Pumping Irony

Dear Readers,

Nothing puts a crooked little smile on Your Gilbert’s face like a yummy bite of irony flavored with unintended consequences. We got a good taste of it from the city council June 22nd when it continued discussing the Langley Park/Takoma Sector Plan. That would be the Prince George’s County sector plan, not the Montgomery County sector plan which will be dealt with on a later date.

The irony is that the coming changes to the Langely Park area, particularly the route of the Purple Line light rail train, were supposed to benefit the large, low-income, mostly-Hispanic “workforce” community living in Langely Park. But, as the city staff reported to the councilmembers, the coming of the Purple Line and the streetscape improvements are inspiring the owners of the low-rise apartment buildings that characterize the area to think about raising the rents or even tearing down the old apartments and building newer, more expensive, high-density ones.

The council added language to the resolution in favor of maintaining low income housing in Langely Park.

Clash of the Amendments

Councilmember Josh Wright announced he would not be voting for amendments to the city’s affordable housing policy. His reason was that the amendments did not include one that he and by Councilmember Colleen Clay requested that would require an accounting of affordable housing’s cost to the city.

Purportedly, the objective of such an accounting would be to make a case to the county that the city spends a disproportionate amount on affordable housing compared to the rest of the county. In theory the guilt-stricken county would then be moved to increase the city’s tax rebate.

Your Gilbert is concerned that data on the cost of affordable housing could also be used by the enemies of rent control. Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm from the rest of the council indicates they share the concern.

Dream on! More likely, they were familiar with the hard facts that city manager Barb Matthews tossed onto the table with a loud THUNK – the staff doesn’t have the technical resources or knowledge to make those calculations.
The amendments passed with one “nay” vote (Wright’s, Colleen Clay being absent).

Beach Bound Bags

Flush-faced in anticipation of its Ocean City trip to hang out with al the other mayors and councilmembers of the Maryland Municipal League, the council discussed issues to advocate before the MML.
One of them was a 5 cent plastic-bag tax similar to the one proposed in the District of Columbia.

Another was a proposal to incorporate all un-incorporated land into municipalities. They decided that idea was not quite ready for prime-time, however. Councilmember Dan Robinson, who has been a strong advocate of this idea, concluded that they needed to do more “homework” on it. He was also convinced, reluctantly, by Mayor Bruce Williams that the MML would be afraid to anger counties with the suggestion. The Mayor, who has many years experience with the MML and is a member of its Legislative Committee, also said that he thought the MML would consider the proposal a “waste of time.”

Your Gilbert thinks it would be a great idea to have more municipalities in the state and county, but we don’t think the MML is the place to start. It should be a grassroots movement. Next door Silver Spring would be a great place to start. The border is porous and it would be easy to move freedom fighters and supplies back and forth. Camps from which to operate could be established in Takoma Park. The city could secretly fund all this as well as a Radio Free Silver Spring radio station.

Indicator Indignation

The Community Indicators Project barely got refunded. The council voted 3 to 2 to hand over $25,000 to it next year. As we reported last March when the project’s director came before the council, hand outstretched, the project measures “indicators” such as housing, economic development, and health over a period of time. From t his data, the proponents claim, governments and non-profits can tell which of their programs are most productive and how.

However, Councilmember Reuben Snipper and Mayor Bruce Williams objected that the indicators being measured did not relate in a useful way to city programs. The data, they said, were not specific enough to help the city.

The other councilmembers present: Josh Wright, Dan Robinson, and Terry Seamens, were largely in agreement, but voted to hand over the money. Your Gilbert is measuring strong indications that the project will not be funded again unless it redirects it’s focus.

– 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.

2 Comments on "Pumping Irony"

  1. Congratulations to Josh and Colleen for asking to know what the cost of policy is.
    Shame on all the other Council members (and to Gilbert) for using the ostrich tactic of putting their heads in the sand rather than defend their convictions! Is the case for affordable housing so weak that these scaredy-cat Council members cannot defend their convictions and have their arguments hold sway for the cost? Or do they know that that the cost is so prohibitive that there is no argument that could justify the policy?
    Double dose of shame on Terry Seamens: how is his vote against knowing the cost of the affordable housing policy consistent with his vote against the budget for not lowering the tax rate low enough? It would seem that willingness to see the tax rate decreased would demand a parallel willingness to know how the City uses its resources! But then, one vote was addressed to the homeowners and the other one to the renters… Would Terry be preparing for a run for Mayor? Then these last 2 votes suggest more a typical politician than the reformist that he has tried to portray himself as.
    As for Matthew’s admission (real or for convenience?) that the City would be unable to estimate the cost of that policy, it really shows that despite hiring a supposedly city manager and shortly after a financial director, both supposedly accomplished professionals, the remains in the dark ages as to its financial management…
    Really too bad but unfortunately not unexpected!

  2. Keith Berner | July 7, 2009 at 10:03 pm |

    I hereby suggest that a good use of tax money would be to create a fund for those who favor disincorporation so that they can save a few bucks. The fund would be used to subsidize their departure from the city they so despise.
    The offer should be made. And if the despisers reject it, their taxes should be raised to fund all that much more affordable housing.
    Yipeeee – ain’t punitive socialism grand?!

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