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Tuesday  •  April 6, 2021

On the Attempted Gaslighting & Silencing of “The Rouse Project” Critics

By Steven Keller


A recent social media post warned about the actions of an aggressive clique of HoCo political activists who, for the past few years, have bullied and attempted to cancel and/or destroy anyone who dares to challenge them or disagrees with them politically in any meaningful way.


In that post, the Columbia Association was listed as one of the many local organizations that this “extreme activist clique” and their “Bootlegger/Baptist” partner politicians & special interest groups have set their sights on dominating. To do so, they have already begun to use their typical harmful strategies of mischaracterization, smearing and gaslighting, particularly in partnership with a nebulous new LLC in town entitled “The Rouse Project”.


“The Rouse Project” purports to be “Columbia residents, businesses, institutions and advocacy groups working together for a more vibrant, inclusive and empowered future”. However, its ties to particular special interest groups such as local & national developers are hard to ignore, and as its first act as an organization, it has aggressively thrust itself into this year’s Columbia Association (CA) Board of Directors election, pushing out a slate of candidates (some of whom are members of this “extreme political clique”) and assisting them with unprecedented pricey advertising campaigns that include fancy logos, lawn signs, and mailers. The sources of funding for these costly expenses are a local mystery, as The Rouse Project has kept this well under wraps.


When challenged about its origins, motives and sources of funding, “The Rouse Project” proceeded to send out a “hate list” email to its subscribersgoing so far as to include former Howard County Executive Liz Bobo on that list as a “Protector of the Status Quo”.


Many concerns about “The Rouse Project” have been raised by community members across the county since its inception just a few months ago. For a detailed list of concerns about this organization and some historical perspective on why these concerns exist, the following blog posts authored by local community member and blogger Hiruy Hadgu are essential reading:


Beware the Rouse Project – Part 1

Beware the Rouse Project – Part 2

Beware the Rouse Project – Part 3

Beware the Rouse Project – Part 4

Beware the Rouse Project – Part 5

Another local blogger recently shared her own concerns about “The Rouse Project” here.


Some notable quotes include:


” Columbia elections are Saturday, April 24th. I still don’t know where The Rouse Project money is coming from”……”Someone who won’t tell you what you need to know before an election certainly won’t be compelled to do so afterwards.”


“To top it off, putting Rouse’s name on a policy of deliberate subterfuge dishonors his work and his memory.”


“To take the valuable goals of diversity, change, and responsiveness and mire them in an inexplicable lack of transparency is such a waste of potential. Telling the truth matters. “


On social media discussion groups, “The Rouse Project” supporters have been relentlessly smearing & gaslighting those who question the organization, particularly Hiruy Hadgu & Columbia Democratic Club (CDC) president Jake Burdett, to the point where they have actually attempted a “coup” on Jake’s position as CDC President.


On the CDC Facebook page, it has reached the point where members asking for transparency in the Rouse project have been compared to such past groups as the “Birthers” who accused President Obama of not being a US citizen.


One community member recently made an excellent point:


“People in the community are raising questions, as they have every right to. What I think is really concerning ab TRP is their aggressive messaging. They criticize CA as a whole, then they harshly criticize any member of the community that doesn’t fawn over them? That’s not how the world works”


The Columbia Association influences many critical aspects of life here in Howard County that will have a direct effect on our local schools. All Howard County residents need to pay close attention to the “The Rouse Project” and critically try to find the answers to each of the following questions:


  1. Why is “The Rouse Project” and its vocal supporters so aggressively (and with an unprecedented amount of resources) involving themselves in the 2021 Columbia Association Board of Directors elections?
  2. Why was the particular “The Rouse Project” slate of CA election candidates selected as that organization’s “Chosen Ones”, and are any of them significantly associated with the “extreme activist clique” that has been recently attempting to dominate every aspect of public policy here in Howard County?
  3. Why are “The Rouse Project” and so many members of HoCo’s “extreme activist clique” now trying to personally attack, gaslight and silence those who have dared to criticize this new organization and its involvement in the CA elections?


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