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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?

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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?

http://www.dhr.state.md.us/crfp/noor6200196.htm

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.

Requirements

  • 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) keelan.com

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

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 »

Vile is as Vile does

Posted by David Keelan on Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another Howard County Blogger has a post calling Mitt Romney a Vile Scumbag.  Searching the writer’s blog it seems that this epitath is based upon an article written by Eleanor Clift.  Eleanor has earned the nickname Eleanor “Hillary” Clift for her political idealogoy.  Since this blogger hasn’t written anything else about Mitt Romney I am left to wonder if his feelings are simply based upon Clift’s article.

The basis of Clift’s article is that Mitt Romney is pandering to GOP conservatives on the issue of traditional marriage.

There ought to be a prohibition against opportunistic politicians messing around in state laws to further their presidential ambitions. With his days as governor of Massachusetts nearing an end, Mitt Romney is trying to reopen the issue of same-sex marriage in the only state where it is legal.

The problem with Clift’s article is that Mitt Romney has been a supporter of traditional marriage when he ran against Ted Kennedy for the US Senate and Eleanor Clift knows it – or if she is a journalist worth her salt she could have easily researched it.

During his 1994 campaign against Senator Edward Kennedy, Romney said that same-sex marriage “is not appropriate at this time”[35] but supported Federal legislation that would prohibit discrimination in the workplace against homosexuals.[36]

In fact Romney is on the record very clearly on this matter.  He advocates respect and tolerance for gay couples.  He also supports the same rights for gay couples that those in traditional marriage enjoy.  Eleanor Clift should know this and should report it instead of writing vile articles.

…also voiced support for basic domestic partnership benefits for gay couples. Romney told the Log Cabin Club of Massachusetts (a Republican gay-rights group) that he did not support same-sex marriage, but would fight discrimination against gays and lesbians. He also opposed an amendment, then before the Legislature, that would have banned same-sex marriage and outlawed all domestic partnership benefits for gay couples. As a result, the Log Cabin Club endorsed Romney in the gubernatorial election. When campaigning in 2002, Romney’s stated position was that “all citizens deserve equal rights, regardless of sexual orientation” and that “homosexuals should have the right to a domestic partnership status that affords them the potential for health benefits and rights of survivorship.”

Anyone who uses the internet, a blogger for example, could get the same information – if they wanted to.  Of course, it is their right not to bother.

What are we to conclude?  That Clift is lazy?  That the blogger believes everything that he reads and posts it without seeking more information?

I believe that Romney has been consistent on the subject in question.  He hasn’t been pandering to anyone.  Agree with him or not I find that his consistent stand to be refreshing.

Perhaps Ms. Clift will next wow us with her in depth analysis and research regarding how Mitt Romney brought universal health care to Massachusetts and we will find that posted on Steve’s blog too.  Some how I doubt it.

Posted in Howard County Blogs, Media | 24 Comments »

Welcome Cindy

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, November 13, 2006

Please join me in welcoming another guest writer to The Howard County Maryland Blog.

Cindy Vaillancourt – My family and I moved to HoCo in 2000.  We have also lived in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio and briefly in California.  I am currently politically homeless as I cannot identify with the current Republican or Democratic parties.  I am most accurately described as fiercely independent with a definite liberal bent and conservative sensibilities.  I am only interested in politics as it effects education and human/civil rights.  We have two children, a 16 year old and a twelve year old, and two dogs.

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 11 Comments »

Help Wanted

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Two individuals have answered this ad.  They are both moderate in temperment and conservative in their views.  I would not call them red meat republicans, but republicans none the less.  I am pleased they have both responded. 

I am trying to recruit a woman that I think would make a fine author.  Would like to have a democrat, and I am also looking for an independent/unaffiliated voter.  Pass this along if you are so inclined.

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.

Requirements Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 2 Comments »

Anonymity

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, October 26, 2006

I respectfully disagree with Hayduke.

I have never said that I didn’t like Mary Smith.  I never implied it either.  I have expressed frustration with her, but even then I invited her to coffee.

I never threatened to expose any one via an IP address.  That was a delusion brought up by someone else, and as you know it is impossible to do based on an ip address alone.  I am not a vicious person.

I didn’t try to figure out who Mary was.  People came to me and said “I think I know who Mary Smith is.”  Knowing the name of the person shed a whole new light on the content of her comments.  Was  I convinced who Mary was?  No.

Did I bait Mary.  Yes.  Did she bite yes.  Was it fair.  Yes.  If I could expose the people who are spreading rumors and innuendo about Gansler and O’Malley I would gladly do that as well.  I think O’Malley and Gansler would agree with me on that point.

Believe me I tried very hard to find out who was behind the anonymous Gansler web site.  I am just not smart enough or knowledgable enough to crack that code.

Why expose Mary?  If one is going to spread vicious conjecture then I think they should do it publicly and not hide behind anonymity.  A person hiding behind anonymity so they can make defamatory comments stifles debate and is not a first amendment issue.  Exposing such people does not stifle debate – it encourages honest debate.

We are not talking about organized crime here.  We are talking about the personal integrity of an individual being trashed without substance or proof.

The First Amendment doesn’t allow Americans to shout “fire” in a crowded theater unless the theater really is on fire.

The accused deserves to face their accuser. a la www.therealchris.com where Ken Ulman tried to hide behind his party and only confirmed it when confronted by a reporter.

Interestingly enough a student blogger Yale Law School discussed this on his blog this past December.

I agree with the bloggers conclusion, I paraphrase a bit.  “It is nearly impossible to debate with an anonymous commenter.  Only when knowing your debater is it possible to discuss the merits of somone’s claim.   Civil discourse, common courtesy, and basic integrity demand no less.”

Call me old fashioned.

Respectfully.

Posted in Howard County Blogs | 24 Comments »

Top Posts Past 60 Days

Posted by David Keelan on Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Post Name / Number of Views / Date the post was published 

  • Voting Results / Views: 365 / Posted September 13th
  • Desperation (UPDATED) / Views: 271 / Posted October 13th
  • Howard County Times Sample Ballot / Views: 233 / Posted September 7th
  • Democrats & Independents for Merdon / Views: 229 / Posted October 24th
  • Washington Post Endorses Merdon / Views: 215 / Posted October 22nd

Interesting to note that after only 3 days there seems to be a great interest in the most recent endorsements that Merdon has received. Total views between both of them is 444.

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