Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Suspend the gas tax for the summer?

Clinton says yes, Obama says no.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sun story on pleas to county council for school funds

Brent Jones of The Sun reports:

... At the meeting's outset, Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said the council cannot shift funds or add to Smith's budget. He said the council cannot approve a cost-of-living increase if the executive did not put it in the budget.

"You can ask, but the county charter does not authorize it," Kamenetz said. "We're stuck with what was submitted."

But Barbara Tyler, a veteran teacher, told the council to send the budget back to Smith until it includes increases. "Please don't hide behind what you can't do," she said. "Let's work together to see what we can do." ...

Some speakers were also angry over what they called Smith's lack of transparency with the budget.

Joshua Gliken, who has a daughter at crowded Rodgers Forge Elementary School, said people felt left out of the process and that concerns weren't being addressed. He urged the board to approve the budget with amendments and then make their opinions known.

"Try to create change with your voices and with your pens. You have power," Gliken said.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

"Free Comic Book Day" is this Saturday

Stop by a local shop and get a free comic book (go here for a list of participating locations). I think we'll swing by Shananigans Toy Shop in Roland Park; the owner knows which comics are appropriate for various ages and there will also be prizes given away.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Towsontown Spring Festival is this weekend

Towsontown Spring Festival has turned into the largest outdoor festival in Maryland and one of the largest on the east coast. Approximately 250,000 visitors attend the two day event with more than 450 vendors to satisfy the appetites of our patrons. In addition there are four entertainment stages with over 50 acts and numerous national attractions.

This year we are again dedicating the festival to the men and women who serve our country. Opening ceremonies are held at the corner of Washington and Pennsylvania Avenues at 12:00 pm Saturday, May 4th. Prior to opening ceremonies there will be Bag Pipers, Color Guard and the Geico Gecco.

May 3th & 4th
Saturday: 10:00 am– 7:00 pm
Sunday: 1:00 p.m. – 7:00 pm

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sen. Brochin wants to study fees for school-construction money

Bryan P. Sears reports in The Towson Times:

... In the past, the County Council has rejected development impact fees, which typically are assessed on each house built and paid by the developer -- who passes it on to the buyer, critics say.

The county uses the fee to pay for new roads, sewers, schools or other facilities required for the new development.

"We've talked this issue to death," said Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat who represents the 2nd District, which includes Owings Mills, parts of Pikesville and Ruxton.

In the Towson area, parents have complained about overcrowded schools and are demanding an additional elementary school be built. ...

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Recher wants to expand outdoors

Loni Ingraham of The Towson Times reports:

The Recher brothers are seeking approval from Baltimore County for the addition of an outdoor pavilion to their property in the 500 block of York Road.

"People like to eat outside, especially in summer," said Brian Recher, who owns the business with his brother Scott.

Recher pointed out that a P.F. Chang's, a Lone Star Steakhouse and a Cheesecake Factory are coming to nearby Towson Town Center mall and that a developer has plans for a 14-screen movie theater "just 50 feet away," he said. "If they are willing to invest in Towson, so are we."

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Burglary on Gittings

From Karl Pfrommer of Citizens on Patrol:

There was a break-in Sunday night at 3XX Gittings Ave.

Cash and sentimental jewelry were stolen from the two women who live there. The thief gained entrance by breaking the glass of the basement door. A neighbor reported hearing a crashing sound, but DID NOT CALL the police.

Please try to secure your home and look out for your neighbors. ALWAYS call police if you hear or see anything suspicious. The police WANT us to call, even if they discover a legitimate explanation for your suspicion.

In Pleasant Plaines
Monday morning April 28, about 9:20, a guy on a bike was checking which cars were unlocked on Barksdale Road in Pleasant Plaines. He opened one car door and looked around—not sure if he took anything. The police were called.

We need to make extra sure we are locking our cars. If you see a suspicious bicyclist in the neighborhood, call 887-2222. Police will check him out. That's exactly how Stoneleigh residents caught their serial burglar. Someone saw and called.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Parents, teachers tell county council of problems at schools

Jaime Malarkey of The Examiner reports: Dennis King says his son can’t buy a drink in his school cafeteria. By the time he snakes his way through the line at Rodgers Forge Elementary – Baltimore County's most overcrowded school – lunch is over.

“It’s ridiculous,” King said.

King, of Towson, was one of two dozen county residents to testify during a public hearing Tuesday night on Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith's proposed 2009 budget, most complaining of overcrowded schools. .... full story

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rally at Towson courthouse

I couldn't go to the rally today in Towson but you can get a great account of it at Towson Families United, including photos and video.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Nancy Grasmick on Towson schools

This was in my email tonight:

I'm writing in response to your recent e-mail that you sent to us here at "Midday with Dan Rodricks" on WYPR. When we had Maryland State Schools Superintendent Dr. Nancy Grasmick as our guest on the show Thursday, April 17th, we had an overwhelming response from our listeners, and unfortunately, we were not able to address on the air a large number of the e-mails that came in that day.

However, Dan and all of us here at Midday wanted to make sure that your specific concerns were addressed by Dr. Grasmick, so I forwarded your e-mail directly to her office. She has written you a reply, which I have attached below. If you would like to correspond further with Dr. Grasmick, please direct your e-mails to her Media Relations Specialist, Bill Reinhard at

Thank you for taking the time to write into the show, and of course, thanks for listening!

From Dr. Grasmick:

Building schools or expanding existing schools are important issues for local school and government officials to deal with, and I know this one in particular has been difficult.

