Time to study in detail Columbia's village centers

The village center concept is as much a part of Columbia's heritage as the downtown lakefront, walkable paths and community pools. The original James Rouse idea was to give residents a local place to shop, perhaps in walking distance of their homes, where they could get some groceries, have a meal or buy some basics along with their neighbors. (Patuxent)

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Speed-camera contracts: Try, try, try again 

Another December, another speed-camera debacle in Baltimore. January held the promise of a new beginning. In the wake of some fine investigative reporting by The Baltimore Sun, the city had parted ways with one vendor, Xerox State and Local Solutions, and was starting fresh with an Anne Arundel County suitor, Brekford Corp. (Daily Record)

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Gwen DuBois: The Curtis Bay incinerator will endanger Marylanders

The students at Benjamin Franklin High School have it right. They have organized against Energy Answers' waste-to-energy incinerator planned for a location within one mile of three schools in Curtis Bay. Not only should it not be built so close to their school, it should not be built at all. Calling it a trash-burning "power plant" doesn't make it safe or change the fact that it incinerates industrial waste including old tires, plastics and construction materials — up to 1.4 million tons a year. (Balt. Sun)

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Dec. 19 // Raising legislative pay

With public approval ratings for most political figures suffering these days — Congress is hovering around 9 percent, an all-time low — and unemployment still relatively high, it's probably not the best time for elected officials of any kind to seek a pay raise. Yet legislative salaries are now under review in Annapolis and are likely to become an issue in the upcoming legislative session. (Balt. Sun)

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More progress needed on achievement gap

Closing the measurable gap in performance between minority students and the white majority has become the Anne Arundel County school system’s internal equivalent of state efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Agreements are drawn up, lofty goals are enunciated, and officials make reassuring statements — followed by incremental, agonizingly slow progress that often seems to evaporate or go into reverse for no clear reason. One reason is that just as pollution from elsewhere in the watershed ends up in the bay, problems over which school officials have little control widen the achievement gap. (Capital)

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Schools superintendent Dance learns lesson in public appearances

OK class, today's lesson is on the appearance of public impropriety. The expectation is that public officials may not work on the side for companies that do business with the public agencies they head. A breach of this expectation may not be a violation of the letter of the law and is not necessarily a red flag indicating malfeasance, but such breaches are likely to attract negative attention when they are disclosed. Such situations also tend to make headlines when revealed. This is a lesson probably well understood now by Dallas Dance, the superintendent of Baltimore County Public Schools, after news that he had a private gig with a firm that does business with county school system. Dance has since quit his consulting job with the Illinois-based SUPES Academy. (Patuxent)

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What's next for Baltimore's speed cameras

Baltimore City taxpayers are now the proud owners of 155 speed cameras and 81 red light cameras, none of which are currently operable. For a mere $600,000 (on top of $2.2 million for the cameras themselves), Baltimore has ended its relationship with a vendor that was unable to assure reliable and accurate use of the city's extensive traffic enforcement camera network. Now some City Council members are suggesting that we wash our hands of speed cameras altogether, with one proposing that we fund new police traffic enforcement by putting the equipment on eBay. (Balt. Sun)

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Dean Minnich: Nostalgia, emotions guide decisions

A consulting firm was hired to tell the county school administration what professional staff already knows: We have a school or two that should be closed or consolidated, and redistricting is probably in order. Good luck with that. It took years to get parents and even people whose children left school generations ago to concede the time had come to close the school in Uniontown. Nostalgia and emotions like community pride trumped common sense and fiscal responsibility — and even good education. (Carroll Co. Times)

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