Our 2012 budget left us with approximately $1.4 million in funds that were not allocated in June/July, with Council indicating an intent to do so by the end of the year. I offer the following as draft suggestion to gauge the reaction of both my colleagues and constituents. I emphasize that these are just draft suggestions and look forward to further discussion on this subject. I think its important to find ways to give this money back to the community in ways that balance tax relief with city goals and fairly treat homeowners, businesses and renters Property taxes:
I would propose that we consider an allocation of 35 % of the funding to a property tax rebate that would go back to property owners in proportion to their existing property tax burden. Approaching this as a rebate, rather than rate reduction, is a preferable approach per comments made by many on Council in spring 2012 during initial discussion of the budget (but we will look at property tax rates as part of the 2013 budget process next year).
Rental building improvements:
Not everyone in the City paying property taxes owns a single family home. I propose that we set 25 % of the funding aside to allow single (or multi-year) reductions in property taxes for rental buildings (for example owned by housing development partnerships) to cover costs of energy efficiency improvements that would help reduce future costs of energy for renters. This is a fair way to make sure all residents can benefit from the available funding and allow us to help reduce long-term housing costs. Commercial property:
Similar to the approach described above for rental buildings, I'd propose we set aside 20% of funds for programs (like those recommended in the TFEA report) that would create an incentive or cost-share to businesses installing energy efficiency upgrades, energy conservation measures or installing solar power or heat pumps. Like the rental property proposal above, these changes would lower costs for businesses but also help achieve an important citywide goal that residents have identified. City needs:
I propose that 20 % of the funding be used to pay for high priority services that would benefit residents and other city needs that were not identified at the time the budget was approved. In particular, I am interested in Sunday hours (outside of summer) for the library, the purchase of the vacant lot at the corner of Jackson Avenue and Ethan Allen that could be used as a community garden and 'welcome' gateway. City debt:
I wouldn't allocate more of 2012 money here. We paid off bonded debt ahead of schedule in 2011. We did the same thing again in 2012 already. And the majority of our remaining debt cannot be paid off early anyway (terms of the remaining municipal building bond don't let us pay it off early until 2015). We have less debt now, compared the value of property throughout the city, than we've had in 12 years, and I just don't foresee us having a problem with making future payments ahead of schedule as well.Unfunded pension liabilities: Unfunded pension liabilities include future things like the anticipated cost of a retiring police officer's pension in the near and distant future versus how much we have set aside for that cost. The November 19th meeting agenda packet (and video) include more information on this. This is an area where I would support us making additional investments. My understanding is that we already have a lower unfunded liability than the average community but we could do better, and the level of liability is still a worry. I emphasize that these are just draft suggestions and look forward to further discussion on this subject.
Buildings that have been part of property tax abatement efforts to improve housing and lower costs.
There are lots of ways a City government can help maintain the diversity of housing in a community - Takoma Park's rent control policy for some rental housing is one example and the work of the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs is another.
Since at least 2005, the City has been quietly running one more program that helps incentivize improvements in lower income housing, including improvements that may create future savings for tenants. Payment in Lieu of Taxes or 'PILOT' is a program that allows non-profit lower incoming housing providers to apply to the City for the temporary relief of a portion of a building's property taxes as a way for the non-profit to help finance building improvements. For example, the Council just approved a project with Essex House on Maple Avenue that will allow the non-profit to replace all of the building's air conditioners (chillers), boilers and water heaters and make other upgrades, seeking to get a 20-25% reduction in total energy use in the building.
As part of the financing to make this possible, for Essex House, the Council agreed to lower property taxes for four years between 2013 and 2016 for a total contribution of $95,000.
Between 2005-2020, the City has or will provide approximately $670,000 in property tax relief (abatement) for lower income buildings and partnerships undertaking such projects - this covers 12 buildings so far (see graph). I think this program represents one of the quietest facets of Takoma Park's multi-front effort to maintain the socioeconomic diversity of our community.
