Here’s a link to the July 18, 2018 City Council meeting agenda: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-july-18-2018/. We’ll be voting on a major budget amendment; a contract for construction of sidewalks on Lincoln Avenue; Police Department vehicle purchases; and a contract for outside assistance connected to the Police promotion process. Then, four agenda items on issues where little debate is expected, will be grouped together into a single “consent agenda” on which I’ll be voting yes. Finally, we’ll have a work session on a proposed Legal Services Review Advisory Group, and our State legislative priorities to be submitted to the Maryland Municipal League.
The Council has one more meeting this summer, on July 25. After that, we aren’t scheduled to meet formally again until Wednesday, September 5.
UPDATES FROM LAST WEEK
Takoma Junction. We’re scheduled to vote on the Takoma Junction site plan resolution on July 25 (that topic isn’t on the agenda this week). The Council had an extensive work session on the Junction last week during which we made a series of decisions about the contents of the resolution. You can see the video of that session starting at the 3 hour 52 minute mark here: http://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2368.
I’ll send out a separate update on the Junction, with details of the work session. For now, I’ll note I remain concerned about what I consider to be an inadequate amount of public gathering space in the site plan. My proposal to reduce the Junction structure to create additional public space was rejected by the Council in the work session, meaning the site plan resolution is unchanged on that point. I’m pleased the Council did agree to amend the resolution to call for a cut in the building’s height, and I’m giving thought to whether there are other ideas for increasing public space that might get more support on the Council at our meeting on July 25.
Montgomery College Math-Science Building. Thursday of last week was the second design charrette meeting on the new building. SmithGroup JJR, the architectural firm for the project, presented three design concepts. We’re a long way from any firm decisions on the new building, but it was encouraging to see that all three design ideas call for a setback along Takoma Avenue further back than the current distance, with a significant setback along Fenton Street as well. There are no more formal charrette meetings scheduled until the evening of Tuesday, September 11. However, there will be office hours when interested residents can stop by to speak to the design team. There will also be a tour of the campus. Because those events were initially scheduled for a relatively limited time frame in August, I requested that some additional office hours be set as well as a second tour, and the design team agreed to add some dates. You can see more details about the project via this link: http://mcblogs.montgomerycollege.edu/tpss-math-science-building/category/design-charrettes/. The site hasn’t yet been updated to include the office hours or the design concepts. I’ll circulate that information as soon as it’s available.
Upcoming Office Hours. Residents are welcome to stop by to talk with me about local issues (no appointment necessary) at these times:
Tuesday, July 17, 2:00 - 4:00 PM at Takoma Bevco
Thursday, July 19, 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM at Capital City Confectionery
Tuesday, July 24, 10:00 AM - Noon, Takoma Bevco
If none of those slots are convenient, feel free to be in touch so we can find a time that works.
Budget Amendment: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-1-2rev.pdf. It’s common to have a catch-all budget transfer near the end of a fiscal year (the current one ends June 30) to make sure funds approved but as yet unspent for the current year’s budget can be spent in the following budget year. The bulk of the items in this amendment are in that category, meaning they aren’t new funding. However, some -- like the Junction mediation funding and costs connected to replacing a Police car totaled in an accident -- weren’t anticipated when the budget was adopted. I support the mediation funding, but I will have questions about the damaged car. More broadly, it’s important to understand whether changes are needed in our procedures to reduce the need to transfer funds in this way, and I hope to explore that point in our meeting.
Lincoln Avenue Sidewalks: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-3.pdf. I’ll be voting in favor of this contract.
Police Department Vehicle Purchase: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-4.pdf. While I’m supportive of the Police Department having the resources it needs to protect residents, I’d like to see greater focus on reducing Police car accidents, and, again, I’ll be raising that issue.
Police Promotional Process: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-5.pdf. I’ll be voting yes on this agenda item.
CONSENT AGENDA VOTE (grouped together for a single vote)
Anne Street Closure: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-6a.pdf. We had a nice turn-out from Ward One at the Crossroads Farmers Market this past week, and I support the idea of closing off Anne Street (where that market takes place) as we have previously for a larger event featuring Crossroads area businesses.
Recreation Services for People with Disabilities: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-6c.pdf. Over the last couple of years, the Council has been taking steps to focus more City programming on the needs of disabled residents. While there’s certainly more work to be done to address those needs, this initiative is a positive step forward.
Police Department Storage System: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-6d.pdf
Legal Services Review Advisory Group: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-7.pdf. Given the increasingly complex legal matters considered by the Council, I agree we should review our needs and consider whether there are alternative approaches that could make sense for us. For example, it’s conceivable we might want to hire in-house counsel for basic municipal legal work, as opposed to maintaining an ongoing relationship with an outside firm, as we currently do. This will be a good opportunity to explore ideas along those lines.
MML Legislative Priorities: https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2018/council-20180718-8.pdf. Each year the City submits up to three State legislative recommendations to the Maryland Municipal League for potential inclusion in the organization’s list of priorities. We’re required to submit our list by July 27. I continue to have concerns about the way utilities like Pepco and WSSC operate within our community and that’s one area I’m thinking about suggesting for the list. A second idea worth exploring in my view is a State program with funding to help municipalities reduce negative impacts on affordable housing when major projects like the Purple Line are being constructed. I’d welcome suggestions from residents for other additions to the list.
Feel free to be in touch with questions or comments about the issues covered in this message.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One