GRANOLAPARK: Slow-motion bombshell

PHOTO: The new council, shown here at the Nov. 16 inaugural. Photo by Eric Bond.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

The Takoma Park city council met in closed session to discuss the bomb-shell – delivered in slow motion over the past five years or so – that the state will allow the Washington Adventist Hospital to divorce the city and move out.

Yes, the WAH has all but final permission to relocate in White Oak, MD.

The state health commission offered the city the chance to submit an objection, and our trusted sources say that in closed session the council decided to take them up on that. Shhh, that’s a secret! Don’t tell anybody else!

Very likely the city will accept the offer to make an oral statement in December. As for what else discussed in closed session that the city might do – that’s a secret even Your Gilbert doesn’t know.

Only the good news

The November 23 session was the first full meeting of the new city council under the new mayor.

Since this is the start of a new era, Your Gilbert will go easy on them. We’ll only report the good news for a change. For example we’ll point out that the two new council members did not join the rest of the council in shafting the taxpayers.

In fact, freshman Peter Kovar challenged the city manager’s roughly estimated figures. He and freshman Rizzy Qureshi sat on their hands when the vote came. They await more facts and figures, they said.

The figures they want to see would back up city manager Suzanne Ludlow’s claim that a proposed county tax law would cut the tax-income wind-fall the city bean-counters are anticipating this year. Ludlow said it could decrease city income by around $500,000.

She wants the council’s backing in opposing county bill MC 28-16. It sets a cap on how much property tax money home-owners have to fork over.

It’s a percentage thing. As a home’s property value rises, so do the property taxes. To be fair to people who, like many in Takoma Park, stretched to buy a home here, and could never afford to do it again, the current cap makes the tax increase sneak up on owners, rather than all at once. The cap keeps the yearly increase at 10%. Tax payments will continue to increase, but at a more reasonable rate.

The new bill would put the cap at 5%.

But that kicks over the city’s plan. They’ve been counting on a big rise in property assessments – which would generate a big rise in property taxes. The city is panting like a dog about to be served a heaping bowl of chow, anticipating how much more tax money this is going to bring in for, the example given, staff raises.

Despite past experiences, Your Pollyanna Gilbert was stunned by how the council leaped up to hand the staff a bucket to milk constituents with.

Councilmember Tim Male said this is a bill to help rich homeowners in Potomac and Bethesda. So, making it more expensive to own a home in Takoma Park helps the poor homeowners? How is that, exactly?

We were so proud when one of council member rose and said, “But, I was elected to represent the interests of my constistuents, not the staff’s! If meeting the city’s budget depends on a tax increase, clearly it is time to look at cutting costs!”

But . . .  that never happened.

Instead, Kovar and Qureshi said that they were confident that they would join the others in opposing the tax relief bill once the city manager gave them some more solid figures.

New website

The Nov. 23 meeting had some “chew off your leg to get out of the trap” moments as they group-explored the new city website. The site was displayed on the big screens as several people simultaneously directed a staff member where to guide the cursor.

It was a harsh experience to endure, Dear Readers. But, all YOU have to endure, is your own self-guided exploration. The city is looking for feedback. So, have at it!

Stash the trash

The things one learns at city council meetings!

Apparently, Department of Public Works staff is spending a lot of time on the phone trying to find a processing facility to send the city’s compost – and trash and recycling – to.

That’s what the city manager said in a discussion of several city projects, one of them being the curbside compost collection program.

There’s no reliable place to send the stuff. For various reasons they stop taking the city’s refuse. They get too full up, they get closed down temporarily, they change policy on whose refuse they will take.

Sometimes the staff has to wrangle more than one facility to take the compost – which takes a lot of time and phone calls.

– 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.

9 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Slow-motion bombshell"

  1. If the city is really looking to cut costs, then they can start with the anachronistic municipal library that the state reasonably does not consider a public library and the county would not accept into its system due to its redundancy with other libraries such as Long Branch, Silver Spring, and even Takoma. It therefore costs the city $1.2 million in general funds to operate (the extra $200,000 this year is to study spending millions of dollars for renovations and expansions).

    • Elizabeth Wallace | November 28, 2015 at 1:53 pm |

      I think it’s past time to see what the circulation statistics are on every single one of the books that we do have. Other libraries have a “shelf life” for books and retire those that don’t exit into the sunshine with a patron from time to time. I found 3 lesser known works from an author in the 1970’s and wondered when they’d last seen the light of mildew-killing day.
      OR put a timelapse camera on the stacks to see how many people even visit them during a month and then watch it in fast motion during a city council meeting. Just might be boring for lack of activity.

  2. Why didn’t you run for council Gilbert! We could have used somebody with your knowledge there guiding us through these tough financial decisions.

  3. Elizabeth Wallace | November 28, 2015 at 1:40 pm |

    Re your fantasy comment: We were so proud when one of council member rose and said, “But, I was elected to represent the interests of my constistuents, not the staff’s! If meeting the city’s budget depends on a tax increase, clearly it is time to look at cutting costs! But . . . that never happened.” Well, it would have happened had I been elected. Oh well, alternate universes and all that….:)

    BTW ‘constituents’ is spelled ‘constituents.’

  4. 10% is reasonable. The annual rent increase allowance is currently 0.2% and needs to be increased. If Gilbert wants to note nonsensical things, then he could mention that the city has a sustainability manager but no equivalent position for economic development.

    • Actually it does – Community Development Manager in the Housing and Community Development Department.

      – Gilbert

      • Economic development is some of what “Community Development” does along with planning, planning standards, and public space development – “Community Development activities include economic development initiatives, historic preservation, site development review, coordination of master plans and major transportation projects, grants management, and selected public space improvements.”

        Of the four projects for Community Development on the city’s website (Crossroads Green Space, Ethan Allen Gateway Streetscape, Parking Management, and Takoma Junction Redevelopment), only the last entails economic development.

        • That’s not a comprehensive list. The office does more than that. The community development manager is the former director of Old Town Business Association. They work with business people seeking to start a business in the city – help them locate a space, deal with paperwork, find resources, etc.

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