GRANOLAPARK: Guardians of the Takomaxy

The three police captains taking turns as Takoma Park's acting police chief: Richard Bowers, Daniel Frishkorn and Tyrone Collington, current acting chief. Photo by Bill Brown.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Carroll Avenue Bridge re-opened today just as acting city manager Jason Damweber said it would at last Wednesday’s city council meeting. Local Twitterist Arthur David Olson posted several photos.

Councilmember Tim Male posted a great shot of himself cutting the re-opening ribbon. The bridge closed July 25, 2016. See the Voice article and photo-spread Bridge Closed.

The view from below June 14, 2017. Not a hole or crumbling infrastructure in sight. Photo by Bill Brown.

Bond. City bond!

The council approved a nine million dollar city bond, a loan that would fund a seven million dollar library renovation. The rest is for street improvements on Flower and Ethan Allen Avenues.

About ten residents commented on the city bond, both for and against. There was a “hmm, that’s an interesting suggestion, but too late” idea floated by a resident who suggested the renovation money be used to fix up the existing library and build a branch library on New Hampshire Avenue, an underserved part of the city.

This is what happens when people don’t regularly read Granolapark. Even when they have a bright idea that people might consider, they don’t learn that the issue is under consideration until the council has unalterably set course. Take heed, oh bright-ideaed citizens!

The council voted for the city bond unanimously.

That and a budget amendment were the only two votes June 7.

Make guard, not war

A long discussion about the city police force followed. This is part of the buildup to choosing a new police chief and “reviewing police force goals.”

The council had questions about police weapons, vehicles, technology, the complaint process the Emergency Response Team.

Most of the questions had to do with what the council sees as a “militarization” of police, which makes them more intimidating and less friendly. Mayor Kate Stewart said, as she has on other occasions, that she wants the city police to present themselves as guardians, not warriors. This phrase will probably feature big in the upcoming police force goals review.

The Emergency Response Team, which is basically a SWAT team, big SUV police vehicles and a switch to 9 mm guns seemed to some councilmembers to come down on the warrior side of things. And, why does the city need it’s own SWAT team?

The police, represented at the meeting by the three police officers currently taking turns as acting chief until a new one is hired, said that they recently switched to 9 mm guns, because they are more accurate.

The city police Emergency Response Team has the advantage, they said, of being in the city and under city control. The county’s SWAT team, over which the city has no control, would take longer to get to Takoma Park if there was an emergency situation. And yes the city needs an ERT, they said, and has been deployed already. They responded to a recent bank robbery, for example. Consider, said the officers, the potential targets throughout the city. We are next to the nation’s capitol, we have two colleges and a bunch of schools in this city.

The June 14 Alexandria, VA shooting-up of Republican congressional members and staffers at baseball practice underscores that point.

Sgt. Michelle Holmes, TPPD driver of the last car to cross the Carroll Avenue Bridge before deck renovations began, July 25, 2016. Photo by Bill Brown.

The city police, and other police forces, are changing from squad cars to SUVs (pictured above) because cops carry more gear which make it hard to get in and out of smaller, lower squad cars, because the SUVs are higher up, giving a wider view of surroundings, are safer and better in winter conditions, and, hey, the SUV resale value is higher, they said.

Councilmember Fred Schultz praised the new online complaint process, which he said “speaks to equity.”

Acting chief Collington said there has been only one complaint this year, an unusually low number. The one complaint was realtively minor, he said, having to do with courtesy.

There was a suggestion made to rename all Confederate-named city parks and streets. Authur David Olson tweeted after the meeting that councilmember Fred Schultz passed the idea on to the citizens’ commemoration commission.

We know tearing down any references to the Confederacy is popular right now, but it reminds Yours Truly of a visit to a Soviet Union war museum (back when there was a Soviet Union) with a Russian-historian friend. He took great glee in pointing out the blank spaces in a number of Stalin-era photos where disfavored politicians and military officers had been erased. Are those the footsteps we want to follow? First it will be Confederate generals, then ALL generals or battles because warmongers, then all white men, then all white people, then all gender-binaried, abled people, invasive species, domesticated animals, non-native words and finally no street-names at all because streets are oppressive. You want streets? You will be ERASED!

What’s up next?

We will NOT be personally covering tonight’s city council meeting. Our summer vacation does not coincide with the council’s August break, unfortunately.

You can follow the action via the aforementioned Arthur David Olson’s twitter posts. He tartly reports on council meetings at #takomapark.

We know what those scamps are up to this evening, however. They are having a farewell reception for retiring city attorney Susan Silber, then when everyone is stuffed with cake, they are going to honor her with a resolution recognizing her years of service.

There is a consent agenda: streetlight fixtures, Takoma Park Folk Festival grant approval, and a couple of contracts. Consent agendas pass with no discussion.

Then they go into a work session. That means they have an organic, free-range discussion on some subject – out of which will come something to vote on – such as a law or policy.

They will discuss community grant award recommendations and the emergency tree fund program. We are SO SAD to miss these discussions. [Cough]

Hey, Chief!

We are even sadder to miss two upcoming special meetings on police force goals and the “process for police chief recruitment,” on Monday, June 19 and “process and criteria for police chief recruitment” Thursday, June 29.

These are happening because (some of) the city council just can’t stand the city charter restrictions on their involvement in choosing a new police chief.

The charter says the council hires the city manager, a professional who knows her job, and the city manager hires – without involving the city council – her department heads. The reason is to keep politics out of it, and to keep the council, otherwise known as “that bunch of goofy amateurs,” from interfering with the city’s manager’s professional judgement.

Some on the current council think this is all nonsense. They think elected officials should be part of the hiring process, especially for the police chief position. There is talk, especially from Councilmember Tim Male, of changing the city charter. That can’t be done in time for this hire, so they are having these meetings to make their wishes abundantly clear to the city manager before she holds her interviews.

Hint to police chief candidates: show up for the interview in a tie-dye Deadhead t-shirt and sandals.

Rolling on through summer

At the June 21 meeting, the council votes the final time on the City Bond funding the library and street work. There’s another final vote on a financial auditor’s contract, and another consent agenda vote. Isn’t this thrilling?

Slightly more interesting, in an “about time!” way is a presentation on development partner proposals for the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center.

Then the council goes on a “working vacation.” They attend the Maryland Municipal League annual convention in Ocean City. The one nobody EVER offers to take Your Gilbert, even though it is well known that there are bars in the vicinity.

There will be three council meetings in July 12, July 19 and July 26, then it is the August break – and then ELECTION SEASON!!!!

Your Gilbert will have a special announcement in July. No, we’re not running for office.

– Gilbert

 

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.