GRANOLAPARK: Crazy to be back

IMAGE: The Takoma Park City Council got down to business Sept. 7, 2016 following a month long recess.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

AS we predicted, the council passed the Unity in the Community Initiative, mentioned the Long Branch apartment building explosion and fire, and brought back an idea from a city encountered on summer vacation.

The council returned from August recess Wednesday, Sept. 7. As councilmember Fred Schultz said, “People think I’m crazy, but I’m glad to be back!”

To nobody’s surprise the Unity in the Community Initiative passed unanimously. This is a plan to have a series of forums with police, the community – especially youth-of-color- and city staff. The goal is to prevent racial profiling and unnecessary violence to either youth or police.

We’re trying to remember how many “community policing” initiatives we’ve seen over the last three decades. At least three. The police and community all get together in a room, say pious and sentimental things to each other, pose for pix with their arms over each other’s shoulders, then pretty much go back to what they were doing before.

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The whole council Sept. 7, 2016, plus Deputy City Manager Jason Damweber on the left, and City Clerk Jessie Carpenter and City Manager Suzanne Ludlow on the far right. Photo by Bill Brown.

Somebody always laments that cops don’t do foot patrols anymore, so they never get to know the residents and vice-versa. Then, the police always explain they can’t do that because they HAVE to be in their cars. Response time is more important than face time.

Here’s what we need. A number of dedicated police-car parking spaces all around the city. Each one has stools and a little bar installed just at police-car window level. Citizens pull up a stool, the cop pulls in, rolls down the window and starts serving drinks. Is there a more friendly relationship that the one between a patron and bartender? NO, there is not!

Yours Truly just saved the city tens of thousands in consultant fees. You are welcome, citizens! Hi-yo, Bourbon! Away!

Predictive policing

The OTHER police-community relations initiative is still trying to leave the starting gate. Mayor Kate Stewart proposed hiring a consultant to help improve cop-community relations back when she was a councilmember.

Bids were requested from contractors who run programs to help improve cop-community relations. Two came in but what they proposed was what the city was looking for.

Meanwhile the Takoma Park Police Dept. has improvements they are making or would like to make. Chief Alan Goldberg went through a list at the Sept. 8 meeting. There’s going to be a lot more crime and criminal data sharing available, thanks to a White House initiative. There are new crime data-sharing programs, some available to the public, such as RAIDS Online. The chief said it was a part of “predictive policing,” which has an ominous, dystopian sound.

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Takoma Park police car. One of the items on the chief’s list was “rebranding” the city’s police cars. Photo by Bill Brown.

New police training will include learning mental health aid, crisis intervention training, de-escalation and disengagement, Constitutional law and peer support. The department is also looking at how rate officer’s performance. Instead of counting arrest and ticket numbers, the chief said, they want to find a way to quantify activities such as school visits.

Junction quickie

A SHORT presentation on Takoma Junction redevelopment was made by deputy city manager Jason Damweber. The city is keeping close tabs on negotiations between the development’s anchor store, the TPSS Food Co-op, and developer Neighborhood Development Company. Both Damweber and Mayor Stewart monitored the two meetings. So far, no fist fights or tantrums – none that were publically reported, anyway.

These negotiations will end by the end of November, resulting, everyone hopes, with a Letter of Intent signed by both parties.

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July community meeting about Takoma Junction development. Photo by Bill Brown.

An advisory committee will wrap up by then as well. It’s function is to make sure the public is well involved in coming meetings and charettes, so nobody can later say, “Hey, nobody asked for MY opinion! We have to STOP THIS THING!!”

That will still happen, of course.

NDC submitted a schedule with “very fine details,” said Damweber. The high points are: groundbreaking in 2018, finish in 2020.

Explosion and fire

Councilmember Terry Seamens mentioned the “horrible fire just outside city limits,” the deadly gas explosion fire at a Long Branch apartment complex. Seamens praised the community for the outpouring of help in the form of food, clothing and household wares. City police, he said where some of the first responders on the scene.

