CA Board Identifies Possible Focus Areas For FY19 (The Villager 2018-04)

Columbia Association Board Identifies Possible Focus Areas for FY19

This article was published at The Villager of River Hill Village Association, April 2018 Issue.

The Columbia Association’s Board of Directors has been considering what to focus on in the upcoming fiscal year. The Board brainstormed at their March work session and identified topics they believe are most importance to the Columbia Association and Columbia Residents. The topics are varied:

  1. The annual charge rate and revenue,
  2. Declining shares of membership numbers,
  3. Membership types and price, service quality,
  4. Commercial property covenant enforcement,
  5. CA’s role in the downtown development and lakefront design,
  6. Ever increasing maintenance cost on bridges, ponds and open maintenance,
  7. CA’s relationship with each individual village,
  8. CA’s role in the county land development regulations,
  9. How CA is responding to changes and competition from other vendors,
  10. Assessment of what services and programs should be offered by CA versus other entities, and
  11. How CA can better serve younger adults, particularly in their late teens to age 35.

The Board will pick two to three topics within the next month and ask CA staff to focus on them over the next 12 months.

Based on the list above, what issues are most important you? Are there CA-related issues that you believe the Board should consider that are not listed? I look forward to hearing your feedback.

Chao Wu, Ph.D.

River Hill Representative to Columbia Council and Columbia Association Board of Directors

Email:  Website:

Disclaimer: This letter only represents Dr. Chao Wu’s personal opinion. It does not represent River Hill Board of Directors nor Columbia Association’s Board.


2018 First Generation Candidates in Howard County

There are many first generation American citizens running for public office this year in Howard County. I asked Baltimore Sun (Columbia Flier) to have some coverage on this topic and have not heard back yet. I believe this is an interesting topic. Every candidate can share his/her unique story.

For the 2018 BOE election, there are four first time and first generation candidates: myself, Saif Rehman, Anita Pandey and Sabina Taj. For the county council, there are three candidates: Raj Kathuria( District 1), John Liao ( District 2), Hiruy Hadgu(District 3).

I had an interview with ACM media in Rockville, Maryland in March, 2018. I talked about why I want to run and what I want to bring to the Howard County BOE. It was conducted in Chinese. Both John and I were interviewed together.

I am running for BOE because I want to bring change and a new perspective to the school board. School budget, school safety and student performance are my top priorities. I want to bring an engineer and analyst background to the board, seek common ground and look for practical and optimal solutions to solve many problems HCPSS is facing now.

If you can understand Chinese a little bit, please watch it.

Support of Long Reach Village Redevelopment

I support the Long Reach Village Center Redevelopment project which will help the Long Reach Village center. Whenever I drive into or pass by that village center, I feel that village needs a redevelopment. Last week, we had a candidate forum there, my feeling got stronger.

The county zoning board made a decision to delay this project for a year until this year’s election. One year delay will dramatically change the project perspective, for example, the developer may pull out and everything will start over. The current plan has been supported by almost all parties involved and there is no reason for delaying it at all.
Each successful village is a part of Columbia spirit. I wish Long Reach Village Center will join this.
If you feel the same, please consider writing to council members Ms. Jen Terrasa and Dr. Calvin Ball.  The email is listed below and cc your email to other council members. I know other council members are supporting this project and they want to have a vote on this redevelopment project.,,

A letter from Oakland Mills Community Association( they asked me to share it publicly).

The Honorable Jen Terrasa
Chairperson, Howard County Zoning Board
3430 Court House Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21043

The Honorable Calvin Ball
Vice Chairperson, Howard County Zoning Board
3430 Court House Drive
Ellicott City, MD 21043

Dear Zoning Board Chairperson Terrasa and Vice Chairperson Ball:

The Oakland Mills Community Association (OMCA), requests that you immediately reconsider your refusal to schedule a Zoning Board hearing in April 2018 regarding the redevelopment of the Long Reach Village Center. A Zoning Board delay will bring the project to a screeching halt for almost a year, time which the older Columbia villages, like ours, simply cannot afford to lose.

The thousands of residents who live in the older villages are deeply concerned about our village centers, whose retail merchants are severely challenged by drastic changes in the retail scene and in the economic circumstances of the properties surrounding them. We have been closely following the plans to redevelop Long Reach in the hope that it will point a way forward for other villages with similar challenges.

The County must move this project forward for several important reasons. The costs to the County in delaying the sale of the center would be substantial and have a negative impact on the County’s FY19 budget and on the County’s annual tax base. Equally as important as the financial implication of a delay is the forward momentum that the residents of Long Reach deserve and are in desperate need of. Village centers were and should remain the heart and soul of each village. The redevelopment of Long Reach is a critical step in finding the way forward for Long Reach and all older villages. OMCA wants to ensure that developers see revitalization of older village centers as opportunities to invest in Howard County’s established communities, and we request quick reconsideration to hold the Long Reach Village Center hearing with the Zoning Board in April.


