Tag: development

O’Malley Declares War on Sprawl


You know how parts of Columbia (or Owings Mills, or Pikesville) just feel like vast swaths of strip malls with rivers of traffic in between? That’s what the urban planners like to call “low-density development,” aka sprawl. And it was all the rage back in the day… Until now, when Maryland has wound up with an average commute time (32 minutes) that’s longer than those in New Jersey or New York, and an immanent shortage of land.

These days  people are much more aware of the high, hidden (and sometimes not-so-hidden) costs of development that maximizes drive-time, land-gobbling, and paving everything in sight:  it’s bad for our farmland, for the Chesapeake Bay, and (if you’ve got to commute, or drive to the grocery store for more milk) our moods. So kudos to O’Malley and the whole Department of Planning for creating PlanMaryland, “a statewide smart growth plan that encourages the development of high-density residential pockets along established lines of infrastructure.” In a nutshell, the plan hopes to create a sustainable, smartly planned Baltimore-Washington mega-region.

High density sounds kind of… crowded, though, right? Well, that’s part of the problem; the state is running out of land at a rapid clip. (In the past four decades, Maryland’s population grew by 30 percent — but its land consumption increased by 100 percent, O Malley points out) To manage all the people we have now (and all the new ones who are coming in the next decades), we’ll need transportation, housing, sanitation, education, and public safety plans. Hence PlanMaryland.

On a quick read, the plan seems to be city-centric, and call for investments in already-existing urban areas. Will the counties feel left out? Some are already protesting the plan (and throwing around words like “communism”). Others say O’Malley’s vision is too timid and conciliatory to make any real change happen. Your take? Tell us, and tell the governor — the public comment period for PlanMaryland ends this week!

SpongeBob SquarePants is Making Your Kids Stupider


In the good academic tradition of keeping things anonymous, when Pediatrics published a study questioning the cognitive effects of a particular children’s television show, they identified it only as “a very popular fantastical cartoon about an animated sponge that lives under the sea.”

So all we can say is that a show that may or may not be SpongeBob SquarePants is responsible for impairing kids’ ability to remember, self-regulate, and pay attention (also known as executive function) after only a few minutes of viewing. The study’s authors hypothesize that it’s SpongeBob’s (sorry, we mean the very popular undersea animated sponge‘s) quick pace that may influence the kids’ behavior. (Children who were shown a slower-paced PBS cartoon performed better on the executive function tasks.)

This is, of course, bad news for any parent who’s had to sit through a glacially-paced (and incredibly boring) episode of Blues Clues. SpongeBob is just more fun to watch — for adults at least. But then again, I was raised on a steady diet of hyper-kinetic Looney Tunes, and I turned out fine, I think.

So what’s your take on kids’ TV — a threat to healthy development, or an overblown influence?