A flood prevention plan would tear down 19 buildings in historic downtown Ellicott City. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun video)
The decision to remove historic Ellicott City buildings to ease future flooding concerns has brought much controversy and attention to Howard County over the past few weeks. County Executive Allan Kittleman and District 1 County Councilman Jon Weinstein proposed the removal of 5 percent of the buildings including 10 buildings on the south side of Main Street and seven buildings beyond Ellicott Mills Drive (“Resident back flood-control plan to tear down Ellicott City buildings,” Sept. 18).
I can only imagine how difficult it was for County Executive Kittleman and Councilman Weinstein to even fathom this plan, let alone present the option. Historic Ellicott City was first incorporated in 1772 and has been instrumental in Maryland’s history. It is home to the Saint Paul Catholic Church where Babe Ruth was married. Henry Clay delivered a speech from the balcony of The Patapsco Hotel during presidential elections. Five chiefs from different Indian nations stayed in Ellicott City when visiting Ellicott City’s founder, George Ellicott.
Even though Maryland was a Union state during the Civil War, The Patapsco Hotel was a site for Southern sedition. And on April 15, 1865, John Wilkes Booth hid in The Patapsco Hotel as he fled Washington after assassinating President Abraham Lincoln. The residents and business owners in Ellicott City (many of whom own their buildings) testified Monday night asking the Howard County Council to approve this proposal. They have experienced the danger and devastation twice now and can no longer risk their lives and businesses because of flooding. The other side of the aisle is fiercely opposing this proposal and it’s not hard to understand why. But their reasoning for attempting to delay a vote or decision is because they state they “need more time” or they “need more studies completed.” That’s hard to believe when water levels continue to rise due to increased rain.
In fact, neither Calvin Ball, the Democratic candidate for county executive, nor the current council members or candidates running for council participated in any cleanup events after the 2018 flood. Sure, the Democratic candidate showed up for the photo-ops and to show concern, but he did not participate in the cleanup efforts. In fact, the only sitting political appointees, or candidates, who helped clean up Ellicott City were County Executive Kittleman and Councilman Weinstein, and they are the two proposing this very difficult action. They have experienced the devastation for a second time and have physically cleaned up the remains.
This opinion is not about politics. To be clear, I am a registered independent and I have voted for Democrats and Republicans. I live a half-mile up the hill from Main Street. Tiber River tributaries flow through my neighborhood, and they have overflowed into the street every time Ellicott City floods. But the flooding wasn’t caused by County Executive Kittleman or Mr. Weinstein. This issue started long before their tenure in office, when new construction first began in this area 20 years ago. In fact, because of these floods, Councilman Weinstein issued a building construction freeze in District 1 — the same district as Ellicott City. No one else has proposed a better option.The only option that has been imagined to potentially mitigate future flooding has been presented. Is it the best option? Maybe, maybe not. But it is the only option on the table. Was this decision reached lightly? Absolutely not. To argue that you need more time and don’t have a second option on the table shows how some individuals simply want to play politics but don’t want to take responsibility.
By not presenting another option, you are doing nothing. Ellicott City and people’s lives deserve better than a political argument. By hoping to vote down the proposal, you are doing nothing. And by doing nothing, you are putting lives at risk. Think about the people who live and work in Ellicott City and are in favor of the current proposal. The people have voted and if you refuse to listen to the people’s desires in a great time of need, what will happen if you take office? If there is anyone in this county who is thinking about the people, the businesses, the future of Ellicott City, and the future of Howard County, it is County Executive Kittleman and Councilman Weinstein — the individuals who have physically cleaned up Ellicott City twice now.