From a state-and federal government-standpoint, it is important that officials attempt to provide learning environments that do not completely segregate disabled and nondisabled students. Federal officials have been highly critical of Maryland schools on this point. Some students with special needs can benefit from opportunities with nondisabled students, when the Individual Education Plan (IEP) indicates such opportunities would make sense. We are hopeful that Baltimore County officials can reach a compromise on this issue.


Nancy S. Grasmick

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Now you can buy 451 gear

Towson Families United has made these items (and many more, such as pins hats and stickers) available. They are not making money off the items but urge you to get some to show your support for reasonable relief from overcrowded Towson schools. Here is the store site.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Rally tonight for better school funding and planning

Today at 5:15 in courthouse plaza. Details on rally here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, April 28, 2008

Towson parents respond to Smith's attacks on Franchot

Towson Families United posted three letters to the editor in The Sun today about Peter Franchot's recent visit to area schools to look at the overcrowding. Here are excerpts, and you can visit the TFU blog to read the letters in full.

“Yes, Mr. Franchot is a politician. But we’ll take a leader who listens to our concerns, rather than one who belittles them, any day,”
writes TFU chairperson Cathi Forbes.

“Mr. Franchot scores points with this parent for his willingness to listen, to physically view our schools and to acknowledge the overcrowding problems in Towson schools…My reply to Mr. Smith is this: What have you done for us lately?” asks Courtney McGee of Towson.

“Was an element of politics involved in the comptroller’s visit? Probably. But at least it advanced the notion that new schools are needed in Baltimore County, not just bulky new additions,” writes David Marks of Perry Hall.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

area crimes for April 21-27

You can view the "significant event" report here. I don't see anything for Rodgers Forge proper.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

reminder: upcoming rally and meeting, April 29 and May 6


From Towson Families United:

People sometimes wonder why the folks in Towson are complaining so much about the overcrowding in their schools. But they get very quiet when we tell them this:

There are 171 schools -- high school, middle, elementary and special-needs -- spread out among roughly 60 different communities in Baltimore County.

But by this fall, three of the top five most overcrowded of these schools will be located in just one of those 60 communities.


They're all elementary schools, and they all share boundaries. So there's no room to move kids from school to school.

That's why the families here are fighting so hard to open a new elementary school. And why you should know about these two important dates.


County-Wide Education Rally, 5:15 p.m., Courthouse Plaza
Join residents, teachers union members and groups from across the county in protesting years
of poor planning and inadequate funding for Baltimore County Public Schools.
Towson Families United is not sponsoring this event, but we will be attending in force. Please join us in the Courthouse Plaza, near the fountain, at 5:15, and bring your kids. This event is expected to attract media attention.

County Council Public Hearing, 7 p.m., Council Chambers-Old Courthouse
Plan on staying after the rally to attend the Baltimore County Council’s only public hearing on the county executive’s new budget. Come hear why money set aside for Towson school
overcrowding isn’t enough to solve the problem, and not nearly enough for the new school we
desperately need in Towson. If you'd like to speak for up to three minutes, you can sign up after 6 p.m.


Board of Education meeting, Greenwood Campus (on Charles Street), 7:30 p.m.
Baltimore County school officials are expected to present options for solving
Towson’s elementary school overcrowding to the Board of Education. The options being
presented are likely to be just additions to some existing schools, which won’t solve our long-term problem. This could be the most important meeting of all, so your attendance is vital.

For the latest information on Towson school overcrowding, go to our blog at

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

good column in the BBJ about Towson overcrowding

Here's what Baltimore Business Journal writer Heather Harlan had to say about the situation:

Parents have pleaded with Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. to build a new school. But so far he has refused to fund it. Needless to say, there is a lot of finger-pointing between the Baltimore County School Board and the county executive. But still, there is no solution.

The Baltimore County School Board voted April 8 to study the overcrowding issue. Study the issue? The board says it is examining whether additions or new facilities could be built on the grounds of several existing elementary schools, including Ridge Ruxton Elementary on Charles Street. Haven't these leaders had months or even years to explore this?

If action isn't taken soon, the high performance of the four elementary schools in question could be jeopardized. Further, some of Baltimore County's best neighborhoods could easily become less desirable with home values plummeting. Let's just say a three-bedroom home in Stoneleigh would no longer fetch upward of $600,000. ... full BBJ story here courtesy of Towson Families United

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Knoebels is open for the season -- woo hoo!

Have you been to Knoebels? It's the best amusement park. No corporate-owned characters. No entrance fee. No parking fee. Just pay -- hardly anything -- for the rides you go on. Great food, too. Here's an article about it in the City Paper. It's about three hours away, but worth the drive. They have cabins and campgrounds, too.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

workshops at Cylburn Arboretum

Herb Gardening Workshop
Saturday, May 3rd
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Add beauty to your garden and flavor to your table by growing herbs. Learn about the soil and light conditions favored by different herbs, as well as care and harvesting. Sharing of favorite recipes is encouraged! While we learn, we will work to create individual herb garden containers for your patio, porch or windowsill. Registration required. Fee: $15 (you will take home your own table-top herb garden) ($13 for Cylburn Arboretum Association Members).

Beautiful Flowering Pots Workshop
Saturday, May 17th
1:00pm – 3:30pm
Learn the secrets to beautiful flowering pots for your porch, patio or garden. Fee $10.

Register by emailing or by calling the Association office at 410.367.2217. Checks can be made payable to Cylburn Arboretum Association.

Visit us at, for additional courses being offered this summer and fall, including Cooking from your Garden; Identify, Remove and Avoid Weeds; Installation, Renovation and Care for your Lawn; and Basic Garden Design!

