Here’s the agenda for the February 7, 2018 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-7-2018/. We’ll vote on routine Police vehicle and City staff furniture purchases, eliminating certain code enforcement authorities, the appointment of an adviser to the new Youth Council, and several appointments to the Committee on the Environment. Then there will be further discussions on Council Priorities for the coming year, and on an ordinance governing how local food service establishments can serve food and drinks -- including alcoholic beverages -- on sidewalks and other public rights of way.
Office Hours. I’ll be holding office hours this Thursday, February 8 from 2:00 – 4:00 PM in the Conference Room at the Takowork co-working space (7000 Carroll Avenue, Suite 200, upstairs from Trattoria da Lina). If you’d like to discuss City Council issues or other local matters, feel free to stop by. No appointments are necessary.
Update from Last Week’s Meeting. I was pleased the Council gave unanimous approval to the resolution offered by Councilmember Dyballa and me calling for the State to adopt more ambitious renewable energy targets. With that vote, we joined a number or other municipalities that have urged this move, and I’m hopeful our representatives in Annapolis will take action along these lines in the current legislative session.
Our January 31 meeting included a presentation from Pepco on its major project that will involve digging up the streets along portions of Eastern and Takoma Avenues and Fenton Street. This project is scheduled to start as soon as the end of this month. I have serious concerns about whether it can be undertaken at more or less the same time as the major WSSC water main project along Philadelphia Avenue, without producing traffic gridlock. It wasn’t clear that there had been sufficient coordination between the two utilities, and that’s one of the things I plan on asking about at tomorrow night’s public meeting on the WSSC project. That meeting is at 6:30 PM on Tuesday, February 6 at the Community Center. I urge all interested residents to attend.
Façade Regulations. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-1.pdf. At a recent Council meeting we discussed a proposal to eliminate some code enforcement authorities which are tied to the regulations relating to the City’s Façade Advisory Board. The Board has no responsibility for code enforcement, and according to City staff there is adequate enforcement authority elsewhere in City and County regulations. I’d be willing to repeal outdated or duplicative enforcement language, but I want to make sure we have adequate tools for situations that have negative impacts on residents because of excessive noise, improper garbage handling, poorly placed lights, etc. At last week’s meeting I asked City staff for a report on how problems in these and related areas would be able to be addressed if we go forward with the proposed elimination of the code enforcement language. How I vote will depend on the answer to that question.
Police Vehicles. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-2.pdf. This is a modification of a previously approved purchase connected to a change in the relevant vendor. I’ll be voting yes.
Human Resources Furniture. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-3.pdf. This is the final vote on a purchase of furniture for the City’s Human Resources Department. The funds are in the Department’s annual budget, and I’ll be voting in favor of the funding as I did last week on a preliminary vote.
Youth Council Adviser. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-4a.pdf. This appointment and the Committee on the Environment appointments are being combined into a single “consent” agenda with one vote, a common practice for votes considered non-controversial. I’ll be voting yes.
Committee on the Environment Appointees. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-4b.pdf
City Council Priorities. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-5.pdf. In January the Council met in two “retreats” to discuss priorities for the coming year. We did this the past two years, and the agreed-upon priorities were consolidated into a document the Council formally adopted. That document informed our work and the activities of staff. Some matters that appear on the document remain from year to year, as they can only be addressed via sustained, long-term action. Others may come and go, depending on Council interest and staff actions. While we can consider and vote on items that don’t appear on this document, it does serve as an excellent single source indicator of our goals and the strategies we hope to use to implement them.
At this week’s meeting we’ll go over the current draft of this year’s document, and make needed refinements. Later this month we’ll hear from staff of the City Departments about the document’s proposals, with a final vote scheduled for March. I’m pleased that working together the Council made a number of important revisions to last year’s document. Here are a few of the key changes I recommended, which were added: including seniors as a group within the community whose needs we should focus more on; placing a greater emphasis on affordable housing; minimizing adverse impacts from the recently enacted Federal tax law; increasing non-English communication of City documents and notices; improving notification to residents in advance of street work and strengthening monitoring of utility and contractor work in public areas; exploring ways of improving code enforcement mechanisms related to residential-commercial boundary areas; and providing more outreach and support for local businesses.
There are many other important ideas in the Council Priorities document, and I hope all residents have a chance to read through it. To be realistic, we can’t literally do everything in this nine page document. What we can achieve will depend on funding, staff resources, Council votes, and community support, among other factors. But, again, as a roadmap for our actions and a detailed statement of ideas that can make Takoma Park even better, it’s a document we can be proud of.
Outdoor Cafes. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180207-6.pdf. The Council has already discussed this topic several times, and we now have a detailed proposed ordinance that reflects the various aspects of this idea we’ve informally agreed to. We’ll have what I anticipate will be a final discussion, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to take an official vote on the idea in the near future.
Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of these issues.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One