Letters: Howard’s bike lanes need help; council stalling opposition to redistricting; and more from readers
Baltimore Sun Media|
Sep 24, 2019 at 5:00 AM
Howard must maintain bike lanes, sidewalks
I read with interest Erin B. Logan’s article “More biking, pedestrian infrastructure could be coming to Howard County” (Sept. 5). As someone who walks 50-plus miles a week in and around Howard County, I would like to see safer pedestrian pathways, sidewalks and shared bikeways.
For example, Howard County spent millions of county capital dollars building and rebuilding the Centennial “Streetscape.” Howard County government acquired both sides of Centennial Lane from the Burleigh developer in the 1980s to retain the character of the lane and the tree canopy. Part of the plan was to create a streetscape, including a sidewalk and lighting.
A bike lane along the east side of Centennial Lane was removed during a Centennial Lane realignment. Bike lanes were added in the 2016-17 retrofit of the streetscape. An auto accident that took out a street lamp Labor Day weekend resulted in the street being cleared, yet the bike lanes and sidewalk were littered by glass and other debris. A flag down of a police officer, doing a “school patrol” at 9 a.m. Sept. 11, and a discussion of public safety with that officer, yielded no county action. Debris remained as of Sept. 14.
It’s unclear who, in county government, planned for maintenance, safety augmentation and enhancements. The sidewalk is not maintained. Callers to the county are told it’s the adjacent property owner’s responsibility to maintain the sidewalk, but don’t offer who the adjacent property owner is. There are no signs indicating where county maintenance ends and property owner responsibility begins.
How many county departments does it take to manage, maintain and enhance safe, accessible sidewalks/pathways; to manage, maintain and enhance (shared) bike lanes? How and when will Howard County be responsible and accountable for caring for the capital pedestrian and bike lane facilities it already has?
The Howard County Council met Aug. 18 from 7 p.m. to midnight to consider Resolution 112, to “implement a lawful multi-year Integration Plan to ensure that Howard County Public Schools are integrated by socioeconomic factors.” Days before, 110 citizens registered to testify for three minutes each about the resolution.
Not so coincidentally, schools Superintendent Michael Martirano has proposed to bus 7,400 students to schools outside their communities to promote economic “equity” in schools. The council, seeking to avoid the criticism they knew was coming, scheduled two other matters before the school resolution, knowing that one about developer fees was controversial and had many witnesses registered to speak.
The council stalled the first witness on school integration until after 11:30 p.m., which only allowed six witnesses to testify after the 100 citizens waited patiently all night. The remaining crowd was bumped to 3:30 p.m. during the work day of Sept. 26, the same day that 400 people have registered in advance to testify about Martirano’s busing plan starting at 6 p.m. before the Howard County Board of Education.
So this means that only about 30 of those witnesses can testify before the council before they must leave for the Board of Education meeting. My attorney tells me this is legal, but this is just the kind of chicanery that puts the sleaze in politicians. I give the council an A for political savvy and an F for interest in hearing what their constituents want.
A flawed plan for Hickory Ridge center
Sept. 25 was the final day Kimco had to prove to the Zoning Board that its plan for the Hickory Ridge Village Center is a good fit and should be approved. At every step in the process, Kimco has ignored the permitted building codes to ensure the 230-unit apartments approved. The plan was overwhelmingly rejected in a poll of the community and is in conflict with the community plan of 2011 that was designed as the basis for future development.
In the first Design Advisory Panel meeting, the size and scale of the apartment was unanimously rejected. In the second meeting, the DAP plan was approved with only minor changes. The county never explained the reversal decision to the community.
On Jan. 16, 2018, the Planning Board concluded the architectural design was “consistent with the design of Goddard and Lorien.” At the meeting the chairman stated, “The community plan was only a guideline and is not a constraint in building a higher and larger structure” at the village center. Who granted this authority to the county when the community plan mandated by the County Council was intended serve as a blueprint for development?
Throughout the review process, the Planning Board has failed to conduct the required oversight and has allowed Kimco to violate the county codes. The Zoning Board should not approve the current plan. It does not fit in this community and is technically flawed. A thorough plan review by unbiased experts must be conducted before this flawed plan is given further consideration.
Local leaders must support climate action
Two years ago, my husband and I went to our first Drive Electric Week. Two days after that, we bought one of the 100% electric cars on displayed there — a Nissan Leaf.
Almost two years and 17,000 miles later, having driven with friends to many parts of the Eastern Shore, and into Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Center Valley, Pennsylvania, I arrived at Drive Electric Week in Clarksville Commons with my Leaf this past Saturday.
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It was great to see friends and talk to people about how viable it is to drive electric in 2019, on road trips as well as for daily commute. However, given the pace of climate change, we need to accelerate the rate at which we are transitioning out of fossil fuels, not just the gasoline in our cars, but out of the fossil fuels that still dominate our electricity production.
Luckily, there’s a grassroots organization working quietly for bipartisan energy transition at the federal level, and actually has a bill supported by economists, scientists, (retired) military generals, businesses, religious leaders and over 1,000 other influential individuals and organizations. This group, Citizens Climate Lobby, was “tabling” at Drive Electric Week in Howard County to share about Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, H.R. 763.
This policy would stimulate the economy, growing the economy by 2.1 million jobs over baseline of business as usual. And, of course, by transitioning to 21st-century energy sources, we would save a few hundred thousand American lives from the co-pollutants of burning fossil fuels.
What’s missing from passing this bill? Political will. Howard County can help create political will by demanding bipartisan climate action of our local, state and federal representatives to support and co-sponsor H.R. 763. In Howard County, we have three federal representatives, but only one of them has co-sponsored. We should thank Rep. Ruppersberger for his co-sponsorship, and ask Reps. Cummings and Sarbanes to co-sponsor.