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As much as I’ve searched the past few weeks to find something positive to write about, I find myself inundated with a plethora of what one might simply call bad news–on seemingly every front. It’s enough to get even the most optimistic souls down.

What’s hellish about this non-stop barrage of I-can’t-believe-it-just-gets-worse-and-worse with each news account, webpage press release, social media posting, etc. is the underlying fact that we shouldn’t believe it. The highly educated and engaged population of HoCo can’t believe it and hence feels betrayed. By ‘it’ I mean the spin, the half-truths, and the outright lies which are undermining our faith in County government—its leaders and its employees.  Allow me to highlight some of the biggest Whoppers being fed to we citizens who are treated like mushrooms (kept in the dark and fed manure—not all of which is locally produced, but seemingly ‘trucked in’ in industrial proportions.)

There are numerous issues fraught with distortion and bias, but I’ll just pick some examples from the top issues from my perspective on the eve of some Monumental Decisions by our council members tomorrow night, November 6th.

School Redistricting Whopper.

We citizens appear to have been fed a steady diet of untruths or of incomplete facts. We have been led to believe that the under capacity schools in the West could accommodate all of the students from our over capacity schools in the East.  For example students from Manor Woods Elementary, rather than skipping over to Bushy Park Elementary, could be shifted in theory to the closer West Friendship Elementary. I say in theory because while West Friendship sits at only 81% capacity, in reality it is at full capacity as far as its septic system is considered. The same is true for other schools in the West.

What new hell would it be for Howard County students to trade needing to receive their instruction in never-really-temporary trailer classrooms for needing to use outdoor portapotties at brick and mortar buildings???—after long commutes competing with immense truck traffic on interstates and/or on rural roads.  Now that’s the stuff of which nightmares are made!  Somehow I don’t think highly taxed parents are going to accept that kind of scenario after the many sacrifices they have made in order to purchase homes in certain neighborhoods so that their children can avail themselves of the best quality schools. Neither the reputation of our schools—nor the political careers of our leaders can survive that.

APFO Whopper.

School redistricting is of course necessitated by run-away development without builders contributing what our surrounding jurisdictions would consider their fair share toward the cost of new schools. The development community and the Department of Planning and Zoning have asked citizens to believe that it is not actually new home construction that is overburdening our schools. We’re told that the problem lies with students being generated by home resales instead.

However, one learns that DPZ only counts children who are of school-age at the moment their parents settle on the newly constructed house as having been ‘generated’ from new home construction. Seriously? Seriously.

If that new home buyer doesn’t have a school-age child at the very moment they move in, then somehow any subsequent children of school age which they produce simply don’t ‘count’ under the current data system. It’s hard to believe that a developer wasn’t behind that kind of math when proffering “It’s not my fault the schools are overcrowded. I shouldn’t have to pay a penny more. I should be allowed to build unimpeded regardless of whether the local schools impacted by my new development are already at 115% or 120% of capacity or infinitely at the high school level.”   How many couples wait until they’re able to purchase a home in order to start a family? Or alternately it’s not until children are preschool-age that the pressure to be in the Correct school district heightens.

Mulching/Composting (with food and animal waste at an industrial scale on farmland) Whopper with Cheese.

Where to even begin on this one???  The public trust was broken the moment CB 60 was penned since ‘the issue’ was thought to have been settled after the hard fought battle which produced CB20. Citizens shouldn’t have to revisit and resume the fight to protect their children from large trucks on rural roads, or their wells, health and air quality for 3 years+. Nor should citizens be bullied by Council member(s) who consider themselves omniscient and refuse to hear from expert witnesses who may present testimony which disagrees with their plans to assist certain land owners. Are we expected to believe that farmers must be free to do whatever is necessary to increase their income even when it threatens the health and safety of residents nearby?

The issue is far greater than industrializing preserved farm land.  There must be adequate protections for those living near industrial areas in the East as well since HoCo has promoted residential development shoulder to shoulder with industrial. It’s amazing how the County can pretend covered operations are not feasible when Anne Arundel County has done so near the Laurel Race Track within a mile of the HC border.  Protecting the health and safety of the citizenry takes a back seat again…….but not without consequences.

The HC citizenry has awakened to the issues above.  Compromise on amendments and plan rewrites are definitely in order. But I predict that the citizenry will not tolerate being ‘sold a bill of goods.’  As I have stated previously, there is transparency and then there is transparency.

Always be prepared to lift your feet (or save your watch) if it gets too deep—and meet me on the high road,

Susan