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News Maryland Howard County Ellicott City

For Howard's Watson and Kittleman, bacon isn't on their plate [Political Notebook]

Here's the dish: The two candidates running to be the next Howard County executive met for breakfast Monday at the Double-T Diner in Ellicott City.

They described the dining-table discussion as cordial. On the menu were family updates and analysis of local campaigns. They said they didn't spend much time talking about their own race.

As for what they ordered? One candidate had scrambled eggs; the other preferred their eggs over easy.

Perhaps keeping the county's push for healthy habits in mind, both candidates had a side of fruit.

So the question, political junkies, is which meal did Democratic Howard County Council member Courtney Watson and Republican state Sen. Allan Kittleman order?

If you said Watson ordered the scrambled eggs, you'd be right. Er… correct.

Counting signatures for referendum

Members of a band of Howard County citizens who are hoping to bring parts of the recently passed comprehensive zoning bill for a vote on the ballot next November said they think they have "way more than enough" signatures to meet the first cut-off requirement.

The group submitted the first round of signatures to the county Board of Elections Oct. 4 for verification. They need about 3,000 signatures to be approved to submit the other half of signatures by early November.

The Board of Elections hasn't finished processing the signatures yet, according to Deputy Director Charlotte Davis. The board has 20 days from the date the signatures are submitted to verify the signatures.

In the meantime, the group of concerned citizens "will be collecting no matter what," according to an email from Lisa Markovitz, a leader of the group, which has posted a full list of its issues with the comprehensive zoning bill online at FixHoCo.com.

"Our error rate on the signatures is extremely low. Our volunteers have followed the regulations very well. I will be shocked if many are stricken."

Hundreds attend Kittleman picnic

The leaves were already turning red and gold, but guests at Allan Kittleman's fall picnic on Sunday, Oct. 6, basked in the last gasps of Indian summer at the outdoor event.

The picnic, in its seventh year, was held at the Kittleman family farm in West Friendship and drew what Kittleman said was the largest crowd yet, with more than 200 R.S.V.P.s.

It was too early for leaves to be on the ground, but the county executive candidate did rake in some generous donations, according to a volunteer.

Kittleman's speech highlighted his vision for a county "where our education system is world class, our businesses are encouraged to excel and our people have freedom personally and economically."

He threw his support behind some projects that might make other Republicans blush, citing development in downtown Columbia as something he's "very, very excited about."

And he said county government had a role to play in helping its citizens "in crisis," though he clarified that what he supported was "a hand up, not a hand out."

"I want to help everyone in Howard County," he told picnickers. "I'm all about equal opportunity, folks, I'm not about equal outcome. I want people to excel because they work hard."

List of District 12 candidates grows

The pool of 2014 hopefuls continues to grow, and the water is particularly warm in wide-open District 12, where all three State House delegates have announced their intention to retire at the end of the 2014 session.

Eight candidates — all Democrats — so far have filed for a chance to represent the district, which incorporates parts of Howard and Baltimore counties. And at least one more is expected to be joining the race soon.

Democrat Nick Stewart, a former O'Malley speechwriter and business lawyer who lives in Arbutus, is holding his campaign kickoff on Thursday, Oct. 10, according to a campaign email. The event will be held at Dan Whipps Photography in Arbutus. Stewart said he will turn in his paper work on Tuesday, Oct 15.

Appeals board votes to uphold standing

In a sometimes tense work session Oct. 3, the county Board of Appeals voted to uphold the right of a Columbia gas station owner, who said his business would be harmed by a plan to build a new gas station nearby, to bring his case before the board.

The case in question centered on a request from the Giant food store at Columbia Palace Plaza, on Centre Park Drive, to obtain a conditional use permit to build a gas station in the shopping center's parking lot.

Three residents of a neighborhood across the street from the shopping center, as well as Sean Maumood, who owns a gas station a few businesses down on the opposite side of Centre Park Drive, opposed the project.

In two 3-2 votes on July 15, board members voted to grant standing to Maumood in the case and to deny Giant's request.

But at the end of an unrelated hearing on Sept. 11, Board member James Howard requested that the board reconsider Maumood's standing in light of a Baltimore land-use case called Benn Ray.

The board held a work session to discuss Howard's request, despite the objections of Maumood's lawyer, Bill Erskine, who alleged that the board had broken the state's Open Meetings Act by not giving advance notice of the Sept. 11 meeting.

Board Chairman John Lederer dismissed Erskine's accusations. At the meeting, he said, "There was no discussion regarding the merits of the case, the merits of the standing issue."

Howard and fellow Board member Maurice Simpkins supported overturning standing, as they had in the earlier decision. Lederer said he wished Maumood had offered more proof that a gas station in the Columbia Palace parking lot would damage his business.

"We can't let everybody and anybody bring a case," he said. "The evidence just isn't there; I haven't seen it."

But Board members James Walsh and Henry Eigles said they were concerned about setting a precedent for very high standards for standing.

"I'm worried about erring on the other side by setting the bar so high that nobody is ever going to be able to have [standing]," Walsh said.

The board ultimately replicated its original vote, with Howard and Simpkins voting to overturn Maumood's standing and Lederer, Walsh and Eigles voting to uphold.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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