A Ward 2 resident told me today that she was an active voter in the country where she was born but was disappointed that she could not vote now that she is a legal, tax-paying permanent resident in the United States - I was pleased to be able to tell her that in Takoma Park, she can vote!  Since a voter-led referendum approved it in 1991 and the City Council acted to amend the Charter, non-citizen residents have been able to vote in City elections.  Our State Senator Jamie Raskin was one of the leaders spearheading this effort in the 1990s and you can read more about his arguments in favor of non-citizen voting here.

In order to register to vote you get in touch with the City Clerk, as described on the City's website:

Non-U.S. Citizens: Any resident of Takoma Park who is not a United States citizen, and who is otherwise qualified to be registered as a voter in any election pursuant to Article I, Section I of the Constitution of Maryland, and Section 3-102 of Article 33, as amended, or any equivalent provision(s) of the Annotated Code of Maryland, may register with the City Clerk, who shall maintain a separate voter roll from the existing voter roll generated by the Montgomery County Board of Elections, to include the names of those non-United States Citizens.
I know it doesn't always feel like it - an attempted burglary just happened on New Hampshire Avenue on August 6th - but crime in Takoma Park has been on a downward trend for years.  In 2002, approximately 5.5% of residents experienced a non-violent theft of property from their home or car - in 2010, that figure dropped to 3.5%.  Similarly for violent crime, just less than 1% of residents experienced a violent crime in 1980 - in 2010 that had dropped to approximately a 0.4% of residents.    In comparison, in nearby Hyattsville there is 60% more violent crime and 300% more non-violent property crime.

The Takoma Park Police Department reports on crime every year - for example the 2010 report is here and you can also find much of the data for many years here.  Another service our police department provides is near real time tracking of where crimes are occurring in a map that is available to the public.  They also track citations - for example in 2010 gave 40 citations to drivers who failed to stop or yield to pedestrians and bikes or blocked pedestrian/bike routes and saw a 70 % reduction in vehicle accidents with pedestrians or bikes versus 2009. 

We should be striving for continuous annual reductions in overall levels of violent and non-violent crime.  In particular, the City Council should be helping our police force continue to reduce the rate of burglaries, larcenies and auto thefts (nearly 600 occurred in 2010).  Any crime is unacceptable, but I am very satisfied with the services Takoma Park's police force provides for us.  We should - and do - have a police force that is responsive and accountable to the public. 

I agree with Councilmember Schultz on this news - "There's a lot of good things along New Hampshire Avenue.  We want to make it better."

Takoma Park receives $30,000 grant to help redesign New Hampshire Avenue by kristi tousignant  Staff Writer

A wish to improve Takoma Park’s busy New Hampshire Avenue has been granted. The city won a $30,000 grant last month to hire a consultant to redesign the streetscape of New Hampshire Avenue.  The consultant, who has not been selected, will complete a year-long study and make recommendations on how to improve transportation for cars, buses, pedestrians and bicyclists on the bustling street. The avenue is lined with high-rise apartment buildings and older shopping centers with a constant stream of pedestrians milling around each side of the road.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board awarded the grant. There were 15 applications for grants this year, but only eight were chosen, said Carman Lam, associate planner for the city's Housing and Community Development Department. New Hampshire Avenue runs through Takoma Park near the Prince George’s County border. The road has heavy traffic and lacks sidewalks and crosswalks for pedestrians.

“I still think there’s nothing we can do about the volume of traffic,” Takoma Park City Councilman Fred Schultz (Ward 6) said. “That’s through-traffic. That’s a commuter route. I do think, from a pedestrian standpoint, walking across the avenue is not a very pleasant experience. It’s downright scary at times.”

The city won the grant because the corridor has high commuter and pedestrian density, said Sarah Crawford, a transportation planner with the Department of Transportation Planning in the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.  “The project really is time-sensitive,” Crawford said. “There is a lot of transportation and redevelopment going on in the Takoma/Langley Crossroads area. With the redevelopment and with the nature of that part of the region, it’s just dense.There’s a lot going on. This project could really add some value to the area.”  Program officials will recommend several consultants to Takoma Park in August, and the city will choose one. Lam said she hopes the consultant can start the project in September.

The consultant will concentrate on improving the road for cars, adding bus shelters, making the road pedestrian and biker friendly and improving stormwater management, Lam said.  The city studied the New Hampshire corridor a few years ago and came up with goals to turn the commuter-heavy avenue into a boulevard with separate bus and bike lanes, Lam said. Lam said the consultant will turn the ideas into specific designs. “This grant will allow us to go in and say, ‘OK, we want bike lanes, but how wide will the bike lanes be?’” Lam said. “The grant really will put the details into the conceptual design.”

When the consultant creates a plan with more specific details, it will make it easier for the city to move toward starting the project, which is in the far future, Lam said. “When you’ve put in more studies or more effort into it or more detail, it makes it much more attractive for grant application and is closer to moving it to construction,” she said.Lam said she and other staff plan to host a few public meetings on the project this fall.

“This is how you start,” Schultz said. “You start with images that ordinary people who live in the area can relate to and can get excited about. It also tries to sort of say, ‘We are not just going to destroy everything, because there’s a lot of good things along New Hampshire Avenue. We want to make it better.”

Colleen Clay announced today that she will not be running for re-election in Ward 2.  I want to thank Colleen for her service to Takoma Park and Ward 2 over her three terms on Council.  Colleen has dedicated herself to a suite of significant projects during her service - from her efforts to secure pay raises for our police officers, to her leadership on the City's Strategic Plan, redevelopment of New Hampshire Avenue, and creating a community-led process for identifying needed sidewalks

My family and I spent Sunday afternoon in one of the coolest spots in town - Sligo Creek. Sligo is full of fish and crayfish, some of which may be part of the State's efforts to reintroduce native fish to the stream.  Unfortunately, before we went into the stream, I had to lecture our kids on the pollution in the water - especially E. coli bacteria that is present at unsafe levels - and how important it was to keep the water away from their mouths and to wade but not swim in the water.  Friends of Sligo Creek has been active in working to improve water quality here for many years and now the Center for Watershed Protection is leading efforts in citizen activism to detect illegal discharges of contaminants into the creek.  Over time, these efforts, a settlement requiring WSSC to reduce raw sewage discharge into the creek and other efforts to reduce the flow of polluted runoff into Sligo Creek will one day make the creek into a much healthier environment for kids to enjoy.