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Today is the last day of classes for the spring semester at TU, so it’s probably a good time to review the last year in Town & Gown relations.


Homecoming tailgate – After the 2007 fiasco that spilled into the community, Towson administrators did what they could to squelch and problems (and fun) from the event. There were significantly less people attending the annual tailgate. Presumably there was less underage drinking and parties in the community still occurred, but from reports, weren’t any worse than last year. And that’s all we can ask for, right?


 Crime in the bar district – Alcohol related incidents continued to increase this year. As of the fall, public intoxication, underage drinking, fake IDs, public urination and DUI had all increased in the bar district among Towson students. The community gripes that those caught are just a few of the offenders as many drunken students make their way back to houses in the residential neighborhoods. The University tells community members that they should call 911 and the Towson Life Line for assistance. Neighbors haven’t and won’t be satisfied with either response.


The Great Arena Battle – Beginning at the end of January, Rodgers Forge made it very clear that they did NOT want the University to expand the Towson Center in the manner that was planned. Noise and parking were the two biggest complaints. The key problem, though, was the lack of communication. RF residents found out about the plans through the Baltimore Sun and/or trees being ripped out from behind their houses at 8 a.m. on New Years Eve. After two closed-door meetings, the sides agreed on moving the site to the opposite side of the Arena. It meant more costs for Towson, but relieving the headache was worth it. That’s one expensive Tylenol. The sides signed an MOU. We’ll see how long it lasts.


That’s part one in my review series. Check back for more tidbits on Tigerfest and rental properties.


About a month ago when I sat down with Nancy Hafford from the Towson Chamber, she said that Forbes Magazine’s latest listing of the nation’s “Most Livable” cities included Towson.

Really? That’s what I said.

Just looked it up. She was partially correct. Towson is lumped in as “Baltimore/Towson,” which is an interesting pairing nonetheless. TU has billed itself for the last few years at a “Metropolitan” University, pumping up its association with the city and its abundance of resources.

Fact is, Towson is minutes from the city line and students do get a chance to take advantage of some of its greatest opportunities; both professionally and socially.

The social aspect is obvious. When uptown is too small town for a party-loving student, he/she can head downtown to the Inner Harbor. Professionally, though, TU has taken full advantage of partnerships with major businesses in Baltimore and the students have benefited from that as well. Internship and job placement opportunities remain strong in Baltimore despite the recession.

While Towson surely loves the fact that they are considered among the “Most Livable” places in the nation, I don’t know how much they’d appreciate the pairing. Baltimore can also be synonymous with crime, traffic, drug abuse and general unrest.

I guess it’s a situation where it depends on how you see the glass: Half empty or half full?


Great. Just great.

The Towson community used their political clout to get their way again. Since people in these parts can’t stop reproducing and the neighborhood has thrived, leading to more young families moving into the area, they are being rewarded with a new elementary school. The Baltimore Sun reported last week that there is going to be a new school built on Charles Street next to the Ridge Ruxton School… West Towson Elementary.

Great. Just great.

Can you imagine the traffic that’s going to occur there? I love Charles Street and drive it every day when commuting to campus. I can probably navigate 695 with my eyes closed and know exactly where exit 25 is. Maybe I’ll try that sometime and see how it goes.

But back to my point. Traffic is going to be absurd. I can see it now. All of those young moms with their bulky minivans driving slowly in the right-hand lane trying to turn in and out. Then you have the school buses. Oh boy are they going to slow everything down. It’s rough enough driving that road without big cheese-colored buses driving snot-nosed kids around. It’s going to make my life so difficult. I don’t know how to handle it.

And to think, it could be solved so easily. If these young families would stop flooding this collegetown with their small children that for some reason need to be educated, then it would all be solved. We wouldn’t need to spend tax-payer dollars to build a school, hire teachers, bus drivers, and all of those other unneeded positions.

Why can’t the community just learn to live within its means and stick to the schools they already have? Why do they have to pop out all of these kids and then build another school? And is it really that bad with the overcrowded schools?

When I was in grade school, every year there were trailers. I even spent fourth grade in a trailer behind the school grounds. It was really hot in the summer and we wore our jackets in the winter to keep warm, but it was fun. I was fine. I earned A’s and moved my way through to receive a college education.

I really think the community should have brought this issue to those that commute along Charles Street every day. We are stakeholders in that street, too. We should have a say in what goes up on that road. And I for one, don’t want to see Bob the Builder bookbags when I’m driving to class.

And think about the ambulances going to the hospitals! What’s going to happen when they can’t get up the road because of a school bus clogging up traffic?

Great. Just great.

