IMAGE: The city council met at the New Hampshire Avenue city Recreational Center Weds, Nov. 16. Photo by Bill Brown.
GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
“I frankly don’t see how my civil liberties will be threatened. If for some reason we find that there is nefarious use for this [program], we can drop out at any time. We will be paying very close attention to this.”
That’s what councilmember Fred Schultz said July 21, 2014 when the city council voted by a thin majority to share police license scanner data with other jurisdictions and the state. That’s what crime-beleaguered residents pressed them to do – despite cautions from the state ACLU, three councilmembers and civil-liberty cherishing citizens.
Why is that a civil-liberties concern? Because between 2004-2007, the state police, under orders from the Republican governor at the time, monitored left-wing activist activities in Takoma Park – in part by recording their license plate numbers. It was reported in the Washington Post.
Concerns that such activity could happen again were pooh-poohed by residents who saw license plate data sharing only as crime-deterrence.
There was no way that would happen again, they scoffed. We had benign Democrats in the governor’s office and the White House. Nothing to worry about.
NOW, cracking down on “sanctuary cities” is number three on president-elect Donald Trump’s things-to-do list for Day One In Office.
So, maybe NOW is the time to drop out of that program, before Day One, Friday, Jan. 20.
There are three more city council meetings before the Inauguration: Nov. 30, Dec. 7 and Jan 11.
Tick tock, tick tock!
What do you mean by that?
With a nervous eye on fast-approaching Day One, the council agreed they should discuss the city’s sanctuary status before the end of the year. As city manager Suzanne Ludlow said at the Nov. 16 city council meeting, there are many definitions of “sanctuary city” and of “federal aid,” which is what Trump threatens to cut off to sanctuary cities. Lawyers must be consulted.
The weekly council session was held in the city’s Recreation Center on New Hampshire Avenue. It’s only the city’s to manage. The facility belongs to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
The Rec Center was on the agenda, but the work session discussing affordable housing initiatives dragged on and on until councilmember Fred Schultz begged the mayor to postpone the rest of it. Local people came to hear about renovating the Rec Center, he said, and many had already left.
Mayor Kate Stewart reluctantly postponed it, but only until after the Rec Center discussion that evening. “I thought you meant you wanted to postpone it to another meeting,” she said to Schultz, explaining her initial reluctance.
“I did,” moaned Schlutz.
When in doubt – explore
In a nutshell – the folks who use the Rec Center woudl like it to be as nice as the Community Center. But, as noted above, Park and Planning, not the city, owns the land and facitlity. The city just runs the programs.
Park and Planning might be willing to swap the land for another land plot on the other side of Takoma Park. That would give the city ownership and the ability to do what it wants there, but the city isn’t too crazy about taking on the expense. They city would rather that Park and Planning take that on.
The upshot is that the city will continue to explore options.
Bad sights, sounds and smells
A half dozen or more residents showed up to complain about noise, fights, lights and a smelly dumpster. They all live on Willow near the parking lot at the corner of Willow and Carroll. It’s been getting noiser at night since Old Takoma got a night life. Bars and Restaurants such as the Olive Lounge, Republic, Bus Boys and Poets and Roscoes have turned the historic commercial district into a night-time destination – with late night inebriated departures.
One resident said she used to be able to open the windows at 9 p.m. and hear nothing. Now, she hears obsenities, she said.
Recently the large commercial dumpster behind the Olive Lounge was moved closer to the property line. The residents next door complained about the odors, rats and unsightliness.
A meeting with Olive Lounge owners and residents was good, said the residents, but some of the issues could only be solved by the property owners, who were not there. They’ve been contacted and neighbors hope they will be cooperative.
As for affordable housing initiatives, the council shoveled through a field of thick proposals. They are behind schedule on this one. They budgeted funds for an affordable-housing-program-to-be-determined-later, and here it is later – but no program. It also featured in the mayoral campaign a year ago.
So, downpayment assistance for low-ish income first-time homeowners was discussed. It’s not much use to the truly low-income, because they would not be able to afford, even with assistance, the cheapest housing in town.
They also talked about tiny houses. Apparently, yes, they are legal, as long as they meet certain requirements. No word on tiny house boats. Wouldn’t those look cool on Sligo Creek? Demand the city look into this, Dear Readers.
Rent stabilization and retal licensing policy recommendations from Community Health and Empowerment throgh Education and Research were discussed, as were proposed revisions to the city law allowing tenants the right of first refusal if their landlord puts their building up for sale.
The council had one vote Nov. 16 to amend the city’s parking meter zones. It removes a lot of specifics, allowing for adjustments without another city council vote.
Update on Takoma Junction Development Agreement
The city sent out this notice.
Per the Development Agreement ( between the City and Neighborhood Development Company (NDC), NDC is required to submit a Letter of Intent with the TPSS Co-op to the City on or before November 29. In light of the deadline, the Council is scheduled to receive an update at their December 7 business meeting. Depending on where negotiations stand and whether an LOI is submitted, the Council may need to take action on a voting item at that meeting and determine whether to offer a 30-day extension of the deadline or require NDC to seek another anchor tenant.
Since the beginning of the 120 day window, the City has received weekly reports from NDC on the status of their negotiations. Although City representatives have attended some of the negotiation meetings as observers, the City has not been a party to the negotiations. As we approach the November 29 deadline, we wanted to let residents know that the status reports are now available on the Takoma Junction Redevelopment project page .
If an LOI is not submitted by the November 29 deadline, Council will have to decide between one of three options on December 7: 1) grant a 30-day extension to the deadline for submission of an LOI; 2) require NDC to begin seeking a new anchor tenant; or 3) terminate the Development Agreement. If the Council decides to grant a 30-day extension, we expect that it would be 30 days from December 7. If an LOI has not been submitted by the end of the extended time period, NDC will have the right to begin seeking a new anchor tenant unless the City wishes to terminate the Development Agreement.
Like us on Facebook: