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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 July 12, 2017 City Council Meeting

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the July 12, 2017 Takoma Park City Council meeting agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-july-12-2017/

We’ll be voting on a series of funding shifts from last year’s to this year’s budget, plus an increase in funding for the Ethan Allen Gateway Project. In addition, there will be votes on two City food pantry contracts and on the purchase of new IT server equipment. After the votes, the four development groups that are under consideration for the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center renovation will make presentations, and then we’ll finish up with a discussion on State legislative proposals to recommend to the Maryland Municipal League.

Last week I had the privilege of walking with my wife Paula in Takoma Park’s Independence Day Parade. I was delighted to see so many friends and neighbors lining the streets, joining in the celebration of our history and democracy. There was a wonderful mix of municipal leaders, neighborhood groups, veterans, elected officials and candidates, and other less easily categorized marchers. It was a good reminder that, despite the disturbing – and potentially dangerous -- political moves we’re seeing at the national level, community action and democratic politics are thriving here. I look forward to continuing our work to respond appropriately at the local level and do our part to positively influence the national debate.

Budget Amendments.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-1-2.pdf  There are a number of projects and initiatives that were funded in last year’s budget for which the money wasn’t expended before the Fiscal Year ended on June 30. We’ll cast preliminary votes on two amendments that transfer the necessary money to this year’s budget in order to complete the various projects. The bulk of the money in these two amendments doesn’t represent new spending. One key exception is the increase of $125,000 for the Ethan Allen project. I support the project, but before deciding whether to vote for the new funding I would like to have a better understanding of the reasons for the increase, and explore whether we should consider cutting spending elsewhere in the project, reducing some other item in our budget, or simply covering the extra $125,000 from the City’s reserve funds. How that discussion goes will help determine how I vote on the contract for the project, which is the next agenda item.

Ethan Allen Project Funding.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-3.pdf

I’ll be voting in favor of the following contracts:

Food Pantry Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-4ab.pdf

IT Server Equipment.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-4c.pdf

New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-5.pdf  The City is considering a plan under which the County would transfer ownership of the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center to the City in exchange for a parcel of land elsewhere in Takoma Park. This would enable us to work with an outside developer to modernize the Recreation Center. The hope is that a developer would be willing to take on the project if they were also able to include an income generating component, such as low and moderate income apartments. This approach could enable us to have a new recreation center without significant expenditure of City funds. I think this is a great opportunity for us to undertake a much-needed upgrade of the recreation facilities in that part of town in an affordable way, as well as potentially expanding our housing stock and helping to revitalize the area along New Hampshire Avenue.

Earlier this year the City released a solicitation inviting development groups to express interest in working with us. Four groups submitted responses that met the basic requirements for partnering with the City on the project. Those four will be making presentations to the Council at this week’s meeting. The Council will have a further discussion on the project later this month before we go on break in August, but we won’t be voting or taking any formal action until the fall.

Maryland Municipal League Legislative Requests.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170712-6.pdf Takoma Park collaborates closely with MML, an organizations that represents cities and towns throughout the State. Each year MML adopts several legislative initiatives, based on input from member communities that the group actively lobbies for in Annapolis. The City can submit up to three proposals to be considered for inclusion on that list. The Council will be discussing options for legislative initiatives we should submit for consideration. I favor including two of the three from last year (better coordination of construction and repairs by utilities and the State Highway Administration with local governments; and evaluation of the collection and distribution of the business personal tax by the State). I’ll be giving further thought to what we should support for the third proposal.

As always, please let me know if you have comments or questions about any of these agenda items.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Councilmember

Ward One






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