Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Archive for the ‘Howard County Blogs’ Category

Five Years and going strong

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, December 31, 2007

Dave Wissing’s blog “The Hedgehog Report” celebrated it’s 5 years yesterday.  Dave has had an interesting run with his site.  Take a look at his post describing the last 5 years of the Hedgehog!
Congratulations Dave.


Posted in Howard County Blogs | 1 Comment »

Outing Tom Berkhouse

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, October 15, 2007

Sometime ago I was accused of outing Mary Smith on this blog when Mary really outed herself.  See the blog post here.  Only one person ever came forward to tell me they knew who Mary Smith really was after that post – and that was after repeated challenges.  Never the less lots of people who have no idea who Mary Smith is to this day came out to bash me and accused me of outing Mary.Here is an example of what some people wrote after that infamous incident.

I do want to say that I strongly disagree with David Keelan’s decision to expose the true identity of a commenter he doesn’t like, and one with whom I disagree (and am frustrated by) regularly. Regardless of how you feel about her, David’s decision sets an ugly precedent. Commenter’s can be held to different standards depending on their views and the threat of tracing identities through IP address (which are available for all to see by looking at the Site Meter reports — see bottom of the page) looms over all. Such things help stifle diverse debate and might prevent many worthy commenter’s from participating.

Ian “Hayduke” Kennedy October 26, 2006

Ian is entitled to his opinion and clearly indicated he had set a higher standard.

Now someone on Ian’s blog is trying to out a frequent commenter and critic of Ian’s thought process and positions.  To date Ian is silent on the developments even though the post is 2 weeks old.  See Hayduke’s blog in which he comes out favoring Big Box retail stores (although I am not clear on whether he favors them on the Crescent).

The frequent critic is Tom Berkhouse.  The people trying to out Berkhouse are treating Tom as if he did something terrible like threatened a county employee for trying to shut off his water for non-payment or something when in fact all Tom does is forcefully and at times very forcefully expresses a strong difference of opinion with Ian.  At times Tom will criticise Ian for what Tom perceives to be a twisting of the facts in order to reach a desired conclusion.  Tom is often (not always) rather enjoyable to read and makes good points but often (if not always) fails to elicit a reaction from Ian.  So in fairness to Ian perhaps Ian is just simply ignoring all commenter’s.  Perhaps Ian is too busy with his new job which is perfectly understandable.  I have a full time job too, a family, and I just started an MBA program (which is going great so far)  so I understand finding time to stay up on the local scene and one’s blog isn’t easy.

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 24 Comments »

Where in the world is Cindy?

Posted by David Keelan on Sunday, June 10, 2007

Anyone notice that CindyV is missing?  Cindy, where are you?

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 3 Comments »

DPZ Ombudsman

Posted by pzguru on Tuesday, May 8, 2007

I have read several articles now about the new Ombudsman for the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (reference the article titled “New Planning Official aims to reach, engage public” in the 5/3/07 edition of the HCTimes, and the Opinion page in the same edition).

 Although the concept of having an “outreach” person is admirable, and Kimberley Flowers has excellent qualifications for the position, there is a larger underlying problem that needs to be dealt with in order for this initiative to be successful.  That underlying problem is a persistent habit of the County Executive (present and former administration) and Councilpersons (present and former) interfering or meddling in the day to day business of the Department of Planning and Zoning (the Comp Lite fiasco certainly stands out as the most egregious example). 

