is ironically located at 99 and Marriottsville (may be a comp lite site, now standing vacant mid-development).

    Well-funded candidates are shining, telling us just what we want to hear, making us comfortable with the drug of complacency. We need our fix, right? They’re just the pushers, er, um, people to provide it. Gosh, they’re good at what they do (run for re-election, get more campaign funds, pay off funding sources while in office, run for re-election…).

    Meanwhile, we have no one representing us. We need drug rehab.

    Next time you pass a huge sign, or hear about how a candidate was able to pay for expensive advertising ask yourself who really paid for those signs and who will pay back the debt created.

  2. Jim Adams said

    There was a sign at 99 and Marriottsville, and it is a comp lite site. I got very mad when I noticed it. Last night at a meeting I meet Mrs.Beltram who is with C.O.P.E., and she told me Chris Merdon did not know the sign was going up, when he found out he reguested it come down, and he followed up with a telephone call to Mrs. Beltram, explaining what happened. I think he showed a great measure of good character.

  3. hocomd said

    All good questions. I agree with you Mary that it is good to have a candidate (Merdon) who respects the process, respects the citizens, communities, and private property rights and works hard to balance them out in a difficult process.

    It is good to have an experienced leader in the hunt for County Executive who will ensure that our County Council respects the process or will yield the veto pen when they don’t. I agree with you that it would be dangerous to place a person without experience in the County Executive’s office who has no knowledge of the process, no track record, who can go in and make well intentioned mistakes.

    It is wonderful to have a candidate who garnishes half of his contributions from the general public. Contributions from people who want to see those signs around the County, and volunteers who donate time away from their families and their energy to put those signs up.

    It is also wonderful to know that I have yet to hear anyone cite one example of where Chris Merdon sold out to developers.

    Money is the mother’s milk of politics (unfortunately). Perhaps all the candidates should pledge not to raise or spend any money.

    Also, “may be a comp-lite site”. Innuendo Mary. Tsk Tsk. Good thing Jim Adams was able to confirm that for you.  Also, it was good of Jim to look into it….

    Thank you Jim Adams for clarifying that.  Jim, was it solely a Merdon sign or was it a Livesay sign too?  The reason I ask is that I understand Livesay is putting up signs for his campaign and tacking Merdon signs to them too.  With that said I know Chris is now going through Livesay’s inventory of sign locations and asking that some be taken down (a la Rt 99 and Marriotsville Road) if they were in the comp-lite debate.

  4. Jim Adams said

    Livesay sign also.

  5. hocomd said

    Jim, if anyone would have noticed it would have been you (or Greg Fox).

    We are putting signs up for Merdon this weekend. We are being very careful about site selection (for the reasons you and Mary pointed out).

    Chris is a major supporter of the referendum and as such he isn’t going to compromise his position on the illegality of comp-lite.

  6. Hayduke said

    This is actually the second year that they’ve done the Beautification awards. And what’s more, it’s done in concert with (and, originally, at the behest of) the local village boards. There are lots of things like this that go one without the papers or media commenting. Here in Oakland Mills, we have several such “civic pride” programs run by various bodies.

    I don’t know anything about the campaign number, but I note that Ulman’s website includes his campaign office number, and not the county council number. I’m sure this had more to do with the timing of when candidacy was declared — that is, before the office was set up. I would be very surprised if voters wishing to contact Ulman looked at his filing report with the board of elections before they looked at his campaign website or even the council’s homepage, where they will rightly find his county number. Actually, I don’t know if anyone aside from the really wonky among us even know that that candidate filings and the Board of Elections exist or how to find them.

  7. hocomd said

    You are correct. It is the second annual West Columbia Community Beautification Award. I will post a correction.

    Yes, I am a wonk. However, he should be more careful. As I noted. Wallis made the same mistake but corrected it.

