Candidate Reuben Snipper

CANDIDATE Reuben Snipper

Question: What is your opinion of the city’s rent stabilization (rent control) ordinances? Do you support the revisions to the rent stabilization ordinance proposed by city housing policy consultant Kenneth Barr, Ph’d?

I am in favor of “affordable housing” in both senses. That is, I strongly support the city’s rent stabilization ordinance, especially with the revisions proposed by Dr. Barr. I also support discouraging “McMansions” in Takoma Park, so the character of our neighborhoods can be preserved. More specifically, I support Barr’s proposals, but several of them are more like notions than actual legislative proposals. They need to be fleshed out considerably. I’m glad to see the City Council working with him on specifying the details.

Question: If you do not support rent control, what alternative form of affordable housing do you propose, if any?

I support rent control.

Question: Should the city build a gymnasium? If “yes,” what price limit would you place on the project?

I think the city should have built the gym along with the community center. Given where we are now, though, I still support a gym, but only if a design can be developed that is “affordable”. Of course, that is the question, what is “affordable”? Several considerations are important: the project the architect priced as roughly $8 million is more than a gym, it includes, for example, moving utility lines, changing the entrance to the police holding cells, changing parking, building a fitness room, etc. The gym itself is a relatively small portion of the total cost. Another issue is how much money we get from other sources, such as the state or county. If we were able to obtain substantial amounts of money from these other sources, then the total project would be more acceptable. Bottom line: I support a gym by itself that costs $1.5 to 2 million. But it is the cost of the other changes that need to be made that drive up the costs for the total project.

Question: Should the city keep all of its municipal departments: library, police, recreation, trash-collection/recycling, and so forth? If not, which should go?

The city should keep all its departments, but two things need to happen. First, we need to take advantage of the recent election officials at the state and county level who are from Takoma Park or who were elected with major campaign help by Takoma Park voters. Now is the time to pursue MUCH more actively fair reimbursement for services provided by the city. While the city is doing things to move this along, I think we need a major push to get changes in the payments and formulas used by the county and state. The TASDI report identified a number of ways to do this. This is an opportunity we should not miss.

Second, I’ve heard from the people in Ward 5 that they want major “tune-ups” of city services. For the police, things like: more emphasis on community policing, training of police officers on how to deal with teens, and an independent citizen oversight board to handle complaints. For the recreation department, more emphasis on mentoring of our children and youth in Ward 5 and better use of transportation such as the new van to transport Ward 5 residents to the Community Center. For public works, a better system for dealing with large objects, especially air conditioners and similar problematic appliances. I could go on, but that’s the idea, let’s improve our existing city services through these common sense ideas.

Question: What, in your opinion, is going to happen to the Washinton Adventist Hospital (WAH)? Will they go or stay? Would you encourage them to stay and if so, how? If WAH leaves, what should be done with the property?

WAH and a groups of citizens and members of the city council successfully negotiated an agreement for an expansion and modernization of the WAH facilities that would not overwhelm our streets with traffic. The plan included all the changes the hospital wanted except an enormous office building, rather the plan they and we agreed to was for a more modest-sized office building. When WAH went to their Board, they decided they wanted a much larger site, so they could expand substantially — that is, the current 13 acre site was too small for future expansions and they wanted 25 acres. Where we are now is that WAH has not found such a site.

I believe, we can go back to the negotiating table and come up with a design for a split facility with a major portion at the current site and the rest located nearby. Can it work? Montgomery College was all ready to leave Takoma Park until they worked with a citizens group and came up with a split campus design that has been very successful. We won’t know if that will work with WAH until we try.

Question: What is your position on the WMATA development issue?

I support development of the Takoma Metro site with a design that includes sufficient parking, bus bays, handicap access, green space, and traffic management. The design for the housing should be appropriate for the site — for example, I do not support housing with 2-car garages right next to a Metro station, as in the current plan! I also think WMATA should use procedures that are open to citizen input to develop the plans, rather than the “behind closed doors” approach followed for the current design.

Question: What is your position on development in general in the city?

To me, the key to development in the city is that citizens should be heavily involved from the beginning. My experience is that when there is active citizen involvement, new ideas and approaches emerge that meet our needs and all issues get addressed. Citizens are much more likely to insist on addressing traffic, environmental, esthetic, and other issues.

Question: Aside from the WAH issue, what development issues are there in Ward 5 and how do you plan on addressing them?

The stores on Flower — at Piney Branch and at Erie — need attention. The city, and county, need to work with the owners to refurbish them. I talked with the contractor doing the survey work and we discussed the need for crosswalks and traffic control, better sidewalks, parking, facades that fit the character of the neighborhood, etc. Traffic on Sligo Creek Parkway, Flower, Carroll, Mississippi, and our neighborhood streets need coordinated action to control it. I fully support the kind of neighborhood traffic studies the City Council recently approved to deal with this issue on a larger basis than speed bumps on a single block.

Question: In the recent elections, a number of Takoma Park politicians ran for and won higher office. Does higher office interest you and if so, how many terms do you think a city councilmember should serve before running for another office?

I am not interested in “higher office”. (I think Takoma Park is “higher” than those other offices anyway.)
On term limits: I have faith in the voters, I’ve noticed that the voters of Takoma Park have defeated several politicians when they thought it was time for a change.

Question: Are there issues other than the ones discussed above that are important to you? Please describe!

Thanks for the opportunity. I have several other issues that I want to work on, if elected. We need to strengthen environmental efforts. While the city has made considerable progress in its own operations, much more could be done. But equally important I think the city can do more to encourage individuals to maintain the environment, including urban habitat, control of runoff, bulk buying of energy efficient products, use of clean energy, tree planting, etc. We have many who are expert in these and many other ways to preserve and protect the environment and the city should make greater use of these resources.

We need to support our youth more. I want to engage more parents, high school and college students, and the city’s recreation department in working with our children. Ward 5 has a lot of children and youth who need mentors and local programs, especially during the summer. While we have sports activities for these kids, we also need to partner them with young people and adults who can show our kids that the path to success is not just by becoming a star basketball player.

Finally, bus service: I’ve ridden the bus for the entire 26 years I’ve lived in the Washington area. Ward 5 residents are tired of late buses, broken buses, no buses, and buses “in pairs” (when two arrive together). We need to hold the county’s “feet to the fire” to improve the service.

Can we do these things? If we work together, I think we can. Over the 20 years I’ve lived in Ward 5, I’ve worked with others in Takoma Park for everything from paths in Sligo Creek Park to reasonable development of the Takoma Metro site, from affordable housing to sensible modernization of the hospital, and many other issues. We’ve been successful because we’ve worked together on these issues. Takoma Park is full of people willing to work together to solve problems, not wait for someone else to fix them. I have the knowledge, commitment, and experience to work with others to make our community even better.

Question: Is there a website, newspaper article or other public place where voters can learn about your positions? Is there an email address people can write to or a phone number to call through which voters can ask you about your campaign? (other than the city website page)?

Phone: 301-585-4103

Reuben Snipper

About the Author

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.