 Now, you may ask, what exactly do I mean.  What I mean is this.  The Department of Planning and Zoning has taken a lot of misplaced blame for how the public perceives the planning process, whether it’s subdivision regulations, site plan review, variance applications, comprehensive planning and General Plan updates, and so on.  The bottom line is that the staff of DPZ have always held a firm and fair line in the application of the regulations to the various plans and applications that are submitted to that Department.  It is only when “the politicians” get involved, that the system breaks down.  Even the Director of DPZ is subject to pressures from the County Executive or Councilpersons, and is sometimes forced to take action contrary to how he/she would/should.  True, the Director serves at the pleasure of the CE, and is subject to confirmation by the Council.  However, that does not mean that the CE or Councilpersons should interfere in the process to serve their own agenda, or that of a campaign contributor, or a weatlhy land owner.  The rules are supposed to be applied equally to ALL persons in the County.  Rule #1 of the government is that it shall not act in an arbitrary or capricious manner.  It rarely turns out that way, as I can attest from my years in that Department.  It’s a source of tremendous resentment when the staff would be forced to approve something, such as a waiver petition, contrary to past precedent, simply because the applicant was a person with connections.  When neighbors or community activists would call to discuss how approval could be granted, the staff, including myself on many occasions, would have no explanation other than “we were over-ruled”.  It’s no wonder the public doesn’t trust DPZ, but it’s not DPZ’s fault.  The blame lies with any CE or Councilperson who abuses and violates the established laws and procedures for their own agendas. 

 If Ms. Flowers can overcome and help to end the history of politicization and manipulation of the zoning system that comes from outside (or above) DPZ, including from the person who appointed her, then, and only then, will the system be better understood and trusted.  And, she will definitely have earned her pay.  I wish her luck – she has a rough road ahead of her.  

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 1 Comment »

Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, March 6, 2007

That is a line from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.  I am a big fan of Bob Dylan.  His son, Jacob (Wallflowers) could have a big career ahead of him too.  I like all of Bob Dylan’s music except for the album he did with Johnny Cash.  Both men have unique voices.  Put them together and it will make you … Well you decide.  I am sure you can find a sample on line.

Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.
What drives me to you is what drives me insane.
I still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzlin’ rain.

Hayduke is waiting for proof of those allegations laid out in Lynn Anderson’s Baltimore Sun hatchet job on (among others) Chris Merdon.  Ian, you will have to keep waiting.  Ian might make good editorial decisions.  I would say that The Sun should hire him because he must have better instincts than Lynn Anderson and her editor.

Lynn Anderson says that ISIS was registered with the State the day after Chris Merdon met with Ted Bayer and Mark Anzman – August 26th.  Do you understand what she is implying?  A private meeting was held with DHR, and three men.  The next day they formed a shell minority owned business to do unfairly win State contracts.  That is it right?  Did anyone else get a different impression?

That is a notice of the meeting Ms. Anderson is referencing.  It is a pre-bid conference that over 40 people attended.  I counted twice and came up with 42 people both times.  Lynn Anderson writes her article in such a way as to imply the Merdon had a private meeting with DHR and these two men.  That is not a very “private” meeting and could not be further from the truth.  The attendee list can be found on the link provided.  Did Lynn Anderson bother to read the 8 page document?

Do I need to explain what a pre-bid conference is?  Well just in case you don’t know.  It isn’t a meeting.  It is more like a lecture.  “We are seeking bids on the following.  These are our requirements… and blah blah blah” for an hour or so.  They are not fun, but if you want the business you got to be there.  Guess who runs those meetings.  Usually the procurement staff Ms. Anderson writes about.

Ms. Anderson notes that ISIS was to “perform 11 percent of the work”.  She doesn’t mention that ISIS provided a couple of contract employees for a few hours of work.  They never approached 11 hours of work.

That is only after looking at the beginning of her article.  That is her definition of a “direct role” in the formation of ISIS on Merdon’s part?  Lynn Anderson is an embarassment to real journalists.  A blogger can do better research than that.  My apologies to all bloggers.  The Articles of Incorporation don’t mention Merdon either.  Look it up on the SDAT web site.

“DIRECT ROLE”.  That is a DIRECT quote.

Lets go further.  She implies that it was improper of Merdon to hire Gantech as a sub-contractor because of political donations.  She fails to mention that Gantech was also at the pre-submission meeting (referenced above), expressed interest in the project, was qualified to do the work, had provided work for the State previously and was known as a reliable prime contractor and sub-contractor.  She implies Merdon was doling out political favors.  I wonder why she didn’t say Gantech had a “direct role” in the formation of ISIS since they were in the private meeting too.  Hmmm.

Here is a question.

