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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.

March 7, 2018 City Council Meeting Agenda

Dear Neighbors:

Here’s a link to the agenda for the March 7, 2018 City Council meeting agenda:  https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-march-7-2018/.  The agenda includes votes on:  the Council Priorities resolution, a resolution on a potential new elementary school in Takoma Park, and a renewable energy contract. A vote is also scheduled on a Stormwater study contract, but the background material was not yet available when I prepared this message. And, there will be a presentation from the City’s Neighborhood Services team, followed by the Police Department’s annual report.

Council Priorities.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180307-1.pdf.  As described previously, the Council has revised and updated our Priorities document, which lays out the areas where we want to make progress in the City, and also helps provide staff with guidance on initiatives they will focus on in the coming year. I’ll be voting in favor of the resolution formally adopting the priorities.

Since we can’t literally take on and implement everything on the list in a single year, the Council discussed the priorities in a roundtable format last week with City staff, and identified the areas we want to address to the degree possible in the context of our upcoming budget. The new budget year starts on July 1, and we’ll be working on the budget over the next few months. The following are the areas that drew the most Council support for inclusion in the budget:

·       Plan and prepare for development in the City and region while maintaining the special character and diversity of Takoma Park.

·       Identify policing priorities and explore options for enhanced police/community relations.

·       Ensure we have a range of safe, quality, and stable housing options that are affordable for residents of varying incomes and all races and ethnicities.

·       Further efforts related to racial equity.

·       Identify programming needs in the community and develop approaches to meet those needs, emphasizing youth, families, seniors, and our more vulnerable residents, such as those with lower incomes, immigrants, and people with developmental disabilities.

·       Increase funding from County and State to address tax duplication and other City needs.

We’ll still work on other priorities beyond these six, both within the budget and in other ways. For example, during the roundtable discussion, as individual Councilmembers we agreed to take lead roles (in some cases working together with a fellow Councilmember) on several priority issues. I’ll be focusing on: 1) efforts to preserve and expand affordable housing; 2) enhancing communication with residents in such areas as updates on the status of City projects and advance notification of street repairs; and 3) improved policies and processes for neighborhood activities like code enforcement at the boundary of residential and commercial sections of the City, the tree ordinance, and sidewalk improvements.

Finally, I mentioned in last week’s roundtable that the Environmentally Sustainable Community section of the Council Priorities document appears somewhat less detailed that the other main categories, and I suggested fleshing it out a little more. The Council met last night with the City’s Committee on the Environment (the “Green Team” meeting) to discuss key initiatives. While I couldn’t be there because I was attending an out of town funeral, my hope is that the information from the meeting will enable the Council to amend the Priorities document to provide more detail in the Environmentally Sustainable Community section.

School Facilities Resolution.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180307-2.pdf.  In previous Council meetings, we expressed disappointment that the Montgomery County Public Schools site selection committee’s recent report failed to identify potential sites in or near Takoma Park for a potential new down-county elementary school, despite expected increases in the City’s student population. There’s a March 22 deadline for comments on the site selection recommendations, and we’ll be voting on a resolution urging that a site in or near Takoma Park be chosen. The resolution also calls for a feasibility review of the Washington Adventist Hospital site (soon to be vacated by the hospital) as a possible school location. I support the resolution and will vote for it, though I may suggest language to make it clearer that we support continuing to move forward with the Piney Branch Elementary School renovations even if there is a new school in our area.

Renewable Energy Supplier Contract.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180307-4.pdf.  I plan to vote yes, though I’d like more information on how the opportunity for residents to purchase 100% of their energy from renewable sources will be publicized, and whether we could offer financial aid to lower income residents if they would face increased energy costs.

Neighborhood Services Team.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180307-5.pdf. This will be the first formal presentation from the Neighborhood Services team (which is responsible for code enforcement in the City) since it was established in 2016. The issues I plan to ask about include what the team is doing to educate residents about code requirements as an alternative to enforcement; how they approach enforcement of quality of life issues in areas where residential and commercial sections of the City meet; and what can be done to clarify the time frames within which residents who receive warnings of violations can make the necessary corrections before they receive fines.

Police Department Annual Report.  https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180307-6.pdf. This will be the first report since the appointment of our new Police Chief Tony DeVaul, and it should be a good opportunity to get a sense of how he will be approaching the job.

Please feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about any of the matters discussed in this message.

Peter Kovar

Takoma Park City Council

Ward One



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