Sunday, November 29, 2015

Man at the Crossroads

There's now a mural on the side of the Aldi on Holton Lane of the Crossroads area.  Its theme is migration and the mural features various migratory animals.  Like zebras.  It looks nice, but I think that the Crossroads Development Agency really missed a chance to make a statement by going with the obvious but still inspired choice - a full-size replication of Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads" mural.

Let's face it, radical chic still sells and it would have been a great opportunity to stick it to Nelson Rockefeller.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ike Leggett and Larry Hogan Are Trying to Drive Me Crazy

It's true.  To wit:
  1. Maryland has gotten $28 million to study a maglev (magnetic levitation train) route between Washington and Baltimore, even though it would ultimately take billions and billions to build the route and thus save a few minutes compared to current Amtrak service.  Meanwhile, the existing Northeast corridor service desperately needs funds to repair its aging and often breaking infrastructure.  I know that the governor went to Japan and was super impressed by their high speed trains (Wow!  Super fast trains!  Neat!), but this is just silly.  The state legislature actually passed a law in 2004 blocking previous efforts to waste time and money on this approach. 

  2. Ike Leggett has now announced that the county will fund one or two BRT routes even though this also does not make sense.  The options are on Rockville Pike between Rockville and Bethesda (which already has Metro Red Line service so that's pretty much redundant), Columbia Pike, or Veirs Mill Road.  The Veirs Mill Road route is projected to cost $285 million.  Meanwhile, the proposed Q9 MetroExtra bus between Rockville and Wheaton  ("the Veirs Mill Road Limited") was just withdrawn by WMATA due to lack of funding, even though it was projected to cost less than $2 million a year.  Ummm, what?  Fund the C9 and/or Q9!  If people want to combine the two, have the C9 end at Rockville instead of Twinbrook on the Red Line, but fund the C9.  Perhaps the problem is that according to that WMATA report, 81% of MetroBus riders are minorities and 52% are low income residents.  Why waste money trying to attract middle class white people who don't want to ride the bus instead of improving service for the people who are actually already riding the bus? 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Double R Burgers for Everyone!

One of the many things that Ward 6 City Council member Fred Schultz and I have in common is our obviously understandable preference for Roy Rogers food over Taco Bell.  Well, duh. And Roy's appears to be making some kind of comeback, which warms the hearts of everyone who grew up in the DC area.  Fixins bar, people!

Anyway, Roy's apparently has some amazing $1.99 all-you-can-eat pancake or biscuits and gravy breakfast deal.  And breakfast toppings bar.  $1.99?  Is that even legal?  Anyway, unfortunately Fred and I will have to go up to Burtonsville of all places to celebrate our eventual victory on this pesky zoning issue.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Living in the Promisedland

I won tickets to see Willie Nelson receive the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for American Song at Constitution Hall last night. In addition to performances from Neil Young, Paul Simon, Roseanne Cash, Allison Krause, and Cyndi Lauper, Willie performed the pro-immigrant song "Living in the Promiseland." It was actually a #1 country hit in 1986.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Syria and Resolution

As I've said, I think that it's a good thing that city council has generally eschewed the practice of passing high-minded but fairly meaningless resolutions (we should leave that the city council of my former domicile, Berkeley, who have mastered that art).  And I think that Governor Hogan's statements are actually more reasonable and moderate than those of many of his partisan colleagues. But I think that it would be appropriate for Takoma Park City Council to pass a resolution reiterating our support for receiving refugees.  Among other things, it is my understanding that former mayor and legendary resident and activist Sammie Abdullah Abbott was the grandson of Syrians who came to this country to escape sectarian strife and political upheaval during the waning decades of Ottoman rule.  And Mayor Abbott led the effort to have the city be a sanctuary for refugees in the 1980s, especially for Central Americans fleeing political violence that was due in part to US actions.

