From the County Executive's Office

Dear Taylor Village Residents,

I am writing to update you on the status of Ellicott City Cable's (ECC) application for a secondary cable franchise in Taylor Village.

Today I will pre-file a resolution recommending approval of ECC's application for a secondary cable franchise. If the County Council approves the resolution, that would simply permit ECC to begin negotiating a formal cable franchise agreement with the County. With the exception of any tolling agreement, the law provides that such a cable franchise agreement must be approved within 90 days following the Council's decision to pass the resolution.

My decision to submit the resolution recommending approval rests upon ECC meeting two objectives. First, ECC has taken corrective action to address and repair any and all FCC and safety issues identified in a previous report conducted by an engineer hired by the County.

Secondly, I have been clear that ECC must permit competition into its marketplace. To date, I am pleased that Verizon has open access and Comcast is close to achieving the same level of service. Prior to the County entering into the cable franchise agreement, I will require that both carriers have the ability to offer their services to all residents.

Following today's submission, the following dates reflect the County Council's process it will follow, including opportunities for you to share your opinion on the matter:
- Formal introduction of the resolution will occur on April 7.
- A public hearing will occur on April 22 at 7:30 pm.
- The Council will hold a work session on April 28.
- The Council's final vote will occur on May 5.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Aaron Greenfield at 410.313.2013.

Looks pretty good from my perspective
Got this in my e-mail box from Ken Ulman (Howard County Executive) over the weekend

Dear Taylor Village Residents,

preamble ) As you know, however, significant problems with Ellicott City Cable's quality of service and residents' lack of access to competing cable providers have continued.

Based on the ongoing service complaints, the lack of open competition, and the numerous problems identified in an independent engineer's report, I have submitted a resolution to the County Council to deny Ellicott City Cable's application for a secondary cable franchise in Taylor Village. A copy of the resolution is attached. The County Council will be accepting testimony on this resolution at its public hearing on Monday, November 19, at 7:30 p.m. in the Banneker Room at the George Howard Building (3430 Courthouse Drive, Ellicott City). You can also submit testimony by email to

some more stuff )
I stayed up till 12:30 hitting refresh watching the ballot numbers. It was pretty clear by that point that the two big races, Governer & Senate, weren't going to be decided at a reasonable hour (if at all), and they weren't posting numbers for the County Council races.

As of 10:47 this morning, O'Malley holds enough of a lead that it's likely the Absentee ballots will not break hard enough Republican for Ehrlich to recover. That doesn't mean they won't, but it's unlikely. Edit: While I was writing this, Ehrlich has apparently called to concede to O'Malley (Yay!). Cardin seems to have an insurmountable lead in the Senate race, which is good. He was, in my opinion, the only vastly better candidate, in relation to his opponent, in the statewide races. And that, despite Rolle's far right campaign in the Republican Representative primary against Bartlett two years ago. My statewide slate ended up going straight Democrat, but I voted to reelect my State Senator, a Republican, as well as one of the two incumbent Republican Delegates (and some minor races as well).

The best news of the night was that Ken Ulman, the County Councilman who helped us in our fight against Ellicott City Cable, did get elected to the County Executive position. One other item is that we received in the mail yesterday, a letter from said cable company.

[sarcasm]I was shocked (shocked I tell you!) to discover that, having had their comeuppance, they've lowered their cable rates from 65 a month to 31 a month![/sarcasm]

Still not getting my business, those bastards
On October 31, the Howard County Council passed CB69-2006, with amendments introduced by Ken Ulman (admittedly a man running for the County Executive). The amendments were introduced after Councilman Ulman met residents of Taylor Village

The full bill can be seen here.

The important part of the amendments is as follows:

A secondary franchisee may not execute a contract with a Developer, Homeowner's Association or Council of unit owners of a condominium regime or otherwise cause a covenant to be put into effect that requires or has the effect of requiring a purchaser of a lot or a unit in the development within the secondary franchise area to pay a cable fee as part of a covenanted homeowner's or unit owner's mandatory assessment. Any such convenanted assessment existing prior to a county council hearing on a secondary franchise application shall be revoke prior to county council consideration of the secondary franchise application.
From today's Baltimore Sun on the Cable Bill

article behind the cut )

"I'm receptive if the other council members want to do something to save it. I need to hear more. I don't want to turn it into a political thing in a political year," Feaga said.

It was a political thing the moment you stuck your neck out for your close personal friend, Councilman Feaga.

