Saturday, January 30, 2016

"Uncleared Sidewalks Endanger Pedestrians"

Or so says the ever-informative weekly e-newsletter from the Crossroads Development Agency.  It goes on to state:
The blizzard last weekend brought 30" of snow that shut down the DMV area.  Snow plows came through on Sunday and Monday, opening up a lane and then two, in each direction.  Property owners scrambled to get their parking lots cleared for customers, and succeeded. Some cleared sidewalks along University Blvd and NH Ave, but others didn't, making it very difficult for pedestrians to get around, especially those with strollers.
Takoma Park's newly revised Snow Ordinance requires residential and commercial property owners to keep all of the public sidewalks located around their businesses and property, clear of snow and ice between 9 am and 5 pm.  This includes not only the front of the individual businesses and the property, but also the sidewalks that may run along the front, side or back of the building or property.  The City will begin enforcement today, with $200 fines issued for commercial violations.
The photograph from the CDA shows an uncleared bus shelter on University Boulevard near Merrimac Drive that is maintained by Signal Outdoor Advertising.  Interestingly, the city of Takoma Park recently renegotiated its contract with Signal, and its terms require the prompt removal of snow and ice from the shelter locations.  Specifically, "crews will begin the snow removal process as heavy snowfall begins to taper and the work vehicles can be safely on the road and out of the way of snow plows" and "should large drifting occur, usually as a result of snow plows, [the] Company will clear a 4 foot wide between the Advertising Shelter pad and street to provide commuters with safe passage for boarding or disembarking from the bus." 

The follow-up photo shows a cleared sidewalk on University looking toward the intersection with Anne Street.  For the sake of completeness, the CDA should have also included a photo of the adjoining blocks of Anne that run along the side of the Hampshire Langley Shopping Center owned by the scofflaws at Saul Centers.  It's been a week since the storm, and the sidewalks there have not been touched.  

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Takoma Park Listserve Never Ceases to Entertain

On the suggestion that older residents should be concerned about overexerting themselves while shoveling snow:
Excuse me, to say that anyone over 50 should not shovel snow is pure ageist ignorance.  Encouraging people to sit around is encouraging them to die sooner.  Exercise does not kill people.  It's the stupidity--thinking you can do nothing but watch TV then shovel it all in 10 minutes. 
Everyone, no matter what your age, should know how to shovel snow and how to pace yourself.
BTW, who has had their paper delivered?  I haven't seen one since Friday (and my road is perfectly clear).
The part about not getting a paper newspaper delivered is classic.  The same person then responded with this lovely piece of overgeneralization:
I am worried that the younger generation are, as a whole, much more overweight, much more out of condition, and for some, less able or willing to take on responsibility than prior generations.  That is a societal concern.  Not sure we can solve it here--it's an issue to be solved on an individual level.  
Oh, and you kids get off of my lawn!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Man, Johnny Holliday Used to Be Cool

Long-time voice of the Maryland Terrapins and possible automaton Johnny Holliday at one time had a really cool career.  After working with so-called "Fifth Beatle" Murray the K in New York, he moved to the "Boss of the Bay" KYA in San Francisco where he was named America's Top Disc Jockey in 1965 and co-hosted the Beatles' final concert, at Candlestick Park, in 1966.  He was even the announcer of TV's "Hullabaloo" and "The Roger Miller Show."  While in the Bay Area, Johnny started doing public address work for the San Francisco Warriors and Oakland Raiders and broadcasting college games for Cal and Stanford.

From there, Johnny went on to WWDC in this area and radio work for the Washington Senators and Bullets.  He became the voice of the Terps in 1979 and does pre- and post-game shows for the Nats with Ray Knight.  He's also a fine song and dance man, I hear.    

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Four Corners Safeway

Historian4Hire has a very nice post about the architectural history of the Four Corners Safeway.  It omits just one salient point - the place is a disgrace that should be torn down post haste.

But don't take my word for it.  Here is the store's Yelp! page, filled with reviews stating the store should be completely renovated that were written after the store was extensively renovated.  I will acknowledge that the swarms of fruit flies and gnats greeting visitors to the produce aisle have subsided somewhat, but I and many other people would still never consider consuming anything perishable in the temperature non-controlled store.  Allow me to crib extensively from "Tim H."'s well-written review:
This Safeway ought to be closed.  It is nowhere near meeting the expectations of a 21st century grocery store and despite the recent remodel continues to disappoint.