    Additionally, as a registered candidate myself I have been getting telephone calls to the telephone number I listed and mail to the address I listed and email I listed people who want me to use their advertising services, send bio info, go to a candidate picnic, etc)I can’t speak for anyone else of course. I would not want the County Council staff and assistants answering campaign calls for any candidate for any office. So, someone besides us wonks are downloading those lists…

  8. Mary Smith said

    Ah, I see. This is a game, and Hocomo is instructing me on the rules (forefinger tapping temple). Specificity, research, facts. Ok, I’ll play.

    “There was a sign at 99 and Marriottsville…” Was? Now… I see no timestamp on this post, but I do know that I read the post prior to 3pm Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday July 25. However, at 3:25pm I was heading home and came upon the intersection at 99 and Marriottsville, and was surprised to see the campaign sign still in the same location it had been since erected. Then I noticed a silver vehicle with a Merdon sticker, parked on the side of Marriottsville Rd facing southward. Chris Merdon stepped out, and walked over to the sign, but by that time the light had turned and I moved on. At 6:22am July 26, the sign was gone.


    1. The gentleman looked like Chris Merdon, but I have no DNA evidence, and DNA is disputable anyway.

    2. Some time between 3:25pm July 25, and 6:22am July 26, the Merdon campaign sign was removed.

    3. The events listed above were witnessed first hand (by circumstance, luck, awareness).

    4. I don’t see the big deal.

    5. The sign was removed only after the discussion in this post.

    What is infinitely more interesting to me is that, based on the post above, “he followed up with a telephone call to Mrs. Beltram”. Realizing I was not present for the phone call, and cannot substantiate, I’ll make the guarded leap and assume it’s true, surely you’ll notify me (if not others) if this is an infraction against rules of this exercise.

    Chris Merdon is good at what he does, (run for re-election, etc, etc..). Angela Beltram is Howard County’s Oprah Winfrey, and her followers will be energized to historic proportions in the event that her effort is offended (as might all citizens who wish for good representation). Using the Winfrey analogy would make Harry Siegle comparable to the National Enquirer. No innuendo, just analysis, allegory, analogy, figurative communication, and I stand firm on the rule in which these are allowed.

    But even further, the campaign sign was doing the job of campaign signs, all while Angela Beltram had been informed that it was to be removed, but actually remained intact, if the facts in prior posts are to be believed. Chris Merdon placed the call to Angela Beltram, neutralizing the powerful perceptions of citizens, all while the sign still hung and did it’s job. Until the post here yesterday. THAT is disturbing, not the sign itself.

    You’re so agreeable, but I’m finding, Hocomo, that you are quite politically inclined as well. Restating things I did not say as if we are in agreement must be a rule infraction. Are we keeping score?

    Not wise to challenge one skilled in analysis and research (if not luck and consciousness) to find situations in which Mr. Merdon did not vote in the best interest of citizens while on the zoning board. It might take time, but this will rear its head again before November, and I will have those facts you unwittingly requested.

  9. hocomd said


    It was tongue in cheek. No infraction intended, however I will take my punishment. Go easy on me.

    I hope you can take a joke.

    Many of us are “skilled in analysis and research” and just as skilled in making the analysis and research conform to our prejudices.

    The sign was removed as promised. Was it not?

    From what I can tell by the time stamps Jim Adams had spoken to Angie long before your original post. As it was explained the Livesay campaign put those signs up, not the Merdon campaign. They had permission to do so, but the Merdon campaign hadn’t audited the locations – which they should have.

    BTW: Next time you have a chance encounter with Chris Merdon I would like to suggest that you take a moment to introduce yourself and engage him in dialogue.

  10. Mary Smith said


    I can take a joke. It’s ok.

    And actually, thinking about the fact that I’m writing in this environment (not where I apply the work-toned skills of analysis and research), I should more accurately state that it’s not wise to challenge one so blessed with luck and consiousness (if not skilled in research and analysis). I’m not a ‘wonk’, and remain humbly, Mary.

  11. hocomd said

    You know Mary, even though this is my blog, and I am highly opinionated I am always interested in a difference of opinion (otherwise I would turn off the comments feature).

