Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Pedestrian Safety

It looks as though pretty much everyone but Takoma Park City Council and Action Committee for Transit recognizes that improving pedestrian safety in the Crossroads area is of vital importance
"Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, introduced as the man with the toughest job in Washington, said the transit center, with its off-street access to bus service, is as important for its safety as well as its convenience.
“I followed this project more as a pedestrian project as much as a transit project,” Wiedefeld told the crowd assembled for the ribbon-cutting.
The neighborhood has long been known as a conflict spot for pedestrians trying to navigate the vehicular traffic on their way to bus stops that dotted the area.
Montgomery County Director of Transportation Al Roshdieh agreed with Wiedefeld’s point, saying the transit center gets users off the curbside of the busy arterials that create the crossroads of the Takoma-Langely neighborhood.
Indicating the bright white canopy above, Roshdieh said, “This is where you want to be! You don’t want to cross the street, you don’t want to cross a four-lane highway."
 Six-lane highways, but who's counting?

Saturday, December 17, 2016

911 Is a Joke in My Town!

The city of Takoma Park does not have a functioning police emergency reporting system.  The city police department website reasonably states "Phone 301-270-1100 / Emergency 911."  Unfortunately, when residents call 911 for police calls their calls are often relayed to the city police department, who sometimes does not pick up those calls.  So residents are sometimes told, although not on the city's website, to call the 270-1100 number for all police matters, emergency or otherwise.  And when they do so, they are sometimes told to hang up and call 911, even for non-emergencies.

I don't know, but maybe the city's police officers should spend less time serving up feel-good pablum at the Cheesecake Factory on the other side of town and more time implementing a 911 system that actually works.

Take it away, Flava!

  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

It's a Christmas Miracle!

"The Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center, operated by the Maryland Transit Administration, provides bus service to over 12,000 customers daily, making it the largest non-Metrorail station transfer point in the Washington region. The center features a large well-lit canopy, ADA-accessible bus loading areas and real-time bus arrival screens. The center also provides an off-street location for safe bus boarding and transfers, and decreased vehicular- pedestrian incidents.

Opening December 22, 2016, the transit center is located at 7900 New Hampshire Ave in Hyattsville, MD, and will allow for easy connections between Metrobus, Ride On, The Bus and the University of Maryland shuttle.

Metrobus stops for routes C2, C4, F8, J4, K6 and K9 near the new transit center at New Hampshire Ave & University Blvd will move to the transit center once open."

https://www.wmata.com/service/bus/takoma-langley.cfm

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Down at the Crossroads, Circa 1984

The late Gwen Ifill put in time on the Post's decades-long Crossroads redevelopment beat, penning the story "Langley Park: Coping with Change" in August 1984.
"Twenty years ago, the longtime merchants say, Langley Park Shopping Center reflected the white, mostly Jewish, solidly middle-class neighborhood of its clientele...
I was told this shopping center was great, the best thing around here," said Korean-born Richard Choe, who moved his gift shop into the center nine months ago. "But it's run down."
Choe recently put steel bars on his windows and complains that the narrow alley that runs along the side of his shop has become a hangout for teen-agers.
One shopper, who said she has lived in the area for 14 years, said the shopping center "has gone to the dogs." Others said they only come to the Langley Park plaza for a specific purpose -- to go to the bank or fill a prescription at the drugstore.
"The only thing I know is stores are disappearing and none are coming in their places," said Evelyn Lassiter, who said she has lived in the Chillum Road area for 20 years.

Friday, December 2, 2016

That Sounds Familiar

The Aldi expansion continues unimpeded in Montgomery County, which apparently is viewed by some as some kind of coup.  The "affordable grocery store chain" is moving into a formerly destitute shopping center in Aspen Hill abandoned five years ago by Giant.  Geez, it all sounds so familiar.
 "It seems like yesterday that a petition for Trader Joe’s to replace Giant swept the area and had us all dreaming about what could be. In reality, Trader Joe’s and many other grocers turned down the space very early on (Trader Joe’s, for instance already has two stores in Rockville and Silver Spring, and they aren’t a “store on every corner” retailer). We’ve had fly-by-night furniture stores with their tacky road signs, a seasonal Halloween costume store, a make-shift kids’ entertainment space, and a general sense of confusion and despair to go along with them."

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Nullification

Takoma Park's Police Chief Alan Goldberg has issued a rather curious statement that says in part,
"Unlike many of our European counterparts, the responsibility for protecting and serving the public is a local and state responsibility. State, county and municipal agencies do not work for the federal government. Our Constitution specifically prohibits a “National Police Force.”"
That's odd - I can't find any section of the Constitution that "specifically prohibits a "National Police Force.""   I mean, the 10th amendment obviously reserves powers not expressly granted to the national government to the states, thus implying that the power to enforce state and local laws resides at those levels.  But the federal government clearly has the authority to maintain "national police forces," as evidenced by the 120,000 Federal law enforcement officers.

