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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Partnering to Success

   Partnerships can be one of the most powerful tools to develop new, innovative programs.  Today I would like to highlight one of the best examples of this in our County. 
Community Based Learning Centers, (CBLC) one of Howard County’s most successful learning programs, will celebrate its fifteenth anniversary Thursday, June 9, 2011 at the Ten Oaks Ballroom in Clarksville, Md. Founded in 1996, and using the motto Knowledge Is Power, the Howard County Public School System affiliated-program is designed to accelerate academic achievement.  Its primary focus is to provide academic support and mentoring to K-5 students in reading, mathematics and social skills in a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment centered at the subsidized housing communities in which CBLC students live.  In over 15 years the Centers have reached 1800 Howard County students.
            The 15th Annual After School Banquet will recognize students who participate in the program, honor dedicated volunteers, and award the Dr. Elsie J. Walters scholarship. The banquet is open to the public.  Tickets are $5.00 and can be reserved by calling 410-730-9554, e-mailing: Patricia Branner-Pierce at or or going to
            Since its inception in 1996, an estimated 1800 young people, and adults returning to school, have participated in the CBLC program. The program has approximately 125 students currently enrolled and operates at the Community Homes’ Roslyn Rise and Rideout Heath complexes, Swansfield Elementary School, Forest Ridge Apartments, Monarch Mills and at the Tiber Hudson Senior Citizen Center in the Hill Top housing community in Ellicott City.  While the majority of the CBLC students reside in or near these properties, the program is open to all students in the Howard County Public School System. Eighty-five percent of the participants are African American. The students represent more than five different ethnic groups. Fifteen-percent come from homes where English is not the primary language, and 5% come from homes where English is not spoken at all. Family involvement is encouraged and is a key element of the program.
            Community Based Learning Centers are a collaborative effort between the Columbia Housing Corporation (CHC), the Howard County Public School System Black Student Achievement Program, HCPSS Office of Family Community Outreach, and the Department of Recreation and Parks.
            Howard County Public Schools System BSAP Specialist, Mrs. Patricia Branner-Pierce, facilitates the day-to-day operation of each of the centers, trains the coordinators, volunteers and tutors, and creates the curriculum for learning.  Parents volunteer on a regular basis and donate snacks and drinks in lieu of tuition.
            Noted Branner-Pierce, “After 15 years, we can see how successful this program is, and what it means to the community.  We have many former students who have graduated from college, and are now working in careers in the area and around the country. We have students, now working adults, who recognize how important the program was to their lives.  They come back and volunteer with today’s students.”
            According to CHC Executive Director Grace Morris, “Over the past 15 years, our students and their parents and guardians have reminded us that residents of subsidized housing are dedicated to getting an education, and to advancing their lives. Our residents, including adults working on their education, have often overcome many hardships and work harder than those who have greater financial resources to get ahead.”
            One student from the program has come back to work with the program.  Nicole Brown participated in the program as an elementary student in 1999.  As a high school student she started to volunteer for the program. After being the first one in her family to attend college she was able to use the scholarships provided by the programs to help her with her college expenses.  She stresses that in addition to the help with school work the program helped her to learn life lessons that made her a more mature young adult.  Today she is the Assistant Coordinator of the program at Stevens Forest Elementary School.
          Annual funding for the Community Based Learning Centers is provided through a grant from the Local Children’s Board.  The Columbia Housing Corporation and the other affordable housing complexes in the community furnish the space, utilities. CHC is responsible for the staff, insurance coverage, and accounting services. 
CBLC at Guilford Gardens
The Community Room at Guilford Gardens
7333 Oakland Mills Road
Columbia, MD 21046 

CBLC at Stevens Forest Apartments
The Community Room at Stevens Forest
5862 Stevens Forest Road #A
Columbia, MD 21045 

CBLC at Roslyn Rise
The Community Room at Roslyn Rise
10339 Twin Rivers Road
Columbia, MD 21044 

CBLC at Swansfield Elementary
Swansfield Elementary School
5610 Cedar Lane
Columbia, MD 21044

CBLC at Rideout Heath
5891 Harpers Farm Road
Columbia, MD 21044

For more information the contact is:
Patricia Branner-Pierce
Black Student Achievement Program
Elementary Programs Faulkner Ridge Center10598 Marble Faun Court Columbia, MD 21044
Office:  410.313.6771.,

Columbia Patch today has an interesting article on an ad for Columbia in 1967 that touted the ability to walk to work in Columbia. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Free Summer concerts and films

Now that the Summer season has started it is time to check out some of the free summer concerts available. I thought I would list a free of the events.

On Mothers day I mentioned about the lemon curd pancakes and today I want to share a kids favorite breakfast---crunchy french toast.  Take anyone's favorite cereal and chop it up in a food processor and roll the bread in the egg batter and then roll it in the chopped up cereal and then onto the griddle.  Works well for adult cereal too.  I have also used bagel with this instead of bread but I leave the bagel soak in the egg batter for a few minutes to soak up the bagel.  Works well too.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

How not to cook a pizza on the grill

I know there is a way to grill a pizza but everything told me that it would be tricky getting a pizza cooked before burning the crust.  Last night I decided to give it a try.  I know that a high temperature is the key to a crispy crust and that our ovens that only go to 550 degrees can't match the pizza ovens of 900 degrees.  I have a Weber charcoal grill and I let the charcoals burn down to where they weren't flaming.  I didn't want the bottom of the pizza dough to have flames touching it. I had found a wire mesh tray at the grocery store that seemed ideal for using on the grill.  The dough was rolled out, the sauce and cheese and toppings were put on and I was ready to go.  On the grill it went and the cover put on the grill to keep the heat in and melt the cheese.  I watched it closely to try not to burn the bottom.  Well that is when the problem occurred. In a second the bottom started to burn.  Next attempt will use my pizza brick on the grill to prevent this.  More to follow when I try this tomorrow.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Enjoying Summer dining with outdoor seating

All winter along you remember how nice it would be to eat at one of the restaurants with outdoor seating in the summer.  This holiday weekend's warm weather should give all of us staying in town an opportunity to enjoy that experience.  I thought I would give you a listing of possible choices for that summer experience.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Buildings as Art

In my blog on Wednesday I talked about how monochrome Columbia was so I thought it might be fun to go to the Lakefront and look at the buildings (drab, drab, drab) and play around with Photoshop to add some of the color from the buildings I photographed in San Francisco.  You can see the results to the right with before and after photos.  I am no expert in using Photoshop and you can see that in the photos but I would only ask one question?  Which picture would make you stop and notice the physical structure?  Does you eye catch anything of interest walking around the lakefront? I know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and not everyone would prefer the color.  Some might think it takes away from the simplicity of the building design.  I started out in college to be an architect and I learned that building design includes many different aspects.  One of those aspects is color and with the new building materials we have today to not include the use of color in building design is a shame.  One of the buildings that I admire for its use of color in Columbia is the Charter Building on Charter Drive in Hickory Ridge.  The photo above is that building.  Have others admired that building? What do you think?

