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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.

Agenda for June 21, 2017 City Council Meeting

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the June 21, 2017 City Council Meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-june-21-2017/.  Please note that we’ll be meeting this week at the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center instead of the Community Center. The evening will start at 7:00 PM with a public reception in honor of Immigrant Heritage Month before we convene formally for our Council meeting at 7:30 PM. During the meeting we’ll have a proclamation memorializing the City’s recognition of Immigrant Heritage Month.

Key agenda items include a public hearing on the qualities for our new Police Chief; a final vote on the bond issuance for the Library renovation and street improvement projects; and a presentation on proposals for renovation of the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center. We’ll also vote on a contract for the City’s Annual Financial Statement and Audit, and we’ll receive reports from the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority and Old Takoma Business Association. In addition, there will be a vote on the Community Quality of Life Grants and several appointments to resident committees.

Update from Last week. The Council approved installing LED lights in the 26 shorter decorative street lights located in Old Town. We have some ability to tweak the brightness level before the purchase is finalized at the end of the month, so I encourage interested residents to take a look after dark at the sample LED that has been installed at the decorative light just off Carroll Avenue on Columbia Avenue by the Long and Foster office. Let me know what you think about the brightness and light quality.

Police Public Hearing.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-1.pdf  With the departure of our Police Chief, the Council has begun a process to consider the qualities and characteristics the community would like our next chief to embody, as well as mapping out the process for selecting that new chief, and considering whether some fundamental changes in the Council’s involvement in the process would make sense.

Under Takoma Park’s City Charter, the Council doesn’t have direct involvement in the selection of the Police Chief. That’s a decision, like all other City personnel matters, that lies with the City Manager. The Council does have a role in establishing overall policies for the Department, including designating areas like community policing that we may want a new Chief to place more emphasis on. Whether the Council should have a more direct role in reviewing applicants, approving the City Manager’s choice, etc., is something we’re debating now. Beyond that, it may make sense to have a Police Commission, composed of residents and community members, that would help set and monitor Police Department policies. We discussed those and related issues in last night’s special Council discussion, which was open to the public. The discussion included a presentation from innovative Tucson, Arizona Police Chief Chris Magnus. Current and former members of the Takoma Park Chief’s Advisory Committee also offered their perspective on appropriate roles for the public and the Council on Police matters.

In addition to tonight’s public hearing, we’ll have a second public Council discussion on Thursday, June 29 (there’s no regular Council meeting that week), with the hope that by the end of July we’ll have reached some decisions about the Council’s and residents’ role in both the selection process and, going forward, Police policies and practices. In any case, it’s vital that we have as much public input as possible, so I encourage all interested residents to testify at tomorrow night’s public hearing and/or to speak out in public comment periods in upcoming weekly Council meetings. In addition, please consider responding to the City survey on the desired characteristics of our next Police Chief: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XKNQDN3.

Immigrant Heritage Month.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/pr20170621_Immigrant-Heritage-Month.pdf  Along with the reception and the proclamation, representatives of several local and area organizations that focus on providing assistance to, and protecting the rights of, immigrants will make brief presentations.

Library Financing.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-2.pdf.  This will be the final vote on the long-term bonding for the Library renovation, the Flower Avenue Green Street, and the Ethan Allen Gateway, which the Council approved unanimously last week on a preliminary vote. I will be voting yes.

Annual Financial Report and Audit.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-3-rev.pdf.  The Council will be voting on a contract to provide the professional accountant services for the annual financial review and audit of the City’s finances. By coincidence, the firm in question (Cohn-Reznick) is also the accountant for my family’s personal financial matters. Therefore, I will be recusing myself on this vote.

Consent Agenda.  The following four agenda items, because they are considered non-controversial, will be grouped together in a single vote.

Community Grants.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-4a.pdf

Arts and Humanities Commission Appointments.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-4b.pdf

Recreation Committee Appointments.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-4c.pdf

Safe Roadways Committee Appointments.   https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-4d.pdf

Crossroads and Old Takoma Updates.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-5-6.pdf.  Our two local business umbrella groups, both of which receive financial support from the City, will be making presentations about their activities.

New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center Proposals.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170621-7.pdf.  Earlier this year, Takoma Park released a solicitation seeking proposals from firms and organizations interested in partnering with the City on redevelopment of the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center. The project could include not only a revamped Rec Center, but affordable housing and conceivably office and retail space as well. We received five proposals in response to the solicitation, and City staff will be making an initial presentation on the proposals and their recommendation of the two they consider to be the most responsive and best fit for Takoma Park. For me, the key goals for the project are improved recreational and community facilities along with affordable housing, and I’ll be considering the proposals with those points especially in mind.

Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of the above issues.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Councilmember

Ward One




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