WHEREAS, in 2012 the Center for the Study of the American Electorate reported that voter turnout was 58 percent of eligible voters and the Maryland Secretary of State reported turnout of 66 percent in Montgomery County; and
WHEREAS, in the 2011 Takoma Park municipal election only approximately 18 percent of registered voters voted, a higher percent than the previous two elections; and
WHEREAS, one reason for the country’s low voter turnout is a faulty and outdated voter registration system that is inefficient in registering voters; and
WHEREAS, expanding opportunities at local agencies for voter education and non-partisan voter registration beyond the requirements of the National Voter Registration Act would promote more engaged citizens and increase civic participation; and
WHEREAS, ten states have established Election Day registration so that voters can register at the same time they cast their ballot; and
WHEREAS, 5.3 million American citizens with felony convictions are denied the right to vote due to state laws, including some states permanently barring such citizens from voting even after serving prison and probation terms; and
WHEREAS local governments like ours have the power to enact laws and procedures for local elections that ensure they meet and ideally surpass federal and state election standards; and choice and hold representatives accountable, that proposes changes to uphold voting rights, that encourages increased voter participation through partnerships with private organizations, and that promotes greater awareness of our political process through civic education; and
WHEREAS Takoma Park has a long history of innovative voting policies, including the adoption of instant runoff voting and provisions for non-citizen voting in municipal elections; and
WHEREAS, an individual right to vote is a fundamental American right, fundamental rights should be guaranteed to all Americans in the U.S. Constitution; and
WHEREAS, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote in Bush v. Gore, “the individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote.”
That the Council does hereby affirm that the right to vote is a fundamental citizenship right to be cherished, protected and exercised.
That the over-arching intent of this Right to Vote resolution is to strengthen the ties that connect residents, elected officials and city government.
We actively encourage and facilitate voter education and voter registration by the City and residents of our community, and commit to initiating voter registration drives (for citizens and non-citizens) focused on areas of the city with the lowest levels of registration.
In order to correct misinformation and encourage voter turnout on Election Day, we will communicate to all voters through means of mail, posters for apartment buildings, city television and social media the following information: general information about voting on Election Day, information on early voting for municipal elections, the format of the ballot, and any new state and federal laws involving voting.
We encourage the recruitment of poll workers and effective training of election officials and poll workers to uphold the individual right to vote.
We establish a task force or standing ‘Right to Vote’ committee to:
- Develop plans and take action to promote early voting in municipal elections and make recommendations to the City Council on any policies or actions needed to strengthen existing early voting efforts.
- Develop a plan for instituting Election Day voter registration for Municipal Elections.
- Develop plans for a voter registration program designed to register every eligible high school student who is at least 16 years old, support voter education programs to increase the citizenship knowledge and participation in the democratic process and review the potential of allowing voting in city election by those who are 16.
- Review all local laws and practices that may affect the right to vote and that may affect the power of voters to elect candidates and hold representatives accountable, and recommends changes to our policies that would better uphold voting rights, that encourage increased voter participation, that promote greater awareness of our political process through civic education and high school programs on voter registration.
- Review state laws and recommend to Council state legislation we could encourage our House of Delegate and State Senate members to introduce that would strengthen the right to vote in Maryland.
- Partner with the Takoma Park Board of Elections to jointly evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of City practices and regulations after each election and recommend changes.
- Recommend languages appropriate to Takoma Park into which all written and recorded voter resources including ballots should be translated.
- Reach out and collaborate with the non-profit, TurboVote, to expand the use of absentee ballots for municipal elections.
We call on our Members of Congress to support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would grant an individual right to vote to every American citizen of voting age.
We call on Congress and our state government to take action to uphold voting rights, including ensuring that our nation has a modern voter registration system that meets the basic goal of complete and accurate voting rights, that citizens of the District of Columbia have congressional voting rights, that all jurisdictions have an option to purchase publicly owned or non-profit managed voting equipment and that all voters can be confident that their local jurisdiction meets certain minimum performance standards involving election administration.
As most of you know, we are going through a transition between one city manager and a new one. This is why these issues are coming up now. I’d like to talk to you about why I introduced these proposals back in July. I want to say first, that I’ve tried to listen to you openly, to really hear your words, to be an active listener. I hope you will do the same. To be an active listener rather than just listener to hear me say something you can later argue with.
Advice and consent
If you look around, in almost any setting involving a large organization, hiring is treated as an important process and hiring senior staff is treated with the greatest importance. Why? Because most organizations are only as good as their people. And people are often there for a long time – you want to get it right because the decision will be with you for a while.
The origin of this proposal - for me - is based on the notion that we shouldn’t have a single person carry out the hiring of the most important senior staff in our City. That there shouldn’t be an ultimate authority without a check and balance. Let me offer my reasons why we shouldn’t leave your elected officials with no ability to influence the final selection by an unelected administrator of the most senior staff that serve you.
