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My best wishes for a happy, healthy, and less stressful New Year come with my personal predictions for Howard County in 2018. Unfortunately, I don’t see “less stressful” in the forecast.

I’m predicting that 2018, an election year, will be a tumultuous one in HoCo.

I predict there will be much more AI here! No, not Artificial Intelligence, but Active Involvement. I fear that involvement may manifest itself as neither polite, nor civil. But that will be a topic for another day.

I predict that just as the 2014 election was influenced by citizen outrage, so too will the 2018 election be. ‘The Awakening’ of citizens to the injustice of the squashed referendum effort to overturn egregious 2013 Comprehensive Zoning decisions extended throughout all corners of HoCo. Newly minted citizen activists were undeniably a key factor in the election of the County Executive.

I predict THE key HoCo Election 2018 issue will be over-development and all its concomitant issues. No single Exec or Council is responsible for the situation, but what can be done to stop it and reverse the ill-effects?  Who is wiling to re-balance the scales, revaluing citizens’ quality of life and investment in their communities vs. developer profits???

For some time I have been cautioning officials that we are nearing a tipping point that could foreshadow HoCo’s demise. Rapid, overly dense development is resulting in:

  • increasingly inadequate public facilities,
  • more and more not-really-temporary trailer classrooms,
  • the threat of a resurgence of school redistricting,
  • a reduction in forests and natural places to de-stress,
  • failure to safeguard sensitive environmental lands and species,
  • increasing industrialization of farmland allegedly preserved for agriculture,
  • destruction of historic buildings and sites,
  • a lack of effective storm water management, threatening people and property,
  • stressful, unproductive hours sitting in traffic, without reliable alternatives,
  • economic and social segregation,
  • a devaluing of the health and safety of citizens
  • a general decline in our quality of life

Ironically a “citizen rebellion” may be just what is needed to change that situation. While still a small proportion of the resident population, the growing numbers of Actively Involved, is having an influence.

What evidence do I have? The remarkable 2016-17 increase in

  • attendance and testimony at Council meetings regarding a variety of issues from the list above (including various cultural groups not previously active)
  • letters to the Council, Administration, School Board, State legislators, and the Press
  • yard signs, buttons, color coordinated T-shirts signifying unity
  • new issue-based citizen groups, websites, Facebook groups
  • citizen-to-citizen “101” (basic) training on critical issues
  • citizen group coalitions

and lest we forget, the successful ‘changing of the guard’ at HCPSS!

Rather than citizens focusing only on their very local, community-based issues they are beginning to recognize that they share issues with other communities throughout HoCo—and that they need to work together to effect change. They see that the problems go beyond the next proposed development in their own community which threatens all that attracted them to their established neighborhood in the first place. They see for example that when dealing with schools and other aspects of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance we are better acting as a united front.

Preview of things to comeI predict 2018 will be a year of raging battles.

  • I predict those affectionately referred to (at least by me) as the “Angry Moms” or “Yellow Shirts” passionately stand up for children as the APFO debate continues before the Council in January.
  • I predict the residents of Greater Dayton continue to battle industrial mulching on agricultural lands, joined by folks in the East near industrial sites.
  • I predict those opposing doubling the density along Bethany Lane for a senior development on both sides of Rt 70 will continue their efforts to preserve their area.
  • I predict the battle for High School 13 continues within Elkridge and all along US 1.
  • I predict Savage and its friends will continue to fight for No Homes on Parkland.
  • I predict Clarksville/Riverhill will be actively involved in consideration of the Erickson proposal which will require changes to Plan 2030, extension of the public service area and open the West to further development all along newly widened Rt 32.
  • I predict those in Columbia will find themselves subject to more changes than they fathomed.
  • I predict an intense budget battle for competing priorities

And finally, I predict that citizens are going to expect candidates to be very clear about their positions on issues of concern. Broad generalities and placating platitudes will no longer be sufficient to gain one’s vote…..  And neither will repetitious spouting of National Party Platforms. My advice to candidates for HoCo offices:  Keep It Local!  Don’t try to distract with partisan politics. Let’s focus on cleaning up our own mess, the one created by years of thoughtless over-development.

Encourage others to join you as part of the Actively Involved—and meet me on the high road,

 Susan