Photo: shouting “Save our hospital,” Brian Robinson is escorted from the Jan. 26 meeting.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
What a dilemma! There are two headline-worthy city council news nuggets this week. Together they make a misleading headline.
“City manager departs, protestor ejected”
The events were unrelated, though they each involved a man named “Brian.”
It was the last meeting for departing city manager Brian Kenner. The council gave him a nice sendoff, passing a resolution recognizing his achievements over the last year and a half. Kenner moves on to a position in Washington, DC mayor Muriel Bowser’s administration.
Takoma Park deputy city manager Suzanne Ludlow will be acting city manager, it was announced. She was acting city manager prior to Kenner’s hire.
“Save our hospital!”
In the other, more dramatic, incident, resident-activist Brian Robinson was escorted by police from last Monday’s city council meeting, repeatedly shouting “Save our hospital!”. Robinson interrupted the Deputy city manager’s report on state legislature, passing on news from the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol. She was updating the council on ongoing efforts to change the city’s liquor laws.
Robinson shouted out objections to the focus on restaurant liquor licenses rather than the Takoma Park Washington Adventist Hospital’s imminent departure. “What’s your lobbyist going to do to save the hospital?” he said.
Council and staff asked Robinson to stop the interruption, but he got louder, got to his feet and approached the dais. City manager Brian Kenner said “Please step away from everybody, sir.”
Takoma Park police chief Alan Goldberg happened to be standing by, ready to give his annual report. Robinson stepped toward him and demanded “I want to be arrested!”
“No, Brian!” said councilmember Kate Stewart.
“You’re not gonna be.” assured Mayor Bruce Williams.
Goldberg and another officer escorted him from the room. Robinson was not arrested.
CAN the city save the hospital?
The city later discussed and unanimously voted for a resolution regarding Washington Adventist Hospital’s application to move. It is directed at the state commission assessing the application. It states a desire for continued emergency care, continued primary health-care serves and for a voice in the process.
So, is the city doing all it can to stop the hospital leaving?
A better question is “CAN the city stop the hospital leaving?” The answer is, “not directly, no.”
The city has no jurisdiction or power over the hospital that would prevent it. Period.
It can, however, influence the people who do have that jurisdiction and power over the hospital – the Maryland Health Care Commission.
The commission rejected WAH’s first application for the Certificate of Need that would allow the move. The second application is in the works.
The city’s resolution is a big red flag waving at the Commission. The long list of “whereases” amount to “Hey, what about us? If WAH leaves, we have NO LOCAL HOSPITAL! Hello?”
The resolution reads:
When considering the award of a Certificate of Need to Washington Adventist Hospital, Inc., the Maryland Health Care Commission is urged to affirm that the Certificate of Need application demonstrates that adequate resources are available and designated for use to:
a.ensure that the availability of and accessibility to 24 hour/7 days per week urgent and/or emergency health care is not impaired for the residents of Takoma Park; and
b. ensure that the availability of and accessibility to the primary health care services currently offered by Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park is not impaired for the residents of Takoma Park; and
c. maintain the Takoma Park campus as an attractive property meeting local and State codes, including those for property maintenance, storm water control and tree protection.
Takoma Park is also asking the commission to recognize the city as a “Participating Entity” in the application process.
The resolution also asks for a study to see if a freestanding medical facility (emergency care center) could be placed in the city.
The police report touched on the hot issue of “body cams” – small cameras worn by police officers. These are seen by many as a curb to police abuse, especially abuse of minorities.
Chief Alan Sandberg said there is, however, and “upside and downside” to the issue. Seattle, WA’s body cam program was delayed due to an individual’s Freedom of Information requests for all videos – which he threatened to post to Youtube. The individual’s purpose was to point out privacy and logistical issues created by what he felt were overly-liberal transparency laws.
The chief also said there were data storage issues. The city is already out of sever space for police car camera videos, he said.
The police department has a couple of cameras to try out, said Goldberg. He said he believes in using body-cams. They reduce complaints, he said. But, he’d like to see some state laws passed that would give police guidance for their use.
After all the controversy about the council’s vote to share the city’s license plate reader’s data with other jurisdictions, including Homeland Security, it seems there is a technical incompatibility preventing it for now. If we can’t protect our civil rights with city law, we can count on Murphy’s Law.
Councilmember Seth Grimes, who must have been reading Granolapark, pointed out that our new Republican governor has appointed Thomas “Tim” Hutchins as head of Maryland’s Homeland Security office. Hutchins was state police superintendent under Republican governor Robert “Bob” Ehrlich, Jr. He oversaw, and defended, a program to spy on political activists in the early 2000’s. Part of the spying was to record license plate numbers of people attending meetings – some of which were in Takoma Park.
Goldberg replied that the state homeland security “fusion center” is “stricter than some” on releasing data. He added that if the city has concerns about how it’s data is used, it can “turn it off.”
Grimes also asked if there was progress on solving the August murder of Takoma Park resident Cecil Brown.
Goldberg said he couldn’t speak publicly, but that the police investigation is progressing.
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