In addition to failing to mention the federal government's role in law enforcement, Chief Goldberg also failed to recognize the authority of federal law over state and local law, a notion that IS explicitly stated in the Constitution in the so-called Supremacy Clause (Article VI, Clause 2) -
"This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
Oh, and how about using video cameras to try to cut down on the perpetual property crime?  I don't think that the Constitution specifically prohibits those either.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Revitalization Is Good

Word on the street is that Prince George's Council Member Deni Taveras has proposed that the unincorporated parts of District 2 including Langley Park and Adelphi be designated as the "Northern Gateway" of Prince George's County.  The designation is designed to rebrand the area and help attract and promote revitalization.  If the Council approves the designation, then it will also enact enabling legislation to create revitalization tax credit opportunities for the area.

Master's degrees in chemistry, public policy, and urban regional planning?  Maybe we have a chance.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Geez, Marc Elrich Can't Take a Hint

As expected, term limits overwhelmingly passed in Montgomery County, the only surprise being the magnitude of the massive 69% to 31% margin.  Incumbent council members and opponents didn't take the hint and said some dumb stuff.  Tom Moore, who repeatedly tried and failed to prevent the ballot initiative with massive bipartisan support from reaching the ballot through frivolous lawsuits, said that term limits would hurt the county "but it’s not disastrous, and Montgomery County will continue to have a terrific county government and be a great place to live.”  Yes, because nothing indicates terrific government better than people going to great lengths to ensure that they can rid themselves of the same tiresome elected officials.

Hans Riemer said some fairly banal things about people not being upset about the actions of elected officials and instead wanting new people with new ideas, but fortunately everyone's main man Ike Leggett was on the scene to lay the smack down on that view.
"(Madman Robin) Ficker and County Executive Ike Leggett both said they believed the passage of term limits meant voters were rebelling against the council’s passage of an 8.7 property tax increase, a recordation tax increase that would net the county $200 million over six years and council pay raises.
“I said at the time it will fall into the general mood of the public, of turning them sour,” Leggett said. “I think all of those things proved to be correct.”
Leggett, who had already announced he would not seek a fourth term, said the council should have been more modest in its proposals. “It’s feeding into a negative attitude of our public officials,” he said."
Preach, Reverend Ike, preach!

Of course, Marc Elrich, commonly derided as Montgomery County's most dangerous politician, completely missed the point of voters' intentions and said that he was seriously considering a run for county executive now that he's been term limited from the council.  This is of course the same Marc Elrich who famously wanted to partner with Venezuela's completely failed and morally reprehensible regime.  Fortunately, Leggett was able to righteously put the kibosh on that nonsense, all the way from Israel.
“[To say] I was pretty animated would be an understatement, I guess,” chuckles the low-key Leggett, who found out about Elrich’s plan while on a trip to Israel and quickly quashed it. “I was pretty upset.”
Tell it to the people, Reverend Ike!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Dear Santa Ike

The city of Takoma Park has sent a letter to the county requesting assistance with its wish for a pool at the Washington Adventist Hospital site.  Although it does acknowledge the inevitability of the Piney Branch pool being replaced by expanded school space, the whole thing is still impractical and reads like a children's letter (Dear Santa, We've been a very naughty municipality this year but would still like to have a brand new pool.  Can you please help us?  You're the best, Santa!  P.S.  Our friends who have demonstrated that they have no interest in maintaining pools would like a new pool, too!).  Among other things, the letter actually states that the county's spiffy new aquatics center won't meet the needs of "Takoma Park/East Silver Spring" residents.  Yeah, because who could be bothered to walk five minutes across downtown Silver Spring?

Anyway, Ike Leggett, unlike most Takoma Park politicos, is a reasonable person, so hopefully the county will just ignore this nonsense.  Then again, the letter mentions bond funding, so perhaps the city will just move ahead on its own then and bill residents.

The reasonable plan would be to trade the Piney Branch pool to allow for school expansion in exchange for Takoma Park residents finally being exempted from the county recreation line item, putting the city on par with Rockville and Gaithersburg after decades of city officials being unable to negotiate a reasonable deal.  An aquatics center could be placed at the recreation center in town, which is slated for demolition and redevelopment, thus facilitating redevelopment of New Hampshire Avenue and providing an amenity for Takoma Park/Langley Park residents, especially apartment residents.  The city and county should wait five years or so for the Purple Line to be ready to open and have a developer build the facility as part of a mixed-use development, similar to what the county has wisely done at the Elizabeth House site just down the road.  The former WAH site should be reserved for much more productive uses. 

