Sunday, April 29, 2007

Uniforms at Laurel High - Guest Commentary

Laurel Connections is pleased to turn over the blog today to Mr. Bob Bain. Bob offers his thoughts opposing the recent vote to make uniforms mandatory at Laurel High. (See Pete Pichaske and Dan Schwind's Leader Article for details. Please use the comments section or contact me at g dot rick dot wilson at if you would like to respond via this blog.)

Opposed to LHS Uniforms

By Bob Bain, Laurel MD

I noted with sadness that Laurel High will be going to uniforms in the fall. I was sad because when I was in High School I felt, and still feel, that HS aged students are almost adults, some reaching 18 prior to graduation, and should be treated as such. If an adult wishes a position requiring uniforms, they are free to accept or decline the position. These students are not allowed this freedom. I wonder why this is? As a matter of fact, many things about this policy make me wonder.

I wonder if the staff will also be asked to wear uniforms? If this policy is such a great idea, should not the staff set the example? I have had many jobs where uniforms were mandatory and all staff had to wear them, not just those powerless to object. I also wonder how this will effect the ROTC unit. Will they be allowed to violate this policy weekly? And what of the spirit days where the classes wear their class colors? Will the class colors be changed to the uniform colors only?

I also wonder about the voting itself. I wonder how, less than a year ago, with virtually the same parents participating, this issue was defeated. I was surprised to see in the article that the number of responses was left out. Why is this? Could it be that a small number of parents are making the decisions for the group?

Last year when this issue was brought up at a PTA meeting, the meeting was crowded, loud, and, at least to me, strongly opposed to the policy. What has changed? I mean, if only 200 votes have been returned, then 163 parents (81.5% of respondents, according to the article) are making decisions that effect 1800 students. To use the math, less than 10% decide for the rest (9.06% to be more precise). Can this be considered fair?

A parent noted that uniforms would alleviate the need for trendy and expensive clothing to wear to school. Two things about this: 1. SAY NO TO THE TRENDY CLOTHING. 2. Do you actually think the kids won't still want to wear them after school? All this is doing is adding an expense for the uniforms, not removing the expense of the other clothes.

Left out of the Leader article was a clause I found in another publication. It seems that if 20% of parents sign a petition, then the whole issue is reevaluated. My question is: Is this 20% of the 1800 ballots mailed or 20% of those returned? It would seem unfair for the students and others who oppose this issue to need 360 signatures to counter 163 votes.

Finally, [the Leader] article mentioned two Elementary schools in Laurel who do not wear, and are not interested in, uniforms. How do these stack up against those that do require uniforms? Are their test scores lower or higher than the average of the others? And how does Laurel High disciplinary norms and test scores compare to schools in the county where uniforms are mandatory? More importantly, can any of these factors be attributed to clothing?

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Westchester At Cherry Lane

May 1980
President Jimmy Carter’s hostage rescue attempt had recently failed in Iran. I had a new job, a 1976 Honda CB360T motorcycle and a full head of hair. I also had a one bedroom basement apartment at the Laurel Apartments for $220 dollars month. That price included all my utilities plus as much steam heat as I could stand from a stuck valve.

The Laurel Apartments were built in 1949 before anyone needed air conditioning. The steam valve stopped working correctly sometime during the Korean War. But Tippy’s Taco was across the street and there was a pretty girl named Joanne living two floors up.

April 2007
The new Westchester at Cherry Lane complex is open for leasing. This is the new Archstone-Smith property at 14720 Fourth Street. I played a very small part in approving this redevelopment project during my single term on the city council in 2004.

Leasing consultant Tia Snead showed me around. Tia took me to see a one bedroom apartment with a nice sized kitchen, a full size washer and dryer, a full bath that is bigger than my cubicle at work, a walk-in dressing room/closet, a breakfast bar, a balcony overlooking a huge pool and a second story loft office wired with Verizon’s fiber optic internet service.