A few weeks ago I talked to Nancy Hafford from the Towson Chamber about the influx of new faces coming into the Towson are and how the business community would respond. Most thought that it was just students that would be flooding Towson and filling up the new apartment complexes. As a “seasoned” news reporter I should have known that this was not the case. As any area news monger worth a darn knows that anything somehow involves BRAC.

The Base Realignment that will bring thousands to work in Harford County around the Aberdeen Proving Grounds will also bring many to Northern Baltimore County. For those white collar members of BRAC that wish to be a little closer to a city feel would love Towson. Its right by 695 for a short trip up into Harford County and it’s halfway from work toward downtown Baltimore.

The Towson Times wrote this week about a bus trip of potential newcomers that was shown around Towson. According to the article, many of the short-term employees may maintain their homes in New Jersey, but live during the week in apartments only to commute back to the Garden State for weekends to see family.

While these workers would be ideal for the buildings renting out apartments, it isn’t exactly what the business community would want, I imagine. These types are not likely to stay for the weekend and spend money. Neighborhood leaders also would surely prefer families that get involved in communities and better the area.

Of course, I’m sure anything would be better than a student living in the house.

Aren’t the spring showers supposed to be gone by May? I was looking forward a weekend of sunshine at the Towsontown Spring Festival, but Mother Nature had other feelings.
According to Towerlight senior writer Nick DiMarco, 30 percent of the scheduled vendors didn’t show up on Sunday when it rained all day. It kinda defeated the purpose of the event as a whole. I really wanted to get out for some Mother’s Day shopping (what mom doesn’t love an arts and crafts project for her special day) but my mom will just have to settle for breakfast and a gift card.
Nonetheless, more than 400 exhibits lined the streets of uptown Towson. Last year, nearly a quarter of a million people turned out for the event. Attendance was down, but more than a hundred thousand still roamed the streets in search of the perfect pit beef sandwich or one-of-a-kind woodwork.

There may be a disagreement over who should take credit for the idea, but, honestly, it doesn’t matter. The University is beginning an off-campus ambassadors pilot program this summer.

The pilot will begin in Burkleigh Square, a small neighborhood off of York Road that has been hit particularly hard by students moving into single-family homes. Carol Galladian, TU’s coordinator for off-campus student services, is taking applications and trying to recruit students for the program.

In short, the students will be expected to serve as liaisons between the University, the community and the students living off campus. It has been consistently iterated that they are NOT RA’s. They will hold no judicial power and will not be expected to snitch on trouble houses.

Back to the first point I made here: Who gets to take credit for this program? A few months ago at a GTCCA meeting, Marina Cooper from TU mentioned the program during her report. Shortly after she finished, Ed Kilcullen, GTCCA prez responded quickly, and rather harshly, accusing Marina of “not doing her homework” for taking responsibility for coming up with the idea for the program. When Marina asked Ed to speak with him after the meeting if there was any confusion, he continued.

It’s pretty simple, and I discussed this in my last post. This really needs to stop being an “Us vs. Them” situation. Does Marina taking credit for the idea stop disruptive behavior in the communities? Does Ed getting credit stop students from urinating in his street outside his home in Towson Manor Village? It does neither.

Cooperation is the only thing that will solve this problem with both sides walking away with some level of success. The ambassadors are coming, no matter who thought if it first.

The news that a family of four was found dead in the Sheraton across from the Towson Town Center in an apparent murder/suicide was sobering enough until word came out that one of the victims was a student at Loyola College. The family was visiting from New York, possibly for Craig’s Fest, the semesterly concert that was held on April 20.

It’s a shock to this town, and the college network as a whole during what was meant to be a week of celebration for many campuses. Towson has Tigerfest. As I mentioned, Loyola just finished up Craig’s Fest. College Park has Maryland Day. UMBC just had Quadmania. That’s not mentioning the Towson Town Festival on the horizon.

Nothing is going to be revealed in this story that will make anybody feel better about what happened. It’s a sad page in the history of the Towson area and the Loyola College family. My prayers will be with the deceased.

Rumor has it that the recession and the continued collapse of the newspaper industry has hit Towson. Patuxent Publishing, a Tribune Company corporation and mother company for all of the ‘Times’ papers in Baltimore County, already closed its office in Towson. Reporter, photographers, etc., all now work from home. They send their copy to editors in a single location for all the ‘Times’ papers instead of an individual editor for a singular publication.

This saves money on space and personnel. Too bad it destroys the small-town feel of the papers and inhibits community members’ attachment and access to the publication. But that’s not important. Clearly, by making the paper LESS personal it will drive revenue. You know what else will drive revenue? How about making Towson Times monthly? That wasn’t a snarky remark you have become accustomed to if you are a regular Town & Gown reader.