Of course, it would also be good if the city recommitted itself to resolving some of the issues caused by that influx of residents.  One cannot spend any time in the Crossroads area without seeing area residents, mainly adult men, hanging out in shopping center parking lots without much to do.  Achievement gaps and what can be done about them are a common concern in the county school system.  Organizations such as CASA are doing great work, but it's honestly not clear what the city is doing on these issues and how or if they are working with other jurisdictions such as Prince George's County to improve conditions for long-term and newer residents alike.

Monday, November 16, 2015


This article from Bethesda magazine has some interesting perspectives on the Montgomery County Planning Board and the perception of its role by its members.  Some thoughts:
  • It's impossible to excessively stereotype the attitudes of Bethesda residents.  One of them actually wrote in an email, "We want to live in a SUBURBAN community, not an urban community.”  Ummm, apparently that self-created bubble environment has succeeded in keeping out most trends in social and cultural thought from the last 40 years, as intended.  
  • Planning Board members view themselves as technocrats, if not Platonic guardians, who should not be swayed by public opinion.  As board chair Casey Anderson said, "If we became political in that sense and we said, ‘We’re taking a poll and most of the people say X and not Y,’ what would be the point of having a Planning Board? Seems to me that we’re not useful if all we do is try to figure out which way the politics work."  Former board chair Royce Hanson portrayed the board's role in even more exalted terms.  “While all public servants—elected and career—have a dual ethical obligation to both present and future, planners have a special obligation to future generations,” Hanson said. “Planners are not elected. Their role is advisory in preparation of master plans. A plan is a policy for the future. Its constituency is not merely the current inhabitants of a place, but those not yet born or living there."
  • Erudite allusions to classical antiquity may hold sway if Hanson's comments comparing development issues to the Battle of Pharsalus are any indication of the board's aesthetic preferences.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Where's Our Overlay?

Seth Grimes pointed out a means to improve development along New Hampshire Avenue and in the Takoma Langley Park Crossroads area back in May.  It's the development of an overlay zone for the area. As he explained it:
Much of Takoma Park -- but not Takoma/Langley Crossroads -- is part of the Takoma Park/East Silver Spring (commercial revitalization) overlay zone. This overlay zone alters the rules for a smaller area within a very large county. But the TPESS overlay rules are not well adapted for New Hampshire Avenue, for the mixed-use, transit-oriented, higher-density development that, I believe, the community will welcome along this major commercial corridor. We seek smart growth, not sprawl-style land mis-use.
One approach: Work with Montgomery County to create a new 'New Ave' overlay zone that would facilitate realizing the New Ave vision. The New Ave overlay zone would cover the length of New Hampshire Avenue in the city (with portions remapped from the TPESS overlay zone) plus University Blvd. between NH and Carroll Avenues. (And I sure hope it would disallow restaurant drive-thrus, which detract from pedestrian friendliness and do nothing to promote the greater business district.) Of course, continuing collaboration with Prince George's County, and intensified efforts to guide property owners to community-compatible land uses -- uses that create economic opportunity and attractions, amenities, and jobs -- will be essential.
For the record: I did not originate this idea of a new overlay zone for the Crossroads and New Hampshire Avenue. It was suggested by a public official who is expert in zoning and planning matters. Expert assistance and joint work with Montgomery County, along with community input, will be required to make it reality. The effort will be worthwhile.
Why am I not surprised that our part of town, which is most in need of commercial revitalization, is not part of an overlay zone, when the rest of the city has been for years?  It's yet another example of our being marginalized and overlooked by city government.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Someone Finally Gets It

As someone who grew up in a devout LDS family and finally officially resigned his membership as a grad student at Berkeley when the church launched an organized campaign in support of Proposition 8 to overturn marriage rights for all Californians, I was heartened to see this insightful analysis of the BYU - Missouri football game situation from Cyd Zeigler.

Oh, and there's an anachronistic LDS chapel literally a block from me on Carroll Avenue.  Takoma Park residents really aren't their target demographic, so I think that they are down to a French-speaking branch and the DC-area deaf branch.

Sammie Abdullah Abbott

Biographical sketch