Here’s a link to the agenda for the March 14, 2018 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-14-2018/. The agenda includes two votes on national/international issues: a resolution “Condemning Acts of Gun Violence and Supporting the March for Our Lives and Other Efforts to Reduce Gun Violence”; and a resolution “Affirming Our Support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” We’ll also be voting on a plan to close Anne Street to accommodate the Crossroads Farmers Market; and on a budget amendment, the details of which were not yet available when I wrote this blog. There will also be work sessions involving proposals developed by CHEER’s Renters Protection Group, and on our rental housing inspection contract with Montgomery County. Prior to the regular meeting, there will be a closed session in which the Council will discuss the ongoing labor negotiations involving City management and City workers who are represented by AFSCME.
Update from Last Week’s Meeting.
Council Priorities. We adopted several changes to the Environmentally Sustainable Community section of the Council Priorities Document to avoid unduly emphasizing energy efficiency to the exclusion of other sustainability strategies, and to increase the focus on minimizing any negative environmental impacts from development projects within the City. We may make some additional adjustments based on further consultation with the Committee on the Environment.
School Facilities. We amended the resolution to make it clear that the Council favors going forward with the renovation of Piney Branch Elementary School regardless of whether another site near or within Takoma Park is identified for a potential new elementary school.
Renewable Energy. The staff estimated that residents choosing to receive their household energy from renewable sources under this contract could anticipate an average increase of $10 per month. Some City funds would be available to provide financial assistance to residents unable to afford an increase.
Neighborhood Services Team and Annual Police Report for 2017. The discussions on both of these were quite detailed, and I’m working on getting additional information from the Police Department on issues that I wasn’t able to ask about during the Council meeting. So I’ll be sending out a separate message later with updates and information about these two agenda items.
Resolutions on Gun Violence and Nuclear Weapons. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180314-1.pdf
I’ll be voting for both resolutions. Our City has a history of strong support for efforts aimed at promoting peaceful solutions to international conflicts and reducing violence in our society, and these resolutions are consistent with that approach. I would add that they aren’t simply statements of principle. They express support for – in the case of the gun violence resolution – specific State legislation that would increase safety within Takoma Park if approved by the State legislature, and – on nuclear weapons – support for a United Nations treaty that is well aligned with our longstanding local policies relating to the nuclear weapons industry.
Anne Street Closure. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180314-4.pdf. I’ll be voting to continue allowing the closure of a one-block portion of Anne Street on Wednesdays from May to December for use by the Crossroads Farmers Market.
CHEER Renters Protection Group. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180314-5.pdf. I worked with CHEER staff and volunteers as they developed some of their proposals aimed at helping to ensure the continued availability of affordable rental housing in Takoma Park. This is a major challenge in the City, and it’s an issue on which I believe the municipal government has a crucial role to play, whether in the form of collaboration with other jurisdictions and non-governmental organizations or through the adoption of new local ordinances or amendments to existing ones. As we continue to review the Housing and Economic Development Plan (https://takomaparkmd.gov/initiatives/project-directory/housing-and-economic-development-strategic-plan/) that was drafted for us last year by an outside consultant, it’s important for us to ensure that affordable rental housing remains a key component of our overall work on housing. The presentation from the Renters Protection Group will provide valuable input for that effort.
Rental Housing Inspection Contract. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180314-6.pdf. An important aspect of our local rental housing work is enforcement of housing code requirements, a task that has been handled for Takoma Park for many years through a contract with Montgomery County. I’m pleased that we’ll be reviewing the operation of that contract immediately after the discussion with CHEER. This should give us an excellent opportunity to understand how to address challenges faced by renters who live in apartments that may have substandard conditions.
Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of these issues.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One