Can anyone explain why it takes 120 days to be approved as a minority business in the State?  Why shouldn’t it take only 30 days?  Should it take less time than 30 days?  Seriously, there are only 6 requirements to become an MBE.  Race/Gender, net worth, US Citizen, small business.  How long does it take to do an assets test?  Never mind I will ask Calvin Ball the question about assets testing.

The Comptroller said this:

“We want to be a pro-business state in Maryland, and that means that everybody plays by the same rules,” said Franchot, who previously served as chairman of the transportation and environment subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. “And if the playing field is tilted for any reason, normal businesses turn away from Maryland.”

He is absolutely correct.  He should also ask the Secretary of Transportation (who runs MBE) to stream line the application process so it doesn’t take 4 months to be certified as a minority owned business.  I think during the investigation they are going to find that many businesses (if not all) were trying to expidite a ridiculously long 4 month time period.  And why would anyone be surprised if that turned out to be the case.  Think about it if you had to wait 4 months for certification in anything.  If you are a business that means money.  Yes money.  That is what businesses are about.  They have employees and bills to pay too.

In the end the investigation will go foward and we will never hear another word about it.  Why?  Cover up?  No.  Because it is not a story even worth the bits on this page.

Merdon should sue Anderson and the Baltimore Sun.

Posted in Howard County Blogs, Howard County News, Maryland | 30 Comments »

Writers Wanted

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, January 4, 2007

Update: I wanted to keep the help wanted post on top.

Now that Jim is moving on to the Board of Appeals and will only be contributing on non zoning related issues, and then only on a limited basis to the Howard County Maryland Blog I am seeking another writer(s).  Try your luck – you just might get a County Council appointment out of it.

The Howard County Maryland Blog is in search of regular contributers who would be willing to write a minimum of one POST of no less than 250 words (not comment) per week.


  • The writer many not be anonymous nor use a noms de plume
  • The must be a resident of Howard County or conduct business in Howard County
  • The writer must comply with the terms and conditions contained on the Disclaimer Tab
  • The writer must have very thick skin
  • Willing to work without pay
  • Monitoring blog comments and feedback

I am very interested in good writers, good commentary, fresh viewpoints and, ideally, some reporting of happenings of interest. First priority: Howard County Maryland and every thing and person within.

People of all political persuasions are encouraged to apply.

Interested persons will be provided with limited adminstration rights to The Howard County Maryland Blog so that they can post their own writing – unedited.

Interested candidates should contact me directly via email david (a)

Posted in Howard County, Howard County Blogs | 1 Comment »

Board of Appeals Appointments

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, January 2, 2007

In a previous post I mentioned that the County Council was seeking to fill two vacancies on this board.

The County has announced those appointments.

Kevin Doyle, and Howard County Maryland Blog contributor James D. Walsh.  Jim has resigned his duties at HOCOMD.

Congratulations Jim and Kevin.  Over 80 people applied for these two vacancies.  That is a very competitive field and Mr. Doyle and Jim should feel a sense of pride for being selected.

The Official Press Release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in County Council, Howard County, Howard County Blogs | 2 Comments »

Calvin Ball A Lackey?

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Washington Post quoted me as calling Calvin Ball a lackey.

My response is this.  It has been taken out of context and I will speak with Amit Paley about that at an appropriate time.

When I spoke with Amit I do not believe I ever used that term in our very long conversation.  It is my guess that Amit took that term from a previous post I wrote on Calvin (here).

If Calvin Ball can not demonstrate his independence and distinguish himself then I don’t think he will be able to pull what Guy Guzzone did – three years as Chairman.  If the other council members (save one) see Calvin Ball continuing to do the bidding of Ken Ulman – he is out after 12 months.  That would be the best outcome for Calvin because it moves him out of the limelight for the next three years, and gives him time to repair his image as a lackey so he can win re-election in 2010.

The Washington Post paraphrased this statement as follows:

David W. Keelan, a Republican who runs a prominent blog about Howard County politics, has called Ball “a lackey” who follows marching orders from older Democrats with more political experience.

Am I parsing words?  I don’t think so.  In the Post article I simply call him a lackey.  In context I say Calvin has an image problem.  I also state that Calvin has the opportunity to demonstrate independence.  I don’t believe that Ken Ulman issues edicts to Calvin Ball but I think Ken Ulman has a lot of influence with Calvin because of party affiliation and his role as a mentor.