Maryland Public Television is partnering with the Mental Health Association of Maryland and the Maryland Coalition of Families for Children's Mental Health to raise awareness of the mental health needs of children and adults. Tune in to MPT2 all month to learn more about mental wellness for you and your loved ones.

5/4 at 11 PM Independent Lens "The Horse Boy"

5/7 at 5:30 PM Beautiful Son

5/8 at 5 PM Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression

5/26 at 11 PM Autism—Coming of Age

5/29 at 5 PM Minds on the Edge: Facing Mental Illness

P.S. 2
The Howard County Library is encouraging adults to check out their Summer Reading Program.

Curious about 21st century real estate trends and how Columbia will measure up?

 I received the following information from Jesse Newburn and wanted to pass it on as it sounds like a event to attend.  Register for the event at this link

Come hear Chris Leinberger – noted land use strategist, teacher, developer, researcher and author – speak about pent-up demand for communities that embody “walkable urbanism.” He will share how this and current real estate trends will impact downtown revitalization and other development patterns.
We hope you'll join us on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at the Spear Center in the Howard Hughes Corporation Building. Part of CA's ongoing Community Building Speakers Series, this event is designed to be both informative and social. We encourage you to arrive on the early side of 7:00 for registration and some time to mingle and talk with others. We'll be serving coffee and dessert then, and the program will begin at 7:30 p.m.
Please know that while we encourage RSVPs, we'll be accepting on-site registrations at the sign-in desk on June 1st. We appreciate your help in sharing news of this thought-provoking guest speaker and hope you'll tell your neighbors and others about the opportunity to learn and participate in a conversation about walkable urbanism and other 21s century real estate trends affecting Columbia's future.

About our speaker, Chris Leinberger
Leinberger is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC; a professor and founding director of the Graduate Real Estate Development Program at the University of Michigan; founding partner of Arcadia Land Company, a new urbanism/transit-oriented development and consulting firm; and president of Locus: Responsible Real Estate Developers and Investors, a political advocacy organization. He is also a noted author and researcher who has published two books, The Option of Urbanism, Investing in a New American Dream and Strategic Planning for Real Estate Companies, as well as contributed to numerous publications, including The Atlantic Monthly and Urban Land magazine. He was voted one of the “Top 100 Urban Thinkers” in 2009 in a poll conducted by Planetizen, an international urban planning and architecture web site, and in 2010 he was awarded the William H. Whyte Award by Partners for Livable Communities.

The twitter hashtag for this event is #WalkableUrbanism

This event is offered to the community through a partnership of Columbia Association and The Howard Hughes Corporation.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Columbia in Black and White

On my visit to San Francisco last week the Paul Simon song Kodachrome kept going through my head, as everywhere you looked you saw color.  I was reminded how in many ways Columbia and San Francisco are alike.  Both have an educated, above average income, diverse, liberal population.  They have the Golden Gate Bridge—we have the People Tree.  OK so they may have us on that one. But on the issue of color we are sadly different.  Do suburbs have to be “bland” or “beige?”  Are our architectural guidelines requiring us to be bland?  Is street art only an urban reality?  OK I know that my suggestion of making Town Center more vibrant by tearing down the Columbia Mall and replacing it with public art, a public park like our version of Central Park and an open air market would never fly in our “consumer” culture.  

Try walking around your neighbor or downtown and image what colors you would add.  It could be a garden, wildflowers or public art in some form.   Maybe a painted People Tree would be an interesting item in Town Center.   With the growing population diversity in our County maybe it is time for our community to embrace the colors so richly displayed in other cultures.

“Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away”

Monday, May 23, 2011

Find the drivers and the seniors will come

Neighbor Ride is one of those success stories that shows the power of establishing a network of volunteers to provide a community service.  Established in 2004, this nonprofit supplemental transportation program (STP) serves Howard County residents age sixty and older, a population that is projected to increase dramatically over the next twenty years.    Because a significant number of older Americans no longer drive, they often stay at home, cutting themselves off from the activities and interaction that provide quality to their lives.  Neighbor Ride’s mission is to decrease this isolation and improve the quality of life for Howard County’s older residents by providing a reasonably priced, reliable supplemental transportation service which utilizes community volunteers and resources.

Last year Neighbor Ride provided over 7500 rides.  Yesterday they provided their 10,000 ride for the year. Ethel Sturdivant was the the rider and Bruce Fulton was the driver.  Ms. Sturdivant has not driven for the past 2 years.  She has children in the area and moved here from Calvert County to be closer to them.  For her Neighbor Ride has been a blessing to not have to depend on family and friends for rides.

The increase in rides is from seniors using the service more frequently and the County no longer providing subsidized rides to seniors through Howard Transit.  With the increase in rides requested the need to recruit more drivers is always a constant.  The next volunteer orientations are:  May 24th at 10 am, June 9th at 10 am, June 28th at 6 pm, July 8th at 7:30 am and July 20th at 6 pm.  The orientations are at the Neighbor Ride office at 8950 Route 108 Suite 115.  Their phone number is 410-884-7433

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Street Kids of San Francisco

We have been enjoying one of the most vibrant citiies in the country for the last week--San Francisco.  Unfortunately you don't have to look too far to see the flip side of this city.

We were eating in a well know pizza place in San Francisco today when two young boys walked in and talked to the bartender. They looked about 10 or 11.  I heard him ask what they wanted and they asked if they could have a whole pizza.  He called over one of the servers and told him something.  The bartender looked at me and said, "street kids."  He indicated he knew the kids well.  15 minutes later a pizza came out in a box and off the kids went.  All so matter of fact. 

San Francisco is the West Coast haven for runaways or in some cases "throw aways."  The Haight Ashbury section catches many of these kids but you can see them sleeping on the streets in the financial district of the city too.  Guess the kids today still think the "Summer of Love" is still on. We are used to seeing homeless adults in Baltimore and DC but it is always a little jarring to see young kids on the streets of a city.

In Maryland we have some of the same thing happening in the summer with the runaways heading to Ocean City to hang out. Crisis centers in Ocean City always have their hands full in the summer with young runaways.  Homeless at the beach beats being homeless in other places.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Where does it snow in May? How about Yosemite!

