GRANOAPARK · By Gilbert
Creating the Takoma Park city policy on sidewalks has been like a hike up Everest through a butterfat storm. But, after much slipping and sliding the summit has been reached! The policy is approved and the council will find something else to waste Your Gilbert’s hours.
For those who haven’t been following this, the city needs a policy to follow when building new sidewalks. The policy would set a standard process, with specific steps, and ample opportunity for resident input. The city’s anti-sidewalk activists (yes, there really are such people) want the power to veto sidewalk construction in front of their homes, or on their blocks. They are most unhappy with the sidewalk building policy the city wrote. They’ve been browbeating the council for over a year on this. Councilmember reaction has been mixed. Some seemed at least open to their demands, others were clearly fed up.
It came to a point, so to speak, at the March 12 city council meeting. Several points, actually. The council, under the needle-sharp eyes of the antis, added, subtracted, then again added points to the percentage of resident votes the proposed policy requires to approve a new sidewalk. The draft proposal set it at 50%. Someone suggested that 51 percent would be better. Councilmember Fred Schultz thought it should be lower. Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen suggested 66%, the same number needed for speed bumps. It was like watching negotiations at a Turkish rug market. Only much, much slower.
The debate over percentage points came up again in the final discussion March 19th, when the city council held a special session to vote on the resolution- FINALLY. It was a long, long session. There were other quibbles. Councilmember Terry Seamens didn’t like the part that gives neighborhood associations a say in the matter. He was not convinced that neighborhood associations always represent the whole community.
The antis got their blades into the beast, too. They were outraged that the percentage of required resident votes was still set at 50%. They said it should be much higher. They objected to the clause that says the council can veto a community vote. And, they didn’t like the fact that residents other than the homeowners directly affected could vote on the matter.
Your Gilbert didn’t see any antis who were parents of young children in baby strollers. And none were in wheel chairs. Yet. And when the council mentioned parents, children, or the disabled, their response was a Marie Antoinettesque “let them use the roads.”
Councilmember Seth Grimes helped end the discussion by reading from resident e-mails in support of the new policy – as written. He told the council that though the antis had made a determined effort, he was sure, based on his emails, that most citizens favored the policy, but hadn’t turned out to meetings assuming the new policy would be adapted as is. Fifty percent of all homeowners in a neighborhood is actually a very high number, he said, consiidering how difficult it is for the city to get the attention and participation of most homeowners on any issue. The higher the percentage, he warned, the more certain that no new sidewalks would be built. His remarks seemed to cut through the other councilmember’s remaining doubts like a hot knife through butterfat.
The council voted for the policy with a few minor changes. End of discussion. Pour us a drink that blots out the memory.
There’s a hand-scrawled note in the stall of the unisex rest room down at progressive activist headquarters, “Takoma Park is easy!” So, here comes yet another suggestion, presented during citizen comment period March 19, that the city add its name to a resolution calling for something progressive. It has omething to do with cutting the amount of money the national government spends on war. Maryland state senator Jamie Raskin’s name was invoked as a supporter. Like the city, Raskin is a notoriously easy lay for anyone with a beard, a poncho, and a petition.
Here we go again, being asked to add “Takoma Park” to a list of “progressive communities.” Its a list of usual suspects, and Takoma Park’s presence on it is as notable as a yawn in a dark room – and has largely the same effect. The most good it does is give the activist a resume bullet and a belt notch.
If the city actually considers passing the progressive groups resolution Your Gilbert wonders what freshman councilmember Tim Male will have to say. A few weeks ago Male took issue with the city’s many progressive lip-service resolutions. He said the city should only take a stand on a national or international issue if it includes a sacrifice for the cause as well. For example – the city’s nuclear-free policy that means the city sometimes has to spend more money to buy equipment from a “nuclear-free” company.