This week we have two Council meetings, the first of three consecutive Monday evening special sessions devoted to budget issues – this week on Council Priorities -- and then the regular Wednesday night meeting. Note that these Monday meetings don’t include public comment periods. On Wednesday there’s a public hearing on a traffic calming proposal on Fifth Avenue between Orchard and Eastern Avenues. Then we’ll have votes on repealing the Inventory Tax; a resolution ratifying the collective bargaining agreement between the City and AFSCME (the union that represents most City workers); and appointments to the Noise Control Board. We’ll close out the meeting with a discussion on Takoma Junction, with the focus this week on public space and sustainability features. Information on the collective bargaining resolution is expected to be posted on the City website sometime later today.
Note also that at the Council meeting on April 25, there will be two public hearings (starting at 6:30 PM, with child care available) at which residents can comment on the local real estate tax rate and the budget.
Council Priorities. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/Budget-Work-Session-Council-Priorities-Presentation-2019.pdf. Each year the Council develops a priorities document that serves as a roadmap for areas on which we hope to focus in the coming term. You can see the full document here: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/resolutions/2018/resolution-2018-14.pdf. While each item in the larger document is a worthwhile initiative, we can’t literally take on everything. Some ideas will take a number of years, while others may not be able to be addressed in the short term because of funding concerns or insufficient staff and Council capacity or bandwidth.
For this year in particular, there are already a lot of major projects underway in the City, so we have to be cautious in my view about taking on new initiatives. In addition, with the uncertainties and changes in Federal tax policy, I’m concerned about the proposed tax increase recommended in the City Manager’s proposed budget, and we may have hold off on some meritorious Council priorities in order to get a lower tax rate and keep the budget better scaled. A key in our Monday night discussion will be to get a clear understanding as to which items in the background document represent new funding as opposed to being continuations of existing efforts. That will help frame thinking around which ideas we may want to include in the upcoming budget, and which ones we should perhaps hold off on at least for the coming year.
Traffic Calming. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180418-1.pdf. Fifth Avenue is located in Ward Three, and residents who live on the relevant block will likely be the speakers at the hearing.
Inventory Tax. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180418-2.pdf. I support reforming or repealing the inventory tax, because I believe it has an unfair impact on smaller retail businesses in the City. The repeal vote we’re scheduled to take would apply not to the upcoming budget year (which starts on July 1), but to the following year's budget. In order to put in place a repeal for this July 1, we’d have to pass it by May 1. My preference has been to move toward a repeal that would apply sooner rather than later, but since we’re in the early stages of planning for the upcoming budget, and given that we have challenging tax and spending issues to consider around that effort, there’s a good argument in favor of the idea of approving the repeal with a one-year delay. That will give us time to figure out necessary steps to compensate for the reduction in revenue resulting from the repeal. Still, though I favor the repeal, before we vote I’ll want to hear from City staff about the impact of this delayed repeal approach on our future budgets.
Noise Control Board. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180418-4.pdf. I’ll be voting in favor of the appointments.
Takoma Junction. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180418-5.pdf. The Council will be considering various aspects of the Junction project over the next several Council meetings. As noted above, a key component of this week’s discussion will be public space. While I think the draft site plan presented recently by NDC is an improvement over the concept plan they put forward in September, one of the main areas on which I think they need to make further improvements is to increase the street-level public space in the plan. The resolution passed by the Council in October specifically stated that the concept plan did not have adequate street-level public space. Though there has been a modest expansion of public space in the new site plan, I’d like to see a further increase, and I’ll be emphasizing that point in our discussion.
I would add that on Sunday, April 22, from 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM there will be “pop-up” display at the Junction that will show some of the outlines and overall footprint of the development as currently proposed. It will be a great opportunity for residents to get a sense for how the project would look at the physical location as opposed to on paper.
As always, please be in touch with any questions and comments. I’ve appreciated all the recent communications from people who live in Ward One about both the proposed budget and Takoma Junction. As we work on these two issues, it will be especially valuable for me to hear from residents, so please continue to pass along your views.
Takoma Park City Council