Just back from Yosemite and a May snow.  Beautiful pictures and great hikes.  I will post some when I am back next week.  Don't worry I won't overdo the vacation photos. Too bad it is so far from Columbia so it isn't a spot to visit frequently. Off to Napa Valley and warmer weather today. Interesting to be without cell phone reception or internet access for 3 days.  We all forget how that used to be.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Don't Feel Bad Rainy Howard County

You probably are feeling bad that the next few days look rainy but just think what it would be like to travel 3000 miles to visit Yosemite and camp and find out that the weather is rain and snow for the next two days. Oh well nothing like reliving the days of my youth with the Boy Scouts on our winter camping on top of a mountain.  Looking forward to a return to a warm Spring in Howard County next week.

I have enjoyed experiencing what makes San Francisco such an interesting place and will post some of my thoughts when I get back.  A few thoughts are directed at making Town Center less sterile.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Thoughts from San Francisco

Every time I visit San Francisco I have two impressions. One is wouldn't it be nice if Baltimore could be a little more like San Francisco in being a vibrant city with people on the streets enjoying themselves and using a great public transportation system. The diversity and openness of the residents is exciting. I know that Baltimore has some areas like the Inner Harbor, Canton, Little Italy, etc. but there are large areas of the City that no one would visit.

The other impression is the downside of SF. We are all used to seeing adult homeless individuals in Baltimore and DC but in SF many of the homeless look young enough to be runaways. It is troubling to see kids sleeping on the streets of an American city but this is hard to miss in SF. It has always had the appeal of a place for young disenchanted youth since the 50's and 60's and it still draws this population today.

I will be doing something the next couple of days that I have wanted to do since I first saw Ansel Adams photos--camp in Yosemite National Park. Just wish the tempatures were supposed to be higher than the 50's for camping. Missing the warmer Maryland weather already. Take care and enjoy the upcoming week.

Thoughts from

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Curry and Mango

Up until a few years ago my favorite food was Italian. Pizza, pasta and tomato sauce are still staples around my house but when looking for restaurants my first impulse is to look for an Indian or Thai place. Part of the appeal of Indian is my love of curry and mangoes. Somehow those two flavors go together so well. I thought I would share a couple of recipes to try.


Read more about it at,1739,158190-250201,00.html
Content Copyright © 2011 - All rights reserved.
1/4 c. vegetable oil
2 tbsp. grated yellow onion
3/4 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. mayonnaise or plain yogurt
2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. Dijon or prepared spicy brown mustard
3 c. cubed cooked chicken
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 c. green seedless grapes
1. In a small saucepan, heat 2 tablespoon of the oil, add the onions, and cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Stir in the curry powder and salt, and cook another 30 seconds. Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool. Stir in the mayonnaise, lemon juice, and mustard.

2. Put the chicken into a serving bowl and add the curry-mayonnaise mixture, the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, and the celery. Toss to mix. Add the grapes and toss again, gently. Chill the salad before serving if there is time. If time is short, start with very cold chicken and grapes.

3. Curried chicken. Preparation time: 20 minutes; cooking time 4 minutes. Serves 6. Calories per serving 390.


1. Use yogurt instead of mayonnaise and reduce calories per serving to 265.

2. Leftover will keep well in the refrigerator for a day and in fact, will taste even better after 24 hours.

3. You an use cubed cooked ham, turkey, or lamb instead of chicken.

4. In place of grapes, use 1 chopped apple, 1/2 cup raisins, or 1 cup drained canned pineapple chunks.

5. Garnish with 1/2 cup walnuts, pecans, or peanuts.

Indian Fish Tacos

1. Saute some champagne mangoes, pineapple, tomato, green chilies, chopped red onion and peaches using the juice from the pineapple and a little butter. Balsamic vinegar can add a little zing
2. Grill some mild white fish like Tilapia that has been sprinkled with your favorite curry or curry paste
3. Place some fish, a little grated cheese ( my favorite is pepper jack) and fruit in a grilled or steamed soft taco and enjoy

The Cradlerock Children's Center (CCC), a preschool and childcare center located in the Owen Brown Interfaith Center. I wanted to let you know about a new summer camp that CCC is launching this year. It's called Camp Explore and will include field trips, soccer, swimming, arts and crafts, nature hikes, and more. Each week will have a theme, include space, animals, and "under the sea."

The camp will run for six weeks starting on July 5, and parents can reserve space for one, several, or all six weeks. The price is $295 per week, and lunch and two snacks are included in that price. In addition, the camp is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. to accommodate the schedules of working parents.

The Cradlerock Children's Center recently received an honorable mention for "Best Day Care" from Howard Magazine, so we're really excited to be expanding our offerings to include a high-quality summer camp for local kids. Parents who are interested can contact Ms. Helen at 410-381-0906 or by visiting CCC's website at

P.S. 2
I will be in out of town this upcoming week and am not sure of my blogging schedule.

Friday, May 13, 2011

More than Just Books -Howard County Library System

Blogger was down today so that is why the post for today is late!

I remember going to my hometown library growing up and having a limited selection of books from which to select that had been donated by citizens of our town. It was not unusual to have books that you used for school papers that were 20 or 25 years old. I remember one book I checked out on the planets that only listed 8 planets. When I looked at the date of its publication it was 1903. Of course now with Pluto being downgraded as a planet I guess that book would be accurate again.

In Howard County we now have a state of the art library system that is the 21st century version of a library. It resembles more of a one-stop shop for information, learning and much more. I have recently joined the Friends of the Library and joined the Board of the Friends. I did this because the membership in the Friends is only a fraction of what I save by getting all my new reading books from the Library. I am the guy you might see at Borders or Barnes and Noble writing down all the titles to the books I am interested in reading and then going home to put them on reserve at the Library. I know that over the years the Library has saved me thousands of dollars. If you are like me isn’t it time to pay the Library back by joining the Friends of the Library.

I wanted to highlight a new program that the Library has just started in partnership with Howard County General Hospital. Called Healthy and Wise this program will focus on ways that we can all take control of our health. The Library is a natural partner for the Hospital because no one in the county reaches more residents than the Library.

he second event to highlight is the Farmer’s Markets at two of the libraries that are now back in business. As a regular shopper at the East Columbia one I can say that the chance to buy local produce and bake goods makes Thursday special for me.

Check out the classes offered by the Library and consider getting some exercise at the 5K Run .

Our Library today is not your father’s library! Check it out.


