Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Block that…Tower (updated)

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Remember this campaign pledge?

Nov. 3–Democratic candidate for Howard County executive Ken Ulman said yesterday that if elected Tuesday he would move to block construction of a 23-story lakefront tower in Columbia and impose a 14-story height limit on downtown buildings. The two proposals are part of a broader plan Ulman was to announce at noon today at the lakefront for redirecting the process for developing Town Center. Ulman said he decided to speak up now “when I saw this issue being made into a political football by my Republican opponent. I felt it was important to lay out exactly what my vision is.” Ulman, who represents west Columbia on the County Council, said he rejects Republican candidate Christopher J. Merdon’s call for at least a one-year delay in the planning process.

Update:  I found this on Ken Ulman’s campaign web site.  I just want to be sure I am quoting his campaign pledge accurately.

Ulman Nov 3 ‘06 press conference

Ken Ulman’s November press conference where he pledged to introduce legislation restricting building heights in Columbia Town Center.

I will share with you what I see as the core features of the master plan based on my own personal vision andwhat I have heard… And finally, downtown Columbia must be developed at reasonable heights. The community’s voice has been loud and clear that a 22 story building has no place in our Town Center.  As County Executive, I will introduce a height limit for New Town Zoning to prohibit any building over 14 stories.

I am told that we are waiting or the planning board to review and comment on Mary Kay Sigaty’s ZRA petition.  We will see if either of them submit legislation or if Ulman is going to pull an O’Malley (problem is O’Malley has an Ehrlich to dump on – Ulman doesn’t) End Update

Remember this February statement?

“I’m actively engaged in discussions with all parties,” Ulman said, and “I’m hopeful all parties will come together and compromise.”

Which is it.?

  • Ring Ring…. County Executive Ken Ulman speaking.
  • Hi Ken, this is Mary Kay.
  • Ha ha.  Ok.  Mary Kay who?  Mary Kay cosmetics?
  • Ken, this isn’t a knock knock joke.  This is Mary Kay Sigaty.
  • [Sigh…]  Hello Mary Kay.  Actually, I am glad you called.  About my order.  When is my toe nail polish going to arrive?  [Snort].
  • Aren’t you funny Ken? 
  • I know. I know.
  • Ken, about that WCI tower.  I am going to submit legislation proposing height restrictions and I want to know if you are going to support me.
  • Mary Kay, first let me ask,  do you think that candy apple red or peach is a better color for my toe nails?
  • Peach is better for your comp….  Er… Ken, stop it, no more jokes. Get serious!
  • [Snort… ]Ok ok Mary Kay.  Well Mary Kay, as you know this is a very complicated issue.  I was against the tower before I was for compromise.  Now I am waiting for the results of my poll on the issue to come out.  So, I don’t think it is fair for you to put me on the spot.  First you run against me for County Council and now you want a straight answer….
  • Ken, you said you would stop the tower.  Are you going to stop the tower or not?
  • …..
  • Ken? 
  • Are you there, Ken?
  • Ken, for Pete’s sake will you stop crying?

Since Mr. Ulman layed out his exact vision EIGHT months ago isn’t it time for him to act?  Shouldn’t the business community expect an answer on this question?  Given the implications of retroactive legislation don’t we all deserve closure to this question. Will Mr. Ulman uphold his campaign pledge or is all this just rhetoric or will we he refuse to act at all?


46 Responses to “Block that…Tower (updated)”

  1. Freemarket said

    FM: David, why do you post imagined conversations between politicians? Don’t you know that you come across as bitter and rude?

    DK: Well, I have nothing of substance to add to the blogoshpere. Therefore, I feel the need to sensationalize what lame points I do try to make by making stuff up. It’s more interesting that way.

    FM: I see. But do you think your attempt to make your blog interesting gives you license to be disrespectful and nasty to others?

    DK: I am not being nasty. I am just reaching around disrespect by maintaining the ruse of humor. I like reach arounds.

    FM: Uhh, I gotta go.