First government. At the federal level, the Presidents choices to head departments are all confirmed by the Senate, at the State level, the Maryland Governor’s appointments not just to departments but to boards and commissions must be approved by the Senate. At the County level, the County Executive first has to take the advice of their Chief Administrative Officer and then get the consent of the County Council. I wonder if anyone will be proposing to Jamie Raskin or George Leventhal that we abolish these approaches? Yes, a small part of this is about politics – making sure that appointees are not so wildly out of character with the values and philosophy of the majority of elected officials. But a big part of it is intended to make sure that qualified people are hired.
Second, tenure. The organization that represents City and County Managers reports that the average tenure of a City Manager is 7.4 years. These people move around a lot. That means that we are frequently going to have managers on their way out the door (or new to our City) when hiring decisions are being made.
Third, people make mistakes. We all make mistakes. In my own experience, job candidates sometimes look pretty good but have a couple of flaws or weak spots. Are they enough to change your choice. Maybe yes, but maybe no. It’s a judgment. I’d posit that sometimes that judgment is wrong and it would help to have the Council there as back up to see it.
Let me address some of the arguments against it.
I’ve heard that this change would be unprecedented. Let me use three local examples to show that it is not. College Park – the Assistant City Manager, City Engineer, and City Health officer all have an advice and consent role in their hire. In Rockville, the Council appoints the Treasurer. The International Association of City and County Managers report that more than 60 percent of city’s with a council-manager form of government have amended the form of their government.
I’ve heard that this will make hiring subject to politics. You know, I think this comes down to a fundamental issue of how you view us, your neighbors. Our children are born in the same hospitals as yours. Our kids go to the same schools. The same father-daughter dances. The same graduations. We serve as volunteers on the same committees year after year. Or Sligo Creek clean ups. We happen to be a set of neighbors who volunteer for this service. To sit up here and read 100s of pages a week of material about the city and where its going. I know some of you believe that once we get up here we are no longer decent people, no longer to be trusted. I tell ya, I just cannot believe that about myself. Or Bruce or Fred or anyone up here. You might. But I don’t. And its with that belief that I have offered this proposal. Because I believe in the decency of councilmembers as human beings, I believe that 9 times out of 10, a choice by the manager for a department head will be confirmed 7 to 0. It is a power that will be used rarely.
Requiring residency is a common practice in both small and large cities for City Manager positions. College Park and Greenbelt have it. To give you a sense for just how common it is, let me trace the history (that I could find online) for our two most recent city managers. Rick Finn when from an administrator job in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to Sandusky Ohio to Takoma Park. I’m not sure where next but he was a finalist for the job in Marco Island, Florida and then was manager in Peekskill New York. Everyone had a residency requirement.
Barb Matthews moved from Gladstone Missouri to Kirkwood Missouri to Manchester Missouri. Of the three – Manchester didn’t have a residency requirement in the City but required the manager to live in state. She came here in response to a job posting that indicated a preference for residency but lived in Reston because her husband took a city manager job there – with a residency requirement. Now she has moved to Rockville – residency required.
How would residency benefit us?
I liked this idea from the first moment a constituent suggested it to me. I think the primary benefit comes from having a city manager who wants not just the job but is also willing to be part of our wonderful, special and unique community. If you don’t think our community is unique and special then I guess we disagree.
Is it too expensive?
The median income in MontCo – half of all residents – make less than $66,000 a year. Our last City Manager left us at a salary of $160,000. That salary puts you in the top 10 percent of the country. Its higher than the salary of anyone in Takoma Park whose salary I know.
Why are we talking about the Charter?
If we could do this without making charter changes that would be ideal.
For example, Rockville doesn’t have the “Council Interference” language in its Charter but puts it in their Code. We repeat the same language in both places.
I introduced this proposal in July because we have a vacancy in our City Manager position. Rather than make changes like this when there is an incumbent in place, a vacancy creates the perfect opportunity for evaluation. We’ve talked about the issue at two public work sessions since July, and received public comment at both. And if you are in Ward 2, you might have gotten seven weekly updates from me about this since then, along with a video explaining the issues, and Facebook and website posts.
Does this have to slow down the hiring process?
No. The delay so far in recruitment has come from our self-imposed requirement to use a citizen committee to first develop a position description and then help us vet candidates. Its my understanding that the search firm we hired is meeting with the Committee for the first time tomorrow and that the firm, in addition to other subjects under discussion, will offer a suggestion on how both of these potential changes can be described in the position advertisement without having to have made a decision yet on them.
Have I or others frozen out debate or closed off compromise?