Tomorrow’s Bike About sponsored by CA and the Columbia Archives has been canceled They will try to reschedule.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fostering Futures and Changing Lives

Last week I blogged about the reality experienced by youth who age out of foster care. This is a reality for youth aging out of foster care in Howard County every year. May is National Foster Care Month. While the numbers of youth in foster care today are lower than in the past the fact is that for many older foster youth the options of returning to family or being adopted grows smaller with every year they spend in foster care. This reality is one that my wife and I lived with for 10 years as we fostered teenage girls, many from Howard County. Contrary to common belief youth don’t end up in foster care for minor offenses by parents. Only the most severe cases of neglect and abuse cause children to be removed from parents. And only when there is no relative available to care for the children are they placed with a foster parent. For older youth who have spent years in foster care the teen years can easily be spent in a group foster home outside the County. Did you notice I said “outside the County?” Howard County has no group home for foster youth. That is a sad reality for this resource rich county. I remember years ago there was an agency that wanted to have a group home in the county but it raised so much community opposition that the agency backed off.

We all want to believe that our community is safe from the ills we see in Baltimore or DC and that somehow our children don’t have to worry about crime, gangs, poverty, abuse and neglect. But wealth and education don’t protect our children from these experiences. Our experiences in fostering Howard County youth makes me realize that today there are young people in our community who are experiencing abuse and neglect in ways that should concern us all.

While the need for good foster and adoptive parents will always be with us for most people this is not a realistic or appropriate task to undertake. The stress and challenges of fostering should not be underestimated. So what can a person do to address some of the needs of youth in foster care? A new program, Fostering Futures, is being launched in the county next Thursday at an event at the Howard County Courthouse in Ellicott City.

The following is the announcement of this event. If you can try to attend the event. If you can’t consider contacting the VOICES office at the phone number below and consider volunteering for this new program. Share this information with your friends, colleagues, church, synagogue or community organization. We can collectively as a community respond to ensure that no foster youth in Howard County has to leave foster care alone.

Launch of “Fostering Futures; A Community Resource Network for Youth Aging Out of Foster Care in Howard County”;

When: May 19th at noon

Where: The Circuit Courthouse at 8360 Court Ave., Ellicott City, MD

Contact: Pam Grady, Voices for Children, Howard County’s Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, 410-740-0933


A new exciting initiative for youth, who will be aging out of foster care in Howard County, will be launched in a special announcement at the Howard County Circuit Court on May 19th.

Fostering Futures, an initiative of Voices for Children ( The Court Appointed Special Advocate Program, CASA) and in partnership with Department of Social Services, is an network of caring individuals and organizations in Howard County who have come together to support youth who will be “aging out” of foster care. Through the network and personal contacts resources will be sought to meet the needs of older foster youth, who have no family support. The areas of concentration are employment, housing, transportation, education, health care, financial literacy and personal skill training. Individuals and organizations will receive a monthly email that will list the needs of youth transitioning into adulthood. Community members will then respond if they can meet the need or be willing to network with their community contacts to do so.

By establishing a supportive network we can ensure that a Howard County youth leaving foster care don’t have to face the challenges of becoming independent alone, says Chris McCabe, former secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources and chair of Fostering Futures Board of Advisors. No other CASA in the state is offering this outreach service and this effort can be seen as a model for other jurisdictions.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

People You Should Know Making a Difference in our Community

The Association of Community Services of Howard County has announced their winners of the Audrey Robbins Awards for 2011 to be given at the Awards Luncheon on June 15th. The winners are people you should know and I have even blogged on two of the winners.

Volunteer of the Year: Don Bard, Lazarus Foundation. Don is someone I have know for many years and have had the pleasure of seeing how this Foundation, which rebuilds and recycles computers and equipment, has grown. The Foundation has provided computers to many county groups. I have been able to supply many grandparents raising their grandchildren with computers through this Foundation. Don has some of the most dedicated volunteers that have worked with him for many years. To meet Don and see his dedication you know why others are so dedicated this effort.

Employee of the Year: Barbara Coleman, Legal Aid Bureau. Legal Aid has been one of agencies that people without access to regular legal services have come to depend on. I know that when I worked with the Office on Aging we referred many senior citizens to Legal Aid for help with all types of legal issues. Barbara has been the person handling these cases in Howard County for many years.

Volunteer Team of the Year: Neighbor Ride. As a Neighbor Ride volunteer for the past few years I have seen first hand how this transportation service has been so valuable to older persons who are no longer able to drive. Having a reliable means of getting to important medical appointments, to go shopping or just to visit friends is so important in their sense of independence. Over 200 volunteers provide thousands of trips each year.

Employee Team of the Year: makingChange. I have had the opportunity to get to know Michelle Glassburn and the work of the makingChange program only in this past year but I have been so impressed with the dedication and efforts of this team of professionals. When I was looking for a program that could help with financial literacy for youth in foster care this past year everyone I talked to referred me to Michelle and this program. In meeting Michelle I quickly knew that I had found the right person to assist the foster youth. What I quickly came to admire was that when Michelle said she was going to do something--- she did it and delivered more than you expected.


Interesting story in the Columbia Patch today about a contest for teens being sponsored by Howard County Parks and Rec. HC Parks and Rec is one of those assets of Howard County that we should all appreciate. Kudos to them.

Burger fanatics have good news on another place to try soon from a HowChow post

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Is it Time to Retire the People Tree?

Having listened to the audio interview with John DeWolf the Senior VP of Development for Howard Hughes on HoCoMoJo I was interested in learning his views on Columbia development. I welcome him to our community but didn’t hear much that encouraged me in his understanding that this community is not your average suburban community. I heard a lot about buildings, property, development and business but not much about “people” or “families.” I know that I am probably being too hard on someone that I haven’t met and is new to this community. So with that perspective I would suggest that he might want to take the short walk over to the Columbia Archives and look at some of the documents of the early planning for Columbia. Jim Rouse brought together “experts” on many aspects of a community that went beyond buildings. Religious leaders, sociologists, city planners and others talked a great deal about what made people happy and brought value to people’s lives. It is not a coincidence that the People Tree is the symbol of Columbia. The business of development of Columbia started with people not buildings. That is what made Rouse different (and more successful) than other developers who started with buildings. Mr. DeWolf in the interview stated that he hoped to restore the Rouse Building to its former glory and while that maybe a good thing to do but I would hope that he also consider how some of our festivals like the Columbia Fair could also be restored. It may seem like a small thing but I remember how Mr. Rouse would always cut a cake at the start of the celebration and mingle with the crowd afterward. What follows is taken from a speech that Mr. Rouse gave to a group of planners. I have highlighted how often he talked about people.

