Ward 3 Voter Guide 2014: Individual questions

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JEFFREY NOEL-NOSBAUM

The slogan on your website is “Youth, Engagement, Service.”

What is the significance of each?

Youth:  A fresh mindset, a millennial technology native, and more recent connection to what it is like to participate in youth activities as a youth.

Engagement:  Broad interests and a willingness to voice my ideas and participate in lively discussions.

Service:  I have focused my entire life and career giving back to and taking part in the various communities of which I am or was a member.

One of the three issues you cite in your literature is “We need to continually work to maintain excellent service for our families and children; including our police, library, and recreation programs.”

Are you saying we we have inadequate or slipping levels of service in these areas? How do you propose to achieve excellence?

I am saying that I think all these programs are currently good or excellent; some of them are better than when I used them and some worse.  I am saying that these are priority programs for me because of how they benefited me and I believe they are the priorities of many Ward 3 residents. In general, I think that some of the energy the Council spends on resolutions that do nothing but take a position on an issue would be better spent on constituent service, providing oversight of the City government, working with all the committees, boards, and commissions it appoints.

I think resolutions of this type should be reserved for those cases where the City both has a strong direct interest and is capable of making a difference.  This position is not absolute because there are some issues that are so important that if there is a general consensus on the Council and strong support from the residents, it could be argued that the City has a moral obligation to take a stand.  I believe an example of resolutions that are acceptable uses of the Council’s time are staking out the City’s position on expanding and protecting the democratic process in our county, state, and nation.

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ROGER SCHLEGEL

Your website says “Takoma Park has spent too much time recently on narrowly focused projects and issues.”

Identify those projects and issues.

I think the city council spent too much time on the Safe Grow ordinance, the voting-age question, and the question of a residency requirement (as well as the question of the degree of council involvement in department head hiring). In addition, the city has been very slow to respond to the report of the Environmental Task Force. We are only just now at the point of having a sustainability coordinator.

One of your goals is listed as “Budgeting and oversight: stop wasting money—set objectives and evaluate progress annually.”

Where exactly is the city wasting money?

I have fully discussed the latter parts of this question in my discussion of the merits of a program-based, or goal-oriented, approach to budgeting. In terms of wasted money, I think in general that money can be considered as wasted whenever it is spent without a specific goal or objective in mind. That goal cannot and should not always be measurable—for example, the Independence Day celebration is just a basic good that we collectively choose to support—but in many cases, we could set measurable goals instead of just funding line-items and staff positions without a sense of what is expected to be accomplished.

We have a great new city manager in Brian Kenner who is, I think, eager to receive clear direction from the council and to develop programs that work to fulfill the priorities set by the council. In the absence of a clear sense of direction, the council tends to get excited about nice-looking projects and initiatives that may or may not bring tangible benefits. For example, I think the city has spent too much money on some green projects that are, as far as I can tell, cosmetic in nature. For example, the “green roof” on top of the open-air police parking garage does nothing to increase energy efficiency and appears to absorb very little runoff (it’s mostly gravel and concrete).

Also, the large new stormwater catchment area at the corner of Prince George’s and Circle Avenues does not do much to impede the flow of stormwater into Takoma Branch. (I have gone out in a driving downpour to observe its lack of functionality. Other smaller stormwater management installations, such as the one at the corner of Columbia and Poplar Avenues, appear to be doing precious little to slow the flow of stormwater. I also question the city’s ongoing, routine use of expensive consultants to accomplish some tasks that might be done more cheaply using common-sense approaches.

For example, it is my understanding that the city hired a special parking-lot-striping consultant to determine the optimal layout for parking spaces in the City-owned lot at Takoma Junction. Also, in my neighborhood of Pinecrest, when we requested six new sidewalk segments, each about a block in length, we were told that the city would be budgeting between $100,000 and $200,000 for the “design and engineering phase.” This seems like an outrageous amount of money; it implies that it would take a highly trained professional more than a year to “design and engineer” (not build!) those six blocks of sidewalk.

These are just a few examples, I could cite others. My main point is that when we look at how much it costs to live here in Takoma Park, we ought to be receiving much better-quality infrastructure and services.

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KATE STEWART

Your yard signs say “proactive” and “diversity.”

What do you mean by that?

Proactive: To succeed, city government must be proactive, not reactive.  We need to look for ways to improve our city, to build a better future, and to address issues before they become problems – we cannot only respond to issues as they arise. As a leader at a large non-profit, I understand the value of being a strong leader who actively looks for ways to improve the lives of others. I will bring that vision to the City Council.

Vibrant and Diverse Community:  Takoma Park is a vibrant and diverse community. It is important that our community celebrates and works to maintain diversity in all its forms – race and ethnicity, age, economic status, sexual orientation and gender identity. Where we need to focus efforts is to ensure that all of the residents feel a part of the community and benefit from the resources our city has to offer. Through my work at Advocates for Youth and with organizations such as the ACLU, I have worked on policies and on-the-ground programs to foster diversity and protect individual rights. I look forward to bringing my experience in this area to the City Council.

You say “the City must proactively address parking and increased traffic.”

What specifically do you propose?

We need to act and not wait until what is now an inconvenience becomes a major problem for residents. We know now the development that is occurring over the next year and we can anticipate some of the traffic and parking issues. For example, illegal parking on the corner of Westmoreland is a terrible problem and painting a yellow line that is often ignored is not enough to keep drivers and pedestrians safe. We need to identify additional parking and provide signage so people know where to find it. The Old Town Business Association has already begun to address this issue by developing a map of alternative parking, but we need to do a better job of sharing the information.

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