A fundamental problem is that this is clearly a 1950s/60s era building, and the physical space and parking lot are woefully inadequate.  That means that the store can't really stock much even if it wanted to, and that getting in and out is going to be a pain.

But that is not the primary issue.  Before the remodel (about a year ago), the store itself was disgusting.  It was dirty, poorly stocked/organized, and the produce especially was of horrible quality.  Quite literally, there were flies in the fruit.  So I just never went.

After the remodel, the store is at least clean, but the stocking and organization issues remain.  I have never been to this store and been able to get everything I wanted.  I could understand them not carrying, say, basil in the winter, or perhaps even yams around the holidays (I guess), but tonight, they didn't have any eggs.  Literally, no eggs whatsoever.  "We don't have eggs anymore" was the only explanation from the staff....

Safeway, if you are listening:  there is clearly a management issue at this store and your renovation was a waste.  If you care at all about your brand, take your name off this store--it is beyond fixing. 
And to think that Safeway closed our much nicer, albeit less patronized, Safeway in the Crossroads shopping center in 2009!

Oh, and here's the YouTube channel devoted to the store.  The "deadratinside" video is a masterpiece of the rodent infestation in a grocery store genre.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Hey, Washington Adventist Hospital Got Its Own Commercial!

It's that kind of ambulance chasing that got Peter Angelos ownership of a major league baseball team!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Everything Old Is New Again

From the conclusion of the AP story on the vandalism of the downtown Takoma Park Subway store in 2004 -
And some residents feel Takoma Park needs to lighten up a bit when it comes to corporate chains. Abby Alcott, a 16-year resident, said she tries to support local merchants. But there is one big name she would welcome.
"Frankly, I'd like to have a Starbucks," she said. "I love Starbucks."
It would appear that the same vandals also targeted stores in Four Corners and downtown Silver Spring, but those places probably make for less interesting national stories.

Monday, January 11, 2016

David Bowie and TPSS

David Bowie appears to have a connection to the local area.  Michael Oberman, a Silver Spring native who went on to write for the old Washington Star and is now a nature photographer, has for some time posted photos from the time of Bowie's arrival in the DC area for his first US appearance in 1971.  Oberman's brother was apparently a publicist for Bowie's record company, and the three headed from Dulles to the Oberman family home in Silver Spring.  Later that night, they headed to party central - Takoma Park:
For those of you who haven't seen me post this photo before...this was later that evening at my parent's house in Silver Spring, Maryland. Me waving, my brother Ron and David. After spending some time at the house, we all went to dinner at Emerson's in Silver Spring. The hostess was shocked and seated us in a booth with a curtain and closed the curtain. After dinner, David and my brother came back to my house in Takoma Park. It was there that David saw his first bong.
And the rest, as they say, was history.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Granola Park

Granola Park, the obsessive dissection of Takoma Park City Council actions in the Voice, is celebrating, belatedly, its tenth anniversary.  Although the current version seems to represent the viewpoint of someone who doesn't leave a three-block radius of the municipal center, the earliest posts on its original blogger site are actually more informative about current events.

His original post from October 24, 2005 analyzes the then-concluding mayoral race between Seth Grimes and his opponent, a presumably nice and reasonable and politically and philosophically uninspired female candidate who was inevitably going to win because she wasn't going to offend the comfortable types who turn out and vote in municipal elections.  Geez, look how things have changed!

The second post, from the next day, provides an overview of decades of Takoma Park city politics in a few paragraphs.  Here's an even briefer summary - socially and politically conservative Adventists dominate city council for decades, are eventually replaced by Abbott and his acolytes ("Revolutionaries") in '80, Abbott unsurprisingly focuses on national issues and employs a confrontational style that galvanizes opposition, Abbott gets replaced by more practical types ("Moderates") and the city finally gets unified in one county, and then wannabe politicos try to curry favor and gain higher office by inefficiently spending city funds on feel-good projects that don't really benefit anyone because they don't really have any substantive plans (I added the last statement to describe pretty much everything that's happened in the last ten years.).