“A study of Howard's neighboring counties over the past fifteen years demonstrates many of the problems of growth, as well as solutions that have and have not worked. Rapidly rising taxes are characteristic of fast growing areas, because of the way in which development comes. First, single family residences are built on large lots. Most of the families who live in these homes have several children who must be educated. Large lots and scattered developments increase the cost of providing many services. Garbage trucks must drive greater distances, police must cover a wider area, sewer and water pipes must be extended over more miles and school bussing becomes a major factor in the education budget. Those steps of development, which have a favorable effect on taxes - apartments which contain fewer children, offices, industries and stores, are typically resisted until rising taxes and public demand make them necessary. But many of these uses are difficult to attract without complete services; the dilemma mounts. Other problems of growth - crowded schools, obsolete facilities, inadequate fire protection, rural roads that are suddenly crowded with commuter traffic - are common to many rapidly urbanizing regions. In addition to the readily apparent ills are the inconveniences - the long drive to the doctor or to good shopping, the lack of parks or recreation, the constant need for the second car. As the new families continue to arrive, something of the real beauty of the country slips away and is lost forever. In place of hills and forests, green meadows and stream valleys, monotonous subdivisions appear to stretch in endless rows of similar dwellings, none singly or together able to enhance the landscape, all seeming somehow to be taking away.

The idea that a whole new town might provide better and more complete answers to many of the problems of growth stems largely from a study of the way in which people live. In addition to houses, people need employment, education and transportation. They need shops and stores and goods and services of every kind. They need medical and dental care, churches, libraries and hospitals. They need restaurants, theatres and entertainment. And beyond necessities, people have a growing appetite for all the opportunities that are offered in culture and recreation, for human fulfillment and satisfaction. Safety and beauty, peace, quiet and protection - the list of needs, wishes and opportunities goes on. In a large city, many of the listed opportunities are present. But for the convenience he enjoys, the city dweller often must sacrifice almost an equal list of advantages - the lack of open space, peace, quiet, beauty and safety. On the other hand, these amenities are abundant in the country. As rings of suburbs move out from the city, opportunities for good shopping, for recreation and culture, the convenience of nearby hospitals and other services are sacrificed. As people continue to move into the outlying areas, the beauty and serenity of the countryside gradually slip away, the city's advantages are remote, and opportunities for people become fewer. The great, sprawling metropolitan area becomes oppressively out of scale, and the suburbs become monotonous and dreary. Through the scope and scale of its plan, Columbia has the opportunity to provide and support many advantages and institutions normally available only in large cities, such as a full service hospital, major shopping, entertainment and cultural facilities. Through careful design, Columbia also has the opportunity to preserve and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape, providing the attractiveness, quiet and safety characteristic of stable, high quality residential areas. It is along these two fronts that planning has progressed. Last Fall, CRD's staff of designers, architects and engineers began a careful, thorough and sensitive study of the land, systematically noting every detail. Forest and stream valleys, views, slopes and vistas, meadows and roadways, existing structures and historic landmarks were studied and recorded. The single purpose was to take advantage of every opportunity to preserve and enhance the land as a beautiful and useful asset of the community. At the same time, CRD began a parallel effort to explore systematically all the ways in which people live together in a community and as individuals with another clear objective: to insure that no opportunity was overlooked for providing a better, ,more efficient, more convenient, safer and more attractive environment for the growth of people.”

A great deal of time has been spent the past few years on thinking about the development of the “downtown” of Columbia and how it could enhance our community. This will take up a considerable amount of Mr. DeWolf’s time as he starts his new job. In the early planning of Columbia the models that were constantly referenced were Tivoli Gardens in Denmark and Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco. The idea that the center of the town had to be a place that was fun to come to was important. Festivals and amusements along with cultural, educational and religious spaces were stressed. An “art” film house, art gallery, museums, sculpture garden, flea markets, farmers markets, boats on the lake, a dinner theater (Olney Dinner Theater was approached about moving to Columbia), discotheque (this was the 60’s afterall) and lots of lights were attributes mentioned. Discussions were held to have a branch of the Peabody Art Institute and the Brunswick bowling lanes to each have a space downtown. Neither of these worked out but they were seen as desirable. Glen Echo Park, Dorney Park and Hershey Park were looked at models desirable for downtown that could attract people to downtown from a wider geographic region. Daytime activities for families and children and nighttime activities for singles and adults were discussed. A carousel or ferris wheel were mentioned as the symbol for downtown activities.

It is also interesting to know that Jim Rouse had 2 or 3 meetings with Walt Disney around 1963-64. No records are known about these discussions that took place in the last couple of years of Walt Disney’s life. One could image that Disney’s focus the last few years of his life on the development of his model community of EPCOT would have been a natural point of discussion with Rouse. I will conclude with another part of Mr. Rouse’s speech that related to his vision of the downtown.

“Columbia's town center will capture all the vitality and excitement of urban life in a setting of natural beauty. Clean, bright, well-lighted office buildings surrounded by gardens and fountains will accommodate much of Columbia's business population. Ample parking throughout, and the convenience of the bus system add to town center's advantage as a business location. In the heart of town center, a beautiful enclosed shopping mall will house more than a hundred shops and stores along a completely air conditioned street. On a rain or snow splashed winter evening, the shopper can enjoy a stroll along the warm and sheltered mall, surveying the cheerful displays of stores without fronts. A theatre and several restaurants open off the mall, and benches in groves of tropical plants are plentiful. On a hot summer day, sunlight floods into the mall, but the temperature remains a comfortable 70 degrees. The buses connecting Columbia's villages with the town center will drive into the mall itself to pick up and discharge passengers. Around the entire perimeter, landscaped parking will permit the visitor to arrive at any of a dozen entrances. Between the mall and the lakefront, other offices and commercial buildings will surround the town center square. On an early spring day, the square will be alive with strollers and shoppers, with people who have business or an appointment or who have come to town center for the fun of being there. In the evenings, the lights and sounds of the restaurants and cheerful cafes along the lakefront will welcome people out for an evening. A concert and music hall, theatres and other amusements will cluster along the water's edge, offering a profusion of opportunities for enjoyment. Along the lakefront will be docks for small sailboats and other craft. Farther along the shore, townhouses and apartments will accommodate residents who desire the conveniences of in-town living. Along the lake in the other direction from the square, a large hotel and inn will afford visitors to Columbia an unparalleled location-within walking distance of offices, shopping, churches, entertainment and transportation. Beyond the inn, headquarters or branches of company offices will occupy prime locations between the lake shore and the town. To the landward side will be the town center park. Today a magnificent stand of trees, this forty acre woods will be permanently preserved and cultivated as a quiet, convenient and strikingly *beautiful asset of the town. To one side of the park, the college will occupy a spacious and attractive campus within easy reach of the town center's main library and other cultural and entertainment attractions. The college will include a stadium and other facilities, together with classroom buildings, laboratories, lecture halls and dormitories. Across the approach road from the college, land has been set aside for the development of a major hospital and related medical offices. Town center will thus become important to the health of its residents and of the County as well as to a wide range of other requirements. Many activities of town center and all of the opportunities for small and large businesses will add to the vitality and richness of life in Columbia. Provisions are included in the plan for second hand bookshops and silver smiths, for music teaching and travel agents, for a quiet sandwich or a symphony concert. Through all of the town center, the visitor will be struck by the beauty, the cleanliness, the convenience and the design of places. Landscaping, trees, gardens and fountains complement the streets, parks and squares seem to be in s c a l e i t is a place for people.”

