Dear Readers,

UPDATE: The Takoma Park city council disappointed civil liberties proponents with a close 4-3 vote July 21 on the great license plate scanner controversy.

The city already uses these digital license plate recording gizmos, but it dumps the recording data every 30 days and NO YOU MAY NOT LOOK AT IT! It does not share the data with anybody, not even YOU, Dear Readers.

The controversy is whether the city should start sharing that data with the totally benevolent, trustworthy, civil-rights-respecting Death Star, otherwise known as the Maryland Fusion Center, part of the Homeland Security apparatus protecting us from TERRORISTS. Because you never know when a license plate could go TERRORIST.


Resident proponents want them for catching robbers, not TERRORISTS, of course. And, civil liberties are not on their list of worries.  Maybe it’s a younger demographic, or maybe its a more entitled demographic, or a more technophile demographic. Or all three. Whoever they are, they are telling the council “OMG, this has GOT to stop. There is totally an app for that, why are you not using it? WTF?”

Who needs civil liberties when you have privilege? It’s the Yeties: Young Entitled Technophiles, and they are here!

Young families with children

Your Gilbert isn’t the only one who senses the presence of Yetties. Brian Robinson, relatively young, himself, but a long-time Takoma Park resident, railed against a proposal to raise property taxes on “abandoned and blighted” properties as an incentive to clean them up. It’s not really a proposal, it’s more of a wet, gooey idea to throw on the pottery wheel and see if it shapes up.

The idea comes up next Monday as a council discussion, and Robinson used the July 7 city council’s public comment session to attack it.

He was proceeded by three youngish residents who spoke in favor.


Ms Feingold addresses the city council.

One of them, Cathy Feingold (spelling approximate), said she and other Pinecrest Association neighbors “tried reaching out to the community with flyers trying to explain to people the resources that already exist in Takoma Park how to improve their properties, and we have not gotten much response.”

“We tried to submit our concerns to city code enforcement – and I have to be quite clear – we have not gotten the response we would like to see from Takoma Park,” she said.

She said she and others had taken photos of exposed wires, a collapsing roof, and evidence of rodents at an abandoned property, sent them to city code enforcement, and had only a “limited response.”


“We do need more focus in our community” she said.

“More young families are moving down there [to the Pinecrest neighborhood]. There’s a real sense of pride, but we do need the support from all of you to make sure we’re living in a safe community. And, we know when we address something, . . . we’d like to know there’s a response – and we have not been getting very timely responses.”

“We would welcome target code enforcement,” She said “We have dilapidated buildings, multiple families living in those buildings – we don’t know if they are legally there or not. It would be great to have a focus and we would love to work with you.”

Not taking it blightly

Robinson took the podium.

“Now we’re talking about ‘young families with children moving in.’ I never hear this phrase “young families with children’ used to refer to black and Hispanic and Asian immigrants who are on Section 8 housing, who are living in multi-family houses. These people we always want gone.”


Brian Robinson speaks.

Referring to a past effort to prevent Carroll Avenue gentrification, he said, “I fought for years to try to convince local homeowners not to screw over their neighbors who were [in] multifamily housing. So, I strongly urge you not to penalize people who are actually living in non-abandoned houses by calling them ‘blighted’.”

“Blight is  . . . historically used to refer to ethnically diverse areas that they wanted to gentrify.”

He said  he did not oppose using code enforcement to deal with abandoned houses, he said, but “I don’t see how raising property values on anybody is going to do anything except more segregation.”

That’s survey the cookie crumbles

Speaking of technophiles, the Young and Digital council members came in for a shock when the resident survey results were published.

This semi-annual survey polls asks, “hey residents, how’re we doing?” City staff says the residents’  answer is “you’re doing pretty darn good, city!”

The most heavily questioned part of the survey report was the news that a majority get their info from traditional, non-digital newsletters (91%) and mailings (82%). That’s right – SNAIL-mail.  And those are HIGHER numbers than 2012 survey’s.

The younger council members dropped their smart phones and cleaned out their ears – removing their ear-buds and Google-glasses first.


Yeti sighting. Illustration by William L. Brown.

Say WHAT? Impossible!

They scrunched the report into all kinds of shapes to find a way discount those numbers, but the most city manager Brian Kenner would allow was that – as the Young and Digital would have it – the survey results might have been skewed in favor of Old and Analog people who actually read and respond to their snail mail. As gross as that is!

Dear Readers, it’s unfair to exclude people who don’t know which end of a pencil is which, or who don’t know how to find a mail box. Discrimination, that’s what it is! Oh, suddenly we’re worried about civil liberties!

Holy Steve Jobs! This means the city is stuck using practically Bronze Age methods of communication. How are we supposed to set up a high-tech wonkutopia if we have to cater to these OLD people? We should have lowered the voting age to 8 instead of 16.

– Gilbert



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About the Author

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.