GRANOLAPARK: Dress like a Democrat, and other news

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

The Takoma Park city council is not just working on the controversial city charter amendment, though that’s what’s been getting all the attention lately.

For instance, Councilmember Fred Schultz let his freak flag fly.

Schultz was stunned when Buddy Daniels (Democratic Party precinct chair, and bother of councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen) told him in private that he assumed Schultz was a Republican because “you sorta dress like a Republican”. So for the Nov. 6 city council meeting Shultz set aside his usual “coat, tie, and nice clean dress shirt” and and slipped into Democratic duds – a frumpy “Perry Como sweater,” plaid open-collar shirt, and a ball-cap with a long grey-haired pony tail down the back.

Schultz Rebuplican

Ward 6 councilmember Fred Schultz – Republican?

Schultz Democrat

Ward 6 councilmember Fred Schultz – Democrat!

Ban

There’s another potential controversy coming up this week. A group has petitioned the council to ban “cosmetic lawn and garden pesticides.” The council will discuss this in a work session Tuesday, Nov. 13.

Previous councils shied away from bans. Despite the city’s green reputation, there are many NIMBY residents. They come out, battle-axes in hand, to defend their perimeters when the council threatens their self-proclaimed right to poison the environment as long as they are standing in their own yard. These people are constituents, so the council doesn’t like to anger them.

There were two attempted bans in the last decade. One was to ban gas-powered lawn-mowers. The other was to ban gas-powered leaf-blowers. The council handled them in similar ways. They tossed every barricade they could think of in the path. Chief among these is the issue of enforcement. Who would enforce a ban, and how? The police are stretched to capacity and environmental infractions would be at the bottom of their priority list. They tried to weaken them so that instead of bans, they were “educational campaigns” or recommendations. In the end the lawn-mower ban was dropped, and the leaf-blower ban was put off by referring it to the citizen Environmental Action Task Force. The task force recommended enacting a ban, so the city passed one that did not apply to residents. It applies only to the city’s Public Works Department which didn’t use leaf-blowers very much, anyway.

THIS council may be different, however. There are 4 newly-elected councilmembers who have shown a maverick, even rebellious, streak. One of them, Tim Male, served on the Environmental Action Task Force. Another new council member, Seth Grimes, favored the other two bans.

Parking permit pitfall? 

It’s all about the late-night parties at a church. The Zion Lutheran Evangelical Church rents the building out to some un-churchlike revelers. Neighbors have called police multiple times complaining of loud noise in the wee-hours of the morning. One of the neighbors is Ward 6 councilmember Fred Schultz. Fred Schultz is a Democrat, by the way.

The community wants the city to create a permit parking area in the neighborhood that would ban non-permit parking from 7:00PM to 7:00AM. They hope this will help discourage, or at least contain, the partiers.

The council is happy to oblige, but there is a possible pitfall. The proposed parking permit ordinance allows for guest passes which the church would be eligible for. If the church handed them out to renters there would still be noisy partiers roaming the streets late at night.

Regardless, the council proceeded with the first reading, voting for the draft resolution. There may be some adjustments for the next, and final, round of voting in the second reading.

Raising hackles

The council gave themselves a salary and benefit raise Nov. 5. It will go into effect after the next election.

They’ve been getting some heat for this in the last week. As they remarked with some annoyance, the raise and extra benefits have been in the works for years. There was a citizen’s committee formed to make recommendations. There were public meetings, reports, and discussions. There was no effort, as some johnny-come-latelies have charged, to sneak the ordinance through. It’s been a long, slow, very public process for anyone making the effort to check.

As we’ve seen before, much of the public pays no attention to the city council until something like this comes up, then they break out the pitchforks and torches. They don’t attend meetings, they don’t read the email reports most city council members send to their constituents, they don’t check the city website to read the council agendas, and THEY DON’T READ THIS COLUMN.

Apparently, they think the city council should come around to their house every week to give a personal accounting. Even in Takoma Park, that constituent service can not be provided on a regular basis.

The raise passed 6 – 1. Tim Male was the only “nay” vote. His amendment, which would have eliminated the salary increase, but keep new benefit increases, was defeated 5 – 2, Male and Seth Grimes voting “aye.”

– Gilbert

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About the Author

Gilbert
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.

1 Comment on "GRANOLAPARK: Dress like a Democrat, and other news"

  1. Steve Davies | November 14, 2012 at 1:50 pm |

    The leaf blower ban proposal (endorsed by the Task Force on Environmental Action) never got far enough to elicit much public opposition from residents. Any lobbying of council members was done outside the council chambers, in phone calls or conversations from folks who never appeared at council meetings to express their opinions.

    In the one work session held on the issue, the only opponent was a lawn and garden retailer from outside the area. Understandably, then-Chief Ricucci did express concerns about enforcement, but I believe this could be handled by code enforcement, not the police. (See below for excerpt on what code enforcement does, from the city web site.)

    In addition, by its very nature, a ban is simple to explain to people — i.e., blowers powered by gas and oil would not be allowed, period. Also, if the measure were phased in and the city provided adequate publicity and education about the severe health problems caused by the emissions, I think we could achieve some real improvements in air quality and quality of life. The city also would show it can be a leader on environmental issues — a goal frequently voiced by city council members, some of whom have nonetheless shied away from taking truly bold steps toward improving said environment.

    As for the statement that the city did not use gas blowers much anyway, I think that is belied by the very vehement opposition to the city ban from some public works employees, who testified before the council that they really couldn’t do their jobs without the machines. (See the Jan. 10, 2011, minutes and video.) The proposal passed narrowly, with Mayor Williams, former councilmembers Robinson, Snipper and Wright voting FOR, and current councilmembers Terry Seamens and Fred Schultz AGAINST. Former councilmember Colleen Clay abstained, stating she didn’t think this was the direction the city needed to go on green matters. (at least that’s my recollection — according to the minutes, “Ms. Clay said she would support a ban of two-stroke engines. She commented that her neighbors complain about leaf blower use by contractors and on commercial properties, but she does not hear people complaining about blowers used by Public Works. She said she does not think her residents want less-maintained parks and this ban does not get at the target we’re looking for and it does not get at what the Task Force on Environmental Action asked us to do. She said she would consider a ban on use of two-stroke engines or a seasonal ban on leaf blowers.”)

    PROPERTY MAINTENANCE http://www.takomaparkmd.gov/hcd/code_enforcement/index.html#propmaint

    Code Enforcement Division

    The Code Enforcement Division’s primary mission is to protect the health and well being of Takoma Park residents through the preservation of its residential and commercial infrastructure. Our responsibilities include the inspection and licensing of residential rental structures, community-wide enforcement of the Property Maintenance Code and other nuisance ordinances, the investigation of nuisance complaints, and referrals to appropriate county and state agencies in situations where local codes do not apply.

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