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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 September 20, 2017 City Council Meeting

Dear Neighbors:

The following is a link to the agenda for the September 20, 2017 City Council meeting:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-september-20-2017/

There will be two votes, first on a resolution establishing a City Youth Council, and then a preliminary vote on policies relating to bicycles on sidewalks. We’ll also have a discussion on State legislative priorities, and on City and County vacant property laws (the background information on that last item was not available at the time I prepared this message).

Last Week’s Council Meeting. As I noted previously, I was unable to attend last week’s meeting because I was out of town for a family funeral. There was only one vote, on a resolution making the arrangements for this November’s City election. I had voted in favor of that resolution when it initially came before us earlier this month, and it was approved on final passage in the same form.

With regard to the Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) that were under consideration for several apartments in the City (as a means of preserving affordable housing units), the Council didn’t reach any definite conclusions. City staff will be providing more information about the proposed PILOTs before we vote.

As for the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center Re-development, the Council endorsed the idea of asking the four development groups under consideration to provide more information, specifically more details on how they would approach the project, including financing. This will be akin to a second RFP involving the finalists from the first round, which I think is a good approach. The Council also backed the idea of having our staff begin to negotiate with the County for transferring control of the Rec Center to the City. I have some qualms about this, because I worry that we could end up having to pick up the cost of managing the building before we have a deal with a developer. On the other hand, a majority of the Council evidently was persuaded that we stand a better chance of striking such a deal if we have control of the Rec Center (or we’re at least moving actively in that direction). I’ll be closely monitoring the progress of these negotiations.

Finally, the Council discussed renaming City streets associated with the Confederacy. This was the first formal discussion on this topic. Preliminary steps agreed to included reaching out to the County to see if its role in the potential renaming process can be expedited; researching the potential impact of renaming on matters like Postal Service delivery; and getting a better understanding of the Commemoration Commission's suggestion of ceremonial renaming while retaining the original names with some added historical information. I look forward to further discussions on all of these points, and I welcome suggestions from residents on how we should proceed.

Youth Council.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170920-1.pdf  As I mentioned in a previous message, I’m a strong supporter of establishing a Youth Council to advise the City Council and the municipal government on issues of concern to young residents of Takoma Park. I plan to vote in favor of the resolution establishing the Council. The background information makes reference to the body’s Charter, which the City Council discussed earlier this month (and which I think offers a good approach for how the Youth Council will operate). That Charter document doesn’t seem to be included with the background information, so I’ll plan on circulating it late once it’s posted.

Bicycles on Sidewalks.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170920-2.pdf  In the Council’s recent discussion on this set of issues, a majority of us – including me-- continued to have serious concerns about pedestrian safety if we were to adopt an open-ended policy allowing bikes on sidewalks. However, I do think a few exceptions would be appropriate. To be specific, I support allowing younger children to ride bicycles on sidewalks, and I support including with that an allowance for adults supervising the children to also ride on sidewalks. In addition, a minimal allowance for riders of bike share cycles to ride briefly on sidewalks when they pick up or drop off bikes also is reasonable. The draft resolution we’ll be voting on includes both of those points.

The resolution also would allow the City Manager to designate streets or areas that may be too dangerous to ride on as areas where bikes on sidewalks would be allowed, with appropriate signage. This may be a workable solution, but I’d like to have a clearer sense or what guidelines would be used in making this determination. Finally, the resolution allows wheelchairs to be used on sidewalks (which was not technically permitted under an outdated part of our City code). I support that change.

State Legislative Priorities.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170920-2.pdf.  This discussion will be a preview of anticipated legislation of interest to Takoma Park in next year’s State legislative session in Annapolis, which starts in January. A representative of the firm that represents the City and lobbies on our behalf in Annapolis will be present to help guide the discussion. I encourage any residents who are aware of key bills they support (or oppose) to let me know. In addition, if you have ideas about legislation we may want to propose, it would be very helpful to hear about that.

City and County Vacant Property Laws.  As noted above, the background information on this agenda item is not yet available. I will try to circulate it in advance of the meeting, depending on when it is posted.

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

Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One

Agenda for September 27, 2017 City Council Meeting

Agenda for September 13, 2017 City Council Meeting