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Saturday, April 26, 2008

York and Seminary traffic detours

Sun: The State Highway Administration will temporarily prohibit motorists from making left turns from southbound York Road onto eastbound Seminary Avenue starting Monday while York Road is widened between Cavan Drive and Ridgely Road in Lutherville. ... details

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

The Star Wars exhibit at the Franklin Institute

We took our 5-year-old to the Star Wars exhibit in Philadelphia yesterday. It runs through May 4 if you want to go. We had a great time but the exhibit was just so-so, I thought. It was mainly a collection of costumes on mannequins behind glass. There were some models of the Millennium Falcon and a life-size landspeeder of Luke Skywalker's. They had some interactive stuff but it was very crowded and, I thought, a little confusing and frustrating. They also had some behind-the-scenes info that was kind of interesting, such as the fact that they used Leggs pantyhose containers on some of the ships. There was a Millennium Falcon ride, but there was an hour and 45-minute wait, so we didn't go. (Why make people wait in line that whole time? Why not give out numbers or tickets and tell us when to come back, so we can enjoy the rest of the science center while we wait?) We saw the Dinosaurs Alive Imax movie and that was neat. We stayed at the Marriott on 12th and Market and it was fun b/c there was an indoor pool and good restaurants within walking distance. (If you go, I recommend the guac and margaritas at El Vez and breakfast at Devil's Alley.) So, a fun trip if you want to make a weekend out of it, but I don't think the exhibit itself was all that.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Interesting info from Towson Families United

A good read from Towson Families United, and helpful information for crafting letters to your local leaders. (Should I put quote marks around the word leaders?)

Why, in Mr. Smith’s eyes, would one community deserve a school, and another community deserve some poorly thought out additions? Why would one community merit $29 million, and another just $18? ... The county executive continues to claim he is “waiting” to hear what the school system recommends to solve the overcrowding question. But to anyone paying attention, to anyone with a brain, he’s already decided on the answer. ... more

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sun editorial about Franchot's visit to Towson schools

...But wait, there's more. It's no secret that [County Exec Jim] Smith's potential 2010 candidacy has been promoted by Gov. Martin O'Malley as a way to keep Mr. Franchot in line. The governor isn't happy that the comptroller is spearheading efforts to defeat his slots proposal at the ballot box this November. So Mr. Franchot wasn't just pushing back on Mr. Smith, he was giving a poke to his party's top dog as well. ... more

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

recall: LawnBott Lawn Mowers; Laceration Hazard

Details here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

car theft, car destruction and other incidents

From Karl Pfrommer of Citizens on Patrol:

"We just had a car stolen from in front of our home on the 100 block of Hollen Rd. The car was stolen sometime Tuesday night, April 22. It was an older model gray honda accord wagon that was parked on the side of Hollen Rd. closest to our home and right in front of the house. The car was locked and it appears that the thief or thieves broke a window to enter the car. The matter has been referred to the city police but so far nothing has turned up."

"Southland Hills Residents,
This past Monday 4/21 about 2:00 a.m., one of our neighbors on Dixie Drive had the catalytic converter stolen from their vehicle. The catalytic converter is part of an automobile's exhaust system, designed to reduce gasoline emissions. The converters contain platinum, a precious metal that may serve as a motive in thefts. The thief used a torch-saw and cut it out from the car while it was parked right in front of their home. The neighbor reported this to the police and was told that this is a common occurrence and the police department even has a special department to handle these cases.

The SHIA Board is requesting additional information from the Baltimore County Police, and we also are hoping to have a representative from the department at our upcoming annual picnic/meeting to discuss this and a few other safety/crime related topics. In the mean time, please be alert, and report any suspicious activity to the police.
-SHIA Board"

Rodgers Court disturbances
Today, Friday 4/25, I [Karl]confiscated two cartons of eggs from three Dumbarton School students. They had run to the Royal Farm Store after school and returned to the alley between Heathfield and York Road. The residents of Rodgers Court have been plagued with adolescents skateboarding, cursing and making a general nuisance of themselves after school. The Rodgers Court residents held a community meeting last weekend and devised a strategy to deal with the juveniles invading their neighborhood.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Friday, April 25, 2008

Planned rally about overcrowding gets story in Examiner

Here's the rally story. Great that this is getting more press.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Today is Towson Gardens Day

Flower mart, plants, crafts, exhibits, garden tours, food, entertainment. Free admission.

Thursday, April 24

Rain date: Fri, April 25

Courthouse Fountain Plaza
Pennsylvania and Baltimore Aves

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Bike (and scooter?) thefts in the Forge

From my neighbor:

It appears some kids are on a bike-stealing binge. Yesterday there were two unknown bikes in our alley and two bikes from my neighbor's house were missing. I suspect the two unknown bikes were stolen and then dumped in our alley when they stole the two bikes from my neighbor. So, I want to make Citizens on Patrol aware of the situation and if there is a way to post the fact that we have the two unknown bikes so the rightful owners can claim them.
You can email me at if you think these bikes might be yours, or if you've found some random bikes and are wondering whose they might be.

Now, off to find a better way to secure my son's bike... Also, someone is reporting a random scooter on the 200 block of Gaywood.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Smith's office says Franchot not concerned about kids in Baltimore County

Comptroller Peter Franchot has been visiting schools in the state and he visited several Towson schools yesterday at the request of Towson Families United. It was clear to him that Towson needs a new elementary school. County Executive Jim Smith's staffer told the paper that the visit was all about Franchot and that he's not actually concerned about kids. TFU notes today that Smith has yet to tour the schools or meet with the community. Here's an excerpt from The Sun (and this was mentioned on WYPR this morning, too).

"The visit today was not about the children, but it was about Peter Franchot looking to get his name out in Baltimore County," said spokeswoman Ellen Kobler. "It's very clear that Franchot is engaged yet again in what appears to be another in a series of political stunts that don't benefit the children of Baltimore County."

