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Welcome to my blog, which features frequent updates on local Takoma Park issues, including City Council meeting agendas, plus occasional commentary on national news and politics.

Agendas for October 3 and 5, 2016

Dear Neighbors:


There are two City Council sessions this week:  the Green Team Meeting (a joint gathering of the Council and the Committee on the Environment) tonight (starting at 7:15 PM in the Community Center Azalea Room), and then the regular Council meeting on Wednesday night at 7:30 PM. Links to the agendas appear below. The Green Team meeting will focus on environmental priorities for the City, and the regular Council session will be devoted to recommendations from the Safe Roadways Committee, and a discussion on Youth Success, which follows up on the Community Conversation on that topic in June.


Green Team Agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/joint-meeting-of-the-city-council-and-the-committee-on-the-environment-monday-october-3-2016/


October 5 City Council Agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-october-5-2016/


Green Team Meeting.  This will be an excellent opportunity to discuss and consider various Takoma Park environmental initiatives and priorities, and I look forward to being part of that discussion. Priority areas that I would like to explore include creating financial incentives for Takoma Park residents (like those in other parts of Montgomery County) for installing storm water systems; determining what it would take for the City to establish a carbon neutrality goal at a specified date in the future; understanding and managing the potential environmental impacts of local development projects like Takoma Junction, the proposed Montgomery College renovations, and the planned apartment complex at the Takoma Metro Station; working with State legislators on legislation to fund burying of electrical transmission lines in order to limit power outages following severe weather events and reduce tree trimming and removal; and revising our City Tree Ordinance to prevent unneeded tree removal and to include stronger appeal provisions.


With regard to that last point, I am pleased that several North Takoma residents spoke up at last week’s Council meeting, as I did, to express concern about the impact of Pepco’s recent tree activities within the City. It’s my view that – at least with regard to North Takoma – some of the Pepco tree removals may have been unnecessary.  As noted above, I think it we’ll ultimately need to revise the Ordinance in order to address these and related concerns. But that will take some time, so I’m pleased that in the meantime – as suggested by several of us at the Council meeting – the City is taking a closer look at the remaining scheduled tree removals to ensure that they are justified.


Safe Roadways Background.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161005-1.pdf


Safe Roadways report.  http://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/boards-commissions-and-committees/safe-roadways-committee/SRC-20151115-takoma-park-safe-roadways-committee-recommendations-to-takoma-park-city-council-to-improve-bikeshare.pdf


Key recommendations from the Safe Roadways Committee include an increase in the number of Bikeshare locations, and the possible relocation of some, along with a proposal to permit cyclists to ride on sidewalks in the City. I’m supportive of increasing the number of Bikeshare sites, provided we have adequate, appropriate space for them, and that the costs of doing so are reasonable. The same is true for relocation. For example, while I understand the interest in shifting the Bikeshare currently at the Gazebo in Old Town to a more central spot, we need to make sure there is a workable place for it (some options for this were explored before I was on the Council and found to be impractical at the time).


As for bicycles on the sidewalk, I am open to discussing the idea, but I have to say I’m skeptical of a broad allowance for it. I don’t think young children should be penalized for riding on sidewalks, and I am supportive of doing what we can to expand bicycle lanes. And in a limited number of larger streets that tend to have higher car speeds and that are fairly narrow, permitting sidewalk use by cyclists may make sense as well. But I don’t think the case has been made for permitting it on all sidewalks within the City.


Youth Success.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20161005-2.pdf


It’s my opinion that the two most crucial challenges we face as a community are planning and managing development (which involves affordable housing, environmental concerns as noted above, and transportation and tax policy, among other things), and making Takoma Park a truly inclusive community. A vital component of that second challenge is doing all we can to give our children more opportunities to be successful. I’m pleased that when the Council developed our priorities for the Fiscal Year that began on July 1 we placed a greater focus on youth issues as one of our top items.


We followed up on that step when under Mayor Stewart’s leadership in June the City convened a Community Conversation on Youth Success (this was the second Community Conversation, the first one of which took place in February and was focused on affordable housing). The Youth Success event was an important first step, but it’s essential that we build on it to come up with some more specific approaches for promoting youth success. The discussion at the Council meeting will be a valuable opportunity to do that.


One of the things I took away from the Community Conversation is that we have to draw from a wider range of community members in developing youth programming (with more direct involvement from young people themselves). So, an idea I am interested in exploring, which has been suggested by a number of people in the community, is creating a Youth Task Force – with broad representation and younger people as participants – to spend some time delving into this set of issues and coming up with recommendations for steps the City can take. I’m hopeful this idea will be given serious consideration at the Council meeting.


As always, please feel free to be in touch if you have questions or comments. And, as a reminder, I am holding office hours now twice a month in the third floor conference room in the Community Center, on the second Tuesday of each month from 2:00 – 4:00 PM and the fourth Thursday from 4:00 – 6:00 PM. No appointments are needed. Also, if you would like to receive these and other communications from me directly to your email address (rather than through the neighborhood email lists) please let me know by email (peterk@takomaparkmd.gov).


Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

City Council Agenda for October 12, 2016

Agenda for September 28, 2016 City Council Meeting