The following is a link to the agenda for the September 6 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-september-6-2017/. We’ll take up four important issues: a resolution on the November 7 City election; a contract for a lobbying firm to represent us on Montgomery County government issues; an initial look at a proposal to establish a Youth Council; and a discussion on bicycle safety, including a further review of the idea of permitting bikes on sidewalks.
I hope everyone had a good summer, and -- if you have kids starting or returning to school – that they (and you) are as ready as possible. During the August break I was fortunate to be able to visit with many relatives, including some I don’t see as often, and to spend some time at the beach. Along the way, I was at the end of the anti-fascist protest in Boston and also saw the solar eclipse at a spot where it was at about 70 percent. I’m looking forward to City Council meetings starting up again, and I’m also excited to be running for re-election to the Council this fall.
City Election. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170906-1.pdf. With our local elections taking place on November 7, the Council will be taking an initial vote on a resolution to formally establish and set up the key parts of this year’s election process, including the arrangements for Election Day; the early voting dates, times and locations; and the pay for Election Judges and Election Workers. We do need additional Election Workers, and if you’re interested in serving in that capacity please contact City Clerk Jessie Carpenter. It’s a great way to make a vital contribution to the community and to have a close-up view of our political system in action.
I urge all residents to familiarize themselves with the major elements of the election and to make plans for when you’ll vote and/or register if you need to do that. One point to be aware of is that, because the Council earlier this year voted to move our elections from odd to even years in order to increase voter turnout, Mayoral and Council candidates elected in November will serve three-year terms, with the next election taking place in 2020.
County Lobbying Contract. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170906-2.pdf. The Council previously decided that -- as we do for the State Assembly in Annapolis and the State government -- we should contract with a lobbying firm to represent us before the Montgomery County Council and Government in Rockville. Following a contract solicitation process, we received responses from several interested firms and we interviewed the top two. We’ve selected the firm of Alexander & Cleaver, which is experienced in legislative and policy advocacy at the County level. I’ll be voting in favor of the resolution formalizing the contract with them. Having this type of representation at the County level is an idea I’ve supported for a long time, and – given the changes after the 2018 elections with the openings on the County Council and the County Executive -- this relationship will be especially important for us.
Youth Council. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170906-3.pdf. In the past two years the Council has sought to increase its focus on matters of concern to youth. Last year, the City convened a forum on Youth Success, and one of the concepts that emerged from that event was the creation of a group of younger City residents to provide an ongoing channel for youth engagement with City government. I support this idea and I’ve participated in several planning meetings aimed at helping establish this type of body. I’m pleased that a group of students, working with a teacher at Takoma Park Middle School, has developed a framework for a Youth Council. We’ll be discussing it this week, with a formal vote tentatively scheduled for September 20.
Bicycles. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170906-4.pdf. The Council has previously discussed the idea, presented by our Safe Roadways Committee, of allowing bicycles to be ridden on sidewalks in the City. The last time the issue was discussed, there wasn’t a clear consensus on the Council for moving forward. I don’t favor the idea of an across the board allowance for bikes on sidewalks here in Takoma Park because of my concern about pedestrian safety. On the other hand, I do think we should make it clear that wheelchairs are allowed on sidewalks, since that would enhance safety. Further, I recognize that there are many streets in the City where cycling is not safe, so I would like to see us take steps to address that problem. I’m still thinking about how the City can best approach this set of issues.
One of the developments that has led to this question being put on the agenda this week is a State law taking effect on October 1 that gives cyclists riding in crosswalks the right of way (vis a vis automobiles) if the jurisdiction they are in allows bike riding on sidewalks. Without that protection, motorists don’t have to yield to cyclists riding in a crosswalk, and can’t be charged with hitting a cyclist in that situation unless the car is exceeding the speed limit or being driven negligently. So, we have to consider how best to balance safety concerns for pedestrians and cyclists, understanding that in some cases those concerns may be in conflict. Among the potential questions I think it will make sense for us to explore are the following:
How does the new State law apply to bicyclists walking their bikes through crosswalks?
In addition to potentially allowing children under 12 to ride on sidewalks should we permit adults who are supervising them and riding at the same speed to also ride on sidewalks?
Would it make sense to allow bikes on sidewalks only on state highways (like Philadelphia Avenue or Piney Branch Road?
How would cyclists on sidewalks approaching pedestrians from behind notify them and ensure that they have sufficient space to pass (given that sidewalks may be narrower than walking/cycling paths, where such alerts are common)?
I look forward to exploring these and related matters during our discussion.
Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of these matters.