GRANOLAPARK: The “B” word

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

The council made the “historic” vote to enfranchise 16 – 17 year old residents. Blah, blah, blah.

Your Gilbert vowed not to waste any more bandwidth on this issue. Out of all the issues facing the city, this one is a pipsqueak.

Our biggest objection is not with the law, as we’ve said before, it is that this is not a grassroots issue. Once again, Takoma Park is a push-over for a left-leaning, non-profit interest-group. It is not a coincidence that Takoma Park’s voter reforms include a “Right to Vote” proclamation. See for yourself non-profit Fair Vote’s Right to Vote campaign.

Coincidence? What do you think?

Rat

In related news, a Washington Post columnist has placed herself in the running for this year’s Rat Award. Your Gilbert awards the Rat for the worst reporting about Takoma Park. Columnist Petula Dvorak is well on her way, ridiculing the Azalea City for lowering the voting age. She claims local teens told her their prime interest in voting is to “legalize it.” “It” being marijauna. Most of the quotes she gives are unattributed, and her sources unnamed. All very dubious.

If you prefer news articles written to journalistic standards, we suggest reading Takoma Voice intern Morgan Fecto’s story,  “Teens talk about voting age proposal.” Written in March, Fecto sought out teens who were in the demographic supposedly targeted by voting reforms – immigrant renters.

Grill

On to actual news.

City staff felt the heat from council member Seth Grime’s grill. He was unhappy, even snappish, about a proposed city housing code change, part of an effort to simplify and clarify housing code laws.

Grimes objected to “bureaucratic” language. He said the phrase “discontinued rental units”  is defined in the code with a “meaning contrary to the plain meeting.” The phrase is,” ‘Discontinued rental unit’ means a rental unit in a rental facility or previously licensed rental facility that is not occupied by tenants and for which the Department has approved an application for discontinuation.” That wording, said Grimes, does not accommodate landlords whose units are not in use, but who have not filed for an application.

Sticking up for plain language, Grimes called it a “bureaucratic device.”  “It’s not friendly to people not living their lives as bureaucrats,” he said.

Sara Daines, director of Housing & Community Development (which, um, sorta makes her a bureaucrat) looked stung and said through tight lips, “It’s up to the council.”

Housing & Community Development director Sara Daines, and Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman listening to councilmember Seth Grimes.

Housing & Community Development director Sara Daines, and Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman listening to councilmember Seth Grimes.

The code of the housemate

The code changes are also meant to fix loopholes. One current loophole allows landlords to say they have housemates, not tenants. Group houses are not subject to the same city code inspections, rules, or rent control as rental housing.

The proposed changes would require owner-occupied group homes to be registered and inspected for city code violations. They would not be held to the same standards as rental property, but to a more basic “living safety” standard, including safe bedroom exits.

Under questioning from council members Fred Schultz and Terry Seamens, it came out that staff expected to net only 5 to 12 cheating landlords. The councilmembers seemed dubious. They questioned whether netting the small number of cheaters was worth inconveniencing legitimate group homes. They quizzed director Daines about ways to  “get the ones we are really after, and not the ‘good ones,” as  Seamens put it. He was also concerned with how much staff time enforcement and administration would take.

Editorial – no hippies!

Your Gilbert knows a number of Takoma Park homeowners (including Your Gilbert) who could only afford to live here by taking in housemates. In most cases the houses were “fixer-uppers,” because that’s what was in their price range. These homes were/are often under renovation and not always able to pass even a “living safety” housing code. The owners and housemates of such places are usually standing on the financial edge. The cost of installing a fire-escape or moving a door could push them over.

This is the sort of law cities pass to kick out hippies. Have we forgotten our roots?

– 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: The “B” word"

  1. Steve Davies | May 21, 2013 at 12:04 pm |

    I wish people would be a bit more sensitive about use of the B word, especially here inside the Beltway, where so many federally elected officials (congresspeople) reflexively use it to slam civil servants and pander to constituents. The best option is to just throw the word in the dustbin.

    I also would venture to say that Sara Daines probably doesn’t think she’s “living her life as a bureaucrat.” She has a life outside of her job for the city.

    As David Byrne put it, “Some civil servants are just like my loved ones/they work so hard and they try to be strong.”

Comments are closed.