    If you have time or are so inclined to apply your skills and write something I would be glad to include you as a guest blogger.

  12. hocomd said

    You know Mary, even though this is my blog, and I am highly opinionated I am always interested in a difference of opinion (otherwise I would turn off the comments feature).

    If you have time or are so inclined to apply your skills and write something I would be glad to include you as a guest blogger.

    It would be interesting to have two views on a certain subject from time to time.

  13. Mary Smith said

    Partner with republicans? “I love republicans, drinks all around!” (Capt. Jane Sparr, Pirates of the Lake Centennial)

    I’ve never referred to the conservative group as repugnicans, and am sheepishly flattered, and further humbled by the offer, though I detect a wolf-like tail draped from the sheepskin covering the main body of the message. Drat! My lack of ego is constantly precluding me from doing what I want – in this case, to believe you’d want to the truth aired on your site, and not to advance your agenda.

    I really do not know why the attention. Is there an actual threat to Chris Merdon winning? Do tell. You couldn’t possibly be worried about Ulman. It must be…dare I speak the name? Steve Wallis. (trumpets sounding)

    And two offers, not just one, when you repeated yourself.

    On Halloween years ago my 3-year old son showed up at day care wearing a Ronald Reagan mask, prompting the children to run screaming. Some were reduced to tears. When my son relayed the story to me later, I explained to him, “Oh, sweetheart. It’s ok, their parents are democrats.” So you see, I’m taking this seriously. A tempting offer, like cheesecake that I’m sure I’d pay for, later.

  14. hocomd said

    Mary, no traps. I speak the truth (as I see it of course). I would be interested in your version of the “truth” and expect that it will more often than not coincide with my version of the “truth”.

    I am confident in Chris Merdon. Although, it would be foolish to take Mr. Ulman or Mr. Wallis for granted. I am sure they will both work very hard to win in November.

    I didn’t realize my comments posted twice.

  15. Mary Smith said

    You hit me where I live, in the belief that truth is found by exposing varying positions on an issue. One of my favorite books in college was “Clashing Views: Taking Sides on Controversial Economic Issues”. I still have it, and re-read it from time to time.

    So you see, this is an offer I cannot resist. Point, Counter-Point. This is what it’s all about, maybe more so for the Irish!

    Let me know when it’s time to choose a weapon. Remember to tell me how many paces. I’m a novice and fully expect to be humiliated the first several times out. But beware; I’m a very good student.

  16. hocomd said

    we can start with comp-lite or budget

  17. Mary Smith said

    Oh stop. You know we agree on comp lite, and the budget item is too vast. We could talk about the viability of a third party candidate in the County Exec race, or the qualifications of Merdon, or why Harry Dunbar was excluded from your poll. Those are things on which we disagree. My first choice would be for you to state why you support Chris Merdon’s zoning board voting patterns (excluding comp lite). Statistics would be great: how many citizens showed up, how many times they were defeated, etc. That’ll save me a lot of time. Thanks.

  18. hocomd said

    Harry Dunbar was excluded because I didn’t think of putting him on the poll. It was an over sight on my part – probably because I don’t see him as a viable candidate.

    Why exclude comp-lite? If we are going to talk about zoning board should it not be comprehensive?

    How many citizens showed up at zoning board hearings? I don’t think they keep those statistics. Do you mean how many cases came to the zoning board and who testified (pro/con) and what was the boards vote on those cases? That will require time.

    I leave it up to you. You pick the topic.

  19. […] Back to Merdon.  So he sent out a letter on campaign letterhead and included a copy of the County Council press release.  The law is supposed to protect citizens from people using the County Seal by unauthorized persons so they know they are receiving legitimate information about County business.  I think Mr. Merdon was doing just that.  Now he could have sent his letter out on County Council letterhead a la Ken Ulman’s beautification awards letter.  But then he would have had an ethics complaint about that too.  Never mind. […]

  20. Cranky in Columbia?

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