  2. I am only following the example set by the esteemed Ben Franklin who found that medium was an effective way to make a point. You should reach for one of his books some time instead of being vulgar – especially in such a public way. You think I am insulting? You have a perverse sense of perspective and you are going to lecture me on respect. No matter how much we may disagree I would never write any such thing on your blog. You have really shown your colors.

    I have to admit, your comment does a fine job of distracting the reader from the point – Ken Ulman made a campaign pledge. Ken Ulman hasn’t acted on that pledge. You even have failed to address the point on your own blog. However, readers will comment on your comment instead of the post. Well done apologist of Ken Ulman. Well done.

  3. Freemarket said

    If you are offended, just edit the comment. I was offended with your made up conversation about the CE painting his toenails. That does not give me the right to jump on the wagon of sophomoric indecency with you, and for that I apologize.

    If you treat your blog like it is a joke, don’t be surprised when others do as well.

  4. observer said

    freemarket, why don’t you stop criticizing the host of this blog and address the issue which he raises. Stop trying to discredit the messenger and just react to his message. Is Ken Ulman a liar or not? will he say or do anything just to garnish a few more votes? do we want that kind of Clintonian politician serving as County Executive for Howard County? Ken is not perfect, but David’s criticism is more than fair, why don’t you address the point!

  5. Does anyone know if Mary Kay ever filed her retroactive zoning amdendment yet? I looked on the HoCoGov website and could not find it as being filed ann I thought I read an article indicating if she didn’t file it by Last Monday, it wouldn’t be voted on until at least September….

    Just curious….

  6. Dave, Mary Kay Sigaty sumbitted Petition ZRA-79 to amend zoning regulation 125 on February 13, 2007

    It was reviewed by the planning board but not by the council. You know the story.

  7. BTW: Wordbones has a link and discussion.

  8. Acording to this Baltimore Examiner article, she had not yet formally introduced the amendment for legislative action as of June 30 and the article indicated that she would have to had filed it by last Monday night in order for it to be voted on before the August recess. I did not see it on the HoCoGov website as being introduced on Monday.

    Anyway, I sent emails to the County Councilpeople, so hopefully one of them will respond to me….

  9. wordbones said

    Regarding Ken Ulman and his “tower pledge:”

    Let’s be honest with each other here, we all know that Ken Ulmans pledge to stop the tower was a shameless last minute ploy to garner the support of Liz Bobo and her followers in what was thought to be a tight election. Does anyone seriuosly believe that he was that committed to stopping this development?

    I like Ken but I wasn’t happy about his last minute pandering to the CoFoDoCo group. His redemption for me will be what he does about it now that he is in office. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words (or campaign promises).


  10. observer said

    wordbones, one of many shameless last minute ploys from Ken, too bad the electorate didn’t see him for what he is before the election. It really bothers me when politicians show that they have no integrity before the election and they can still get elected, makes you wonder how many other promises he may have made to influence voters that we don’t even know about.

  11. i have been told that until the planning board renders an opinion on MKS’ petitions she can’t submit legislation. As such we will have to wait until September until she submits (if she submits) her proposals.

    At that time we will find out what Ken Ulman’s true colors (on this issue anyway) are. Will this be the start of a trail of broken promises….

  12. ken's word is meaningless said

    is this a surprise? ulman said anything to get elected. remember his resume?

  13. The entire purpose of ZRA 83 is an attempt to retroactively enforce a height limit (ZRA 79) that would affect any development currently under legal limbo (of course, the Plaza Tower is the only building that would be affected).

    If the higher court rules in favor of WCI before the ZRA 83 is voted on, this would end the lawsuit and render the entire purpose of ZRA 83 (basically a retroactive enforcement of the height limits in ZRA 79) useless against the Plaza Tower since the lawsuit would be over.

    I don’t know where the legal case stands or understand what on earth is taking so long, but this delay on voting on ZRA 79 and 83 has to be a positive for WCI and the Plaza Tower.

  14. SallySells said

    Looks like the village idiot is at it again – when he doesn’t agree He makes it personal and discredits whoever He disagrees with – Well if you can’t beat them…..

