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Now that most of the dust has settled on the June 26th primaries, it is a good time to look for patterns and to make some observations. Here is my take away. The results of the Howard County Primary Election highlight the growing discontent of citizens concerned with the results of over development and the influence of campaign contributions.

PRIME EXAMPLES:

  • In a surprise upset, incumbent District One Council Member Weinstein has been defeated by two votes after the counting of provisional and absentee ballots! His opponent, political newcomer Liz Walsh, joined the race late with a campaign heavily devoted to over development as a causal factor in both the repeated flooding of Ellicott City and the overcrowding of schools. Ms. Walsh had only 1/30 of the funding of Mr. Weinstein’s campaign war chest, proving that it IS possible to run a successful campaign on a budget.
  • The words ‘Slow Growth Dunbar’ appear to have resonated with over 5000 voters in the Democrat County Executive vote. While this posed no threat to Councilman Ball with 5 times that amount of votes, it nevertheless makes a statement on how folks are feeling. Granted Republican voter turnout was low due to almost no contested races, but Mr. Dunbar garnered more than half as many votes as incumbent County Exec. Kittleman. [Almost 24% of the County’s registered voters are not members of either the D’s or the R’s and were thus unable to participate in the Primary Election except for Board of Education. They will clearly be the swing vote in November.]
  • Council Chair Sigaty, high density advocate and champion of ‘urbanizing’ all parts of Howard County, was soundly defeated in her bid for the State Senate. Her amendments to the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance, increased housing allocations for Downtown Columbia and stance on adding industrial mulching and composting in the West raised the ire of voters countywide. No amount of campaign contributions or endorsements could wipe clean her voting record.
  • Unopposed District 5 Democrat candidate, newcomer China Williams, campaigned vigorously to protect the West from encroaching development, the extension of the Public Service Area and the proliferation of solar ‘farms’. This newcomer received more votes than the two Republican candidates combined! Is this the year GOP tradition is broken in the West?

What has brought on the shifting of political winds? How and where did the storm clouds gather? Look back over the past four years for a number of reasons.

  • Citizen efforts to overturn a select group of Comprehensive Zoning cases was squashed by the previous administration. Sadly the new administration did nothing to prevent any of the citizens’ fears from being realized by permitting the dense developments as proposed.
  • New staffing at the DPZ made only a modicum of difference in the rubber stamping of developer plans, assuring greater and greater increased density under the name of “property rights.”
  • Then, even the most tuned out citizenry was abruptly awakened by the threat of massive redistricting of schools due to severe overcrowding. Suddenly children would not be attending the school they thought their neighborhood selection guaranteed.
  • The protracted process of a contractual assessment of development regulations brought to light many, many issues regarding our cumbersome process. It also brought about an awareness that there are NO real regulations in place to assure open space and preservation of environmentally and historically sensitive lands. The “pausing of the process during the election season” only extends the opportunity for more poor development decisions to be made, destroying the last vestiges of green space.
  • An incredibly protracted review of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance has left the public severely disappointed by both the lack of any improvements on the horizon and a realization that developers have been getting ‘a free ride’ compared to what surrounding districts charge to assure adequate schools, roads, etc.
  • And then came the second of two floods in two years in Ellicott City with the loss of yet another life……

These all combine to give citizens a great deal to think about in an election year—all while stuck in relentless traffic.

The County Executive and Council candidates should heed the warning signs and clearly define their plans for balancing growth with the provision of adequate facilities and services. Our quality of life– and their political future depend on it.

Prepare to be an educated voter in November—and meet me on the high road,

Susan