1. Ken Ulman running for governor of Maryland - Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is term limited and must step down from his office in 2014. Many suspect Ulman will make a gubernatorial run in 2014, although he has not yet officially announced his intentions. Despite this, Ulman has been making appearances around the state, such as with Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker, hosting , supporting controversial state legislation such as the expanded gambling referendum (Question 7) and weighing in on national issues like gay marriage and gun control. As of January 2012, Ulman had $1.3 million in campaign cash, hinting toward his capability to fundraise enough money to make a real run at governor. Once his latest fundraising numbers are released in January of 2013, the picture may become clearer.
2. Major Weather Events - Two major weather events swept through Howard County in 2012, the Derecho and Superstorm Sandy. In 2011, Hurricane Irene and fall rains caused flooding in the county. The Maryland Department of the Environment classified both Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene as 20-year-storms, meaning storms of their magnitude are only expected about every 20 years. With average temperatures continuing to climb in the area, scientists in Maryland believe storms may get worse before things get better. “Over the past three decades, Maryland’s climate has become hotter and water levels within the Chesapeake Bay have continued to rise," said Zoe Johnson, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources' program manager for climate change. "The region’s recent extreme storms and weather have demonstrated just how vulnerable our natural resources and infrastructure can be to such events."
3. The relationship between the teacher's union and the central school administration - New Howard County Schools superintendent Renee Foose is already dealing with a mini controversy between the school's teacher's union (Howard County Education Association or HCEA) and central administration staff over the national Race to the Top program. HCEA president Paul Lemle has said multiple times his organization does not support tying teachers' pay and reviews to student performance on standardized tests, which is a portion of Race to the Top. Most recently, the issue came to a head when Lemle refused to sign a grant application written feverishly by central staff for up to $30 million in federal Race to the Top funds. Without the union's signature, the application was not selected as a finalist and as a result, the school system is out of the running for this grant.
4. Downtown Columbia Development - With wrangling over the Downtown Columbia plan largely complete, the first phases of development around the lakefront and the Mall in Columbia are set to begin in 2013. Construction on the Metropolitan Downtown Building will start in January. Howard Hughes will begin renovating the former Rouse Company building to make way for the 2014 opening of Whole Foods next year. And Clyde's will begin its $4 million renovations in January as well. Expect more announcements of new businesses and buildings next year as well.
5. Mall Redevelopment - L.L. Bean will officially close in May of 2013, making way for the redevelopment of the Mall in Columbia to begin. As part of that process, the mall will demolish the current L.L. Bean store space and add 75,000 square feet of new retail and restaurant space in its place as well as a connection to the Columbia Lakefront. The addition will bring new stores and restaurants to the retail center.
6. Increase in the county's speed camera program? - When the Howard County Council first passed the county's it allowed police to station up to eight speed cameras around the county. Currently only two are on patrol. But given the recent backlash against the cameras, is the county ready to increase the size of the program?
7. Clarksville Funeral Home - Many neighbors of a proposed Clarksville funeral home are staunchly against the funeral home's construction. Residents say the funeral home will cause traffic, environmental and quality of life concerns if built. The lawyer for the owner has said the funeral home meets zoning requirements and that the neighbors simply don't want a funeral home built in the location on Route 108 among wealthy neighborhoods.
8. Arrests in recent violent crime cases - Police will be working to make arrests in a number of recent violent crime incidents. Police are searching for two men who allegedly shot a Taco Bell manager at the Taco Bell on Minstrel Way in November, the armed robbers who bound and robbed employees at Zips Cleaners in November and the perpetrators of two armed home invasions in Columbia in December. Also, the Howard County sheriff's office is on the hunt for a pair of suspected door kick-in burglars who failed to show up at their November court hearing.
9. Wilde Lake Village Center redevelopment - The new Wilde Lake Village center will begin to take shape in 2013. Kimco Realty, the developers, said construction will likely begin in the spring on the redevelopment which will include an expanded courtyard, a larger space for David's Natural Market, 250 new residential units and a new drugstore, according to Explore Howard.