  15. SallySells said

    Village Idiot – Freemarket

  16. Freemarket said

    Sally- thanks for clarifying who you were talking about. When I read your first comment I thought you were talking about yourself.

  17. observer said

    Still no response from freemarket on the issue, does the truth hurt? or are you finding it hard to defend the indefensible, oh how confused you must be when you realize you have been had, is the indoctrination starting to wear off. Wait until you find out global warming is just a scheme for Al Gore to get rich quick.

  18. Freemarket said

    Observer, please pay attention. You completely missed the point of my initial comment and your simple minded questions of me only make you look foolish. My problem is not with the substance of David’s post. My problem is with the made up conversation. If you must know, I support the tower, so am glad that Ulman did not block it.

    Why don’t you address my point? Is it proper of David to post made up conversations which are nothing more than personal attacks?

  19. Third Eye said

    Sally Sells, that was…clever.

    David, Sally, observer, you are all missing the point. David, you’ve let pass a prime opportunity to voice your opinions on the tower. Don’t pretend this is about campaign promises. Any fictional conversation which includes a public official painting his toenails is not meant to be taken seriously in the political arena. It only serves as a personal attack. Got something to say about campaign promises? Good. Say it. Have something to say about the proposed retroactive zoning legislation, please do.

    However, if you are going to continue to transcribe your foot fetish into some sort of delusional conversation between public figures, then change the name of your blog, use it instead to post imagined dialogue and comment on the latest American Idol, and resign yourself to not being taken seriously in community dialogue.

  20. Observer,

    Once FM accepts the idea of sarcasim (remember Johnathan Swift “recipes for cooking Irish babies” or more recently Roy Rogers) then he will likely address the issue. He usually comes around to the heart of a matter either in a comment or a post on his own blog.

  21. Third Eye said

    David- what issue do you want him to address? You failed to make a point.

    You are not Swift.

  22. observer said

    FM, David has a sense of humor, his imagined conversation is funny, not a personal attack. The one who should be offended is Mary Kay, she is left to clean up Ken’s mess from when he was councilperson. If the planning board and Ken had made good decisions the first run through, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. If you are offended it is because you are a bitter person.

    What matters now, is that any attempt to block the tower now will likely cost the county millions in a lawsuit that they will surely lose. Just another example of how poor decision making and pandering to the developers can cost the taxpayers of howard county millions. Just think of all of the money that could be saved. Ken sure could use that money to fight global warming or something else worthwhile.

  23. SallySells said

    Please don’t give our County Exec any more ideas – besides I thought Al Gore was raising money to stop global warming? (at least while He is not otherwise engaged with his son’s issues…..)

  24. Third Eye said

    Bitter? Endless personal attacks on Ulman from Keelan, Observer, et al, and you are accusing Freemarket of being bitter?

  25. Maybe I am missing it completely, but where is the “personal attack” on Ken? I read the “exchange” numerous times and it is clear to me that it David is not implying that Ken actually paints his toe nails, only making light of Mary Kay’s name and it’s relationship to a well known cosmetic company.

    The point of the this post, which has not been addressed yet by any of Ulman’s anonymous boosters on this thread, is why Ken Ulman changed his position on the Plaza Tower and why he not lived up to submit legislation to prevent any building higher than 14 stories yet.

    Keep in mind, I say this as an opponent to Sigaty’s retroactive Zoning amendment. So like Wordbones, personally I hope Ulman, when all is said and done, does break his campaign promise to attempt to retroactively kill the Plaza Tower….

  26. Raichi said

    David has a sense of humor but consequently, he doesn’t take thing seriously. I feel sorry for Mary Kay, she is left to clean up Ken’s mess. If the planning board and Ken had made good decisions the first run through, we wouldn’t be having this.

  27. observer said

    Not attacking Ken, just pointing out the reality and truth of the situation, that is why I am “observer”. I just call them like I see them. Not bitter either, just enjoy watching you folks getting wound up.

  28. SallySells said

    Anyone need Sea Shells?