Speaking for myself, I’ll admit its true that I haven’t wanted to negotiate – negotiate – the details of this proposal with the one citizen who asked me to do so. But I have listened to constituents and non-constituents. I’ve offered to meet with residents in Ward 2 – although no one has been interested enough to ask for that meeting. But ultimately, that negotiation is supposed to take place right here in front of you and on camera in an open meeting where we work to represent all constituents and their interests.
I’ve gone on long enough but after we finish our opening statements, I just wanted to let the Mayor know that I have a number of revisions and suggestions that I would be happy to offer.
The City of Takoma Park invites qualified firms to submit a proposal to assist the City of Takoma Park in the development of an environmental sustainability action plan and preparation of a greenhouse gas inventory. A contract will be awarded to a highly qualified and experienced firm with a strong record in developing environmental sustainability strategies, particularly in the local government arena. COMMUNITY PROFILE
The City of Takoma Park, Maryland is a residential community of 16,715 people (2010 Census) in approximately 2.4 square miles along the northeastern boundary of Washington, D.C. It is hilly, divided by two stream valley parks – Sligo Creek and Long Branch, and has many trees (recent Lidar analysis measured the tree canopy cover at 51%), making the community a highly desirable, walkable, and livable city.
Residences in Takoma Park are a mix of old Victorian homes, bungalows, 1950s ramblers, small apartment buildings, and high-rise apartment buildings. Many streets have a mix of single-family and multi-family buildings. About 47% of the City’s households live in multi-family buildings. About one-third of the City’s households have children under 18, and about one-third are single adults living alone.
The City has two main commercial areas, one a smaller “main street” commercial area near the Washington, D.C. line and the other, a larger commercial area with strip shopping centers on a major road on the north side of town. Takoma Park also has two small colleges. The largest employer located in Takoma Park is Washington Adventist Hospital.
Many residents work in the federal government, non-profit or consultant firms located in the Washington area. The residents have a high level of educational attainment – 54% of residents 25 years of age or older have at least a bachelor’s degree. Despite the high educational attainment, median household income is moderate for the Washington, D.C. area: $68,327 in 2009. The large number of multi-family dwellings and small homes has tended to attract residents early in their careers or after retirement, with wealthier families living in communities with larger homes. (Information from the American Community Survey, (ACS), 2006-2010)
Takoma Park was developed as a streetcar suburb of Washington, D.C. in the late 1800s. The community continues to be well served by transit with service provided by the Red Line of the regional Metro subway system and eighteen regional and local bus routes. In addition, a light-rail line, the Purple Line, is proposed to run along our northern border. Because of the compactness of our community, and the tree-shaded sidewalks and bike paths, many Takoma Park households use transit (27%), walk (6%) or use other non-auto means (2.4%) to commute to work. (ACS 2006-2010)
Like much of the Washington, D.C. region, Takoma Park has an international population, with 30% of the residents having been born outside of the United States. (ACS 2006-2010) Takoma Park’s population is 43.3% white, 34.0% black, 14.5% Hispanic/Latino, 4.3% Asian, 3.3% two or more races, and 0.6% other. (2010 Census) Most of the Hispanic/Latino population is from Central America and half of the foreign born population is from Africa, representing a large proportion of the City’s black population. EXISTING ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMMING
The City of Takoma Park has a long history of environmental programming. Further information on the City’s existing efforts can be found in Exhibit A. TASK FORCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION
On July 27, 2009, the Takoma Park City Council established a Task Force on Environmental Action (“Task Force”) to review the current status of plans and operations related to climate change and the environment and to prepare a road map for achieving the vision elaborated in the Strategic Plan. The Task Force issued its report on April 30, 2010 and publicly presented it to the City Council and the community on July 6, 2010.
The Task Force Report can be found at: http://www.takomaparkmd.gov/committees/tfea/index.html QUALIFICATIONS
The Offeror must have a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of environmental sustainability, with specific expertise in incentivizing energy efficiency by private property owners. The Offeror must have prior experience in developing environmental sustainability strategies and in the preparation of a GHG inventory, preferably for small local governments such as the City of Takoma Park. SCOPE OF SERVICES
The Offeror shall provide the following tasks and deliverables:
· Develop a methodology to evaluate potential programs to achieve greenhouse gas reduction and environmental sustainability in Takoma Park. The evaluation methodology should be presented and approved by the City prior to its use. Evaluation criteria should compare environmental benefits, green house gas reduction, implementation costs (public and private), and estimated penetration rates across residential and commercial sectors. Identifying the financial resources required should be a critical component of the criteria.
· Evaluate existing City programs that address environmental issues (tree canopy, stormwater management, solid waste management, energy use, and recycling). Identify low cost programs to fill in any programming gaps, taking into account the City’s limited staffing capacity.