Franchot and Smith, who will leave his post in two years after serving the limit of two terms, have increasingly been seen as potential Democratic rivals in a primary race for comptroller in 2010.

Franchot has come under fire recently from fellow Democrats for opposing Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to bring slot machines to Maryland, which is supported by the Maryland Association of Counties that Smith heads. full Sun story on Franchot here

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

ABC News coverage of Comptroller Franchot's visit to Rodgers Forge Elementary

Nice coup for Towson Families United. Franchot says it's pretty obvious -- build a school. And here is a WJZ report (text) on his visit.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Towson Times says we need a school solution

Here's an excerpt from today's editorial:

...Leadership is sorely lacking.

School board members appear pressured by County Executive Jim Smith, who has said he favors additions over new schools. Schools Superintendent Joe Hairston points out the county must supply the money for any plan. And Smith says he's waiting for a doable plan from the school system.

And around it goes.

Next year, the number on the signs likely will be higher.

That is, unless parents get disgusted and move. FULL EDITORIAL HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Towson Times on Operation 451

Towson Times:

Just in case County Executive Jim Smith didn't get the message, somebody parked a minivan on Pennsylvania Avenue outside his office earlier this month and left it there all day.

The rear window of the vehicle proclaimed "451 Students Over Capacity. Ask Jim Smith Why."

It was just one manifestation of the "451" campaign mounted by Towson Families United, the group of parents demanding a solution from Baltimore County for Towson's overcrowded elementary schools. FULL 451 STORY

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

more 451 sightings

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Have you seen this cute shop yet?

sponsored post
If you need baby gear or gifts, try Bediboo in the Lauraville neighborhood. They have unique stuff that you won't find in most stores.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

(Another) black dog found


This black dog was found on Monday 4/21/2008, wandering around both Stoneleigh and Rodgers Forge neighborhoods and back and forth across York Road. It has a collar but no ID tags.

If this is your dog, or you know who the owner is, please contact Jeff.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Comptroller Franchot to visit Towson today to study overcrowding

Peter Franchot, who will likely face a challenge by Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith in the next election, will visit Rodgers Forge and Riderwood elementaries today to study the overcrowding issue. The visits came after Towson Families United met with Franchot to discuss the problem.

As nearly half the money for new school construction comes from the state, [Towson Families United] said it was important for the comptroller to understand the severity of the issue. Rodgers Forge has a state-rated capacity of 396 students, but has an official enrollment of 624. Three other Towson elementary schools are also overcrowded, bringing the total number overcapacity to 451. That number will increase to more than 800 in five years. FULL TFU RELEASE HERE
TFU has discussed the issue with staffers to Gov. O'Malley (a close ally of Jim Smith's) but they say O'Malley has declined to get involved.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Beco Baby Butterfly Carriers recalled

The buckles can unexpectedly loosen, causing you to bonk your baby on the head with your coffee mug. Details on the carrier recall here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

More hilarity from Flight of the Conchords and Kevin Bacon

Here's the original Footloose scene.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Anyone know about Camp Bravo?

A friend is thinking of sending her daughter to Camp Bravo at Towson University this summer but she doesn't know much about it. Has anyone sent a child there and have feedback? You can click "post a comment" below. Thanks!

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Indecent exposure on Towson U campus

The Towerlight reports:

A man exposed himself to a student who was sitting in a car parked on Cross Campus Drive Saturday night. The victim fled the scene in his car and notified the Towson University Police Department. FULL TOWSON U STORY HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, April 21, 2008

Demonstration planned on County schools, April 29

From the folks fighting the Loch Raven High expansion, and they encourage Towson Families United people to come, too:


Please join others in a demonstration to protest the lack of planning and funding for Baltimore County Public Schools!



FROM 5:15 TO 6:15 P.M.



TIME: 7 P.M.


(Sign-up begins at 6 p.m.; each speaker has 3 minutes)


County Executive Jim Smith needs to provide better leadership for schools

Message to Jim Smith: WHERE'S THE PLAN?

Residents and Associations throughout Baltimore County are being informed of this event. Please pass this information along, and bring friends!

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

sponsored post
For gorgeous pre-made or personalized stationary and invitations, consider Three Wheels Design. Available online or locally at Bediboo in Lauraville and Hopscotch in Timonium.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Crime report for April 14-20

Here's the Significant Events report from the Baltimore County Police, Precinct Six.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Public urged to attend Board of Education meeting

From Towson Families United:

Hi everyone,

Here's a quick update on the school overcrowding situation.

This Tuesday night, the Board of Education meets again -- just two weeks after it gave approval to the school system to hire a consultant to study possible solutions to Towson's overcrowding problem. These studies normally take months. But the Towson Times reports that they will either be presented this Tuesday night, or at the following Board meeting May 6. Given that, we can't help but wonder how thorough the studies will be. But we are all hopeful for a positive resolution, and eagerly await the school system's recommendation.

The tentative agenda for this Tuesday night's meeting does not list the overcrowding studies, but we've been told that the school system may add them at the last minute. We're going to be there in either case, and we welcome you to join us. The meeting begins at 7:30 in the "EES" building on the Greenwood campus off Charles Street. That's the office building behind the mansion. If you'd like to sign up to speak at the end of the meeting, please arrive before 7:25 p.m. and register. They pick 10 people at each meeting to speak. A Board member actually told us recently that they "hadn't heard much" from the community! Perhaps that's because they don't post their email addresses or phone numbers...

In other news, our "Operation 451" campaign is heating up. Take a look at your neighbors' houses in this photo gallery.

And if you haven't posted your sign, download one here.