Bill Brown spends most of the rest of the post being flummoxed by the emergence of a new group of residents and activists that didn't fit nicely in his reductionistic dichotomy -
In the last few years however, we have seen the growth of a new faction. They hold a very odd position, considering local politics. They rail against excess spending and high taxes like traditional conservative Republicans would, yet they support liberal causes as much if not more-so than traditional progressive Democrats. In fact their candidate Seth Grimes says that as mayor he would be more pro-active in pursuing an environmental agenda for the city than Kathy has been. One of this faction's criticism of the Community Center construction, besides the cost overruns and mismanagement, is that the building is not sufficiently "green."

So the opposition to the mayor comes not from the Revolutionary left this time, its from the . . . . well, it's from the right and left - these people are progressive fiscal conservatives. Scratch your head over that one for while, especially when you consider that these Pro-Cons are attacking Kathy for being a tax-and-spend moderate. Kind of bends your mind in donut shapes, doesn't it?
Umm, no.  These residents, many of whom had technical backgrounds, wanted to see the application of evidence and reason to both political issues and local expenditures, whereas their opponents were more inclined to offer feel-good rhetoric and inefficient appropriations for window-dressing.  If one must insist on convenient labels, then it's more a matter of bleeding hearts vs. technocrats or lawyers and politicos vs. scientists and engineers.  And we all know which side is more numerous in Takoma Park.   

He Also Wouldn't Have Liked Our New Drive-Thru

Nadia Aziz wrote a piece in the Huffington Post on Sam Abbott's connection to Syria and immigrants.

Hey wait, I pointed that out a while ago.  Oh well, imitation and flattery and all that.

There's probably a lot more to learn about emigration from the Arab world to the Americas (I certainly knew Central Americans who were descendants of Palestinians with surnames such as Jaar) during the waning years of the Ottoman Empire.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


I purchased my house in 2011 for $315k. The asking price was $325k and the appraisal $320k. The property tax assessment was $331k. I refinanced my mortgage last year. The appraisal was $350k and the property tax assessment was then $342k. The similar house next door to me with an additional bedroom and finished basement sold last summer for $375k. My recent property tax assessment was $461k.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Friday, January 1, 2016

Write In

Stephen Del Giudice, Takoma Park mayor from 1985 to 1990, died in December.  Del Giudice famously defeated incumbent mayor Sam Abbott by 8 votes in 1985, running on a platform whose first plank emphasized a more conciliatory approach to city unification.  A Hillwood Manor resident, Del Giudice was elected to the Prince George's County Council as a write-in candidate in 1990.  Of course, it helped that his opponent had been indicted for campaign fraud ("We are called upon to decide, inter alia, whether an office holder and candidate for political office can be convicted of stealing from "his" campaign committee's funds."  Apparently, they can, even in Maryland.) before the primary and then convicted prior to the general election, thus making him ineligible to hold elected office.  In that position, Del Giudice helped persuade the county's council and legislative delegation to not oppose a referendum on city unification, which was held in 1995 and returned a vote for unification in Montgomery County.  As a result of the efforts of Del Giudice and others, my property subsequently became part of the county in 1997.

It's also interesting to note the other plank of Del Giudice's platform, which called for greater community participation in development matters.
Any strategy for revitalization of Takoma Park's business districts must begin with community involvement in the initial development of use, design and implementation plans. Cooperation among developers, citizens and public officials will encourage effective use of all private and public funds, and will ensure preservation of the residential and historic character of our town. We have not always proceeded with these clearly defined goals. Unfortunately, Old Town now faces the redevelopment of a large tract of property located within Takoma Park and the District of Columbia. Our community has been excluded from initial planning discussions with the developer and our neighbors in D.C. because the current mayor has again adopted a confrontational approach. We would be best served by working with developers and our neighbors in the planning stage. We must do a better job of obtaining and making good use of all available public funds. The state of Maryland has funding programs that can greatly assist with commercial development, infrastructure repair and historic preservation. We must work with state and county officials to obtain this money, which will allow for better fiscal planning and overall development. 
Unfortunately, this statement would still be relevant in a city election platform today with only minor alterations.