Their parking garage lets you drive up to your third floor apartment and park within a few feet, making grocery toting a snap. It’s not open yet, but Tia explained that there will also be a complete gym, internet cafĂ© and big screen theatre room. If you lease soon, you can have all of this for about $1800 a month. Utilities are extra.

My advice is to sign a lease soon. You never know how a new apartment will change your life. I married that pretty girl upstairs. She is still with me even though I don’t have much hair or the motorcycle.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Psst, Hey Buddy Want to Score Some Light?

Want to get in on a sure fire money maker with me?

Australia recently decided to switch off Tom Edison's 125 year old incandescent miracle by 2015. California wants to trump them and switch off these global warmers by 2012.

Government do-gooders are turning on to the energy savings of compact fluorescent lamps or CFL's. CFL's are those spiral, anemic bulbs that make me look (dimly) like a cold, blue corpse. They also cost three times more than a Costco incandescent.

CFL's use 33% less energy and last 7 times longer than incandescents. I'm taking the kid's college fund and buying up all the existing incandescent light bulbs I can find. I'll corner the market on these bright beauties. I might even rent a PODS to store them. I'm going to be richer than a West Laurel land baron.

I plan on scoring bright 100 watters, workhorse 75 watters and even those sneaky 30 watters that live in your refrigerator.

I'm going to be rich because the government is hell bent on saving us from global warming. Anytime the government helps, someone makes money. This time it's going to be me.

Even WAL*MART, the corporate protector all things green, is turning on to CFL's. These Noble Knights Templar for protecting their employees from health care, have decided to sell 100 million CFL's and transform the light bulb business with their unmatched market power. All in name of green--as in the environment, not greed.

Even organized religions are joining the movement. The North American Federation of Temple Youth has created a national social justice program to kill the incandescent called, "How many Jews does it take to change a lightbulb?"

With all these governmental, religious, tree-hugger and corporate eco-terrorists joining the jihad against the faithful incandescent bulb, the People's Republic of Maryland can't be far behind. Do you here me Annapolis? Save us from ourselves and make the globe-killing incandescent illegal.

I'm going to filthy rich when the only way to buy an old fashioned incandescent bulb is in a Ziploc baggie. I'll be the Tony Soprano of Laurel Avenue. Baby boomers with weak eyes will be my biggest "customers." A few 100-watt a week habits and I can move to West Laurel.

I'm sending city councilmembers and the local cops a few 60 watters to look the other way. Anyone who wants to bankroll my incandescent initiative should let me know. It's all tax free.

I know a guy who knows a guy in Laurel Lakes who says he can help me score a couple cases of Hawaiian Halogens! I'm meeting him tonight in the back of Lowes. Pure Halogen Happiness. Timothy Leary was right: tune in, turn on and see the light!

(Get the real story on the benefits of buying CFL's here.)

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Free, Fast & Friendly

Eight o'clock on a bright Sunday morning. I wait briefly in a line of sixty pickup trucks idling alongside a country road just outside Upper Marlboro, Maryland. We all wanted the same thing. A massive pile of recycled yard waste mulch steams next to a "two-yard" front end loader. Friendly Prince Georges County personnel direct me into a fast moving line of other suburban cowboys with a smile and a nod.

The whump of 2 cubic yards of free mulch falling into my silver Ford 4 by 4. It smells like the forest, musty and fresh at the same time. Another smiling flag man directs me to the exit and wishes me a good day. On my way out of the yard, a laughing lady wearing an orange highway vest hands me a bag of recycling literature and two packages of herb seeds while another man loads a 50 pound bag of Leafgro compost on the top of the pile of mulch in my truck's bed. "Thanks buddy, have a great day."

I wave and grin back at them all. It is not just the $50 dollars of free mulch, but the more the efficiency and friendliness of these County employees that simply made my day. And I got the chance to help recycle material that would've clogged the landfill.