Email us a picture of the sign in your house or car window, and we'll post it on our blog. It's a great way to get people talking about the fact that our schools are 451 overcapacity -- and counting.

To find out more about where things stand, take a few minutes to read the last few posts on our blog at We update it nearly every day.

Thanks for your continued support.

Cathi Forbes
Towson Families United

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Saturday, April 19, 2008

RFES Tech Trek is coming up; think about sponsoring a student and/or attending the event

I received this email today from Cathi Forbes and think it sounds great!

"I wanted to let you know about Tech Trek, the biggest fundraiser of the year at Rodgers Forge Elementary.

The event takes place Sunday, April 27th, from 1:00-4:00 at the Towson University stadium off Osler Drive. The public is invited.

For 12 years Tech Trek has helped raise the money needed to bring computers and other technology into our school. Students sign up friends and neighbors to sponsor them in this exciting walkathon. Local businesses contribute by giving in-kind gifts or becoming corporate sponsors. The day is filled with music, food, fun and a silent auction of amazing prizes.

The event benefits all the programs at Rodgers Forge Elementary School because the administration doesn't have to spend general budget money updating expensive technology. Therefore, more of the budget money can be spent to enhance our art, music, library, phys. ed. and other programs. Last year we raised more than $40,000.

It is a wonderful day, truly the embodiment of our great neighborhood school." More Tech Trek details here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

You must watch this

If you're not cracking up by the end, you're banished!

And here's another good one called Inner City Pressure, and another.

Oh, and here's the inspiration for the Inner City Pressure video, sent to me by my husband. It's almost funnier. Ah, the '80s.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Let's add Gov. O'Malley to Operation 451

I had been thinking about this a bit then my neighbor brought it up and put it well: People concerned about Towson's overcrowded schools should also be writing to Martin O'Malley. O'Malley is a close ally of County Executive Jim Smith's, and the governor's brother, Peter O'Malley, is Smith's chief of staff.

If Gov. O'Malley becomes linked to this and feels as if it's becoming an embarrassment or hassle, or if he even just sees the serious problem for what it is, I am sure he can have a little confab with Smith and say, "Hey, fix this."

Gov. Martin O'Malley
100 State Circle
Annapolis, Maryland 21401-1925
410.974.3901 • 1.800.811.8336 • MD Relay 1.800.735.2258
email via

and just in case you haven't written directly to them yet ...

County Executive James T. Smith Jr.
400 Washington Avenue
Old Courthouse Mezzanine
Towson, Maryland 21204
E-mail Address:

Peter O'Malley
Jim Smith's chief of staff
400 Washington Avenue
Old Courthouse Mezzanine
Towson, Maryland 21204
(410) 887-2450

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Friday, April 18, 2008

Hipcharm key chains recalled

Lead. Details here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Canada bans Nalgene bottles; company will use a different chemical

New York Times:

Nalgene, the brand that popularized water bottles made from hard, clear and nearly unbreakable polycarbonate, will stop using the plastic because of growing concern over one of its ingredients.

The decision by Nalgene Outdoor Products, a unit of Thermo Fisher Scientific, based in Rochester, came after reports that the Canadian government would declare the chemical bisphenol-a, or BPA, toxic. Some animal studies have linked the chemical to changes in the hormonal system.

Those reports also prompted many of Canada’s largest retailers, including Wal-Mart Canada, to remove food-related products made with plastics containing the compound chemical, like baby bottles, toddler sipping cups and food containers, from their stores this week. ... Full plastics story

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Rodgers Forge crime info from Citzens on Patrol's Karl Pfrommer

"First the good news,

Towson Precinct Commander, Captain Al Jones, told the GTCCA Thursday night that thus far this year burglaries in Precinct Six have decreased by a whopping [that's my word] 46%. Robberies are down 7% and automobile theft is down 6%. (I realize that is little condolence if someone broke into your car or home. However, as you'll see below, a reduction in big crime allows police to spend more time on smashed windows and such.)

Captain Jones has initiated a new Crime/Crash Reduction Program along the York Road corridor. Police officers will be concentrating on traffic violations from the Beltway to the City line. 101 officer hours weekly, in addition to already existing patrols, are being devoted to policing York Road. That's the equivalent of two full-time and one half-time officers assigned.

You may recall that Captain Jones believes in effective deployment. Famed bank robber Willie Sutton was asked why he robbed banks and he replied, "Because, that's where the money is." Conversely, Captain Jones is placing officers where the criminals are.

From a RFCOP patroller: Saturday 4/12/2008
A van belonging to residents at 16X Dumbarton Rd. was vandalized. A beer bottle was apparently thrown at their van, striking and shattering a window on the driver's side. No items were stolen. A neighbor at 157 Dumbarton heard shattering glass around 11pm. He found a bottle by his vehicle but it didn't shatter. There was no damage to any other vehicles in that area.

Subsequently, a bass sub-woofer was found at the foot of the light pole at Glen Argyle and Dumbarton Rds. A RFCOP patroller holding onto it just in case there is a report of it being stolen. Contact me if you need further information.

Some Rodgers Forge residents have been reporting rental properties to me for license verification. Two of those reported properties are not registered and are being rented illegally. Two other properties were registered but were violating the county code law. If you have the slightest suspicion about a rental property in your neighborhood, just send me the address and cause for suspicion.


What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

School Board member's idea for a new school in Towson

The Forge Flyer reports: John Hayden, an attorney in Towson and a member of the Baltimore County School Board, is proposing a plan to build a new school building adjacent to the current BYKOTA Senior Center (the former Towson Elementary). The plan would require the purchase or condemnation of several homes-turned-office buildings on Allegheny Avenue in between Central Ave. and Highland Ave. (pictured), which would be torn down to make room the school. (See map here.) These offices are located directly in front of the current playground.

