Here is a link to the agenda for tomorrow night's City Council meeting: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-agenda-20160413.pdf. The link includes connections to detailed information about all of the key agenda items.
BUDGET. There are no votes scheduled for Wednesday's meeting, but there are a number of important agenda items, including most notably a public hearing on the City's proposed 2017 budget. As mentioned in previous emails, because we are in budget season, this week (and the next two weeks) the Council is meeting twice. We met last night for a discussion on the proposed budget for capital expenditures, and over the next two weeks we will cover the various departmental budgets, as well as discussing top priorities for Councilmembers in the budget, and the local Takoma Park tax rate (there will be a separate public hearing on the tax rate on April 27). The final votes on the budget will take place in May.
As that process unfolds, I plan to work for the adoption of a budget that maintains all our key municipal services at appropriate levels, moves forward in key priority areas like affordable housing, expanding programs for youth and families, environmental sustainability, and reasonable economic development, while striving to keep our tax rates affordable. It is not yet clear to what extent we can achieve all of those goals, but I will provide progress reports as we move ahead. It will be especially valuable throughout that process to hear from residents, and I encourage people to attend tomorrow night's public hearing or the tax hearing on the 27th (or both) to let the Council know your views on these topics. You should also feel free to be in touch with me directly.
HEARING ON PLASTIC BAG ORDINANCE. I support the idea of reducing the use of plastic bags, given their negative impact on the environment, and I look forward to hearing from the community about how best to achieve that goal. Among the questions that emerged in the earlier Council discussions on this proposal were the extent to which a ban versus a fee for plastic bags may be more effective; whether the exemptions are appropriate; and what the impact on local businesses, including the Farmers Market, would be. Once we have more definitive answers on those points, the path forward with respect to the proposed ordinance should be clearer.
LIBRARY DISCUSSION. Last week the Council had an opportunity to walk around the library site to see in a direct way the potential impact of the proposed expansions of the current facility that are under consideration. I thought that tour of the site was very helpful in getting a more realistic "on the ground" understanding of the potential options, which you can see here: (https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160413-3.pdf).
I continue to believe that we ought to pursue a renovation design that is somewhat larger than the current proposed design. At a minimum, I favor including options 10 and 11 from the menu of options. Those are the proposals to expand the building toward Maple Avenue above a portion of the lower level parking lot, and to "fill in" some of the space between the Library and the Community Center close to the main, ground level parking lot. In addition, I think we should explore a further expansion (beyond that in the current proposed renovation design) toward Philadelphia Avenue (though not to the extent that we lose additional trees or the entire green space).
These three expansion ideas will in my view give us the additional space to ensure that we end up with a great 21st Century Library we can proud of. Cost is of course an issue, but through bonding in the current period of low interest rates we have the ability to stretch out the payments in a fiscally prudent way.
FLOWER AVENUE GREEN STREET. This is an important project from both a quality of life and environmental perspective. City staff provided an excellent summary in our Council meeting last night, and I support moving ahead with the project.
COMCAST FRANCHISE AGREEMENT. In order to maintain Comcast cable service for those who have it in the City, we need to update the current Agreement with the company. The County plays a key role in the negotiations, but the City must also sign off.
As always please let me know if you have any questions or comments.