Money magazine recently ranked the combined Columbia/Ellicott City area No. 2 on its "Best Places to Live in America" list.
A less secure burg might not have gone all out to celebrate coming in behind someplace with "prairie" in its name. (Eden Prairie, Minn., was No. 1 in the best small city category.)
But Howard County celebrated its secondary status in a big way at Centennial Park Wednesday night.
With the song "It Takes Two" playing in the background, a collection of local No. 2s took the stage. County Council Vice Chair Mary Kay Sigaty, Deputy Police Maj. Gary Gardner, Fire Department Deputy Chief Charlie Sharpe … You get the idea.
County Executive Ken Ulman read a Top 10 list of slogans inspired by the honor, along with Council Chairwoman Courtney Watson:
No. 10: Howard County, 2nd to None
No. 9: Woo-Hoo … We're # 2
No. 8: Money Talks — and it says We're #2
No. 7: 2 Good 2 be True
No. 6: Howard County — #1 in our Hearts, #2 in Money Magazine
No. 5: Howard County Loves the View from #2
No. 4: Second only to Eden
No. 3: Howard County — A heartbeat away from #1
No. 2: Make 2nd Your Home Base
And, the No. 1 slogan for the No. 2 ranking: Who cares about No. 1, it's all about No. 2
They handed out No. 2 pencils and 500 foam hands with two fingers extended. "Columbia/Ellicott City — Here's 2 You!" the fingers read.
With all the big egos in politics, self-deprecating municipal humor can be hard to come by. Why did Howard County take that No. 2 ranking with such good humor?
Could be the glut of shrinks in Columbia has made the place exceedingly well adjusted. (Columbia has more shrinks per capita than anywhere else in the state, or at least it did when I covered it. The town had support groups for people who ran support groups.)
Or perhaps it's because Kevin Enright, Ulman's very funny spokesman, is kid brother to Michael Enright, former right-hand man to Gov. Martin O'Malley. I bounced that junior-sibling psychoanalysis off Kevin.
His reply: "I am kid brother to Maureen, Deirdre, Sean, Sheila, Kathleen and Mike."
Lobbying for trees
Bruce Bereano, lobbyist for gambling, liquor, tobacco, motorcycle riders without helmets, body piercing and tanning, has a new, surprisingly wholesome pro-bono client: trees.
The city of Annapolis wants to cut down two old trees in the 100 block of Duke of Gloucester St., where Bereano has his lobbying office, and another on nearby Conduit Street. There's a willow and a northern red oak, each 70 to 80 years old, and a Siberian elm, about 50 years old. They're all about 40 feet tall.
City arborist Jan Van Zutland found they were in declining health and examined them with landscape architect Jim Urban.
"Using a rubber mallet, Jan determined that sections of the trees near the base were hollow," city spokesman Phillip McGowan told me. "The trees pose an unacceptable risk to public safety and property and they need to be brought down as soon as possible. The risk is especially high given the threat of thunderstorms, and associated high winds, during the summer."
Bereano wants the "magnificent" trees to stay.
"They say they're rotting inside, they're a hazard, they're a danger, they're gonna fall," he said. "The trees are solid as a rock. The trunks are so majestic and beautiful."
Bereano testified against their removal at a Historic Preservation Commission meeting earlier this month, and included a recitation of a poem by Joyce Kilmer as part of his presentation. "I think that I shall never see/A poem as lovely as a tree …"
The city withdrew its application to remove the trees at the meeting — but only because the historic commission wanted more details on replacement trees and a long-range plan for tree management in the historic district, McGowan said. The city still intends to take them down.
But Bereano has not given up on the trees — or his new identity.
"Big, bad lobbyist being an unpaid pro-bono environmental lobbyist," he marveled. "I'm a hugger. I'm a hugger."
Text ENTERTAINMENT to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun entertainment news text alerts