Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hey Now, That's Our Urban Blight You're Talking About There

The Takoma/Langley Sector is the famously ugly strip-mall-plex blighting the intersection of University and New Hampshire Avenues. The southern half of that intersection is in Takoma park’s Ward 6 (Montgomery County). The other half is in unincorporated Prince George’s County. PG County and Montgomery County together (sort of) are developing the area.
"Sort of" would appear to be the operative phrasing.  The Voice also said that the area was "await[ing] massive redevelopment."

Still waiting.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Aldi Effect

The Aldi down the street from me is set to expand, and it might mean big bucks for me, if only I lived in Great Britain.
"The opening of a new Aldi supermarket could boost the value of local homes by £5,000, research by My Home Move, a conveyancing firm, has found.
It found the "Aldi effect" is pushing up the price of homes in locations up and down Britain, where new Aldi stores are popping up.
The change represents a 2.5pc rise in value on the average UK home, from £216,450 three months before the opening of a store, to £222,052 three months afterwards.
Despite Aldi once being seen as a dowdy and downmarket grocery outlet, it is now the UK’s sixth largest supermarket chain and is widely viewed as a haven for middle-class bargain hunters.
Of the eleven new stores which opened between February and April, nearly all locations saw an increase in property values, with prices in Chipping Norton, the then the constituency of former Prime Minister, David Cameron, rocketing by 133pc."

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Wildwood Motor Speedway

I assume that the loud crashing sound that awoke me at 4:30 this morning, the almost immediate squeal of tires from a motorist leaving the scene, and the broken bumper, metal, and glass in front of a vehicle parked in front of my neighbor's house on Wildwood Drive are related.

I know that we're all supposed to be embracing the grid as a way to relieve traffic congestion, but unfortunately our neighborhood appears to have been laid out in the 1940s in a way that assumed that the streets would be used for quiet residential use AND that residents would drive everywhere and would want to get there as fast as possible.  As a result, we have wide residential streets that don't form a proper grid to go along with almost a dozen access points at New Hampshire Avenue, University Boulevard, and Carroll Avenue that encourage cut-through traffic at a high rate rate of speed.  Traffic calming efforts such as speed bumps and traffic circles don't seem to have much effect on those motorists who insist on driving over them at a full rate of speed and/or are intoxicated late at night.

Of course, the real solution is for people to embrace transit-oriented development and stop driving personal automobiles in our urban area, but that seems to be decades away at best.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Things Fall Apart

Sean Emerson of Around Four Corners provided some insight into the seemingly abandoned storefronts adjacent to New Hampshire Avenue in the shopping center surrounding our soon to open transit center.  It turns out that they were gutted by fire in July 2013.

More than three years later, the charred and decaying roof facade has finally been torn down, but the properties remain blocked off behind a chain link fence.

These types of conditions tend to contradict statements about how the Crossroads area is an economic powerhouse with high rents and occupancy rates.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Erwin Mack Attack

On the occasion of Erwin Mack being awarded the William Donald Schaefer Award for Helping People by Maryland Comptroller and Takoma Park resident Peter Franchot -

"The award was presented in Langley Park, where most of Mack’s activism has centered for the past three decades. While Mack is known for the Takoma Langley Crossroads Development Authority, a business association, which he founded and chaired for more than 20 years, he is equally well known for working with community members from both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties to make Langley Park, the area straddling both counties, safer for pedestrians. Before Mack’s taskforce got involved, the New Hampshire Avenue and University Boulevard intersection was the third most dangerous in the state. The group lobbied for realignment of signals, bus stops, pedestrian crossings and put up fencing in the area to discourage the mostly new immigrant residents from dashing across the street to catch buses.

“You were so influential in that you did so much for public safety, for pedestrian safety and I don’t believe the Purple line [above ground light rail] would be on the burner right now if the task force didn’t lead the charge,” Franchot said while presenting the award. He also noted that because of the good that came from Mack’s taskforce, they planned to reinstate the group.

