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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.

February 21, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the agenda for the February 21, 2018 City Council meeting:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-21-2018/.  We’ll be taking our final vote on the outdoor café proposal, and voting on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding and expressing support for State legislation authorizing Census grants. In addition, our staff will make a presentation on the City’s recent quarterly financial reports, and we’ll have a discussion on potential changes to the personal property tax (which applies to businesses).

Update from last week’s meeting. We discussed issues relating to a potential new elementary school in or near Takoma Park, with a focus on the recent disappointing report of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ Site Selection Committee, which unfortunately recommended two locations outside the beltway. The City has already gone on record to express concern about the Committee recommendations through the submission of a minority report and a letter from the City Manager. At last week’s meeting we agreed to draft a resolution expressing the Council’s concern, which will be sent to key decision makers by the March 22 deadline for comments on the report. To see my comments from last week, go to the 1:53 point of the meeting via this link:  http://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2326.

Strategic Plan Housing Forum.  On Monday, February 26 at 7:00 PM in the Community Center there will be a forum on the City’s draft Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan, with a focus on the housing components of the Plan. You can find the plan here: https://takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/project-directory/housing-and-economic-development-strategic-plan/.  Preserving housing affordability is one of the top challenges we face in Takoma Park, and it may become more difficult as development spurred by the Purple Line begins to take place. I encourage anyone who is interested in this topic to attend the forum.

Youth Council Survey.  I previously asked residents to pass along to students in grades 6 and up the Takoma Park Youth Council survey:  https://goo.gl/forms/wKXKJsNv8yF6GMhK2. It will be helpful to have more responses, so please pass it along to children in that age group.

Outdoor Cafes.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180221-1.pdf. This will be our final vote on this topic, and I’ll be voting in favor of the resolution. Under the proposal, the City Manager will have authority to establish permitting regulations, including hours of operation (which can be different from the regular opening hours of the establishments in question), and residents will be able to comment on the regulations before they are finalized. I'll be urging the City Manager to look closely at the impact of hours of operation on nearby residents to ensure that noise and other impacts from outdoor service don't have an adverse impact on residential neighborhoods.

CDBG Projects. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180221-2a.pdf.  It’s estimated that we’ll receive some $91,000 in CDBG funds. City staff has recommended that the funds be applied to the City’s ADA compliance work. I agree with that idea, and I support the resolution. However, I did emphasize to City staff at last week’s Council meeting the importance of providing stronger monitoring of contractors who carry out ADA work in the City, given that there were a number of complaints from residents about poor advance notification and careless work during the ADA compliance efforts on the sidewalks of several streets in the PEN area last year.

State Census Grant Legislation. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180221-2b.pdf.  I’ll be voting in favor of expressing support for State legislation establishing a Census grant program. If the State bill is passed, the City would be able to apply for a grant to help gather more accurate population data during the 2020 national Census. Better data will be beneficial to Takoma Park in a number of ways, including strengthening the implementation of our Racial Equity policy, and enhancing our work to address the concerns of under-served communities within the City.

Quarterly Financial Reports. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180221-3.pdf.  Receiving periodic presentations from City staff about our financial status is vital in enabling the Council to make responsible, well-informed decisions about budget and tax issues. 

Personal Property Tax. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180221-4.pdf  I have long favored making changes to the inventory tax (which is part of the Personal Property Tax) that applies to businesses in Takoma Park, and I’ll be pushing for us to take action early enough to apply to next year’s tax filings. Our inventory tax is currently at the highest allowable rate under State law, and it applies across the board to all businesses, including small, independently run operations. This puts Takoma Park at a competitive disadvantage with other nearby jurisdictions, and has an especially unfair impact on our small retail stores which have to maintain large inventories at the end of the year, given the importance of holiday season sales to their overall bottom lines.

Of the options for reform of the inventory tax listed in the background memo for this agenda item, I lean toward exempting a percentage of the inventory to which the tax applies. The advantage of this approach is that it would mean virtually all small businesses would pay no inventory tax, with medium sized and larger businesses seeing a reduction. That strikes me as a good way of supporting our small businesses without creating the need for a major new tax or approving a large budget cut to make up for lost revenue. Of course even under that approach, there would still be a decline in revenue and we'd have to address that. Furthermore, I recognize that there are decent arguments in favor of some of the other options outlined in the background memo, and I’m open to considering them as part of our effort to bring about more fairness to this area.

As always, please feel free to be in touch with comments or questions about any of the issues covered in this message.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



Agenda for February 28, 2018 City Council Meeting

February 14, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda