Green Lite

A tornado smacked into a Takoma Park resident’s house last weekend, reported mayor Bruce Williams. According to the resident, who buttonholed the mayor at the Sunday farmer’s market to tell him about, it caused “substantial damage” to the home on Erskine Avenue.

Coincidentally, only a week earlier the city’s Emergency Preparedness Committee presented a report to the city. It is a good thing that the tornado did not tear up more of Takoma Park, because it is not ready for a large-scale disaster, according to the committee. They are still discussing how to communicate with residents if there should be one. Among the possible means are siren signals (though they city would have to buy new sirens, having sold the one the fire department had), and emergency radio receivers. The receivers are inexpensive, they said, and are standard household equipment in places such as Florida where hurricanes or tornadoes are frequent occurrences.

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Other discussions at the April 21 city council meeting have been well covered elsewhere, particularly the bottled water ban. Yes, to the smirks of those who like a good chortle at Takoma Park’s expense, the city has banned the purchase of bottled water by the city government (not residents). Despite the perfectly sensible grounds that bottled water is considerably more wasteful and not necessarily better for you than tap water, the media seems to think this a nutty act equal to declaring ourselves a nuclear free zone.

The media largely ignored the council’s discussion about a (yet another) resolution against the sale of the Metro commons to a land developer. Citizens jumped all over a statement included in the draft resolution that seemed to undermine the city’s position – offering a compromise solution if the sale were approved. City attorney Sue Silber defended the clause, saying she wanted to cover all the contingencies, but the citizens still urged the council to hold a firm, consistent position against the sale.

At the more recent April 28th meeting, the council was treated to a PowerPoint presentation (insert standard rant against PowerPoint presentations here) showing the proposed addition and changes to the Takoma Park Elementary School and lot.

Your Gilbert is appalled. We understand the need to expand the school, but the plan is to build out onto the playing field. The current “annex,” the obvious space to use, is to be demolished for – get this – a bus lane. Why? Because the combined bus and parental drop-off and pickup traffic is so bad there need to be separate entrances for buses and cars. The side of the steep hill is to be cut off like a strip-mined West Virginia mountain to make a flatter surface for the bus lane. This will require the axing of all the trees and other plants on what is currently a pleasant, green slope. It also means a huge retaining wall will be necessary. Neighbors are understandably concerned with what that will look like.

It was astonishing how much the design revolves around automobile needs. This, mind you, is for an elementary school, which means that most of the students live within a mile. Yet the use of automobiles and buses is so heavy that it drives (so to speak) the school design.

So, let’s get this straight Dear Readers. Here in Takoma Park we are so green we ban bottled water, but we burn all that fossil fuel to get our kids to school less than a mile away? If we’re environmentalists here in Takoma Park, why aren’t we talking about finding ways to scale back the car and bus lanes? For instance: walking school buses.

– Gilbert.

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.