This plan was originally proposed to Mr. Hayden by Thomas Rose, a retired engineer who has worked on many school-construction projects. Mr. Hayden said parking would be an issue but added that creative minds could surely find a solution. The plan is not formally being considered at this point, he said, but he did send it along to Michael Sines, executive director of physical facilities for BCPS.

"I asked him to pretty please pass it along to the folks who are doing the consulting work [feasibility study] to consider. I have no doubt that he'll take a look at it; he's a pretty straight shooter," Mr. Hayden said.

Mr. Hayden added that he is not upset with County Executive Jim Smith's position on the schools situation, which at this point favors building an addition onto Ridge Ruxton. Mr. Smith, he said, has a large constituency -- and a budget -- to consider. When asked what the best approach would be for parents to make headway with Jim Smith, he said he feels supporters of a new school will see more success if they adopt an attitude of working together to find a solution instead of being confrontational.

"I'm not sure that, and this is what my background in conflict resolution says, that it does any good to [metaphorically] scream in someone's face. That tends to close doors, not open them. You're either going to win or you're going to lose that way, because the compromise position tends to evaporate in the shouting."

Mr. Hayden added that he thinks the school board should be more aggressive in its proposal of other solutions and that parents should speak up, too.

"But," he said, "my gut tells me that yelling at Jim Smith doesn't do any good."

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Senator Theater to expand to do concerts

Here's an article in The Sun about the expansion.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Here's what Nancy Grasmick had to say about Towson school overcrowding on Midday today

WYPR host Dan Rodricks read an email from Beth in Rodgers Forge asking how parents, the Board of Education and the County Executive can work together to open a new elementary school in an area that is 451 students overcapacity.

State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick:

"I would just like to say I hope everyone can work together to resolve this issue. We know the issue is that we have a special education school -- the Ridge Ruxton school -- located in the heart of Towson.

There is a decision to be made about whether we should have expansion of that school to accommodate children from those overcrowded schools, particularly at the early ages, and we recognize it would require separate cafeterias but some opportunities for some students to be together. As opposed to a school in Mays Chapel that would be an entirely new school.

There's controversy surrounding this. There's controversy for people in Mays Chapel who don't want a school, there's controversy for people at Ridge Ruxton who have children in that school they consider to be medically fragile. They don't want children who are matriculating in from the mainstream to be in that school. But I have to say there's some great models.

So there are two opportunities here. We're saying that of 50 states, Maryland is 49th of the 50 states in most segregated settings for students with special needs. We're only saying that particularly for younger children, we've seen the value of some level of opportunity for students in the mainstream to interact with students who have special needs.

[Question by Rodricks: Forty-ninth in what respect?] In that we have the most segregated schools for children with special needs. And we have some wonderful models in Howard County, in Prince George's model -- a model in Prince George's county of this kind of opportunity for students to work together where appropriate. In each case in special education according to the federal law it has to be determined by the individual child's education plan.

So there are two options in this case. Expansion of a school or building a new school. That has to be a local decision. And I have respect for Ridge Ruxton because my background is teaching the deaf in special education."
You can listen to the entire clip here (although that was the only discussion of overcrowded schools). The Towson issue comes up about two thirds of the way through. Sounds as though in her mind it's Mays Chapel or expanding Ridge Ruxton; no other options.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Family of man killed at Towson Town sues the mall

The Towson Times reports:

... The eight-page lawsuit alleges that the defendants knew or should have known that the shopping center was a "high-crime area," that "numerous similar criminal acts and attacks" have occurred there and that future incidents were "reasonably likely" to take place if "proper" security wasn't provided. ... full story

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Was your yard waste picked up? Call the county if not

Recycling schedules had misprints; the county sent out postcards saying this:



For residents with a Tuesday trash collection and Wednesday yard materials collection the correct yard materials collection dates are:

Wednesday, April 16 and 30 & Wednesday, May 14 and 28

We apologize for any inconvenience this error may have caused.

New four-year trash/recycling collection schedules will be sent to all Rodgers Forge residents at the end of May. Please retain these new collection schedules, which also contain trash/recycling program information. If you have questions, please call 410-887-2000.

Baltimore County Department of Public Works, Bureau of Solid Waste Management
However, my stuff was not picked up yesterday. I called this morning and they said it should have been and they'll be back ASAP. They also said you should call 410-887-2000 if yours also got missed.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Maybe Jim Smith's friends can help him see the light?

It occurs to me that when there is a scandal, change often comes after people threaten to boycott certain brands that support said scandal maker. The most recent instance that comes to mind is the uproar over Don Imus' remarks regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team. It was the pressure put on advertisers, who then put pressure on his station, that got Imus fired.

So I thought it might be helpful to see who paid for County Executive Jim Smith's campaigns. Here's what I've found so far; it is not complete. If you are good at this and want to pass along links, that would be lovely, too.

I wonder if his friends/supporters can help him understand how serious the overcrowding situation is in Towson's elementary schools. Especially if the community helps them understand. I still hold out hope that he will come around.

I'm not saying we need to boycott businesses or that there's anything inherently wrong with having supported Smith. I'm just saying maybe this is a constituency he will listen to. It might be helpful to contact these people/businesses and explain the situation to them and ask them to help us let Jim Smith know how important this situation is.

Here is the campaign info I found so far.

4-16-08: And here is more donation info, although it seems to be in no particular order.

I've noticed that Merritt Properties (Merritt Athletic Clubs) is a huge contributor.