Jonathan Edelson
Chairman, Oakland Mills Community Association

Summary of CA board meeting on 2018-3-22

 Resident SpeakOut:

  1. Chris Alleva, talked about Howard Hughs should be more cooperative with CA, since CA is very cooperative with them.  He talked about Howard Hughs was against competition. He talked about the county zoning and CA’s possible commercial covenant enforcement.
  2. Susan Campbell, brought a zoning violation case ( Bruce R. Altschuler and Rught P. Altschuler versus Howard County Planning Board).  There was a dispute of a 33-feet amateur communication tower. The Kings Contrivance Village RAC approved it and the zoning board disallowed it.
  3. Paul Verchinski,  kudos to CA’s snow cleaning effort across the bridge at American City Building, asked CA board to take a position on Long Reach Village Redevelopment effort. Right now the zoning board tabled the approval of it. It will slow down the redevelopment for at least a year.  Some senior dropped out of CA facility because of fees, facilities, and competitions.  EV  charge station was discussed.
  4. Eric Avant, Harper’s Choice, liked the new tennis facility at Long Reach Village. He liked the podcast and video conference of CA board meetings. He asked CA not to install the village sign for Harper’s Choice.

President Report

Columbia was named the ―12th Happiest City in America‖ by WalletHub, a Washington, DC-based personal finance website launched in August 2013. WalletHub examined 180 of the largest U. S. cities and based its findings on 28 key indicators of happiness, ranging from depression rate to income-growth rate to leisure time spent per day.

The board and staff talked about the problem with CA class registration. CA is working with vendor to solve the problem.

Dan talked about the incoming closure of Athletic Club for six months for renovation. The Columbia Gym will not be closed for maintenance starting from this year. CA staff figured out how to do continuous maintenance without closing the facility.


  1. The Columbia Association (“CA”) Board of Directors (the “Board”) has considered the feasibility of CA’s undertaking of responsibility for commercial covenant enforcement authority (the “Authority”) in Columbia.
  2. The board discussed strategic issues for the next 12 months and will focus on the following four directions:
    1. CA’s role in the continued re/development of Columbia
    2. Examine declining resident memberships and how to address this
    3. Participation in redrafting the land development regulations
    4. Increasing millennial participation
  3. Overview of Final Report on the Development Regulations Assessment.

School Safety is my top priority

Safety for our students has always been one of my top priorities. The arrest of the HCPSS substitute teacher Steven Katz in Montgomery County and the shooting at Great Mills High School of Maryland have clearly shown that these nationwide issues could very well end up happening in our own schools. These tragedies have shocked and saddened me. My condolences go out to those families who have been negatively impacted. As adults, we have the obligation to protect our kids. We must stop just talking about the issue and start taking action NOW. Our kids shouldn’t feel scared when going to school. I am determined to make school safety a top priority as it should have been all along if I am elected as a  BOE member.

I will re-examine and strengthen information sharing among government and law enforcement agencies to make sure that our school system has up-to-date information available regarding school safety. The arrest of Steven Katz was known to the public before the news reached to the HCPSS offices.

I will ensure allocation of adequate resources for mental health to help both students and school staff better handle pressure, access counselors whenever needed, and, again, streamline information sharing between parents, schools, and other partners. We also need to put more efforts to curb cyber bullying which is now a prevailing problem for teenagers.

I will not allow guns on campus, except for those owned by school resource officer (SRO) which should reside in each and every high schools.

I will continue to work on the overcrowding issue at school, to reduce portable classrooms gradually (at least focusing on the portable classroom safety now) and install alarm system for the school facilities.

We should also continue to monitor and improve school bus safety.

It is shocking to see so many school shootings this year. I strongly condemn these events including the latest one at Great Mills High School. We must work together to prevent such events in the future. I welcome your participation and suggestions as this will be one of my top priorities as a BOE member. Strong school safety is what everyone needs. 


HCPSS Equitable and Effective Discipline Forum

I joined many community members in this forum and listened to Dr. Gina Massella’s presentation this morning at Long Reach High School at 8:30.

In my table, we had a NAACP of HoCo member, a LRHS student council student, Barb Krupiarz from HCPSS Special Education Advisory Committee and an HCPSS teacher(facilitator). I learned a lot and we should improve the situation asap.

We have a lot to do. In one way, we should not be afraid of discipling students because we want to have our numbers look good. But most important, we should address the discipline problem with students, staff and parents to help our students grow and succeed. Out-of-school discipline is especially not good to the students and should be minimized. The process probably will not finish in a day, but I am confident we can achieve that. And we should have the urgency to fix it too.