Welcome to Columbia, Mr. DeWolf.


You might want to bookmark HoCo Blogs to see what is being discussed about our community. Just a heads up.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Can you find “Happiness” in Howard County??

We all know that Howard County scores well a desirable place to live. We recently scored as the second best place to live in the country by Money magazine. Forbes has recently listed Howard County as having the 5th highest per capita income in the country. Does money buy “community” happiness any more than it does for individuals? As Garrison Keillor describes Lake Wobegon as a place where “all the children are above average” so too could we describe our county. We would never want to think of ourselves as being “just average.” But how would we score on the “happiness” factor? I wouldn’t be surprised to see us score high on that standard too but it got me thinking about what makes a “community” happy.

Recently CBS Sunday morning did a segment on the happiest communities and Boulder Colorado scored the highest and Huntington West Virginia scored the lowest. I would bet we have attributes closer to Boulder than Huntington. We have good schools, an educated population, honest government, great library system, great recreational opportunities, good ethnic restaurants, many civic and nonprofit organizations and so many clubs and social activities it really is hard to be bored. But how do you define “happiness” and how do you translate that to a “community.” Who is looking at our community happiness and what would the job responsibilities of a Howard County “Fun Czar” look like? I have a few suggestions but would welcome suggestions from others.

1) Have more public art that expresses fun and place it in unexpected places throughout our community with a theme that changes each year.

2) Have our community become more “quirky” or “offbeat” and highlight it like Austin Texas promotes itself in its “Keep Austin Weird” campaign.

3) Festivals, Festivals, Festivals--especially something in winter like an outdoor ice skating area somewhere in Town Center

4) More public gardens—maybe something on the other side of Lake Kittamaqundi

5) An amusement area

6) More outdoor restaurant seating

7) A unique parade to celebrate Columbia’s birthday celebration on Little Patuxent Parkway. Maybe one with cars from the 1960’s.

8) A children’s museum that combined fun and education

9) A local version of the American Visionary Museum and its parades. Main Street Ellicott City has some "unique" stores that could pull something like this off. Close Main Street for a walking mall and parade with this "unique" theme.

10) Burning Man Columbia??? Seems like a Columbia thing. Kinda like what happened in the parking lot at the Mall when the Grateful Dead played at Merriweather.


Anything more fun than a great book to read on the lazy hazy days of summer? The Howard County library will have a kickoff to its summer reading program for kids on June 4th. I am sure they have some great books to read this summer for adults too.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

The price of progress

For all of us that know about the great trail that goes from Lake Elkhorn to Savage Park that is managed by Parks and Recreation the past 18 months has seen this beautiful trail torn up by the new sewer line construction. The sections that were beautiful to run or bike will hopefully be back sometime this year but it still looks bad in some sections. Progress marches on.

Special Pancake Breakfast for Mom

With tomorrow being Mother’s Day I am assuming that some families might be interested in making something special for Mom for breakfast. I have two special pancakes recipes that will make the Mom in your life remember this breakfast. The one thing that anyone in my family will tell you is that I don’t measure ingredients in my recipes but cook to taste so I will try to approximate the amount of ingredients in each recipe. But I would suggest that you use my method and measure to taste. Get some real maple syrup grade A if you can find it (Trader Joe’s sometimes has it but Costco’s real syrup isn’t bad for the price). Try not to use the amber grade. Especially say away from the Karo syrup type of maple syrups!

French Toast Pancakes

I had this at a diner in Texas years ago and had to get the recipe from the server. The cook was reluctant to share but my persistence paid off. I have played around with the ingredients to get what I had in Texas. Recipe should make 8 pancakes. Take half a loaf of bread (challah is my favorite for this recipe) and chop it fine in a food processor until it is the consistency of bread crumbs. Add 6-8 eggs to food processor (don’t skimp on eggs in this recipe it is French toast pancakes after all). Add a teaspoon of vanilla. Blend well. Pour into a bowl and add just enough pancake batter to get the right consistency for pancakes. The more pancake batter you use the more the pancakes will taste like pancakes and less like French toast. I like a texture for the pancakes that is somewhat spongy and moist. Top the pancakes with powdered sugar and fruit. Serve with warm real maple syrup.

Lemon Curd Pancakes

If you have never used lemon curd you have missed a great ingredient in almost any recipe. I have used it in lemon chicken dishes to give a great taste. In this recipe I use half to ¾ of a 10 oz jar. Start with half the jar and then adjust to taste. Start by beating 4 egg white nice and fluffy. Put 2 cups of pancake mix in a bowl and add enough milk to have the batter thicker than you want. Add the lemon curd and a teaspoon of vanilla. Fold in the egg whites gently. The batter should be light and not thick. If too thick add a little more milk. These pancakes should be thin and light almost between a crepe and a pancake. When done grate a little lemon peel over the pancakes and of course some powdered sugar on top. Again serve with warm real maple syrup.

Poached eggs are my favorite with these pancakes.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Change a Life Forever

Most of us can identify an adult who provided the guidance and support necessary to become the person we are today. For many that is a parent or other relative but for others it maybe a teacher, coach, friend, neighbor or some other adult who was there for us when we needed support. To be a mentor to a youth can be the most significant thing you ever do. Male mentors are always in demand and seem to never be available to meet the need for boys looking for a mentor.

I have some suggested ways to mentor. AOK Mentoring works with designated schools to mentor and tutor students that are at risk of falling behind in school. The Big Brothers and Big Sisters mentor children from all types of homes, many with single parents. VOICES of Howard County is the Court Appointed Special Advocate program for Howard County and these volunteers work with youth in foster care. The Maryland Mentor website and the Volunteer Center for Howard County can connect you with the various mentoring programs. If you happen to work at the Applied Physics Lab or know of a high school student with a scientific interest, APL has a great mentoring program for high school students


Bicycling Advocates of Howard County ( and Cradlerock PTA have teamed up to pilot 'Bike to School Day' on May 20. They have arranged for kids to receive shirts and hats from the county bike to work program as well as some small safety items from MDot Safe Routes to schools. Howard county police have volunteered an officer to help direct kids across the busier streets.