As a newbie on the council I think it is natural that he would have leaned heavily on Guy and Ken for guidance.  I also think it would be natural for Guy and Ken to put the newbie front and center on a controversial piece of legislation.

I have no doubt that “He is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful people that I (Ken Ulman) know(s).”  I am sure many people would say the same about Calvin Ball.  I don’t know Calvin Ball and it would be unfair of me to contradict Ken Ulman.  If my comments were presented to Ken Ulman in the context as written in the post article I would understand why Ken Ulman also said:

“I think any criticism of Calvin in that manner is offensive and does a tremendous disservice to who he is as a person.”

And Ulman would be correct.  However, I contend my comments were presented out of context.

Calvin responded:

“Some people need to let it go. The election is over.”

That is a narrow perspective Calvin.  The concerns that I and many other people have expressed (both republican and democrat) are not about the election.  They are about the opportunity you have to provide an independent voice for the County Council and how important that responsibility is to residents.  I encourage you to widen your perspective and to not view every criticism in the narrow context of the past election or partisan politics.

The quote that I had given and hoped Amit would have included in his article was this:

“I think Calvin Ball has the capability to do a good job and I wish him nothing but the best.”

So Mssrs. Ulman and Ball you have much more experience with the press than I ever will so take the article with a grain of salt, and take the “criticism” as a legitimate concern (expressed by many people along the political spectrum) and part of the constructive dialogue that will help you to “…usher in this new culture of collaboration and consensus.”

Now for my snarky comment:

Calvin, this is Ken Ulman, the County Executive. I know you know Calvin. I just like the way it sounds.  Listen Calvin, I got a call from the Washington Post.   Calvin, who is this Keelan guy? I don’t know Calvin that is why I am asking you!

When the Post calls you here is what I want you to say.  Hang on Calvin I have a lot more experience with these guys.  Remember I have four years experience as a County Councilman and one month as County Executive so just hear me out.  We are going to start calling you the “elder statesman” on the County Council.  How do you like those beans? Calvin, that is a figure of speech. I don’t care if you like beans. Yes, I know you aren’t elderly either. Calvin, I have to go.  I will send your press statement over to your office.”

Posted in County Council, David Keelan, Howard County, Howard County Blogs | 26 Comments »

Howard County Maryland Blog Milestone

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Today the Howard County Maryland Blog has 500 posts/essays and 2,085 comments.

The blog started one and a half years ago on May 29, 2005.

We have had over 47,000 visitors averaging almost 200 per day.  Of those 200 visitors over 40 are regular readers.

Technorati ranks us at 148,471 out of millions of blogs they monitor/track.

We have four writers contributing to this blog and are accumulating new readers and commentors all of the time.

Thanks for your support and please leave us a message today.

Posted in Cindy V, David Keelan, Ed C, Howard County Blogs, Jim Walsh | 4 Comments »

Sir Gasbag and the ISG

Posted by David Keelan on Friday, December 1, 2006

I don’t know if Jim, Ed, or Cindy will be talking about the upcoming release of the Iraqi Study Group (ISG) report due December 6th.  The New York Times is printing a lot of leaked advance reports on the contents.  Those NYT articles are sparking a lot of speculation among the intelligensia on the right and the left.  It is funny to read such divergent opinions on a report that hasn’t even been issued yet.  However, there is some decent commentary coming out on both sides of the spectrum. 

I did find it odd that Steve Fine ridiculed Newt Gingrich for the headline of his article regarding the ISG in which Newt said the ISG report must contain 11 items in order to be valid.

“What if There Had Been a Baker-Hamilton Commission Advising Gen. Washington?” You just can’t make this stuff up! Perhaps Jon Stewart is his ghostwriter?”

Gingrich is a history professor, an expert in early American History, and had just come back from a presentation on Washington’s historic crossing of the Delaware River on a Christmas eve.  This crossing and surprise attack led to Washington’s first major victory of the revolutionary war which turned out to be a turning point in gaining American Independence.  For Gingrich to create an analogy between Washington and the ISG is not rare and certainly doesn’t make him ridiculous.

