As he promised, newly inaugurated mayor Bruce Williams started the Nov. 26th Takoma Park city council meeting right on time as councilmembers scurried to their seats and rattled their papers. Even the cable television crew was caught unready, cutting late into the proceedings to the council comments segment.
In that segment Councilmember Terry Seamens firmly voiced his support of at least one plank of William’s platform, calling for a better approach to planning the budget. He echoed what Williams said in his inaugural address last week about needing to learn stronger lobbying skills, and to nurture development on NH. Ave.
A number of councilmembers have become alarmed about rising housing prices and how that threatens to change the city. Seamens took the concern one step further, calling for an “economic diversity task force,” to suggest ways to keep the city affordable for the sorts of residents who are vital to its unique character: new immigrants, struggling artists, and low-paid activists.
The new mayor appointed councilmember Doug Barry as Mayor Pro Tempore (acting mayor in the mayor’s absence), the position Williams himself held during Mayor Kathy Porter’s recent administration.
The new council was updated on the Takoma Metro development issue by city attorney Sue Silber and city staffer Suzanne Ludlow. Mayor Williams joked that there were two “Sues” making the presentation, and perhaps that indicated the city’s next step.
Ms Silber reminded the council that WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) voted November 8th to approve the sale of the land around the Takoma Metro stop. Though the situation is discouraging, there are still steps the city can take to stop the sale, or more likely get the developers to change their plans to a degree. The developer’s current plan, the city feels, has many flaws, including not providing enough bus bays, and not complying with ADA requirements.
Other than the last-ditch lawsuit option, there are two opportunities left to intervene in the public process of the sale of land to a private developer (EYA). The sale must be approved by the Federal Transit Administration. The city can submit a statement to that agency raising its objections.
The DC Office of Planning has yet to approve, also. However, the city has no official standing with that office and must petition to be included.
Mayor Williams announced that he was invited to attend a November 27th meeting called by the Maryland Secretary of Transportation with himself, Montgomery County, and DC officials to discuss this issue.
This generated some optimism from the council and staff. They also bucked themselves up with statements to the effect that their position was persuasive if only they could get the proper authorities to stop and listen.
Your Gilbert is less optimistic. Appeals to higher authorities have so far gained little but temporary delays. None of them seem convinced of anything other than the need to establish a record of having done something for constituents so we can’t blame them when the final decision comes down against us.
What we would like to know is why, with all our alleged activist-residents, there hasn’t been any marching, rallying, picketing, leafletting, chanting, and shouting at the Metro station? Outside the city this issue has such a low profile it needs a snorkel to breathe. Clearly Metro – and the media – needs to see some angry, outraged citizens in a venue where, unlike a public meeting, they can’t be contained and ignored. Obviously WMATA will not be moved by polite letters, petitions, alternative plans, and statements, not even (so far) when 800 lb. politicians like the governor are brought in to harumph at them on our behalf. Perhaps some additional noise and fury would help move them.