So is state school superintendent Nancy Grasmick. As is her son, Grant Grasmick, president of Grasmick Lumber.

Graul's Market is also a supporter.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Dog found on Blackburn Lane

The Cedarcroft Board says: "There is a dog without a collar on Blackburn Lane. I saw him also yesterday around this block as well. Can anyone help him get home?"

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Feasibility study on Towson schools is almost done

Do you ever order dinner at a restaurant and they bring it out to you about 90 seconds later? You think, "Thanks ... I think; was this prepared ages ago and it's been sitting around waiting to be ordered?"

That's how parents might feel upon hearing this news from Towson Families United and the Towson Times:

The Towson Times reports today that the school system’s supposedly exhaustive study of Towson-area overcrowding, the contract for which was approved only last week, could be done by next week.

While these studies generally take two to three months, Michael Sines, executive director of physical facilities for BCPS, said this one could be presented as early as the April 22 Board of Education meeting. Which means the total time spent studying all possible options could be as little as two weeks.

While we are certainly eager for a solution, this does call into question just how comprehensive the feasibility studies could be. Mr. Sines has refused to return an email asking for details on the scope and parameters of the studies. Have the design consultants been given a financial cap on the project they must consider? Are there time constraints they must abide by? Will they look at ideas generated from throughout the community? Or just those “pre-approved” by the county executive? ... read the full TFU post here and the Towson Times story here

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

My new favorite hangout

My daughter and I went to the ponds in Homeland today on Springlake Way, about two or three blocks south of Northern Parkway. I've driven down that street but we've never actually gone there as far as I can remember. She had a ball feeding the ducks and the fish. The koi (?) are amazing, too.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

SPOTTED: Operation 451 (more)

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

The history of one Baltimore neighborhood

I just came across this video about the Sharp-Leadenhall neighborhood. It's heartbreaking and infuriating. A low-income but tight-knit and stable black community was all but destroyed to make way for a freeway, and further damaged by gentrification that drove out residents.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Giant Food on York being overhauled

I was in Giant yesterday for the first time since they started remodeling the store. I ran into my always-fun neighbor, Amanda, with her daughter. They were grossing out over a huge jar of liquid cheese. Processed-cheese products aside, she's excited about the new store, which should be more elegant and pleasant.

Thanks to Karl Pfrommer for passing along this story in the Maryland Daily Record:

Giant Food is hoping that less means more.

It started off with a few white tags here and there — barely noticeable to the average shopper. But if you’ve been to your neighborhood Giant in the last several months, you’ve probably noticed these tags now dotting nearly every aisle.

They mark discontinued products and make up one of the more visible links in the chain’s 18-month effort to revamp its stores and focus on lowering its bottom line. Called the Value Improvement Program, the stores are streamlining their inventories and discontinuing the bottom-selling products to make room on the shelves for larger quantities of fewer products. FULL GIANT FOOD STORY

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Should the county revisit this model?

The county had St. John Properties build it a school, which it leases. Notice the dates; less than a year for construction. I bet a developer could construct a school at the Ridge Ruxton site or on property of another Towson elementary school in a heartbeat. Even if it was almost like one big trailer, but with bathrooms and maybe a cafeteria area, and an enclosed/secure connection to the school. Not ideal, but ...

(3/29/2007) The Baltimore County Public Schools has signed a long-term lease to open a remedial school program at the Baltimore Crossroads @ 95 development in White Marsh.

The school system has signed a deal with St. John Properties, which will design and build the new 50,400-square-foot Secondary Academic Intervention Model School. The facility is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2007-2008 school year.

... It will accommodate about 500 students in grades six through 10 and will draw from schools throughout the central, northeast and southeast parts of Baltimore County.

And here's a story from The Sun:
Mar. 30, 2007 --Feeling pressed for time to open a school to help educate hundreds of chronically disruptive students who are struggling to pass state standardized tests, Baltimore County school officials have approved a $43 million, 30-year lease with a Baltimore real estate firm. ... MORE HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tour kitchens in Annapolis

Take an exclusive walking tour of cutting-edge cooking spaces in historic Annapolis and Eastport. A chance for kitchen buffs, cooks and food-loving adults to see outstanding designer kitchens not open to the general public. Refreshments at HistoryQuest, the William Paca House, and The Rockfish restaurant.

Saturday, April 26, 2008, 2:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Go at your own pace. DETAILS OF KITCHEN TOUR HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Rodgers Forge couple indicted for the December murder of toddler

Jennifer McMenamin of The Sun reports:

Murder charges were filed against John J. Griffin and Susan Griffin of Rodgers Forge after a state medical examiner determined that the toddler died of starvation, said Baltimore County prosecutor Robin S. Coffin. ... FULL GRIFFIN STORY HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

WYPR says it won't take Steiner back

The Sun reports:

The board of directors of WYPR Tuesday said its removal of talk-show host Marc Steiner from the Baltimore public radio station in February "will not be undone," in spite of a room full of protesters and a recommendation that it do so from its hand-picked community advisory board. FULL STEINER STORY

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

School board orders change to feasibility study; school system not complying

At least, that's how it appears. Towson Families United reports that although the Board of Education voted at its April 8 meeting that the word "addition" should be stricken from the contract for the study that will look into overcrowding, the word is still there. (The word "addition" was ordered removed so the study would also look at building an entirely new school, not simply adding classroom space onto an existing school.)

The question is, was it an oversight, or is BCPS simply ordering a study that will support the will of the county executive? Read the TFU info here.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Build a new school at Ridge Ruxton site?