Ike Leggett, unlike Takoma Park politicos, actually believes in smart growth.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Takoma Park vs. the Environment

Almost two years ago, the city of Takoma Park purchased a vacant, overgrown lot, essentially bidding against itself in the process.  Or as the Voice succinctly described it, "Takoma Park citizens are so excited – the city spent $253,000 of their money, including $115,000 in donations – on a sorry lump of vine-choked badly-drained real estate behind the McLaughlin School, a lump of real estate that will continue to cost taxpayer’s money to pay off liens, fix and maintain."

And why did the city purchase the property?  They'll claim to be saving the environment, but the more obvious reason are saving certain people's views and property values.  Again, from the Voice, "Don’t talk to us about preserving “wetlands.” The Plan C partnership had the property assessed and they say the wet bit is actually the result of inadequate storm drainage. There is a spring and a small stream – which was diverted underground decades ago – but no wetlands.  The trees may not be very old. Somebody claimed the land was a field, perhaps even a war-time victory garden, within living memory.  But, now it makes a nice back-drop for the surrounding houses, and that’s why the community fought for it – and forked over donations. So, the rest of the city is going to subsidize their pretty backdrop. How nice for them."

And has the city made any effort to responsibly develop the property?  Of course not.  Instead, Historic Takoma and the Commemoration Committee have gotten together to have the city name the property for an elderly woman living in an assisted-living facility.  After all, nothing facilitates reasonable redevelopment like naming the property in honor of a 94 year old woman who grew up near there.  Then again, I don't expect anything less from Historic Takoma.

Anyway, the environmental issues are obvious.  We have a certain number of people, who need to be housed somewhere.  We can do so in developed urban areas such as Takoma Park, which already have existing infrastructure, or we can chop down a lot of trees and destroy a lot of green space in outlying areas to facilitate suburban sprawl.  Takoma Park residents would prefer to save a few dozen trees and more importantly their perceived quality of life by sacrificing thousands elsewhere.  It makes about as much sense as being concerned about an inconsequential patch of grass next to a Metro station while actively threatening litigation against developers for trying to put housing on top of said station, even though that's exactly where we should be putting that housing.
Note:  The above caption is not meant to be ironic.


Gettin' Stuff Done

From the fine people at Bethesda Beat:
"On Friday, county officials celebrated the opening of the new Montgomery County Public Safety Training Academy in Montgomery Village. The complex is the major piece of the 40 acre, $101 million service park that also includes a training facility for Ride On bus drivers, a food distribution center for the public school system and a maintenance facility for schools and the parks department.
It’s also a central component of County Executive Ike Leggett’s “Smart Growth Initiative,” which he launched in 2008 as a way to sell valuable county land to developers while repurposing less valuable county properties to build new county facilities.
The completion of the academy on Snouffer School Road in Montgomery Village will allow the county to demolish its old public safety training facilities on Great Seneca Highway in Rockville and eventually sell the more than 50 acres of land to bring it back onto the tax rolls."
Hey, that actually makes sense!  Between this project and the announced move of Marriott's headquarters to downtown Bethesday, Montgomery County is on a roll!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Information Is Good

There's a new source for information about the Silver Spring / Takoma Park area - Source of the Spring.  I was a big fan of the Gazette, reading it cover to cover on my commute from the Crossroads to Shady Grove by MetroBus, Metro, and Ride-on, but don't believe that Jeff Bezos had an ethical obligation to operate a publication if he did not want to do so.  Anyway, information is good.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Only in Takoma Park (And That's Not a Good Thing)

Takoma Park is actually considering a public scatter garden, and that's a bad thing.

The city even devoted space in the city newsletter to the idea, writing:
"When one characterizes the typical Takoma Park resident, two of the key attributes that come to mind are loyalty to the city and a commitment to the earth."
That's odd - I'm embarrassed by the city and think that city residents, although well intentioned, are often anti-environmentalists in their land use policies.

Anyway, the article goes on to explain that a scatter garden is a place to scatter someone's cremated remains and erect a memorial to the deceased.  The article then states:
"Scatter gardens are common, but are found exclusively within existing cemeteries or churches. What makes the proposed Takoma Park scatter garden unique is that it would be free-standing and located on city-owned land.
“We have done a lot of research and talked with someone from the Cremation Association of America, and we have not found an example of one being started by a municipality for its residents,” Beman White said. “In fact the association was very excited about the proposition and wants us to keep them informed on how it works out.” Baker believes the proposed scatter garden is “in keeping with the city’s tradition of being nontraditional.”"
Of course, scatter gardens are located within existing cemeteries, and no municipality has ever created one.  Why in the world would a locality willingly incur the liability and land use issues that such a garden would inevitably cause?  How could the city ever change the use of the property when loved ones inevitably protest that it dishonors the memory and remains of the deceased?  Don't these people realize these issues are the reason we have designated cemeteries in the first place?