Attached are some figures.

Robot will take our jobs?

Robot will take our jobs. How can HCPSS help our students to avoid this?

  • Andrew Ng’s biggest concern about AI is its effect on Jobs (Not evil AI)
  • Industrial Robot sales in the US are now growing at 32% YoY US (2017)
  • Expected to accelerate as robots become more intelligent, less expensive more capable
  • Low Wage Jobs are most susceptible
  • Based on Oxford 2013 Report on the susceptibility of jobs to computerization in the US
  • Machine learning will put a substantial share of employment across a wide range of occupations at risk
  • By the authors’ estimates about 47% of total US employment is at risk
  • Job automation bottlenecks: Perception and Manipulation, Creative Intelligence, Social Intelligence

Feedback from my February candidate community meetings

Thanks to Alan Klein and Janet Evans’s support. I had two “meet your candidate” meetings at Village of Harper’s Choice and Village of Long Reach in this February. I really like this kind of small scale community meetings such that we can have great dedicated convetsation.

Here are the questions I heard from our communities.

  1. School ranking: why are some schools are better than others?
  2. How do you view standardized test?
  3. What can the board do to help disadvantaged children?
  4. Why you are running?
  5. What do you think about Dr. Foose?
  6. Did you get teacher association’s endorsement?
  7. Issues: school start time, school redistricting, vocational schools


2018 HoCo BOE Overview

Overview of Howard County Board of Education

There was a CAPA civic seminar: an overview of HoCo BOE on January, 27,2018. I wish you find it is useful. It talks about what is Board of Education, who are the BOE members and what they are doing.

I asked the audience to name any BOE members after masking their name. Unfortunately among 40 audiences, only a few can name the BOE members’ names.

Questionnaire and Answers (First)

From Dr. Chao Wu, 2018 Howard County Board of Education Candidate

The following answers are my positions to the questionnaire presented to me by Corey Andrews, former BOE candidate and the Administrator of Facebook Group: Howard County, Maryland.

Q1. What experiences do you have that qualify you to serve on the Board of Education?

A1: I have been actively involved with the school system. I served on the BOE Operating Budget Review Committee (OBRC). I have testified on multiple issues during Board of Education hearings including later school starting time and school redistricting. Most recently I provided suggestions to the school regarding transportation optimization. I have been attending the HCPSS Community Advisory Committee and my local PTA meetings.

I have been elected twice as a Board Member of Columbia Association and River Hill Village Association. I am a strong proponent of fiscal health and great customer service for Columbia Association.

I was educated in three different education systems, China, Singapore and USA. My unique international education experience gives me a multi-dimensional perspective and approach while looking at issues and solving problems.

Originated from my training as an engineer, I am always looking for optimal and practical solutions to problems that I have encountered. I strongly believe that with good education and hard-working spirit, our students will find a great future for themselves after graduating from HCPSS.

Q2. What role does a member of the Howard County Board of Education fill?

A2: A school board member should serve as a policy maker to serve all the students and families in the county.

Q3. Have you ever attended a meeting of the Howard County Board of Education?

A3: I have been consistently attending the board meetings. And I testified in front of BOE numerous times on important issues that face HCPSS students and their families.

Q4. Numerous officials have indicated that the Howard County government will be facing a few difficult years ahead in budgeting and finance. How do you propose the Board of Education address these challenges?

A4: The BOE should look both inside and outside. Inside the school system, we should make any school programs accountable to reduce waste, improve efficiency and reduce cost. Outside the school system, we should advocate for more funding from county government, state government and other possible funding resources.

We should also communicate these difficulties to the parents. We may need to cut programs and service which will negatively impact some students. With their help and understanding, it is easier for the school system to move forward. The board should have a clear vision and direction how we can get out of the mounting deficit in an orderly manner.

Q5. Based on the information available to you, briefly assess Dr. Martirano’s first year in office.

A5: I am satisfied with Dr. Martirano’s first year. He communicates with the community well and seeks common ground while making important decisions.

Q6. What does “equity” in education mean to you, and how should HCPSS achieve it?

A6: I believe equity is great and is an achievable goal for our community. HCPSS should utilize resources accordingly to make sure every student has the opportunity to succeed.

Q7. In specifics, how should the Board of Education address school overcrowding?

A7: The BOE should make sure to use every method to address school overcrowding, increase facility utilization rate in every school, slow down or stop increasing the portable classroom gradually.

Since the board approved high school #13 at Mission road, the board should continue look for high school 14. The board should make sure high school #13 will be completed on time. The board should make sure the elementary school in Turf Valley be on track. The board should make sure we build schools where the students are residing.

The board should always have a long term vision on the growing student population, prepare and plan for this growth.

Q8. Briefly, what are your top three priorities if elected?