    I sell them by the Sea Shore…..Down by the Ocean Hon….

  29. Freemarket said

    It appears the spammers have a new tactic. Say something somewhat relevant, and oh yeah, I almost forgot, here is a link to such and such product. Nice!

  30. timactual said

    Jeez, some of you folks need to lighten up and get a sense of humor and proportion. If you think DK’s little piece was indecent, you shouldn’t go out in the big wide world or turn on your TV. And, as Mr. Wissing notes, the ones complaining about it need to concentrate a little more on reading comprehension.

  31. Whats the Problem said

    Why shouldn’t a tall building be built in Columbia? Schools and roads are all well maintained and seats are available in classrooms, there is public water and sewer available. Hopefully if the Tower is blocked it won’t mean growth in the rest of the county to make up the difference. The developer is not the problem, County Government that approved and continues to play games is the problem…..

  32. tomberkhouse said

    Freemarket – I believe Dave’s imagined conversation is what is called “satire”. It’s used quite a bit in political corners.So stop your whining. Here’s another comic device – it’s called the double entendre.

    FM: Hayduke, you want to come over and taste my schwedde balls?

    HayDuke: Sure. Nothing’s as refreshing as nibbling on some schwedde balls on a hot summer day.

    FM: Yeah. They might be a little salty though.

    HayDuke: That’s ok, I like ’em a little salty. Oh, and we can talk about how great Town Center will look once we’ve fooled the public into thinking it’s a great idea.

    FM: Ok. Sounds great.


  33. Third Eye I meant that Freemarket will address the point of the post topic which is Ken Ulman’s campaign pledge. As to bitterness. Please elaborate. I think I have been complimentary too but you focus on “bitterness”. What do you think about Mr. Ulman’s campaing pledge discussed in this post? Do you think he meant it? Do you think he will keep that pledge?

    What is the problem: I support the tower. The post is about Mr. Ulman’s campaign pledge.

    Dave Wissing and Tim Actual thanks for the sanity. Reading comprehension – exactly.

    Berkhouse: Uncalled for but funny. Very very funny. You must be an SNL fan. I don’t like Alec Baldwin – but that was hilarious.

  34. tomberkhouse said

    I’m no fan of Msr. Baldwin either, but that skit was one of the funniest on SNL. I couldn’t resist using it.

  35. Whats the Problem said

    My intent was to focus on the issue causing your post….Our elected officals – especially our newly elected County Executive need to come clean on whats happening with the Tower and where there efforts are focused, otherwise there campaign hot wind comes across as such…..

  36. Third Eye said

    Tell me, David, how, in your eyes, Ulman can please you.

    If Ulman ends up dropping the height limit pursuit, in favor of the tower, he has broken a campaign promise. Even though the end result is what you want, you attack him for breaking a campaign pledge.

    If Ulman sticks with the height restriction, then he is blindly pandering to CoFoBoBo et al, and is making decisions that are bad for business. The end result isn’t what you want, and you attack the guy for that.

    Either way, the guy can’t win in your perspective.

    Rather than focus on the campaign pledge, why not focus on the real issue- which is the tower? The campaign pledge is nothing more than yet another avenue of attack on Ulman.

  37. Third Eye,

    You are absolutely right. This post about the tower is in no way meant to be complimentary to Ken Ulman. He boxed himself in on this one because he played politics with the issue.

    I didn’t put him in a no win situation – he did. Wordbones explained it perfectly.

    On other issues. I think he did a pretty good job with his first budget and some of his cabinet picks. I am happy with his focus on the enviroment.

    I still don’t like the way he ran his campaign but hey. He won.

  38. Third Eye,

    You act as if Ulman making a pledge was somehow not his own fault and he should just get a pass. Of course he should be criticized for breaking a campaign pledge, regardless of whether I agree with him or not.

    I would actually support Ulman if he came out against Mary Kay Sigaty’s retroactive enforcement amendment. But that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be criticized for breaking a campaign pledge that he made in order to get the support fo the anti-tower crowd. This was the point of David Keelan’s post.

