Here’s a link to the agenda for the March 21, 2018 City Council meeeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-21-2018/. There’s just one vote, on the budget amendment we discussed and took a preliminary vote on last week. We’ll also have a public hearing on a traffic calming proposal for a portion of Fifth Avenue. During our work session, there will be three matters on the schedule: preliminary results of the Takoma Junction traffic study; City staff views on the Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan; and a discussion on the Commemoration Commission’s recommendations concerning renaming of streets associated with Civil War generals. Prior to the meeting, the Council will convene in a closed session starting at 6:00 PM to discuss pending or potential litigation related to the relocation of Washington Adventist Hospital.
Important Property Tax Credit Information. As tax filing deadlines approach, I’m pleased that my Council colleague Cindy Dyballa has alerted us to an important County tax credit approved last year that applies to taxpayers who are over 65 years of age AND have either owned and lived in the same house for at least 40 years OR are military retirees. Even if you received this credit last year, it’s necessary to apply this year in order to receive it again. Details can be found here: http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/finance/bill-42-16.html. And the following is a link from the City website to information about other tax benefits for which Takoma Park homeowners or renters may be eligible: https://takomaparkmd.gov/public-notices/maryland-homstead-and-renters-tax-credit-information/.
Fifth Avenue Traffic Calming. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180321-1.pdf. Residents of Fifth Avenue, which runs between Eastern and Orchard Avenues, have petitioned for installation of traffic calming measures. This hearing will provide an opportunity for affected residents to comment on the traffic calming proposals developed by City staff for Fifth Ave., which include speed humps and bump-outs.
Budget Amendment. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180321-2.pdf. This amendment includes a series of budget shifts, resulting mainly from projects and expenditures being delayed so that funds approved in the current budget can’t be spent until next year’s budget. Also, owing to various unforeseen circumstances (including staffing changes, grant approvals, etc.) some planned expenditures in this year’s budget will be discontinued or reduced, while others will be increased, with the total amount of reductions slightly exceeding the increases. I will be voting “yes.”
Takoma Junction Traffic Study. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180321-3.pdf. There are two Takoma Junction traffic studies underway, one by Junction developer NDC and the other by the City. This week there will be a presentation from A. Morton Thomas and Associates, the outside firm conducting the City study, on their preliminary findings.
Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180321-4.pdf. The Council will have a series of three work sessions aimed at determining which ideas from the draft Strategic Plan we should pursue, and developing a plan for implementing them. This first discussion will be centered on City staff recommendations.
Commemoration Commission Recommendations. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180321-5.pdf
Residents and the Council have raised concern about the appropriateness of having streets in Takoma Park named for Confederate leaders, and we directed our Commemoration Commission to look into this set of issues. The Commission held a public hearing focused on the five streets grouped together that are named for Civil War generals (Lee, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, and Hancock Avenues). The hearing was focused on whether these streets should have their names changed or have historic markers of some sort. More than 50 residents testified at the hearing or submitted written comments, with about two thirds opposed to changing the names, though there was substantial support within that group for commemorative markers. 18 percent favored changing one or more of the street names.
While I’m still thinking about these questions, my inclination has been against formally changing street names, given the disruption that could cause for residents (in such areas as mail delivery, government benefits, utility accounts, home businesses, real estate matters, etc.). But I do think it’s important in today’s political climate to make clear our abhorrence for the Confederate ideology based on slavery. So I support the idea of adding a commemorative name to Lee Avenue (named for Robert E. Lee), without eliminating the existing name, especially if we include a plaque explaining the historical background.
It appears that the five general streets may have all been named at the same time in an effort at post-war reconciliation (that’s one reason the Commission decided to consider name changes for all of them). I look forward to hearing more about that in this week’s discussion, though I don’t favor making commemorative changes to the Union general streets. If we decide to go with the commemorative plaque idea, that would offer an opportunity to address the histories of Sherman and Sheridan, who played crucial roles in defeating the Confederacy, but had brutal records in the treatment of Native Americans.
I’m very interested in having more feedback from residents on the street naming issue so please let me know what you think about it. And as always feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any other agenda items.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One