Though Steve posts a link to Gingrich’s article Steve’s lack of comments on Gingrich’s thoughts suggest that Steve didn’t read the article.  Steve offers no commentary (only what I posted above) on Mr. Gingrich’s Eleven Key Tests for the Baker-Hamilton Report (ISG) of which Mr. Gingrich says:

These 11 steps would be a powerful basis on which to move forward in Iraq and in the world. What’s more, they reflect the spirit of Gen. Washington when he chose “victory or death” as the motto of the campaign that led to the founding of America despite overwhelming odds.

In short, Steve is taking a swipe at Gingrich and offering no meaningful dialogue on Mr. Gingrich’s thoughtful article.

The 11 points are as follows:

  1. Does the Commission Have a Vision for Success in the Larger War Against the Dictatorships and Fanatics Who Want to Destroy Us?
  2. Does the Commission Recognize That the Second Campaign in Iraq Has Been a Failure?
  3. Does the Commission Recognize the Scale of Change We Will Need to Adopt to Be Effective in a World of Enemies Willing to Kill Themselves in Order to Kill Us?
  4. Does the Commission Describe the Consequences of Defeat in Iraq?
  5. Does the Commission Understand the Importance of Victory?
  6. Does the Commission Define What It Means to Win, or Simply Find a Face-Saving Way to Lose?
  7. Does the Commission Acknowledge That Winning Requires Thinking Regionally and Even Globally?
  8. How can the Baker Hamilton Commission seriously suggest that two dictatorships described like this are going to be “helpers” in achieving American goals in the Middle East?
  9. Does the Commission Believe We Can ‘Do a Deal’ With Iran?
  10. Does the Commission Believe We Are More Clever Than Our Enemies?
  11. Does the Commission Recognize the Importance of Working With the Democratic Majorities on a Strategy for Victory?

 As far as “Sir Gasbag’s” questions go I think they are all valid.  In fact they are very similiar to the commentary coming from all quarters.  So it suggests to me that Mr. Gingrich’s thoughts are aligned with other commentators who are waiting for the release of the ISG report.

How much weight the ISG will have with President Bush remains to be seen.  I think indications are that they will carry a lot of weight.  First, given Secretary Baker’s influence in the administration and second the fact that a former member of the ISG is the nominee to be the new Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates.

Most of the commentary I have read focuses on two aspects:

Troop withdrawl and increased responsibility of Iraqi forces.

This is obviously the key concern of most people.  What would the consequences be of a rapid or gradual withdrawl of our troops?  It seem that the consensus is that a gradual troop reduction is in order.  A rapid reduction would lead to a great deal of additional instability in the entire region.  Some suggest that a rapid withdrawl would enhance Syrian, Hamas, Hezbullah, and Iranian influence throughout the region and undermine Saudi, Jordanian, and Egyptian influence.  It would also put additional pressure on Israel in that Syria, Iran, and their surrogates would have a stronger hand to play.

One commentator suggested that the position held by isolationists like Pat Buchanan who insist that the US withdrawl completely from the Middle East would lead to an Arab and Iranian war against Israel who would then be forced to use its nuclear arsenal to protect itself.  Under such a scenario we would certainly enter into WWIII.

Believe it or not the Bush Adminstration has always had a 6 to 18 month troop withdrawl plan.  However, the realities on the ground have continued to keep those plans on the back burner.

Whether to engage directly with Syria and Iran.

That is just as difficult of a topic as the first.  Do we negotiate directly with these two countries presents a lot of conflicting thoughts in me.  Of course we all would like to gather around the table and shake hands, come to an agreement, and walk away as friends.  That is not going to happen.

How we engage with Syria and Iran is a serious question and one in which I will be very keen on seeing how the ISG addresses.

Newt Gingrich asks very important questions.  He doesn’t offer any solutions just some thoughtful questions that everyone else is asking.

I will relate a personal story about Newt Gingrich in a later post.

Posted in General, Howard County Blogs | Leave a Comment »