As you may remember, the idea of building a separate new school at the Ridge Ruxton site was discussed at the April 8 school board meeting, according to this ABC2 News report. I'd never been on the Ridge Ruxton property, although I drive by it all the time, so I decided to check it out today. I don't know what popular sentiment is on this idea, but it seemed that constructing a separate building on that site is very doable. Especially if one were creative about it, as discussed earlier by an architect and parent of Rodgers Forge Elementary students. (His firm is building a school for 850 kids on a 3.2-acre site in DC.)

I don't know how much of the surrounding property is owned by the school system, but I would imagine it's owned by the county in one way or another. (Not that being owned by the school system is all that helpful when the will is not there ... Mays Chapel, I'm talking to you.)

I know some have said Ridge Ruxton is not an ideal site given that it's on a busy road and you can't really walk to it. (And, hello, would it kill them to put a traffic signal there so you could make a left turn out of the school without taking your life in your hands?) But this is where kids would be under the Mays Chapel plan anyway. And once you're on the property, it's quiet and serene.

Of course, I still don't understand why, if Jim Smith has his heart set on an addition instead of a new school, it is not done at another school that doesn't have the issues associated with Ridge Ruxton and its fragile student population. I mean, really, how hard would it be to make RFES -- including its cafeteria and other common areas -- bigger?

Anyhoo, I've posted a few photos of Ridge Ruxton here, and you can view more at this site. I'd be interested to learn what others think.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

SPOTTED: Operation 451

This van was spotted parked on Dumbarton Road (and it was recently parked all day in front of Jim Smith's office, Towson Families United reports). And here's a household that wants its voice heard.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Jim Smith's schedule this week

TUESDAY, April 15
8:00 a.m. Pikesville Chamber of Commerce Awards
North Oaks Retirement Community, 725 Mount Wilson Lane, Pikesville

10:00 a.m. State of the County and Budget Presentation
County Council Chambers, Old Courthouse, 400 Washington Avenue,
Towson, 21204

1:00 p.m. Launch of the Department of Aging’s Five Wishes Initiative
Greater Baltimore Medical Center, 6701 North Charles St. Baltimore

7:00 p.m. Hernwood Heights Community Association Meeting
Hernwood Heights Elementary School, 9919 Marriottsville Road,
Randallstown 21133

THURSDAY, April 17
8:00 a.m. Presentation of Proclamation to Proprietors of Elmo’s Restaurant
Elmo’s Restaurant, 15300 Hanover Pike, Upperco 21155

11:00 a.m. Ribbon Cutting for the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation’s New
Renovated Home in Historic Dundalk
8 Broadship, Dundalk 21222

3:30 p.m. Presentation of Award to Winner of the Waterfront Festival Poster Contest
Executive Office, Old Courthouse, 400 Washington Avenue, Towson,

FRIDAY, April 18


What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Loch Raven High School expansion moves forward

Dorothy Rowley of The Examiner writes:

Towson residents in staunch opposition to a $17 million, 400-student expansion at Loch Raven High school met Monday with the Baltimore County Development Review Committee only to walk away wondering if they have legal grounds to appeal the decision to forego further public input in the matter. Instead, the committee decided to allow input from various county departments as plans move forward to add on to the 36-year-old school in order to alleviate overcrowding at three other high schools in the northeast section of the county. FULL STORY

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Baltimore County Executive presents his budget

I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that Baltimore County is set up such that our county executive has extraordinary power and the county council can not add money/projects to the budget, which is one of the reasons the Towson school situation is so stuck.

Sun: Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. is presenting a $1.7 billion budget today to county lawmakers that leaves them little to trim. ...

A public hearing on the proposed budget will be held at 7 p.m. April 29 in the council chambers in Towson. The council will review the planning, economic development, permits and development management department budgets in a session beginning at 2 p.m. May 5.

The parks, library, sheriff and capital budgets will be discussed by the council beginning at 1:30 p.m. May 8. The police, fire and public works budgets will be reviewed by council members beginning at 2:45 p.m. May 13.

The council is scheduled to consider the school and community college budgets at 2 p.m. May 15, with a final vote set for May 22.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Monday, April 14, 2008

Would you pay $31,000 for a hypoallergenic cat?

I was just researching cats that don't trigger allergies because my son is begging to get a pet and my husband isn't so hot on the idea of a dog, but he's allergic to cats. I saw some articles from 2006 that said hypoallergenic cats run about $4,000. I figured maybe the price had gone down by now, kind of like iPods. No such luck. Plus, the whole thing is kind of creepy. They talk about the cats' features as if the animals were cars or computers.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Watch the contentious Board of Ed meeting

Visit the Towson Families United site to see footage of the latest Board of Ed meeting about overcrowded schools. TFU says:

It was a night of contention at the April 8 Board of Education meeting. After getting an earful from several parents, the Board pushed back on school system representatives and urged them to study all possible options to solving our overcrowding problem — not just the controversial addition to the Ridge Ruxton special-needs school that County Executive Jim Smith favors.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

More letters to editor about school crowding

There are two letters to the editor in The Sun today about overcrowded Towson schools. Here's an excerpt from one:

My younger son is now a fifth-grader in the gifted and talented track. But his classes have at least 30 students.

How can one teacher challenge these 30-plus gifted minds? READ THE FULL LETTERS HERE

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments

Del. Steve Lafferty's take on the 2008 General Assembly session

Here's an excerpt:

I also spent a huge amount of time on the alarming extent of overcrowding in the Towson area elementary schools. I met with the County Executive and his staff and with the Superintendent of schools. Frankly, I did not feel that I got sufficient answers or a sense that there has been adequate analysis before plans to add to Ridge-Ruxton move ahead. As an elected representative, I wanted and expected more information so I could share it with you.
And here's the entire summary.

What do you think? Post or read comments here: Comments