Which Criticism Wasn't Warranted?
Thanks for your editorial on April 25 about my service on the Columbia Council. You praised me for my independence. You also praised me for my frugality, but suggested that my opposition to costly new Columbia Association projects wasn't always warranted.
Which wasn't warranted? My criticism of the $3 million Public Works Garage? Or the scuttled $1 million Family Fun Center? The way the $1.5 million Wilde Lake dam and dredging project was handled? Our new $5.2 million second golf course? The imminent $1 million purchase of land from the developer, without an appraisal, for a recreational vehicle storage facility, costing $.4 million more? Or the proposed $5 million River Hill Recreation Facility?
Anyway, thanks for your praise. And thanks for your good coverage of our town, Columbia.
Since April 6, my son's face has been smiling at me each time I open my refrigerator door. Please express my thanks to Erik Nelson and Barbara Haddock for the wonderful article that was done on four Lisbon Elementary fifth-graders. . . . I was reminded to write after having seen an article about Courtney Hill-Dukehart in a recent paper. Previously, I had briefly met Courtney's mom, but the article was a great way to learn more about their family. It was also a good segue in phone conversations we had yesterday about PTA matters at Glenwood Middle School.
I really believe these human interest stories connect the community. Frankly, I consider the Howard County section . . . a valuable source of information. There have been many times that I've heard it said, "I read it in The Sun just this morning." Keep up the good work.
Built to a Human Scale?
Ideals and human values are so vulnerable and expendable, especially when one corporate "cutthroat" business "controls" the place -- namely the city of Columbia ("Shop Owners Face Eviction," The Sun for Howard County, May 24).
Jim Rouse really meant it when he dreamed and sold us on Columbia -- his new planned city to be "built to a human scale." The plan was, and is, enlightened and humane. It was planned for about 100,000 residents (now about 82,000) with an imbued sense of community -- interracial, inter-ethnic, interfaith, inter-economic levels, intermingled.
We were to live in 10 distinct villages where one could do basic living and shopping: middle and high schools, community rooms, recreation, groceries, hardware, pharmacy, haircuts, dry-cleaning, shoe repair, restaurants, offices and village programs; a place built "to a human scale" where one could get to know fellow villagers and merchants by name, just as they got to know us. And it works.
For large-scale shopping, there was to be, and is, the Columbia Mall, easily accessible at the center of our city rather than far out at the borders as with many other malls and cities. For quick convenience shopping, schooling and recreation, every village was designed with three or four neighborhoods at the center, which were to have day care, elementary schools, a convenience store, recreation and meeting rooms -- all within walking distance of most residents. Columbia really was, and is, built to a "human scale" and we were glad. But now we are alarmed.
The very same Rouse Company, in which our idealistic friend and fellow Columbian Jim is no longer active, now tells us that it will build in Columbia a second huge "power complex" of "warehouse-sized" stores, a regional "selling machine." Adding insult to injury, it is being called "The Chalice," thereby desecrating a central religious symbol of many thousands of us who, in the rampant national "consumerism culture," strive to keep a same balance between our material and spiritual selves.
The "human scale" is being undercut. Consider some of the changes: There are no longer any hardware stores in Columbia village centers. There is no longer a stationer's in the Columbia Mall. A neighborhood convenience store burned down and, we are told, may not be replaced. Here, in what was billed as "the next America" 27 years ago, only about 11 percent of eligible voters bother to vote for the local quasi-government village boards and Columbia Council members and not enough candidates can be found.
The owner/manager of a popular village bookstore-cafe warns that she may be forced to close because of the coming of a gigantic chain book and music store to our first "power complex" of warehouse stores. The Sun has reported the plight of one small business couple who have learned that their "tough landlord," the Rouse Company, has no mercy for them or the "human scale" if store profits, in which Rouse shares, do not meet its demands. Just like in the rest of urban America, ruthless commercial over-development bulldozes not only the environment, but workable-sized human community and knowable small business persons.
Witness the empty stores and rapid turnovers in many malls and city blocks. Profit-dollar-driven big business and tax-dollar-driven county government won't control overdevelopment. Once again, in Columbia, there are campaigns to create a real democratic process either by incorporation or by major reforms of our "homeowner association" -- Rouse Company-dominated quasi-government.
In this beautiful, convenient, significant urban experiment -- Columbia, Md. -- the original humane values, ideals and "human scale" can, it is hoped, be better represented, preserved and enhanced by the politically organized residents themselves. That's democracy!
Let's read again Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and other futuristic novels in which citizens, watched over by "Big Brother," have only one function: to consume, consume, consume to keep the societal "greed machine" going. . . . Multiplex, power complex, Chalice? That's "newspeak" for you.