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Monday, October 20, 2014

Is Howard County too wealthy?

      We all know that we live in a wealthy county. But when is a good thing so much that it develops a significant downside?  Can you ever be too healthy or too wealthy?  Forbes magazine listed us as the fourth wealthiest county in the Country with a median income of $108,000. It is no wonder that every upscale retailer wants to open a store in our County.  Our location, close to DC and the federal government, and highly educated population certainly has a lot to do with our wealth.  In fact, 4 of the 5 wealthiest counties in the Country are in the DC area.  Quick question--which county has a higher median income, Fairfax County Virginia or Howard County?  If you guessed Fairfax you are wrong ($108,000 Howard County, $106,000 Fairfax).  Montgomery County doesn't even make the list of the top 10.
    So is there a downside to being a wealthy county?  That thought occurred to me on a recent bike ride through Western Howard County. It was not hard to notice the fact that modest homes built there in the 1950's and 60's are being replaced by homes in the $500,000+ range.  It is a little strange to see an older 1000 sq ft home next to a 6,000 sq ft home but it tells you where we are headed in our County's housing stock--at least in Western Howard County.
       It seems that new reasonably priced starter homes are a thing of the past.  The affordable homes that Ryland and others sold in Columbia in the 1970's provided young families with an opportunity to buy a new home to start a family on a modest salary.  Those options today seem much more limited.  Buying an older home in a school district that has low test scores maybe the only way to find an affordable home today.  The choice seems to be between affordability and being in one of the "desirable" school districts.  The idea of having diversity of housing choices seems to have been diminished starting sometime in the 1980's as Columbia and Howard County became a desirable place to live.  This desirability certainly pushed builders to want to maximize their profit by building larger more expensive housing.  I have blogged before about a small rancher in Oakland Mills (one of those "California ranchers" so common in our early villages) being replaced by a $500,000 brick colonial when the original rancher burned down.  Today even the small remaining out parcels in Columbia usually have larger colonials squeezed together with very small yards.  Is the finding of the 2010 Census showing that the only age group that had declined from the 2000 Census in Howard County was the 0 to 4 age group.  Some of this may just be a result of couples having smaller families but I wonder if it also reflects the lack of affordable starter homes.  I remember moving into our new affordable starter home in the late 1970's and 90% of us having kids in this age group within the first couple of years.  We got to know all of our neighbors because we had to be out watching our young kids as they rode their big wheels up and down the sidewalks.
      What we see today is the older villages of Columbia that were built with affordable homes and apartments carrying an increasingly disproportionate share of our County's affordable housing.  This has led to a stigmatizing of certain villages, neighborhoods and school districts.  This trend is hard to reverse once these perceptions become ingrained.

   Ask any realtor  about the number of families looking to buy a home in Howard County and they will tell you that usually the first requirement is to only show them homes in the desirable school districts.  The cycle of desirable schools creating desirable neighborhoods has a profound impact on how our County can continue to provide for the diversity of our population.  It is not diversity to only have a mixture of high performing schools and low performing schools, some desirable neighborhoods and some undesirable neighborhoods.  The challenge going into the future for our County is to provide that diversity in every community and school in our County.  This may have to start by having affordable new homes for young families.  Often it seems if we are moving in the opposite direction.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How long has it been since you have seen this gas price?

   Price of gas at Sam's Club in Laurel yesterday.  Gas Buddy actually had another gas station in Laurel at Ft. Meade Road at $2.82 yesterday.  Of course the cheapest gas in Columbia is still around $3.20.   Route 1 in Howard County has some stations at $2.99 and Costco was the cheapest gas at $2.93.  Maybe the gas price will compensate for the rough ride that stocks have taken recently.

   Anyone feel sorry for Exxon with the price of a barrel of gas being $18 less since mid August?


Friday, October 17, 2014

22 maps that surprise you


    Most of the news stories that you see posted on Facebook are not worth linking to but every once in a while there is one that is worth linking on to read.  This week I did read one of those stories that was interesting enough to pass along.  I am sure that it has been out there on Facebook for a while so you may have already seen it.  If you have ever wonder who is the richest person in your state or wonder which other countries in the world still don't use the metric system or which country has the oldest population now you can know these facts by looking at one of these maps.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

So how responsive is HoCo Government?

    You might remember that I blogged a couple of weeks ago about a dead tree allow a County maintained path.  Using the new Tell HoCo app I informed the County of this dead tree that potentially could fall on someone using the path.  I was pleased with the quick response to my posting this issue using the new app.  I said I would follow up to see when the tree might be dealt with.

    Going by that area yesterday you can see that the problem has been addressed by cutting down the tree.

Other areas along the path also had dead trees cut down

   We all know we have a great County by our schools, library and healthy economy but I would like to add to that list a responsive County Government.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

HoCo Library presents speaker on how to learn from our mistakes

Meet the Author  sponsored by Friends of Howard County Library System.

    " Drawing on the lives of five great scientists, Dr. Mario Livio illuminates the path to scientific discovery through its inevitable missteps. An internationally acclaimed astrophysicist, popular lecturer, and bestselling author, Livio presents his New York Times bestseller, Brilliant Blunders: From Darwin to Einstein -- Colossal Mistakes by Great Scientists That Changed Our Understanding of Life and the Universe. Books available for purchase and signing."

HCLS CENTRAL BRANCH (410.313.7800)
Tuesday, Oct 21
7 - 8:30 pm


Howard County Office of Children’s Services Offers ‘Conscious Discipline’ Workshops for Parents of Young Children

"The Family Institute will present two workshops for parents and guardians raising young children. Conscious Discipline is applicable to all ages, including adults, but the workshops mostly focus on age 2 through 12 years.

Fusses and Fits:
   In the busy shuffle of day to day life, children’s meltdowns can get in the way. There has to be a better way to survive these daily schedule-stopping battles. Learn how to reduce stress by addressing a child’s emotional state before addressing behavior. Build your knowledge of child development principles which have a dramatic impact on the discipline process. Learn and practice the 3-step process which links emotions, thoughts and actions.
Monday, October 27th from 6:30-8:30 at 3300 North Ridge Rd #240 Ellicott City, MD 21043. Cost: $8

Setting Limits Without Guilt:
   There are many different parenting styles. Some may be too firm and some may be too lenient. What is the right balance and how do you keep your relationship intact with your child while making sure they do the right thing? Create stronger adult-child connections to support emotional/mental health while learning: brain-body-heart connections which relate to emotional growth, the chemical basis for how and why to shift from relying on fear to relying on love in discipline, and strategies to use when life does not go as we planned or expected. See how this shift creates stronger adult-child connections, which supports emotional/mental health.  This 2 Part Series is held on Monday, Dec 1st and Monday Dec 8th from 6:30-8:30pm at 3300 North Ridge Rd #240, Ellicott City MD 21043. Cost $15

For more information or to register, please call 410-313-1940 or visit to register on line."