Took a break for a few days, and now am back! Some of it was intentional; felt the need for time away from the blog over the holidays. And some of it unintentional, as my old East German blog platform, Typepad, inexplicably failed to work the last couple of days. But it's working again, and so I'm back atcha as only I can be!
And I've been chomping at the bit to sing the praises of this great idea from the Maryland Board of Public Works. I'm very glad that the board voted unanimously earlier this month to fast-track a feasibility study by the Maryland Stadium Authority to build a new arena for Baltimore City, instead of the proposed mixed-use State Center project. I agree with the Board that the time is past to move on from that long-delayed, poorly-managed project, and move forward to something that's going to become a revenue-generating powerhouse for Baltimore City. In many important ways.
First, the advantages of a new multipurpose arena. Baltimore remains the largest North American city without an NBA or an NHL franchise. And it's ridiculous to believe that because Washington has franchises in those sports, that Baltimore could not secure one of its own. But even acknowledging the worst case scenario of no new major sports franchise tenant, Baltimore would undoubtedly attract, with a new arena, minor league hockey, possibly a WNBA franchise, which together in themselves would mean sixty additional nights of use and nearly a million new visitors to the city. Add to that, more concerts, special events (return of the ethnic festivals?), conventions and the like. And in the neighborhood surrounding the arena, you can easily see the renaissance of the Howard St. Corridor with new businesses and with redevelopment of housing. (Why create a new mixed-use development at State Center when there are already dozens of missed mixed-use opportunities?)
Oh, and let's not forget one huge benefit. The old Baltimore Civic Center/Baltimore Arena/1st Mariner Arena/Royal Farms Arena, besides being 40 years out of date and unsafe (try using a hand rail next time you're in the upper deck there-- spoiler alert, there aren't any) sits on several acres of prime downtown Baltimore real estate. Building a new arena at State Center will allow for a grand new redevelopment opportunity on that site. What could that be? There are limitless possibilities and so this initiative taken by the Board last week opens the door for two new huge economic development engines in Baltimore to spring to life. The advantages over the failed prior plan are clear and undeniable and thank you to Comptroller Franchot, Governor Hogan, and Treasurer Kopp for their vision on this.
OK, so now for the second half of today's post. Of course it's New Year's Eve. And therefore, the ultimate day to reflect.
Personally, I've had a good year. I feel grateful and blessed and fortunate for the people and things in my life and while the universe has taken people from my life this year and has dealt me its measure of setbacks, I feel that on the whole, I am better off now than I was 366 days ago. (Betcha forgot this was a leap year, didn't you?)
Thinking locally, as a community, are we better off than we were a year ago? I'd consider the answer on that score to be mixed. On the plus side, we do have the wonderful example before us as how we as a community came together to help those affected by the Ellicott City flood. For awhile, there were none of these artificial divisions that separate us; we were all united with purpose and commitment.
Also, on the plus side, we have the total and necessary makeover of the Howard County Board of Education, in the form of the 2016 elections. Three board incumbents ran, and three were replaced with new members who represented strong upgrades over their predecessors. If that's not a win for the community I don't know what is.
But, on the minus side, those damn divisions just keep cropping up, don't they? A setback for Howard County in general continues to be this community's ambivalence, if not hostility, towards providing full spectrum housing. When a teacher, police officer, butcher, baker or candlestick maker can't afford to live here in the style and manner of housing they desire, that is a huge problem. We are becoming an exclusionary county, one that says we welcome professionals and the well-heeled to live here, but that if you're a working person, well, maybe you should consider a roommate or two. That's simply not acceptable. A comprehensive housing plan for Howard County is long overdue and it's inexcusable that it doesn't exist. I'm not saying HoCo should have 4 bedroom houses on a quarter acre for $75,000. That's ridiculous. But it can and should be better in this area.
The other thing that makes me thing Howard County isn't as exceptional as we think we are, are the continued issues throughout the community of racial and cultural insensitivity. Issues that brought about a thousand people total to two different forums in December. Some good, positive steps have been taken in this area this year. The forced negotiated resignation of the former Sheriff was one such thing. But more needs to happen.
Some people say that "more" would include the "sanctuary county" legislation that Councilmembers Ball and Terrasa are sponsoring. I'm looking at that at the moment and will discuss more on the next Do It Live! scheduled for Sunday evening, January 8. I will say though, that my research to date indicates that this sort of legislation brings a feeling of support and comfort to those people who would feel the most threatened by the absence of this legislation. Such as the Hispanic students who spoke at the "Speak Up Howard" event a couple weeks ago. And as a middle-aged white male who this legislation wouldn't affect one way or another if it existed or not, I'm going to look to the community this legislation would affect, before formulating my opinion.
There you have it. Instead of your "best of/worst of", I have presented "the best of us and the worst of us" for 2016. How about if we all just be a little better in 2017?
And let's be careful out there. Happy New Year!
#mdpolitics #BPW #hocoblogs #hoco #hocopolitics