Monday, June 30, 2008

County Board of Education Feathers Own Nest

The Prince George's County Board of Education went through with their plan to lease a new building for themselves. The school board approved their plan by a vote of 6-4 to lease 212,558 square feet of office space for $36 million over 10 years for 1,000 administrative employees. Rosalind A. Johnson, Laurel's School Board Member (District 1), voted for the lease. Please see the Gazette's story for the details.

Laurel area schools have over 100 million dollars in deferred maintenance according to the school board's own consultants. It seems imprudent to commit to a new administration building at this time. For the background on this issue please see:

Laurel City Attorney Opinion on Polling Places

Robert Manzi, Laurel City Solicitor, rendered his opinion on Councilman Mike Sarich's memorandum about the city's lack of a polling place in ward two. Mr. Manzi introduces his legal analysis as follows:

In his Memorandum, Councilman Michael B. Sarich discusses his concerns that the
City of Laurel’s current election system may be violation of local, state and federal laws and regulations. Primarily, he argues that there is a need to add at least one polling place in the city. He also argues that there is a need to redraw election boundaries, as the populations in the two Wards in the city are uneven. He also warns that if the city "willfully and knowingly potentially violate" the local, state and federal elections laws, the City may face intervention from the courts. Moreover, in his press release, he warns that failing to take corrective measures prior to the upcoming September 2008 elections will jeopardize the validity of the election.

This memorandum will not discuss the possibility of placing an additional polling place in the city or redrawing district lines, as the Mayor and City Council are currently conducting a study on this issue in light of the changes in the population since the 2000 census. Instead, this memorandum will discuss whether the upcoming election in September 2008 can be overturned if the City does not add at least one polling place and redraw its current Ward boundaries, as suggested by Councilman Sarich.

Mr. Manzi concludes with the following statement:

Based on the above, it is evident that the lack of a second polling place and/or the failure to redraw the Ward boundaries prior to the upcoming September 2008 election will not invalidate the election.

You can read Mr. Manzi's 2000 word opinion on the city's website.

Oldtown Gardener Wins Golden Shovel

Kimberly Bristol of 328 Laurel Avenue won the city's "Golden Shovel" Award for June. See the City's website for photos. Kimberly's manicured yard and extensive garden are very worthy of an award. I've watched her diligently improve her property for a number of years. This year she added grape vines. She told me that she has both red and white grapes. I'm looking forward to tasting the wine. Congratulations and thank you for making our street so much better.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Laurel Commons Drawings

If you did not attend the recent town hall meeting, Keith over at the Laurel2020 Blog has the story on the artist renderings for Laurel Commons.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Let Them Eat Cake ... & Danish & Flan & Bread

"The fine arts are five in number, namely: painting, sculpture, poetry, music, and architecture, the principal branch of the latter being pastry." Marie-Antoine CarĂªme (1783-1833)

Me, on the phone: "What kind of bakery are you?"
Baker: "Today we have baguettes, yesterday we had olive bread, what kind of bread would you like tomorrow?"
Me: "I'll be right there, don't move."

There is nothing I crave more than fresh bread. One of my favorite sayings is that, "life is too short to eat stale bread." This past week a new bakery has risen in Laurel and no one needs to eat stale bread ever again.

Csilla Baez-Tanczos and her partner Eligia Vallecillo have opened the Ideal Bakery across the street from the Laurel Library at 603 7th Street, Unit 104.

Csilla is a white-coated pixie of a woman with an engaging smile and determined eyes. Csilla and Eligia met at L’Academie de Cuisine, a Maryland based culinary school. They went on to work together in the the food service industry until deciding last year to open their first business together here in Laurel.

Csilla (photo) is from Romania and Eligia is from Columbia and they have created a full service bakery focused on pastries and some breads.

All of their pastries are prepared on the premises and they range from well executed danishes and crescent rolls to the more unusual Latin pastries like flan and tres leches, a sponge cake with cream. This morning their display case showed off brownies, chocolate & raspberry croissants, cheesecakes, carrot cakes and shiny fruit tarts, to mention a few treats.

They offer coffee and soft drinks and few tables to sit and watch the action. They also have deli sandwiches made with fresh bread and salads for lunch and dinner. A hot food table and a catering menu are in the works.

Csilla is serious about her question concerning the kind of bread you want? She wants to hear from the neighborhood. I vote for San Francisco sour dough bread bowls filled with fresh clam chowder.

Mornings just got sweeter in Oldtown Laurel.

The Ideal Bakery is open weekdays from 6-8, Saturdays from 8-8 and Sundays from 8-4. Phone 301.497.1393. Tell Csilla you heard about her from the crazy Laurel blogger guy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

When Politics Trumps Policy, Everyone Loses

Note - 17 Jun 2008 - Just in case you read this blog via RSS you may want to see the comments section to follow a very engaging discussion .

This week, Laurel City Council Member Mike Sarich published a press release calling for the addition of a second city polling location in ward two. In his message, Councilman Sarich opens with the following quote, "Laurel in potential violation of multiple election laws, Sarich says." He goes on to provide his findings in support of this conclusion drawing from his own twelve-page legal and quantitative analysis previously provided to the council.

Councilman Sarich concludes: "If we want to continue to willfully and knowingly potentially violate the above laws and guidelines, it is clear that Laurel may face intervention from the courts. In order to avoid this, Laurel should add at least one polling place and redraw its current Ward boundaries". You can find Councilman Sarich's complete press release here.

Laurel Council President Fred Smalls, on behalf of the rest of the City Council, responded with his own message Friday stating, "I, along with the other members of the Laurel City Council, are appalled by Mr. Sarich’s press release and its intentionally misleading, prejudicial allegations developed by his desire to preempt the election process."

Mr. Smalls' continues, "Mr. Sarich has made a bold attempt to publicly shame, embarrass, and discredit the City Council and the City of Laurel. The City Council will meet in special meeting on Monday, June 16, 2008 at 7:00 p.m. to publicly censure Mr. Sarich for his disgraceful actions." You can find Mr. Smalls complete press release here.

I've been an advocate for a second polling place in Ward Two since I served on a city voter participation task force in 1994. However, I strongly disagree with Mr. Sarich's tactics. I'm afraid that he may have turned an excellent policy initiative into an election season political stunt. Everyone loses when elected officials let political agendas trump sound policy making processes.

- Rick

Monday, June 09, 2008

State Court Foolishly Upholds Sign Pollution

I think political signs are huge waste of time and a ugly blight on our landscape.

We traveled to Italy this spring to visit my number 1 daughter in Ferrara and I discovered that the Italians have tamed these ugly beasts quite well by insisting that all political signs be posted together in common areas.

In Italy, political campaigns must use the sign boards conveniently placed around town like you see in this photo on the left. The sign boards are only available during the election season. (Please click on any photo to enlarge.)

Today I read that we will never be able to control these signs in Maryland because U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake has struck down a Baltimore County law restricting political signs, deciding that time limits violate free speech. She issued a written opinion on a suit brought by the ACLU on behalf of three former candidates and four Baltimore County residents who wanted to place political signs in their yards outside of the permitted dates.

By the way, below is a picture of candidate's sign from Ferrara, Italy, that sounds strangely familiar? Anybody ever hear of this guy before?