Monday, May 27, 2013

May 28 at the Council: Lee Jordan, Bike Share Locations, and the Living Wage

I'll call out three items of note, slated for the May 28, 2013 city-council meeting:
  1. A resolution Rededicating Lee Jordan Field at Takoma Park Middle School
  2. A presentation and discussion of Bike Share Program and Locations
  3. A review of the city's Living Wage Ordinance
Lee Jordan, as you'll (re-)learn in the resolution cover note, was an inspirational Takoma Park leader. He founded the Takoma Park Boys & Girls Club and was a Ritchie Avenue Citizens Association leader. Starting in an era of segregation, he "created a full-fledged athletic program of baseball, basketball, and football [that] encompassed generations of boys and girls, black and white." The rededication of the field named for Mr. Jordan, at that Takoma Park Middle School, will involve new signage and renewed recognition of Lee Jordan's contribution to our community.

Yes, Bike Share is coming to Takoma Park! City staff have polled residents and worked with Montgomery County regarding Takoma Park station locations. City planner Erkin Ozberk will present recommendations at Tuesday evening's council meeting: 
  • In Old Takoma near the gazebo, opposite Roscoe's and Amano
  • In Takoma Junction, near the TPSS Co-op
  • Off Flower Avenue near Washington Adventist University
  • On Maple Avenue near Richie Avenue
  • On Philadelphia Avenue near Maple Avenue, near the library
The recommended locations are illustrated by photos in the council backgrounder. Check them out. I do have reservations about the location of the Old Takoma station, near the gazebo, although I can't think of a better location at this moment. Stations would be installed as soon as this summer.

There would also be stations at the Takoma Metro station and near Montgomery College, according to Erkin.

Lastly, the city enacted a Living Wage Ordinance in 2007, spurred by a residents' request that I organized. The minimum rate that city contractors are required to pay employees, beginning July 1, will be $13.95 per hour. The council is required to review the ordinance every three years. Tuesday's review should be no big deal but will include, I hope, a small adjustment, elimination of an exemption for small contractors. This change would match action taken by Montgomery County for its own Living Wage law, which our city law is modeled on.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

May 20 2013: Public Hearing on Housing Code, Safe Grow, and More

The May 20, 2013 city-council meeting will include several items of interest to Ward 1 residents. I'll highlight two: A public hearing on city housing-code revisions and council discussion of Safe Grow Zone proposal next steps.

Safe Grow is a residents' initiative that seeks to address health threat from pesticide use. The council packet includes the rewritten version of the earlier draft ordinance. I led the rewrite, working with proponents Catherine Cummings and Julie Taddeo and Councilmember Tim Male. In response to earlier public feedback, it puts education first. It is simplified, per a suggestion of the public works director's, targeting only lawns (although within a framework that allows for adjustments). It includes additional rationale, emphasizing the Precautionary Principle, which justifies steps to avoid potential risk. Please see the included Declaration of Policy.

The city clerk has included, among the materials to be distributed at the council meeting, a number of comments and petition pages received recently. Unfortunately that material doesn't seem to be available online. Please do send your comment for the record to Based on public comment and council discussion, the council will decide, at the May 20 meeting, whether/how to proceed with Safe Grow.

The meeting will feature, starting at approximately 8 pm, a public hearing on Amendments to Takoma Park Code, Chapter 6, Housing. The housing-code rewrite, initiated and conducted by staff working with Assistant City Attorney Ken Sigman, aims to "clarify confusing or vague language, standardize references and terminology, address issues that have arisen since the Code was last revisited in 2003, to reflect current inspection and licensing practices, and to comply with changing State legislation." It also includes provisions I introduced, to provide for electoral-candidate access to multi-unit apartment buildings and to require landlords to distribute a city-provided electoral and civic information packet to new residents.

Lastly, the meeting will also include second-reading votes, enacting fiscal year 2014 tax rates and the FY14 city budget.

As always, please contact me if you have questions or concerns, 301-873-8225.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Busboys & Poets hours, plus Tax Rates & Voting Initiatives at the May 13, 2013 City Council meeting

For those who don't read far into these messages, I'll lead with a request that residents, in the area near the planned Busboys & Poets, meet with me Tuesday, May 14, at 6 pm in my office, following my next Ward 1 drop-in office time, Tuesday 5-6 pm. There is a pressing matter to discuss, the opportunity to weigh in on the restaurant's operating hours. 

Busboys & Poets location is planned for Carroll Street NW between Maple and Cedar. B&P's license application would allow operations until 2 am Sunday-Thursday and 3 am Fridays and Saturdays. None of the 4 current stores operate that late. They close at 11 pm or midnight Sunday-Thursday and at midnight, 1 am, or 2 am Fridays and Saturdays. I have a hard time imagining that many of the residential neighbors would be pleased by a late Takoma closing time. Let's talk about closing times and strategies to get what we want.

My office is at 7006 Carroll Avenue #202. The entrance is between Mark's Kitchen and the Middle East Cuisine. Just drop by, the 2nd Tuesday of each month 5-6 pm and the 4th Wednesday 8-9 am. 

Next, on to the Monday evening, May 13 city-council meeting. Let me call out two items on the agenda:
  1. Fiscal year 2014 tax rates & a first vote on the city budget
  2. Voting initiatives including extending the vote to 16 & 17 year olds.
FY14 Tax Rates

The council is applying last spring's unanticipated $693,220 in tax-duplication revenue from Montgomery County to decrease the fiscal year 2014 tax rate to 2 cents per $100 assessed value below the "constant yield" rate of $0.6016, and we controlled tax-funded spending growth so that we are able to decrease the rate further, to $0.57, one cent below last year's. (The "constant yield" rate is the tax rate that would generates the same revenue this year as last. Property tax assessments went down so the CYR went up. I had wanted to give back the extra county tax-duplication revenue last year, but only Councilmember Terry Seamens supported this step.)

You will see your city property tax bill go down in FY14. The tax rate ordinance is online.

Voting Initiatives

The May 13 council meeting will include a second-reading vote to amend the Takoma Park City Charter to:
  • Create Same Day Registration, allowing residents to vote in city elections even if they register only on election day or the period immediately before it.
  • Extend the vote in city elections to on-parole and on-probation felons.
  • Extend the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.
  • Create early voting for city elections.
The council will then consider a Right to Vote Resolution, "Affirming the Right to Vote, Establishing a Task Force on Voting, and Supporting a Constitutional Amendment to Grant an Individual Right to Vote."

The council has heard from a number of residents who oppose extending the vote to teens, but opponents are in the minority. Myself, I see very little down-side, very little risk of harm in allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote in city elections. I see potentially significant benefits. Studies show that those who first vote at a younger age, vote at a higher rate when they are older. The teens we'll be registering will be registered to vote in subsequent federal, state, and county elections, if they are 18 by the next general-election day.

I'll note two additional points. 1) We have a large disparity in Ward 1-2-3 voter registrations compared to Wards 4-5-6, a ratio of 8 voters registered in the single-family-home dominated wards compared to the rental-building-heavy wards. But just about every 16 year old and most 17 year olds, in every ward, are in high school. Via outreach through a few schools such as Montgomery Blair High School, we can hope for an even ratio of new registrations. And 2) by involving 16s & 17s, we will through them reach their families. I hope -- I expect -- that 16s & 17s who vote will push older family members to vote as well.

That's it for now, but as always, please contact me if you have questions or concerns, 301-873-8225.

Stay tuned for another update very soon.