“I feel like it is an inquisition,” said Mayor Bruce Williams.
“Off with his head!” quipped Steve Davies, city resident and jilted applicant to the Task Force on Environmental Action.
It was an awkward moment. Davies had just challenged the councilmembers and mayor to identify which members they personally had appointed to the Task Force. He objected to the “condescending” manner in which the mayor had breezed through the official listing of newly appointed Task Force members.
The uncomfortable council and mayor complied with Davies’ request, even though it came a moment after they adjourned the Sept. 21 meeting.
One of the items on that meeting’s agenda had been the official appointment of 17 task force members. The task force has 21 seats, but Ward 4 councilmember Terry Seamens has yet to appoint his allotted 4 seats.
Davies is an active proponent of a citywide ban of gasoline-powered leaf-blowers, an idea that is not universally popular on the council. Several councilmembers have said that rather than pass specific, piecemeal laws such as a blower-ban, the city should devise an overall environmental policy (through the task force).
Blower ban advocates have scoffed at this stance, saying the council is merely avoiding the issue. As Seth Grimes told the council in July, the task force is likely to have at least one of the 30 environmentalists who support the blow-ban on it.
Judging by the steam hissing from his ears, Mr. Davies appeared to be under the impression that the council declined to appoint him to the task force to avoid that eventuality. And, what the mayor may have considered an effort to save meeting time by moving quickly through the pro-forma appointments, appeared cavalier to Mr. Davies.
Terry Seamens, waving an olive branch, offering to meet with Mr. Davies later, “to talk to you about your interest.” Though Seamens has 4 slots yet to fill on the task force, he earlier in the meeting stated an intent to give those seats to Ward 4 residents, none of whom have yet committed to volunteer.
Council Chambers Sacked
The Takoma Park City government in exile was meeting in temporary quarters Sept. 21. A few days prior the council chamber were seized by a group wielding heavy tools and implements of destruction. Mayor Bruce Williams reports that the group has turned much of the interior into a pile of wreckage. A lengthy standoff of 4-5 months is expected before authorities can regain possession of the room.
Larry Silverman, the owner of S&A Beads made another impassioned plea to the council to exempt or discount Takoma Park businesses from the inventory tax (personal property tax). The 2.5% tax is hurting city businesses in what is already a difficult economy, he said. Almost all of the other state municipalities offer a discount or exemption, he said.
Circle of Calm
A public hearing brought out a number of local residents many of whom expressed displeasure with one aspect or another of the city’s New Hampshire Gardens Traffic Calming plan. The area affected includes most of Ward 6, the northeastern “horn” of the city. The residential neighborhood is boxed in on three sides by major arteries: University Blvd., New Hampshire Ave., and Carroll Ave. There has been a great deal of cut-through traffic between Carroll and New Hampshire Avenues on residential Wildwood Avenue, and the city was asked to take “traffic calming” measures a couple of years ago.
Now, after two years of consulting with residents and coming up with a plan, residents who were not part of the process are complaining about the plan. ‘Twas ever thus!
A good deal of the complaining was due to the common national ailment, Traffic-Circleitis, an irrational fear of traffic circles. The city wants to put in three small traffic circles, as well as a couple of speed bumps, a raised intersection, and better signage.
City officials and staff went into defensive-but-mildly-annoyed mode, citing two years of staff efforts to inform and involve neighborhood residents. Councilmember Reuben Snipper eloquently made the case for traffic circles, pointing out that not only do they slow traffic, as alternatives to stop-signs and traffic lights they save time and fuel.
Almost everyone agreed that what is REALLY needed on Wildwood is a sidewalk. It currently has none, forcing pedestrians to walk on the road or on lawns – lawn walking not always an option for pram-pushing parents. Sidewalks are not part of the current plan, but Ward 1 councilmember Donna Victoria said “we’ll work on that.”
Last minute citizen griping notwithstanding, the council passed the plan on its first reading. The second, final reading is scheduled for Sept. 28.
Our Vital Democracy
One of the citizen commentors on the traffic calming issue was Barrie Lee Howard, who earlier in the year expressed interest in filling the remaining term of Ward 6 councilmember Doug Barry. He was not the one appointed (Donna Victoria was), but this means he is free, as Ms Victoria is not, to run for that office this fall. His two appearances before the council as a citizen commentor since then have caused Your Gilbert to speculate that he may be preparing to run for council.
However, he is not one of the two Ward 6 residents who have inquired at the City Clerk’s office for information about how to run in the election. No potential candidates for other offices have made inquiries.
As the two who did have discovered, however, there are no applications or forms required prior to the election.
All that is required is to show up at the Nominating Caucus, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 7:30 pm with a nominator and a seconder. As has been known to happen, a candidate can nominate or second the nomination of him- or herself.
City residence is required – at least six months of it, and the candidate cannot hold another publicly-elected office.
Candidates who miss the Nominating Caucus can register as a write-in candidate up until the Friday prior to the election.
So, the field is wide open at this point. The number of inquiries may or may not be indicative. Other candidates may already know the process so they didn’t bother. The two who inquired may have second thoughts.
We’ll find out Tuesday, Dear Readers! If you are as excited as Your Gilbert, you won’t be able to sleep until then.
Dog parks figured heavily in the discussion of the evening. Councilmember Josh Wright brought it up as did a resident who presented a 30-signature petition. At the last meeting Councilmember Dan Robinson raised the subject, asking the city manager to look into the laws to find a way to allow dogs off-leash in parks.
Wright suggested establishing a fenced in area for the purpose, perhaps in Spring Park where there is a tradition of dog owners (illegally) letting dogs off-leash at certain times.
Clearly this issue is percolating and some of the councilmembers are itching to do something about it. Whether the law will allow them remains to be seen – particularly in the case of Ed Wilhelm field, which is owned by the county.
Parking Meter Named Desire
Councilmember Dan Robinson is no Stanley Kowalski (“Did you ever hear of the Napoleonic Code, Stella?”) He wants no Napoleonic Code – which spelled out the law in exact detail – in Takoma Park. Laws, he said, should give guidelines, not specifics.
Otherwise the city will have situations such as the one the council was in. They were being asked by the Old Town Business Association to revise a law that specifies the exact amount of time (30 minutes) allowed on Laurel Avenue parking meters. The Old Town merchants want the meters changed to allow 2 hours.
The request sparked a council discussion about allowing flexibility in the laws so that staff could set such specifics without the council having to pass new resolutions to revise the old ones.
While he was beating up on Napoleon, Robinson got a lick in on the county alcoholic beverage laws, too. They are, he said, Napolenonic Code-like in their “absurd” level of detail and control. This may an early indicator of Robinson’s thoughts about allowing a liquor store in Takoma Park – the subject of an upcoming council discussion.