A8: My top three priorities would be:

1: Fix the deficit problem,

2: Increase board collaboration,

3: Provide equitable opportunities for students and motivate students to learn.

Overview of Approved CA FY2019-2020 Budget (The Villager 2018-03)

Overview of Approved CA FY2019-2020 Budget

The article is published on The Villager of River Hill Community Association, 2018-03 issue.

On Thursday, February 22, the Columbia Association’s (CA) Board of Directors approved the FY2019 and Conditional FY2020 Budget. In FY 2019-2020, the annual charge rate will be $0.68 of every 100 dollars of the assessed value of the property with a 3.5% cap. I made a motion to bring down the annual charge rate to $0.65 (around 4.4% decrease) which failed. I will continue advocating for a lower annual charge rate in the future. I believe many residents are negatively impacted by this high annual charge fee due to the cap being increase from 2.5% to 3.5% and the continued rise of property values in our community. The membership fee also keeps climbing up each year. I believe that by lowering the cap, Columbia residents will have more disposable income to purchase CA fitness memberships that will offset the loss of assessment share income.

I made a motion to remove approximately $200,000 dollars in funding for village sign replacement since a majority of villages do not like the new sign design. This motion passed. During the budget process, the Board had a lot of discussion on the membership fee, construction of modular houses for Columbia Horse Center, maintenance of CA bridges and tunnels, the outlook for Haven on the Lake, and funding to the Inner Arbor Trust for pathway construction in Symphony Woods. An overview of the approved budget is given below.

Total FY19 budgeted revenue and annual borrowings are $81,798,000. The breakdown by source is provided below ($000’s):

Interest and other $972 (1.2%)
Borrowing $7,316 (8.9%)
Commercial Annual Charge $14,160 (17.3%)
Residential Annual Charge $26,296 (32.2%)
Community Services Programs, $4,775 (5.8%)
Sport and Fitness Income, $28,279(34.6%)

In FY19, the $81,798,000 will be used in the following ways (000’s):

Sport and Fitness Programs and Facilities: $29,371 (35.9%)
Contingencies/other $506 (0.6%)
Administrative Services $2,289 (2.8%)
Village Community Associations $5,411 (6.6%)
Community Services Programs $7,827 (9.6%)
Capital Expenditures $20,000 (24.5%)
Debt Repayment $1,895 (2.3%)
Board of Directors $1,002 (1.2%)
Open Space Management $13,497 (16.5%)

Major capital projects (greater than $500,000) approved for FY19 and FY 20 include:

Columbia Swim Center – Phase III Renovations $1,225,000
Watershed improvement projects $710,000
Athletic Club – Phase II Renovations $5,000,000
Columbia Gym – HVAC $600,000
Horse Center – Facility Assessment Survey Items $655,000
Supreme Sports Club Renovation $4,700,000
Haven on the Lake – Site Renovation $1,000,000
Slayton House-Theater Renovations $515,000
Columbia-Wide HVAC Systems $600,000
Columbia-Wide Watershed Stabilization $850,000
Columbia Wide Ponds Dredging and Repairs $846,000
Lake Elkhorn Planning and Dredging $1,090,000
Equipment and Vehicles $800,000
Sport and Fitness Facilities and Equipment Upgrades $550,000
Columbia-Wide Bridge Replacement $615,000
Columbia-Wide Pathway Renovations $1,000,000
Aquatics- Hawthorn ADA-Complaint Wading Pool $500,000
Headquarters Building –Reserve for Deposit $1,100,000
Stonehouse – Full Building Renovation $750,000

To view more information on CA’s FY19/20 budget, visit:

Chao Wu, Ph.D.
River Hill Representative to Columbia Council and Columbia Association Board of Directors

Email: Website:

Disclaimer: This letter only represents Dr. Chao Wu’s personal opinion. It does not represent River Hill Board of Directors nor Columbia Association’s Board.

Proposed 2019 HCPSS Budget

Many people asked me about the 2019 HCPSS Budget. I am extracting some key figures here for people to have a high-level overview.

Current Status: The Board is making changes on this budget and will approve the final version soon and then send it to the county executive. The county executive may make changes if needed and then send the budget to the county council for approval. Then county council may make changes (the council can restore the cut if the county executive makes cut, but the council cannot add more than the originally asked amount) and decide to approve it or not.

The 631 pages budget book is located here:$file/01%2009%202018%20FY%202019%20Supt%20Proposed%20Operating%20Budget.pdf

2019 HCPSS expenditures by category

2019 HCPSS budget categories

Of each budget dollar, 80 cents funds school staff and teaching materials, 5 cents funds transportation, and 11 cents funds facility operation and maintenance. Central office administration and support accounts for just 4 cents per budget dollar – representing one of the lowest overhead levels among school systems throughout Maryland.


2019 HCPSS revenue