GRANOLAPARK: Snow, drones, crime and priorities

IMAGE: The city council reviewed its boffo Snowzilla performance, giving Granolapark the opportunity to use an interesting snowstorm photo instead of another boring shot of the city council. Photo by Eric Bond.


Dear Readers,

Drones are illegal in Takoma Park. Unfortunately droning isn’t. Otherwise city council meetings would be way shorter.

This came up because a hypothetical council member, hypothetically named Rizzy Qureshi, asked the city police chief a hypothetical question about a hypothetical quad copter drone that hypothetically might have gotten stuck 80 feet up a tree within remote-control distance of the Qureshi’s house. So, uh, would operating that hypothetical quad copter, if one owned such a thing, be legal, and therefore, hypothetically, worth retrieving.

The chief said that any unmanned flying device within the Beltway and within seven miles of an airport, was – unhypothetically – illegal. Best to leave it up a tree – like the fire department told him when the hypothetical council member called them about a hypothetical rescue. Their hypothetically helpful suggestion to put an open can of tuna at the base of the tree got no results, not even hypothetical ones.

Crime down

Chief Alan Goldberg was at the Wednesday, Feb 17 meeting to present the annual police report. In short – crime is down. Last year saw the lowest level of auto thefts in years, robberies are down and burglaries are at the same level as last year.

Calls for service, including “walk-ins” at the police station have increased by 600, said the chief. He speculates this is due to the closing of Montgomery County’s Silver Spring police station. Walk-ins include people wanted by the county police turning themselves in at the city station. Those people must be transported to the county detention center – adding to the city police work-load.

Chief Goldberg mentioned the Community Cam Program. People with surveillance cameras at their property sign up to share their footage with police. A couple of useful images of criminal perpetrators have resulted, said Goldberg. Unfortunately only 5 residents have signed up, reportedly.

Tasers were used only once last year, and there were eleven use-of-force incidents, including use of pepper spray.

City police are using body cameras on a trial basis.

Lock your doors, Dear Readers! 60 percent of the city’s burglaries are committed in houses where a door was left unlocked. The chief noted that burglary patterns are changing. Typically they used to occur during the daytime when people were at work. But, he speculates, because the increasingly coveted devices are ones people take to work, the majority of burglaries last year were in the evening when people were out.

The chief answered a question about a reported gunshot early Wednesday morning. It got into some interesting details about the problems that can be encountered when using a cell phone to dial 911. See The Voice article The Trouble with 911.

Most interesting

The most interesting thing the chief mentioned was that officers have been making their own suggestions how to better police/community relations. Earlier the city manager mentioned in her report that so far an adequate police/community relations consultant has not been found. Seems like officer suggestions would be an interesting, and cheaper, way to go for now. And the police would be more invested in their own ideas than those from pencil-necked consultants.

Snow problem

The council reviewed how well they survived the recent Snowzilla storm, how fast they got back to normal. Like that’s a good thing.

The report, staff and council members had – considered altogether – a schizophrenic response.

Yay us, we were the first in the region to clear all our street, but then residents got into their cars and DROVE on the cleared streets, got in the plows’ way, created traffic jams, and when they got to the city line, found the roads were terrible. What’s up with that? What made them think they could drive on cleared city roads? It’s a mystery.

Some council members thought the city manager should have cracked down sooner on residents who hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks a regulation three-feet wide. Others thought she made the right call by suspending the requirements for a few days for the record two feet of snow.

One complained that the local playgrounds were not cleared. Clear playgrounds of snow? Snow IS a playground.

Someone else suggested taking a wheelchair around the city to test whether residents had cleared sufficient width. Gilbert has two words to say about that. “Get real!”

This drive to force people and conditions back to normality and to master nature at all times is totally at odds with the city’s supposed environmentalism. It’s nature, folks. Sometimes it is out of your control and you have to just go with it.

Get ’em straight

What are YOUR priorities, Dear Readers? Besides reading Granolapark every week? Gilbert’s priorities are sustainability, livability and engaged, responsive, service-oriented government. We have a mountain of whiskey bottles and cardboard cases that are crying out to be recycled (sustainability). To do so requires first drinking the whiskey (livability). Drinking makes us garrulous (engaged, responsive and service oriented) and overbearing (government).

The city council’s priorities are many. If we listed them all you would stop reading. The list is online.

The council had a couple of “retreats” in January to list every freakin’ thing they want to do. The point is to give the city manager guidelines when she makes the city budget for next year. In other words – this tells her what to spend the money on.

– 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.

4 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Snow, drones, crime and priorities"

  1. Most of the “priorities” are fluff that will cost us until we get to the last page on economic development. Let’s review:

    Takoma Junction development – this should be the city’s #1 priority. The increasing number of empty storefronts here is troublesome, even by Tacky Park standards. The city should redevelop its own lot in the most economically productive and responsible manner post haste.

    Purple Line preparation – what role does the city have here? Kate Stewart has actually acted to increase traffic flow in the Crossroads area, even though the area will face even more congestion with the permanent removal of two lanes of University Boulevard.

    John Nevins Andrews School – advocate for appropriate reuse of property – What does this mean? The city buying the property?

    Washington ‐ McLaughlin property – identify future use of wooded lots; encourage improvements to school property – The city should sell its property for responsible development.

    Economic development along New Hampshire – Yes, when is this going to happen?

    Contracts for economic development services in Old Takoma and Takoma Langley Crossroads business districts – All of the money should go to the Crossroads (and Flower Avenue). The NIMBYs on the other side of town embarrassed themselves yet again with the Starbucks thing.

    Washington Adventist Hospital site small master plan – This should be the #1 long-term priority. The city is inevitably going to screw this up by listening to neighborhood NIMBYs.

    Ethan Allen Streetscape project – This is the kind of windowdressing that the city loves to spend money on.

    • Good observations. These are things to watch. But, keep in mind that these are a sub-set of priorities. These are the priorities that the council wants the city manager to give priority to in her upcoming budget. The WAH site is a top priority, but it doesn’t need a lot of funding this year. The Junction development money has already been earmarked, so that doesn’t need to be on this list, either.

  2. Also, I don’t see how moving snow from the sidewalk to one’s yard is an affront to the environment. The playground thing is absurd, however.

    • It’s the unrealistic expectation that shoveling a three-foot wide path through 24 inches of snow in the immediate aftermath of a blizzard is going to enable wheelchair users – or anyone else – to go about their normal routines. Shoveling the snow doesn’t make the cold, the ice, the closed businesses and schools and the shut-down Metro system go away.

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