On May 14 from 9AM to 11AM, they will be doing a bike check and helmet fitting at the school. This program is a pilot in the Howard County schools and was inspired by Bike to Work Day. Kids on bikes to school is healthier, reduces traffic around the schools and a really fun way to get to school!

For further information you can email Wendy Newton at or reach her by phone at 301-641-8118. Wendy also wanted me to mention The Cradlerock school is also sponsoring a carnival on June 4th and the Columbia Youth Triathlon at Clemmons Crossing school on July 10th.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

How long before Columbia has beachfront property?

Good news! Our drive to the beach should be getting shorter. With the lasted news that the average temperature in Greenland last year increased by over 5 degrees I guess we are on a path to global changes that may now be irreversible. Oceans rising by 3 feet by 2100 seem to indicate that much of Manhattan and other seaside cities will have to look into the dike building business. Of course the disbelievers of global climate change being real always seem to view any scientific data through political glasses. They view any data such as this as the natural climate change cycles the earth has always experienced and deny that increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere could be the chief cause of this change. To hold otherwise they would to have to accept that our dependence on fossil fuels is unsustainable and we will have to develop cleaner forms of generating our power needs.

One bit of good news with the high gas prices is that it seems to be the only thing that causes people to look at buying more fuel-efficient cars. At what price point do we Americans decide that our need for SUV’s is irrational? Do all those drivers of large trucks work in the construction or materials hauling business? Do men’s egos really need the boost from gas guzzling vehicles? I have always heard that the biggest job for women was to civilize men. Looks like a mighty big job when it comes to the vehicles we drive.

All the previously mentioned news items seem pertinent after I attended a meeting of a local group of activists for climate change. The Climate Change Initiative of Howard County provides a focus for discussion and action on a local level to address issues of climate change. Their motto is “Think Globally, Act Locally.” Their interest in promoting energy alternatives recently has been to advocate for the development of wind power off the Maryland coast. Wind power as a source of a significant power for this country is controversial but it has to be one consideration until over forms of power are developed.

In the near future Maryland will be addressing whether we want to follow other states in the exploration for gas using the controversial method of “fracking.” This method of fracturing the underground shale to release the gas uses a mixture of water and chemicals that have unknown environmental damage. Wells in areas where this method has been used have seen water pollution that in its extreme can cause water coming out of taps to be flammable. So far the drilling companies have been reluctant to release information on the chemicals they use. A good movie showing this controversy is “Gasland” and available from Netflix.

Our county has been working on environmental sustainability on many fronts. The County Executive has created an Office of Environmental Sustainability that has looked at how county agencies can be more energy efficient. An Energy Sustainability Board has put out an Annual Report that outlines many goals for the County. A web page has been set up for county residents who want to “go green.” The county has pushed for builders in the county to build “green” buildings. It is really nice that we live in such a progressive county. The county is moving toward hybrid vehicles in the county car fleet. This is quite a change from the time when the county vehicles used by county employees were recycled police vehicles. I remember driving them as a county employee in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The county took out the police radio equipment but didn’t change the engines. I learned why you should never try to outrun a county police vehicle! You had to take your foot off the gas sometimes going uphill! The county then bought fuel efficient Chevettes that you had to pedal uphill. Quite a change. But I digress.


Join runners at Rockburn Park this Saturday to raise money for the Route 1 Day Center for the homeless in Howard County.

P.S. 2

I know that it is a little far to go to do good but if anyone wants to donate books (preferably children books) to Baltimore Reads (a great nonprofit) this Saturday you can at

Baltimore Reads Books For Kids Day

DATE: May 7

TIME: 9am- 2pm

LOCATION: Poly Western High parking lot 1400 W. Cold Spring Lane, Baltimore, MD 21209

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Is Having a Visionary Leader Important?

In reading Tom Coale’s blog, HoCo Rising, last week about the decline in interest in being a candidate for Columbia Association Board and the conflict of interest between the “old” Columbia residents and the “new” Columbia residents, I decided to post today on the importance of vision in creating a livable community.

First an admission. I am one of those early Columbia residents who moved here because of Rouse’s vision of creating a community where the needs of people carried equal weight with what worked in a business sense. Without that vision we get “faux” communities like Kentlands, Emerson and Maple Lawn. Like Columbia without Jim Rouse.

A big part of that vision was a belief that racial and economic diversity was an element important in a livable community. Am I discouraged to see that those elements have been weakened drastically over the recent past? Yes, yes, yes. We all know that Columbia now has neighborhoods and schools that are perceived as “good” and “bad.” The economic diversity of our villages declined with the development of our newer villages. The values of developers in those villages didn’t match Rouse’s balanced perspective. The developer’s economic bottom line defined the housing we got in those villages. Starter homes? Forget it. Affordable rental units? Too much of a 60’s thing. Remember how Rouse envisioned the assets of the Columbia Foundation coming from businesses in Columbia? It would be the price of operating in Columbia. As I remember it the old Columbia Bank and Trust was the only business that had that requirement. The downturn in the economy killed that business requirement and the connection between business development and community philanthropy.

The future of affordable housing in Howard County is taking a new form of mixed housing being developed by the County government with Guilford Gardens and Hilltop. This maybe a better model than the old stand-alone subsidized housing model of the 1960’s. Matching this public effort with a requirement of private developers to have a certain number of below market rate housing units in return for higher density zoning maybe the new model to develop new affordable housing.

Opining for the way Columbia was had me of two minds. I am a big advocate for change as a way to improve things. I am generally opposing folks who think things should always stay the same. But I realize that on things that I like I can be as reactionary as those that I generally oppose. OK, I can give up the “old Columbia” features like Mrs. Z’s for the new diversity of ethnic restaurants that I enjoy. I certainly like better the new large Wegman’s that we are getting to the small Giants we had in the old village centers. I do love Starbucks, Borders and Barnes and Noble but do miss the smaller coffee shops and bookstores. Change happens.

Back to the “vision thing.” With the recent death of William Donald Shaffer we are reminded how important it is to have a person in a position to implement a vision for a community. We in Columbia are equally blessed to have had our own “Willy Don” in Jim Rouse. When you look at the traditional developers version of a new town you see that the old style homes with front porches but leaves out the affordability element. With the death of Jim Rouse and the sale of the Rouse Company to first General Growth and now to Howard Hughes is the “Columbia vision” outdated? Do the folks at Howard Hughes look at Columbia as just another commodity? Time will tell if affordable housing is in their vision for Columbia.

