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GRANOLAPARK: Scan scolding

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ACLU representatives David Rocah and Sara Love address the city council.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Terry Seamens has a note from his surgeon excusing him from tonight’s Takoma Park city council meeting. He had a heart by-pass operation last Thursday. However, his fellow councilmember Seth Grimes reported Seamens was “feeling great” Sunday. Word is yet come come whether there was any correlation between Seamens heart troubles and his participation in “Veg-week” only three weeks ago.

Card-carrying members of the . . .

The license plate scanner discussion continued last Monday, May 12. There were two Maryland ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) reps there, David Rocah and Sara Love. They had a lot to say, most of it was alarming. The rest was depressing. One of the highlights was a statement from Rocah along the lines of, “Oh, Takoma Park, you bastion of progressive values, how COULD you!?”

Takoma Park currently “dumps” the lists of collected license plate numbers after a brief 30-day hold. And the city does not share the data with other agencies. Other jurisdictions hold onto their data, and share it with other agencies, such as Homeland Security Fusion Centers such as the Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center (MCAC).

The ACLU said they hoped to use Takoma Park as civil-liberties-protecting model for other jurisdictions. Instead, they said, the city is following other jurisdictions’ rights-surrendering model.

chiefscanner

Takoma Park Police Chief Alan Goldberg speaks in favor of expanding license plate reader program.

The council seems to be polarizing, but they are all listening and say they have not fully made up their minds. Mayor Bruce Williams said he was pro-civil liberties, but he was also sensitive to fed-up-with-crime residents who see this as a way to catch crooks. There is a lot of constituent pressure to coordinate, including sharing license plate data, with other law-enforcement agencies. Fred Schultz was trending that way, too. Seth Grimes seemed to be leaning the other way, grilling the city police chief and a MCAC representative in sometimes accusatory tones.

Evil-doers

One claim made by the ACLU folks was that 97% of the “criminals” found by feeding many-jurisdictions’ license-plate data to MCAC were drivers with lapsed registration or expired tags.

Yeah, we want to catch THOSE dangerous people.

In Your Gilbert’s view these are victimless crimes. Many of the “perpetrators” are merely organizationally challenged. We’re waiting for a group of Absent Minded-Americans to make the case that this is a form of discrimination against people who are as mentally challenged to keep up with paperwork as legless people are physically challenged to keep up with a marathon. But, it takes organization to form a group, so. . . it ain’t gonna happen.

Taxoma Park

Tonight the council will discuss dog parks. This is potential controversy.

Residents on Darwin Avenue, the cul-de-sac where the most likely dog-park site is, have yet to be heard from. The park is likely to attract a LOT of people and their pets, which could create heavy traffic on the quiet, narrow street.

Taxpayers may have some objections to paying construction and long-term maintenance costs (but, maybe not, if the lack of tax complaints is any indication – see below).

Park proponents may be riled up. Several of them have shown up at recent city council meetings, demanding to know why the park isn’t being built yet. This is perplexing to the council. As far as they know, these are early days. Costs, locations, logistics, and the public process have all just begun.

Dog park supporters in the July 4th, 2013 parade.

Park proponents in the 2013 Takoma Park Independence Day Parade. Photo by Bill Brown.

Also tonight, the city council will cast the final vote on the tax rate and budget. The council votes twice on most items. There is a “first reading” and a “second reading,” which is the one that counts. At the first reading last week it was obvious the proposed budget and tax rate will pass. In effect it will mean a slight tax raise. Councilmember Fred Schultz made an argument against the de-facto raise. In the end he gave up, primarily because he hadn’t heard any constituent complaints about it.

So, if you’re unhappy about living in a “tax and spend” city, you have no right to complain until next budget season.

- 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.

4 comments

  1. Seth Grimes says:

    Gilbert, as usual, thanks for your report.
    Mayor Bruce Williams has agreed to schedule a public hearing on the dog park. It will be June 2, an occasion when residents will be *invited* to share their views. I did meet with Darwin Avenue and other, nearby Hodges Heights residents, on May 18, specifically to hear their concerns. The significant concerns — for instance, off-leash dogs (outside the planned dog park), drivers ignoring the Stop sign at the Holly-Darwin-Grant intersection, and people hanging out in Takoma Piney Branch Local Park until late hours, smoking marijuana — are all existing problems. It behooves us to address them regardless of the dog park initiative.
    I think overall we’re in good shape to move forward with the dog park.
    Seth

  2. admin says:

    So now we’re going to have dogs hanging out smoking marijuana.

    - Gilbert

  3. Clark Burdine says:

    The comment exclaiming Takoma as a bastion of “PROGRESSIVE VALUES” … Sorry, but “PROGRESSIVES” have no values, no ethics, no morals, & are the antithesis of American! Choosing a benign term like “progressive”, “community organizer” & such, that are actually the opposite of your goals is Alinsky 101. & still will not make you any of the things I said uou are not!

  4. anonymous says:

    George Schultz?

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