Anyway, the Commemoration Committee is on board, so that's more reason to get rid of that committee.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

MoCo Politico Provides Value

I haven't seen former county executive Doug Duncan says he was gamely passing our campus literature at Shady Grove Metro in the summer of 2014, but his Twitter feed is a must follow.  It's basically just him complaining about the Red Line and Metro in general.  To wit -
"Another rotten start to my day on Metro.
"Man beaten on Red Line last night during rush hour. Puts my litany of complaints in perspective. Hope he's doing better! "
and finally
"The Red Line is now officially the Dread Line to me. "
Anyway, according to his thoroughly detailed Wikipedia entry, "in February 2010, several Maryland politicians, including Kumar P. Barve and Christopher Van Hollen, expressed support for Duncan's becoming the Metro general manager, after John Catoe announced his resignation from the position, effective April 2010."

It looks as though someone missed his calling!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Perhaps Connie Chung Will Make an Appearance!

It's a shame that the activity causes brain damage, because Montgomery Blair's football team is now 6-0.  After beating Paint Branch for the first time in recorded history (seriously, people reported that it was the first time since at least 1974), they will play 6-0 Sherwood this Friday at Four Corners.

Maybe Blazer alum Ben Stein  (class of '62) will attend the game, perhaps with classmate Carl Bernstein.  He'll have plenty of time now that he's no longer shilling for Donald Trump, which he said that he did because Trump was a "force for change."  Also, the "fundamental decency" of George W. Bush was never in doubt, but the Obama administration represents "eight years of mess and lies and deceit."

Stein does recall that he was a speechwriter for the Nixon administration, doesn't he?

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

We Can Finally Get Rid of Piney Branch Pool!

The brilliant people in downtown Silver Spring, who know how to work productively with developers to produce a better community, may be getting a spiffy new aquatic and recreation center as part of a new mixed-used development -
"The aquatic and recreation center will feature a 25-meter long, 8-lane lap pool (half the size of an Olympic swimming pool), a multi-purpose therapy pool, a spa, fitness center, basketball court and locker rooms, according to Stacy Spann, executive director of the Montgomery County Housing Opportunity Commission (HOC), which is working with the Lee Development Group on the project. The county’s recreation department will operate the new center which will face a new, open-air central plaza. The center will span two buildings on the ground floor of the project.
In an email sent to Bethesda Beat Wednesday, Spann said the plan for the site is to create a multigenerational affordable living community that entices the general public to interact with its residents. Fifteen percent of the project’s units will be designated as moderately priced and 10 percent will be set aside for workforce housing, according to documents filed with the Montgomery County Planning Department."
That's great!  Among other things, we can finally jettison the Piney Branch pool, which is perpetually on the county's budget chopping list, thus allowing for expansion of an overcrowded elementary school.

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.

http://takomavoice.com/2011/02/03/right_or_wrong_of_way/

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."
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/19/the-aldi-effect-local-store-adds-5000-to-the-value-of-your-home/

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 - http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/DOT-PedSafety/Resources/Files/PBTSAC/HelpingPeopleAward-ErwinMack.pdf

"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.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hyattsville Values

Hyattsville and Prince George's County have a spiffy new Safeway as part of their transit-oriented development centered around Prince George's Plaza and its adjacent Metro stop.  So did Safeway locate a new store there when it's closing stores in Montgomery County simply because of demographics and economic demand in that area?  Not exactly.  The city and county aggressively courted Safeway as an anchor of the mixed-used, transit-oriented University Town Center and even provided $3.5 million in tax credits and other incentives.

So how did Hyattsville, a close-in suburb of 17,000 with a progressive heritage but issues with crime and urban blight, manage to accomplish this feat when its more prosperous counterpart Takoma Park has never even attempted to remedy the loss of its only Safeway, which left the city in 2009 after a half-century in that location?  That's easy to answer - city and county officials put their money where their mouths are and invested in a business that will help that community.  “It is the type of retail that will help this area grow and enhance the quality of life in this very walkable community,” County Executive Rushern L. Baker III said.  Of course, Takoma Park itself could have made that kind of investment, but its leaders prefer to devote resources to things such as a boutique municipal library that should have been phased out or incorporated into a county system years ago, like every other municipal library in the state, and that now costs the city taxpayers over $1 million a year because the state reasonably won't support it.

Then again, the city of Hyattsville, unlike Takoma Park, actually works with developers such as EYA instead of fighting with them when they reasonably try to bring higher-density development to areas that are appropriate for transit-oriented development.  That's how the city and business leaders have been able to essentially invent a new Arts District that has revitalized their Route 1 corridor.  As a result, Hyattsville now has desirable businesses such as Spice 6, Yes! Organic Market, and Vigilante Coffee as well as lots of modern apartments and condos in an area once dominated by car dealerships.  Oh well, I'm sure that Takoma Park officials will come up with more ways to waste taxpayer money on windowdressing and gateway projects without any substantive development to show for it.