So is there an entity that has a new vision for Columbia? Is it Howard County Government? The Columbia Association? Foundations like the Columbia Foundation or Horizon? Organized citizens like Columbia 2.0? Howard Hughes Corporation? The problem is that the unified vision of one visionary leader can be difficult to recreate in a collective vision with multiple players and multiple visions. Group vision is an oxymoron.


Tale of Two Cities today has a great post of the unheralded heroes in our community.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Reality of “Aging” Out of Foster Care

May is National Foster Care Month and there will be attention in the media this month on the status of foster care in America. If you want to learn the stories of foster youth aging out I can recommend a few methods. There are two You Tube videos to watch- Shane and Baily. I HIGHLY (repeat HIGHLY) recommend renting the video “Aging Out” from Netflix. Another DVD that ABC Primetime did in 2006 called “Calling All Angels” is excellent and available from Amazon.

While the numbers of youth in foster care has declined in recent years one group of youth in care still present challenges for foster care agencies---older youth in care. What surprises most people is that a youth in care is considered older not at 15 or 16 but at 4 or 5. The chances of being adopted from foster care decline dramatically after the age of 1 or 2 years of age.

The number of foster parents willing to foster teens is always a small number because of the challenges of working with youth who have been traumatized by family first and then by the foster care system. For many older youth the path in foster care is one of bouncing from foster home to foster home and many end up in group facilities. The cost of group care for a foster youth can be more expensive per year than the cost of an Ivy League college. Most states are seeing their foster care budgets being eaten up with the increasing cost of group care. Here in Maryland efforts to find more family placements for foster youth in group care have had mixed success. While new foster families have been recruited through the Place Matters program, the number of foster families leaving the system continues to be a problem.

For youth aging out of foster care the results can be discouraging. While some youth show amazing resiliency and overcome difficult odds for many the challenges can be many. For many youth leaving care weak support systems can lead to homelessness, few employment opportunities, and continual financial problems. Incarceration rates for youth aging out can be as high as 30%, 25% don’t have a high school diploma, only 3% have a college degree by the time they are 25 and over 50% have experienced some time of being homeless since leaving care. For many girls leaving care the high rate of pregnancy can limit their career choices and present significant financial challenges.

Foster youth can easily become a “hidden” population in many communities. The shame of being in foster care can cause many foster youth to withdraw into themselves. They can easily blame themselves for their circumstances and become wary of adults offering support. Many times it is easier to reject others than to be rejected again themselves. Defensive behaviors developed to protect themselves can be problematic when they need to develop support networks.

For any community looking to address the needs of its vulnerable members this population of youth aging out of care should be a priority. Children who have been “wards of the state” deserve all of our support in meeting the challenges they face.


"Tell your neighbors" has an excellent post today on volunteering for disaster training.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Health Care For Some

With a recent report that showed that Howard County was the healthiest county in Maryland you would think that things are fairly good heathwise for county residents. However what that report points out is that you would expect this from a wealthy county that has a low unemployment rate. For citizens of this country we have a cornucopia of health plans that work reasonably well for families with good health plans but leaves large holes in coverage for the unemployed or those with limited or no coverage where they work. Defenders of our present system are right when they say we have the best health care in the world. What is incomplete in that statement is the world “system.” Having the best health care providers in the world but limiting access to those providers only to those with insurance is where the problem exists. This problem of access is growing with many companies using high deductibles to limit the usage of care for their employees. Many have the employees being responsible for the first $3,000 or $4,000 of health care costs each year. It is no surprise that the leading reason for declaring bankruptcies in this country is for health care debt.

What I have never understood is why a country that believes in free access to libraries, schools and most roads has not been willing to provide one of the most important needs that anyone has- health care. As a country do we care less about the health of our fellow citizens than any other modern country? Are we controlled so much by insurance companies and health care providers that we are willing to have over 40,000 of our fellow citizens die each year because of lack of health care?

With state budgets strained some states are attacking the Medicaid program to cover their shortfalls. This has led to some dramatic consequences. None more dramatic than in Arizona where Gov. Brewer has decided that the state will not fund organ transplants for Medicaid recipients. This decision was based on a statistics that have proven to be inaccurate.

Are there no other choices between what we have now and government run universal care? A few years ago “Frontline” did a report called “Sick Around the World” that looked at the different systems of U.K., Japan, Switzerland, Germany and Taiwan. The show is available on DVD from Netflix and is well worth watching. It shows how each country has provided universal coverage in different ways. I actually liked the Taiwan system the best as a model for our country.

Currently the political climate is for cutting health care access and coverage rather than expanding it. Cost control is all about limiting coverage rather than reforming the delivery system. We have the most expensive system in the world but are getting poor outcomes in comparison to other modern countries. Efforts to reform that reality get demagogued by defenders of the businesses benefiting from the present system. Profits and lobbyists still have more capital in Washington than people. This reality is seen when the banks can get hundreds of billions to clean up the mess they made but ordinary people can’t get health care in their time of need. We should be concerned to see that for many people without health care they only have free clinics like the one that the National Association of Free Clinics hosted this year in DC. Is this how the richest country in the world responds to health needs of the uninsured?

When President Obama indicated recently that the administration would grant states waivers to the requirements of the health plan approved last year if it found a better way to increase access to health care in their state most people felt it was directed to those states with Governors that opposed the legislation approved last year. It however may have been for states like Vermont that want to develop more liberal plans. Last week the Vermont Senate approved a bill that would provide people in Vermont with a “Medicare for all” type of program. The Vermont House has already approved a similar bill which now goes to a conference committee to work out the slight differences in each bill. The Governor has already indicated that he will sign the bill. So we may have an opportunity to see how one state will provide a universal care program. You can bet that other states will be watching.

Here in Howard County we have a program called Healthy Howard that is attempting to provide a way that any resident of the County has access to health care. First it will screen residents to see if they are eligible for Medicaid, MCHIP or the Adult Primary Care program. If a person or family is over income for those programs but below 300% of the federal poverty line then they can enroll in a program to gain access to health care.

The range of services is comprehensive and will be available at an affordable monthly cost. The County administration should be applauded for trying to insure that County residents don’t have to go without health care. The program has its critics who say that the number of people using the program was below what was projected. Advocates for the program acknowledge the lesser number but point out that many of the people coming in to apply have been found to be eligible for one of the other programs. It really doesn’t matter which program people enroll in as long as more County residents are covered for health care. The County program isn’t perfect but it is at least a stopgap program until our federal legislature brings health care in this Country into the 21st century. It will happen someday and hopefully soon.


The power of HowChow. Yesterday’s mention of my blog on burgers made a usually slow view day (Sunday) into one of the most views my blog has ever had. Thanks HowChow.