The victims’ immediate needs have been met, he said, but not their long term emotional needs. Agencies and nonprofits, assessing how well they addressed problems, see better ways to deal with such an event in the future. They see the need for stronger mental health assistance – immediate and long term. They are asking the community for suggestions and feedback.

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Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Chief Spokesman Pete Piringer Twitter feed.

Vacation dream

The idea, brought in by councilmember Fred Schultz, was an arts incubator, something like Alexandria, VA’s Torpedo Factory. The one he observed was in Oil City, PA, the former Standard Oil office building, a “magnificent edifice,” in Shultz’s words, has been converted into art studios, arts class rooms, spaces for musicians and dancers, art galleries and a performance space.

He urged people to think about creating such an art incubator in Takoma Park. He said the city has “grossly underutilized” structures along New Hampshire Avenue that could be used.

We’re hard pressed to think of any magnificent edifices among the underutilized structures along New Hampshire Avenue. And the area isn’t quaint and historic like the Alexandria, VA and Oil City, PA.

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The former Washington-McLaughlin Christian School in January 2015 during the auction of the property’s back lot. Photo by Bill Brown.

But, how about the old Washington-McLaughlin School just off of New Hampshire Ave? Or the John Nevins Andrews School, a somewhat-interesting building on Elm Avenue above Spring Park? These are both in residential neighborhoods. Either might be a good place for artists to make stuff, but not a good place to sell stuff. The increased traffic would upset the neighbors. There are no potential spaces nearby for coffee shops or cafes, either.

Nobody came with affordable housing proposals to the Community Development Block Grant public hearing. Program. Resident Elizabeth Wallace stepped forward with a spontaneous suggestion. She said its not exactly the affordable housing the council had in mind, but people such as herself can only afford to live in Takoma Park if they convert their homes to Airbnbs. That kinda makes it affordable housing, right? So how about making funds available to potential Airbnb hosts who need to bring their homes up to the high Airbnb standards?

Special meeting on election changes

From the city’s announcement:  Monday, September 12, 7:30 pm., the City Council will hold an additional Work Session and Conversation on Changing the Date of the City Election: At this work session, the City Council will hear from the City’s Board of Elections, take public comments and questions, and then discuss issues related to changing the date of City elections to coincide with State and Federal elections. Information on this issue can be found in the Project Directory on the Election Synchronization page. The page includes a form to submit questions or comments.

Folk off

There were clashing comments about this year’s cancelled Takoma Park Folk Festival. Takoma Park’s “Official Peace Delegate” Pat Loveless pleaded for its resurrection next year – which would be the festival’s 40th anniversary. He said the volunteer-run folk festival was the highest expression of Takoma Park’s spirit.

Resident Elizabeth Wallace, however, said the festival didn’t live up to the definition of ‘folk music” – music of the people – she said. The festival’s music did not represent all the local people. If the city wants to go ahead with more music festivals, she said, they should present music that would draw a more diverse crowd. She confessed she didn’t like folk music.

 

Son of a …

City manager Suzanne Ludlow announced that, surprisingly, the city was given a Sons of the American Revolution award for exemplary patriotism in the display of the flag.

Yes, despite Takoma Park’s reputation as the Republic of Takoma Park, the city’s display of the flag leading up to July 4 and the Independence Day parade, in SAR’s view, are the epitome of small town America.

Huh. How ‘bout that?

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The 2016 Takoma Park Independence Day Parade. Photo by Bill Brown.

– 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: Crazy to be back"

  1. Fred’s rocking a snazzy jacket!

    Hyattsville created an arts district along a stretch of Route 1 previously known for old car lots. Then again, the city of Hyattsville knows how to work with business interests and get things done – http://movingtakomaforward.blogspot.com/2016/04/hyattsville-values.html

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