Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Harper’s Choice Candidate Forum

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I didn’t get to attend, but this article in the Sun describes the event.  Seems positive to Merdon given the venue and area might be considered hostile to a Republican candidate.  The article even mentions “hostile political turf”.  By all accounts Merdon aquitted himself well.

Merdon used Monday night’s packed house on hostile political turf to attack rival candidate Democrat Ken Ulman on Ulman’s own issue – the touchy matter of redeveloping Columbia’s Town Center.

“I want to straighten out the process for redevelopment of downtown Columbia. You can’t plan a downtown in seven days. I want to slow down the process,” Merdon said, a reference to the weeklong planning charrette on Town Center redevelopment that Ulman helped organize last fall.

Ulman quickly struck back. “I think it’s kind of interesting that 71 days before an election is the first day I hear my opponent mention Town Center,” he said of his rival, a fellow county councilman. “He wasn’t around for the charrette.”

Merdon got a chance to respond to that charge.

He said that as a zoning board member, he listened and helped defeat General Growth’s original plan for building 1,600 homes on land behind Merriweather Post Pavilion, and said he’s attended other meetings on the subject.

Merdon was also quoted extensively in the Howard County Times on the matter back in January (240 days ago).

The process county planning and zoning officials are using to create a new master plan for Columbia’s Town Center is flawed, the chairman of the Howard County Council said last week.

Christopher Merdon said an emerging draft of the plan, which would guide downtown Columbia’s redevelopment for the next 30 years, does not adequately address Town Center’s future need for roads and schools.

In the same article, Del. Liz Bobo agreed.

Others, including Bobo, have said that the draft fails to address such important questions as who would pay for infrastructure, such as sidewalks, curbing, and additional parking and where the county would build the additional schools downtown’s burgeoning future population would presumably require.

As a member of the County Council and the Zoning Board Merdon would have attended and participated in all meetings relative to Columbia redevelopment.

The charrette went too fast, Merdon said. Merdon then said he alone on the council voted against the comprehensive rezoning bill known as Comp Lite and is someone who will “make sure we have an open process.”

Mr. Ulman stated his position:

Ulman has agreed that 5,500 is far too many homes and that the planning process needs more time. He claims credit for helping to block the initial proposal for new homes, for saving Merriweather Post Pavilion, and for starting a process he has said should lead to the kind of people-friendly, diverse downtown Columbia founder James W. Rouse envisioned.

Honestly, I am glad to hear him say so, but that is news to me.  I did not understand that to be his position.  I did not know that he felt 5,500 homes were too many.  We have seen and heard the charges of how Ulman blocked the “initial proposal for new homes” in Hayduke’s post “Back in the Saddle?” in the comments section in which a commenter posted this:

Ken Ulman and Guy Guzzone ordered the Planning Board to delay action indefinitely as leverage to get GGP to promise not to sell MPP (I know this for a FACT – I’m friends with an attorney in the County OFFICE of LAW who told me so). BUT, that promise would not come free of charge. Ulman and Guzzone had to promise GGP something in return.

You should really read the whole thing.  Hayduke and the commentator really hash it out.

One thing I had hoped to read about were the reports that Mr. Ulman said that the Lakefront was only busy three times a year.  That comment was alledged to have been received with a round of boos.  If that is true I am surprised at Mr. Ulman’s reported response.  Instead of backing off or letting it go he pressed his point by calling out the holiday’s – July 4th, the International Festival, and the third one was lost on the person relaying the information to me.

In any event, the forum was, from what I have heard (and read on Evan Coran’s blog) well attended and the audience out numbered campaign volunteers.

Unfortunately, we didn’t read much about the County Council forum.  I am told Mary Kay looked exhausted, Tom was nervous, Josh was unremarkable, and Uncommon actually came off pretty well.

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4 Responses to “Harper’s Choice Candidate Forum”

  1. I did attend the forum and will confirm the audible booing of Ulman when he said the “Lakefront was only vibrant three timers a year”. Even when he tried to desperately defend his claim, the crowd continued to boo. Evan said he is attempting to post a video of the event, and hopefully the video picks up booing. It was a jarring moment to say the least, especailly considering the location of the forum had to be considered a home field advantage for Ulman.

  2. Fran said

    Still, Tom was the best looking candidate up front!

  3. hocomd said

    Fran, I think Tom should shave his beard. He should show off that pretty face.

  4. Mary Smith said

    It’s a tough challenge to find someone who we might want out of the voter pool. Fran is rising to the challenge.

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