  39. BTW: When they block the tower it will be used by the GOP in every local campaign in Howard County. That nice photo on this post (from Ken’s own web site on the same issue) with Calvin, Jen, Guy, Mary Kay and Ken saying “NO TOWER” will be in every single mailbox come 2010. Make no doubt about it – this issue was not just a 2006 campaign issue – it has feet.

    A campaign pledge broken.

  40. observer said

    In response to whats the problem, there are problems with the tower. I don’t think HoCo firefighters area adeqautely trained to fight high rise fires or have the necessary equipment. Maybe someone who knows more about it than I do can explain it better than me. Additonally, your “smart growth” solution is seriously flawed. Just in case you didn’t know, almost every intersection around the mall is failing right now per the county’s own standards. Our Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance is supposed to be a protection against this type of development. Why doesn’t Ken enforce it?

  41. To Observer said

    Glad to hear you have such confidence in our fire dept! I bet you’ll bitch about paying for additional training or the purchase of more equipment too!

  42. To Observer.

    Are you claiming that our fire department and our volunteers have had high rise fire fighting training? Is Howard County equipped for that type of response? Observer just asked the question and requested a more informed response. You then blasted him. It is a good question on Observers part. If the tower is built we need to make sure first responders can respond – don’t you think? I don’t see where Observer would disagree. Now, do you care to respond?

  43. Observer is not said

    Look, Sherlock. What type of special equipment do you think Ho Co is lacking in response to the tower? A tower truck that reaches 23 stories? Really big airbags for people to jump onto in case of a fire?

    Downtown already has several buildings that require a different response than your standard single family home. Those buildings are equipped for fire and other emergencies.

    Observer doesn’t know jack about firefighting and should leave that to those who do it best- the firefighters.

  44. observer said

    to the loser who responded to my comments about adequate public facilities, excuse me for expressing concern about public safety. You are obviously some hate filled person to just go off and attack me for some rather innocent and inquisitive comments. I don’t usually respond in such a negative manner, but you have a very small mind which seems to be indicative, of the group which seems to defend Ken and his policies by checking in on this blog. Mr. Keelan, you should do more to keep the debate on topic and keep these losers off your blog, they are entertaining to a point, but after a while they detract from the debate.

  45. observer said

    Back to the issue, I would know if Mr. Fire Dept expert can tell me if there are two high rise fires in Columbia at the same time, is there enough pressure and flow capacity in the water system to adequately fight the two fires? Will a 20+ story building require a special pump or new truck to project water up to higher levels than maybe just the usual 12 story building. What if a fire occurred during a restricted use time, when major transmission lines are under repair, or if we are in a drought period?
    Since there was no response on my traffic comments, I guess it is OK to keep cramming additional development into the town center area. When the gridlock and smog get bad enough, I guess people will just go to Arundel Mills to shop or some other county. Why are we paying for another traffic study to analyze this problem? Weren’t the first two any good or are we just shopping around for the desired results. Let’s just figure it all out later and hope for the best.

  46. Observer,

    The thought to “do more to keep the debate on topic and keep these losers off your blog.” However, I came to this conclusion. If I am going to publish my thoughts out on the ether then I need to take the responses and criticism that come with doing so.

    The vast majority of opposing views are well thought out and polite. Others, as you know, are just vindictive. As long as they don’t contain profanity or unproven allegations then I am not going to censor them.

    To the point. The operational aspects of fighting a fire in a 23 story building are different than that of a 14 story building. I am sure the leadership of Ho Co’s fire department review these policies on a regular basis. When the tower is built I am sure they will review all the operational aspects and ensure that they are prepared. I think Observer would agree (he hasn’t indicated otherwise). As part of that operational review I am sure they will review the necessary public infrastructure that is needed to meet their operational requirements (ie our current water restrictions that are based upon public safety concerns). Clearly the Ho Co fire department is professional and capable however I would not suggest they have the experience and equipment of say the Baltimore City Fire Department who operate in a completely different environment than Ho Co.

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