I was back home on Laurel Avenue by nine. Now where is my shovel? Thanks DER.
The Prince George's County Department of Environmental Resources (DER) held its annual, free Mulch Giveaway for county citizens and residents on Sunday, April 22, 2007.
The one-day event lasted from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Western Branch Composting Facility located at 6601 S.E. Crain Highway in Upper Marlboro (from Crain Highway, proceed on Maude Savoy Brown Road and follow the Visitors' Center signs to the Facility). In addition to receiving free mulch, participants may tour the Visitors' Center to learn more about the composting process and the county's recycling programs.
"DER received an overwhelming response to the Mulch Giveaway held last spring," stated Charles W. Wilson, Acting Director of DER. "More than 200 vehicles visited the site to pick up over 270 cubic yards of mulch."
The Mulch Giveaway is restricted to non-commercial vehicles, ¾ ton maximum weight. A skid loader is available to load mulch into residents' pickup trucks. Residents loading mulch into their cars will need to bring their own containers and tools.
For more information on the Mulch Giveaway, contact the Waste Management Division at (301) 883-5045.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Arrest, Judgement and Repentance?

For a map of this location, see here.


The Mayor and City Council will introduce a resolution at the April 9, 2007 meeting that will authorize the Mayor to proceed with negotiations and financing to purchase First Baptist Church, located at 811 Fifth Street, for the purpose of relocating the Laurel Police Department. Mayor Moe is asking that public hearings be held on this purchase on April 9, April 16, and on April 23, 2007. Approval of the purchase could occur at the April 23, 2007 meeting.

Mayor Moe advised that the only response to the City’s November 27, 2006 announcement seeking proposals from the development community to provide the City with a new police facility of at least 25,000 square feet was received from Ms. Barbara Maher, legal counsel representing the Contract Purchasers of First Baptist Church. The Contract Purchasers were seeking to partner with the City for the entire First Baptist Church Fifth Street holdings, which include the church structure and adjoining school, its parking lots, apartments located at Fifth Street and Gorman Avenue, and other Fifth Street properties directly across from the church. In this arrangement, the City would purchase the church structure and the adjacent north and south parking lots for renovation to become a police station. The Contract Purchasers have revitalization development plans for the remaining portions of the property.

Mayor Moe stated that identifying property that would be suitable for a police department has long been the challenge in the goal to provide a new facility. He stated that First Baptist Church is more centrally located and it is expected that the size of the facility will accommodate growth of the department for the next 15 to 20 years or longer. The church property is also very conducive to accommodating the current Police Department outreach programs, i.e. PAL, Citizens Police Academy and its Alumni Association, Police Explorers, Police Auxiliary, and the Department’s efforts for future expansion of outreach programs.

Mayor Moe stated the purchase price for the City’s portion of the property is $2.5 million. It is estimated that an additional $3 million will be needed for renovations. There is still much work to be done in building design and construction, if the purchase is approved. It is anticipated that it will be eighteen months to two years from purchase to completion of construction before the Police Department will be fully operational at the Fifth Street location. Mayor Moe noted that the $5.5 million for purchase and renovation is far less than the approximately $7 million presented in the City’s Capital Improvements Program.

Mayor Moe explained that time is of the essence if this opportunity is to move forward. His office and staff have done an exhaustive four-month review to determine the viability and suitability of this property for use as a police station. He noted that the City has an excellent track record with the adaptive reuse of older structures, adding that the existing police station was originally built for use as a grocery store. He further noted that the Municipal Center is a former junior high school, and that the Department of Parks and Recreation had been headquartered in the Anderson-Murphy Armory Community Center before relocating to the Municipal Center.

Mayor Moe shared that he is looking forward to public input and participation in the consideration of this purchase. He added that he is excited about this opportunity to provide a centrally located facility that will serve the City’s police needs and the citizens’ expectation for quality police service for many years to come. Chief David Crawford expressed his excitement at the prospect of a new, modern facility for the men and women of the Laurel Police Department in their service to the citizens and businesses of Laurel.

Persons interested in receiving a package of prior press releases on this matter, and a copy of the CIP project page, may contact the City Administrator’s Office at 301-725-5300, Ext. 203.