It was like pulling teeth! That’s what members of the now-disbanded Task Force for Environmental Action (TFEA) thought the council was doing to their recommendations.
That’s why six of ’em showed up at the last council meeting of the year 2010 (Nov. 29) with their dentist outfits, ready to insert some implants.
The task force, formed last year, was asked to come up with recommendations that would put Takoma Park on the environmental cutting edge. The recommendations, bristling with little teeth (all the better to cut that edge!), were loosed on the council last August. They have since been defanged during a couple of council discussions.
Back in October the council said MAYBE we can do a little bit of that and this, but we can’t afford these, we can’t enforce those, and the law says we can’t do the others, so why not make them voluntary, educational efforts?
For instance in October they were leaning toward “voluntary/educational” on curbside compost collection. So, at the November 29 meeting the TFEA members showed up to push them the other way.
Portland, OR is “way ahead on this” said Nadine Bloch, former task force member. Portland has a composting pilot program, and even has software to facilitate getting “pre-compost” food to people in need, she said.
Councilmember Fred Schultz speculated that if the local hospital and schools put their compost out for collection, there would be a lot. “What’s the output?” he asked.
“Dirt – really good dirt” said Nadine Bloch and public works director Daryl Braithewaite – whose department would be doing the collecting and composting. In October she expressed worry that a city composting program might lose money and have problems meeting county and state code. At the November meeting she seemed more favorable, saying she’d heard “a lot of interest” in such a program.
Councilmember Josh Wright, who has long been a strong advocate of the task force recommendations, urged the city to try a pilot composting program.
Other recommendations discussed included “pay-as-you-throw” fees for trash collection, based on amount of trash each household produces. This would require new, wheeled trash bins that are mechanically picked up and dumped into a trash truck. Previously when this is discussed Mayor Bruce Williams worried aloud about wheeled trash bins rolling down hills. He bought it up again this time, and was gently pooh-poohed by the rest of the council. When he brought it up a second time a few minutes later, they yawned, stretched, checked their cell phones, and hummed little tunes to themselves (“The Wheels On The Bus Go Round and Round”) until he was done, then rolled . . . er, moved on.
The mayor asked the former task force members if they could list their priorities. Steve Davies, the former task force co-chair, said with a touch of chagrin, “the priorities are in the report.”
Undaunted, mayor Williams asked if there was a “priority within the priorities.” Davies replied that each member might answer differently, given his or her own field of interest. His was to ban gas-powered leaf blowers.
Nadine Bloch said her priority was to stop climate change. “Money and time has to be thrown at this!” she said. There are proven ways to go about it, but the city is “not prepared to be a leader in this.” She urged the city to hire a sustainability coordinator, which was the task force’s top priority.
In October the council discussed hiring a full-time sustainability coordinator. That’s a tricky one since a new hire would bust the budget. So the council and staff suggested that sharing such a coordinator with other cities would be cheaper – if only part-time.
Councilmember Josh Wright said he thinks residents would gladly pay more taxes knowing it was going for a sustainability coordinator and other environmental programs. He appealed to the rest of the council, saying the public won’t remember 90% of what they have done in office, but this could be their legacy.
What was the council’s priority, asked a former task force member. “Pay-as-you-throw” trash fees was most cited. Their list included traffic light timing, meeting the Takoma Junction charette recommendations, and amending the tree ordinance to give incentives for tree planting on private land.
Mayor Williams said that behind the scenes the city is “making headway” looking into the possible purchase of street lights from PEPCO, another of the task force’s priorities. PEPCO is making it difficult, he warned.
While the controversy whether the city should sell Route 410 to the state gently boils, it is disintegrating. So, despite the fact that repairs will be made in the spring (probably), an interim solution is needed – and soon. Balancing the need to conserve funds with safety, the council voted to do a quick fix in December before the cold weather sets in.
Back to Work!
Yes, the council is BACK! The first meeting of 2011 is January 3! Oboy! Oboy!