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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.

September 7, 2016 City Council Meeting

Dear Neighbors:

I hope everyone had a nice August, and that the return to school and other fall pursuits is going well. We are easing back into regular City Council meetings, with our first session scheduled for Wednesday, September 7. Here is the agenda: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/wednesday-september-7-2016-public-hearing-voting-session-and-work-session-of-the-city-council/

Key items include a Public Hearing on priority projects for the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, plus updates from City staff on the following issues: road and utility projects; the City’s priorities for the State and County legislative process; the Takoma Junction development; and Police-Community relations. Other items include a vote on a resolution endorsing the “Unity in the Community” initiative (a local collaboration involving the Police and residents); and votes on appointments to several resident committees.

CDBG Priority Projects.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-1.pdf  As folks may be aware, the CDBG program is a longstanding Federal program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that provides funding to State and local government for grants to help ensure decent affordable housing, provide services to the most vulnerable residents, create jobs, and expand business opportunities. Takoma Park is eligible in the coming year for approximately $91,000 in CDBG funds through Montgomery County’s Federal allocation. The City Council earlier adopted new funding priorities for the program to limit allocations to capital projects benefitting low and moderate income populations. This is a public hearing, meaning that it is an opportunity for people to offer opinions and ideas on how the funds should be used. I encourage residents to attend and let us know your thoughts on how we should prioritize this money.

Unity in the Community.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-2.pdf  Meaghan Murphy, co-owner of Capital City Cheesecake, approached Mayor Stewart and Police Captain Tyrone Collington to organize an initiative aimed at helping bring together Police officers and residents in our community. The result of their conversations is the Unity in the Community Initiative. The kick-off event for the Initiative will be a block party at Capital City Cheesecake on Sunday, September 25, from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m., with the hope that this get-together will spark a number of other events and positive interactions involving Police and residents. I think it’s a good idea (which meshes well with some of the topics that will be discussed later in the Council meeting during the agenda item on Police-Community relations), and I’ll be attending the kick-off. The resolution expresses support for the initiative, and I will be voting in favor of it.

Appointments to Resident Committees. I’ll be voting for proposed appointments to the Façade Advisory Board, the Arts and Humanities Commission, and the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs.




Road and Utility Projects.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-4.pdf  One of my priorities on the Council is seeking better advance notice and coordination when the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) or utility companies are doing work in the City. This agenda item should offer a good opportunity to raise those concerns. While many of the specific projects slated to be discussed are not in Ward One, I intend to bring up my concerns about SHA’s work on Philadelphia Avenue, and also comment on the need to provide better notice to affected residents when Pepco is doing tree trimming. I welcome any other road or utility related comments residents may wish to bring to my attention for this discussion.  

Legislative Priorities.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-5.pdf  The Council previously identified legislative priorities we would like the Maryland Municipal League to emphasize in its work in the State Legislature on our behalf. This discussion will focus on priorities for our own direct advocacy in Annapolis, plus how best to go about hiring a representative to assist us with the County government (an idea for which funding was set aside in our recently adopted budget).

Takoma Junction.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-6.pdf  With the Development Agreement between the City and developer NDC approved by the Council in late July, negotiations between NDC and the Co-op relating to their Letter of Intent on the development are proceeding. We will receive an update from City staff on those negotiations, and on the initial meeting of the Community Consultation Process Advisory Committee, which was appointed by the Council to help ensure residents are kept informed about progress -- and can offer their opinions -- on the development as it moves forward.

Police-Community Relations.  http://documents.takomaparkmd.gov.s3.amazonaws.com/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160907-7.pdf  Mayor Stewart and Councilmembers Qureshi and Seamens met in late July with City staff and the Police Department to discuss how to improve police-community relations. Previously, two Requests for Proposals had been released for consultant contracts on this topic, but the proposals that came in were not deemed appropriate for Takoma Park. The full Council will receive a report on the meeting and discuss options for proceeding. This is one of the most important challenges facing our City, and I look forward to hearing details of the meeting and to playing an active role in future efforts along these lines.

Upcoming Events.  Starting this month, I will have office hours in the third floor conference room of the City offices in the Community Center. I will be available there every second Tuesday from 2:00 – 4:00 PM, and every fourth Thursday from 4:00 – 6:00 PM to meet with any Ward One residents, without the need for an advance appointment. The first Tuesday session will be on September 13. I hope to see residents at the Office Hours or around town, perhaps at one of the following upcoming events:  the Pie Contest at the Farmers Market (Sept. 18. 11:00 AM – Noon) where I will be one of the judges; the 8th annual Play Day at Takoma Middle School (Sept. 24, 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM); the Takoma Foundation Beer Fest at the Cady-Lee mansion (Sept. 24, 4:00 – 8:00 PM); and the previously mentioned Unity in the Community meeting at Capital City Cheesecake (Sept. 25, 4:00 – 7:00 PM).

Please be in touch if you have questions or concerns about these or any other matters.

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

Special City Council Meeting -- September 12, 2016