1) CSX Train derailment investigation: In August, a CSX train derailed,killing two women who were buried under coal.
The derailment clean-up closed Main Street from the Patapsco Bridge to Old Columbia Pike, making access to the Historic District businesses difficult. In a groundswell of support, a group of people - from local bloggers to Ray Rice - urged people to make a trip to Main Street and spend a few dollars.
The , was released several days after the derailment and the preliminary incident report was released Sept. 5, but National Transportation Safety Board officials said the full report - which will include the cause of the derailment - could take up to a year to produce.
2) Parking Parking Parking: In August, County Executive Ken Ulman announced a new parking program for the Historic District which included the use of an application to help people find parking; increased fees in two of the parking lots in the Historic District and, most contentious, multi-space parking meters on Main Street and Maryland Avenue.
. The meters are set to "go live" sometime this year, . Not until then will we have data about turnover and parking availability and know if the project does as it's supposed to: increase the turnover rate of parked cars in the historic district.
The administration has also said that it would work with Historic District residents to find a way to work them into the equation. So far, nothing has been set in stone.
3) Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.: The determination of one fed-up BGE customer and hundreds of neighbors led the state to investigate BGE's reliability in several Ellicott City neighborhoods.
Then came the Derecho - .
County Council member Courtney Watson widened the investigation to include other neighborhoods where residents also said they experienced an unacceptable number of outages.
The fact-finding part of the investigation, which included several public hearings and submitted testimony, was expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
4) Ken Ulman for governor?: Howard County Executive Ken Ulman is term limited and must step down from his office in 2014.
Althought he has not oficially announced his intentions, many suspect Ulman will make a gubernatorial run in 2014. On Tuesday, Ulman sent a letter to his supporters to let them know that he has set a toal to rais $20,013 (get it?) during the first week of the new year.
He has also 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.
5) Major Weather Events/Stormwater Management: 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, and when there's flooding in the county, there's flooding on Main Street.
Merchants have suggested that, rather than debate the pros and cons of parking meters, the conversation be moved to stormwater management and, according to Explore Howard, that money for such projects be included in the County's next budget.
Because more storms are on the way.
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, but with average temperatures continuing to climb in the area, scientists in Maryland have said 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."
6) 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 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.
Patch editor Andrew Metcalf contributed to this article.