That’s the rumor rolling around. The Towson Times as a monthly publication would just about destroy the paper entirely. Unless it embraced an entire magazine format, which I highly doubt is the case, it will simply be the weekly Towson Times put out once a month. While this may improve the overall profit per issue ratio, it doesn’t mean that they will have enough money to pay writers, photographers or editors. The numbers will drop, meaning the quality of the paper will drop, and then the readers will just ignore it all together. Why do newspapers seem to think that the best way to increase profits is by hurting the quality of the paper?

Just a word of warning to anybody about to read this post. I’m not reporting on any public urination, noise violations, angry neighbors, drunken students, proposed legislation or policy changes. I’m talking about the festival so this post will be as fluffy and cotton candy.
I sat down with Exec. Director for the Towson Chamber Nancy Hafford yesterday. Her office was a whirlwind and if anybody has ever Nancy, they know she’s a twister that’s always spinning. And right now, it’s Towsontown Festival time so her days are more filled than ever. One of (if not THE) largest street festival in the state, the Towsontown Festival brings people by the tens of thousands to the area every spring.
Music, performances and all kinds food vendors will line the streets of uptown Towson. It’s one event that both students and community members enjoy equally.
I’ve been each of my three years as a Towson student and since I’ll have passed the torch to the next Editor in Chief at The Towerlight at that point, I’ll actually be able to get out for the weekend this year and have a good time without having to worry about stories between bites of my dripping wet pit beef sandwich.
I highly recommend anybody within driving distance to make the trek. It’s a great weekend of events and if we are blessed with good weather, there are few better ways to spend a spring day.
That’s my PR post of the semester, controversy free. Every blog needs some fluff now and again. I don’t really like cotton candy, though. I’m more of a funnel cake kind of guy.

It’s difficult to come into a heated altercation after it’s already begun. It’s like when a teacher comes out into the hall and two kids are rolling around on the ground, scratching and cussing, trying to get a good right hook in at the other. Meanwhile, everybody else in the hall gathers round and starts screaming. Most of those circled round don’t know what happened, but suddenly think they have a vested interest because they kinda know one of the kids in the fight.
The teacher steps in and tries to break it up without ending up with a bloody nose. Who started the fight? It doesn’t matter. Surely, neither side is completely innocent. It likely stems from an ongoing problem that boiled over into the melee. And all the teacher has to go on is the ugly, probably bruised and bloody, fight that just took place for all to see.
That’s how the Towson University – Community verbal, legal, legislative battle royal has devolved in the last two years. My poor classmate David Kosak is trying to catch up on the issue for his blog, MDistrict 42. Amid his interest in local politics, it became evident that this is the overarching issue. Just like that teacher trying to break up the fight, David is coming into this after while the two sides are fully engaged in the battle. I saw him at the Master Plan Update meeting last week. He attended a smaller, community association meeting earlier this week. He’s offered his views on the issue.
“The university helps stabilize the community while the university benefits from the quality of its neighborhoods who insulate the campus. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way this understanding was lost. Each side blinded by their own initiatives forgot to consult the other. Sadly, the long-standing marriage hit a rough patch and each is shouting for a divorce. Instead of boisterous complaints and newspaper headlines, each needs to sit down and sort their differences. The partnership worked in the past, why are we so ready to abandon it now?”
For the full post, check here: MDistrict 42
David has encapsulated the whole situations pretty well here. Both parties at odds here need one another to survive. Towson would not be the political hub with a vibrant economic base of small businesses and upper-middle class housing if it weren’t for the University. Its presence alone increases the value of the neighborhood. At the same time, without the support the community, the University will struggle. As new football coach Rob Ambrose keeps trying to encourage the community to invest in the athletic department, more neighbors turn up their nose at the thought of endorsing an institution they view as destructive to their livelihood.
Who started the fight? Who took the first swing?
There is no law, no moral line that states students shouldn’t be allowed to live in residential communities. For years two houses behind mine in Arbutus has been filled with a rotation of UMBC students. They have a few parties, but nothing gets too raucous. There are surely problem houses out there, but to say all students behave in such a manner is absurd.
Should the University have found better ways to work with community leaders to establish a relationship of mutual understanding and cooperation long before any of these issues developed? A little foresight couldn’t have hurt.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter who threw the first punch. At some point, both sides need to accept the position each is in and work toward a reasonable conclusion. Smear campaigns such as aren’t making the situation any easier. My further extraction of the site’s integrity will come later, but that’s another blog post.