"I'm certainly open to discussing all of those options," Merdon said. "Right now, I'm not in favor of it as it stands"

Merdon's my Councilman, and running against Ulman for Executive. While I fully admit to being a Democrat and Merdon is the Republican in the campaign, his response leaves me underwhelmed in a way that I think goes beyond political leanings. It sounds like he's going to take a passive role on this as much as possible.
Howard County Edition: Page 5

Howard County Council Member Charles Feaga, R-District 5, is asking the County Council to withdraw legislation he introduced that would create a secondary cable franchise classification for companies, allowing developers to provide customized cable to new communities. The bill, which was intended to create a competitive marketplace, came under fire at a recent public hearing. Residents from Taylor Village in Ellicott City said this bill would force residents to purchase cable from certain companies

Well if there was any doubt whose side (blech)The Examiner was on, it's right there in black and uh... gray. They've been rightward leaning their entire time and their defense of Feaga's bill, even as it slinks off to regroup, is just another sign of the crap that paper puts out. Feaga and Taylor, the developer, are close friends and Feaga knew exactly what the bill was doing.

The war's not over, but it's another battle to the good guys.

Update: This afternoon's Legislative Work Session of the Council has been cancelled. Not sure what that means for the long run. The voting session is next week.
Councilman Ulman came to our community last night to discuss possible compromises on the Ellicott City Cable issue. We're not in his district; we're in Merdon's. Merdon and Ulman are the two councilmen competing for the County Executive, so it's a little odd. I'm not sure whether he knows someone in the development, was politically poaching, or has a genuine interest. But he didn't bring up his campaign at all during the meeting and I think, in the end, it was productive.

His basic proposal was this: "You're right in that you've got a problem here. We can do one of two things, reject the bill entirely, or pass it in a way that's to your benefit. The risk you take with the first one is that there's going to be an entirely new council next year and you don't know what you'll get."

His thinking makes sense. And I think, with our help, a good bill may come out of this. That's a good thing. Right now I don't know how Ellicott City Cable will be able to compete, but I anticipate Taylor will not be happy with the outcome as proposed. Right now the plan is to table the bill for amendments, Ulman says he has enough votes to make that happen, and then move on it next month.

I don't know why Merdon hasn't been more involved in the issue, but Ulman just got my wife's and my vote.
So I took a couple actions on it yesterday, other than posting my plight to a couple of LJ communities centered in Maryland.

Today I called the Department of Consumer Affairs to thank them for sending a representative to the Council Meeting on Monday. The person I spoke with was not the rep at the meeting, but the one I've been working with over the past few months. She said that it's now not likely to pass, at least not intact and certainly not to the wishes of the Developer. Though we should remain vigilant on the matter

Council working session: late September
Vote: October 3rd.

I'll be there for both.
Last year we moved into our new home. We've been very happy, overally, with the property and are thrilled to have our own single family home, even if we're paying a ridiculous amount of money for it. This past spring however, our developer came to our Home Owner's Association meeting and informed us that they had signed a contract with a cable company to provide exclusive service to our community and we would have to pay $65.00 a month for the next five years...

...whether we used the company or not.

Now the developer, since our community is still under development, owns an 80% share in the HOA, so anything they want to do, they can. But we began fighting it immediately. When we asked what justfication they had for it, they said it was in the HOA documents. We asked where. They gave us a section in the easements section where it says they can lay lines on the property. (but nothing about charging us $65.00 a month). We asked to see the contract, and they said it hadn't been signed yet.

You might want to go reread the first paragraph if you don't know why I underlined that portion.

It took referring the matter to the Consumer Affairs office to even get a look at the contract. It turns out the contract is for ten years, and they said, there's nothing to prove the contract wasn't signed the day before they got it. And you know what else, it turns out that the cable company is owned by the developer. That's right, he's using his power to force us into an arrangement to benefit himself.

Tonight the County Council, courtesy Councilman Charles Feaga, took up a resolution that would grant this faux cable company the power to do exactly what it wants in this situation. The bill is CB69-2006. So, as a dedicated county resident, I came and spoke against it, along with many of my neighbors.

It was a nerve wracking and tiring experience. I'm not the best as a public speaker, especially when forced to sit down. I think and speak better on my feet. But I got up and I spoke, and despite the fact the developer will likely try and find any way he can to get a lien on my, and my neighbors who also spoke out's properties, I am proud of what I did.

They did not vote on this last night; that happens on October 3rd. So, I ask you, if you're a Howard County resident, to contact your council member and strongly encourage them to vote against CB69-2006.

And if Councilmen Merdon or Ulman, who are up for the Executive office in November do vote for it, I want you to remind them you will remember when elections come around.



August 2011

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