In addition to the award, Mack received a proclamation from the state of Maryland and a newly issued comptroller’s medal. In accepting the award, Mack shared how honored he was for the recognition and his motivation for getting involved. “I’m a first-generation American,” he said. “My parents were immigrants and I didn’t learn to speak English until I was six years old. Folks who come to me from other cultures think I don’t understand, but my response is ‘I went through what you went through before your parents were born.’ I know what it is like to live with parents who could not speak English ... So my heart went out to the people here who were being hurt by poor pedestrian habits.” 

At 82 Mack is still a community activist as he chairs the Montgomery County Pedestrian Traffic Safety Committee. “I’m not supposed to sit in a rocking chair,” he asserts. “There are things to be done because people my age have the experience do it!”"

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Superman and Robin

Robin Ficker is insane, or as described in a Maureen Dowd piece from 1980 from the old Star, "crazy," "embarrassing," "unscrupulous," and ""ineffectual," but he was friends and training buddies with Muhammad Ali at the peak of the champion's fame.

He also has a long history of fighting for the interests of Takoma Park and Silver Spring residents.
"The next year, Ficker, who ran a law practice when not running for office or just plain running, sued Montgomery County in federal court to prevent the closing of Silver Spring Intermediate. The school had one of the higher minority populations in the district; Ficker's suit pointed out that the same school board that had recently voted to spend $1.5 million to renovate nearby Chevy Chase Elementary, described in news reports as "nearly all-white," had rejected a request for $30,000 to patch holes in roof of Silver Spring Intermediate's roof so it could remain viable. Alas, a judge discounted Ficker's discrimination allegations and upheld the closing.
Ficker also fought righteously for Deborah Drudge, a 31-year-old lawyer from Takoma Park, Md. She had only recently passed the bar exam, and had applied for a job with the Montgomery County Attorney's office, but felt her application wasn't taken seriously. Ficker filed a federal gender discrimination lawsuit against the county, alleging that her job interviewers were more interested "in her marital status and baby sitting arrangements" for her 6-year-old son than in her intellect or professional competence. According to newspaper reports about the case, the county had hired only white males for every non-clerical job in the county attorney's office since it opened in 1938.
"How can we expect enforcement of county laws against sex discrimination if the people charged with enforcement are discriminating?" Ficker told the Washington Star after filing the suit, which demanded the county diversify the attorney's office.
The county wasn't going to go down easy. ("I'm not going to be bulldozed into hiring women or blacks just on that basis unless the county hiring regulations are changed," railed County Attorney Richard S. McKernon.) But during discovery, Ficker says, his side uncovered that several county departments, including the county attorney's office, routinely rated female applicants "as to their physique and facial features."
Drudge "found out she was rated in the third quarter in both, or below average," he says. "I'd rate her in the top 1 percent in intelligence, though.
A Washington Star report on the suit indicated that the judge approved a settlement calling for the county to stop asking job applicants any questions concerning marital status or child care arrangements, and to revise the post-interview appraisal form "to eliminate ratings as to physique and facial features … for these ratings have sexual overtones that might be degrading to women."
Drudge was, by then, head of the legal committee of the county's chapter of the National Organization of Women. The six-year-old kid whose daycare arrangements inspired the suit? He grew up to be Matt Drudge. "He was a naughty boy," Ficker says."
Who knows, maybe Ficker is right about term limits for Montgomery County Council members, too?

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Urban and Edgy

Taco Bell has announced four new design concepts.  We should get "Urban Edge" because we're urban and edgy, but who knows what they will stick us with.  The "Heritage" design below would kind of remind me of a refectory in a Spanish mission if it weren't serving "Mexican-inspired food with a twist."  Meanwhile, my old home Berkeley will be getting a new Cantina Taco Bell.  Perhaps it will go better than the attempt to locate one in the City.  In other news, the old Taco Bell around the corner from where I lived and where I never contemplated visiting is now a real Mexican place with 800 reviews on Yelp.

Shoot me now.