· Analyze climate action recommendations outlined in the Local Action Plan for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions (2000) and the Task Force on Environmental Actions 2010 report.
· Create an Action Plan to improve environmental quality to include short, medium, and long-term programs. The Plan should include necessary staff resources, costs, and implementation schedule. Recommendation should establish a funding level for implementing new programs and maintaining existing programs. The Action Plan should identify the programs for the City to implement that will have the most impact on environmental quality and encourage residents and businesses to take action to reduce their carbon foot print. Action Plan recommendations should be based on review of existing City reports (2000 and 2010) and effective greenhouse gas reduction programs developed elsewhere in similar jurisdictions, as well as any other recommendations of the Offeror. The City is particularly interested in the reduction or “greening” of energy use. The programs must be able to be applied within the regulatory and legislative control of the City’s governing structure.
· Using inventory methods such as ICLEI and the World Resource Institutes GHG Protocol, produce an updated greenhouse gas emissions inventory for 2012, for the community and government of Takoma Park. Recommend what base year should be used as a comparison. TIME FRAME
Completing the greenhouse gas inventory is seen as a finite product that can be completed as a separate deliverable from the Action Plan.
Development of the evaluation methodology will require review and acceptance by the City prior to use. City staff will be able to receive and turn around comments on the proposed criteria in a very short time frame.
Evaluation of existing City programs, previously received recommendations, and the identification of effective programs from other jurisdictions, will be the most intensive of the scope of work items. PROPOSAL SUBMITTAL INSTRUCTIONS
Firms must submit three (3) copies of the proposal in the format below. Proposals must include the following information:
· A Letter of Transmittal on the Firm’s business stationary. The purpose of the letter is to provide a record of transmittal of the proposal in addition to the acknowledgements of amendment, addendum, and changes issued (if any). The letter should be signed by an individual who is authorized to commit the Firm to the services and requirements stated within the Request for Proposal.
· Respondent Qualification and Certification Statement.
· A company profile, including the number of years in business, type of operation, and number of employees.
· A list of key personnel of the Firm who will be directly or indirectly involved in working with the City, specifying the role each will play. For each staff member, provide a brief resume, including years employed by the Firm, and specific projects that the staff member has coordinated.
· A list of at least five clients for whom similar environmental sustainability work has been performed (Addendum A).
· A proposed timeline for each step in the process, including the preparation of the greenhouse gas inventory and the Action Plan.
· At least one sample Action Plan and one sample greenhouse gas inventory developed by the Firm.
· A Price Proposal that includes at a minimum:
o A lump sum fee proposal for completing the services described herein.
o An estimate of the hours and hourly rates that will be required by the project team to complete the services and all deliverables described herein.
o All non-labor costs, such as telephone calls, fax transmissions, printing, and all other expenses or incidentals. All such non-labor costs are to be included within the price proposal offered.
· A copy of the firm’s proposed contract for the services set forth in this Request for Proposals.
· A completed Living Wage Requirements Certification.
· A completed Certification of Non-Involvement in the Nuclear Weapons Industry.
Sealed proposals for providing the consulting services requested in this RFP must be received by the City of Takoma Park, Maryland no later than 4:00 p.m. EST on Monday, October 15, 2012. Late proposals will not be accepted.
Three copies of the proposal should be submitted to:
Ms. Daryl Braithwaite, Public Works Director
City of Takoma Park
7500 Maple Avenue
Takoma Park, Maryland 20912
Phone: (301) 891-7615
E-Mail: email@example.com BASIS OF AWARD/EVALUATION CRITERIA
Proposals will be evaluated and ranked based on the following criteria:
- Experience and qualifications of the firm and its staff
- Responsiveness and understanding of the scope of services
- Prior experience working with municipal governments in the development of sustainability plans
- Qualifications and experience of personnel assigned to the project
Prior to final selection, the City may schedule interviews with those firms whose proposals receive the highest overall rating based on the criteria outlined above.
The City of Takoma Park, Maryland reserves the right to reject any or all proposals without explanation.
I thought people might find interesting the City's summary of its ongoing and recent environmental initiatives. Some of these actions are more significant than others - I welcome your feedback on them and how to help the City progress even further with its work on our environment.
City of Takoma Park
Existing and Planned Environmental Initiatives
· The City manages its stormwater system to improve water quality, maintain system integrity, and expand the system where needed using low impact design.
o In order to meet the requirement of the federal NPDES permit, the City cleans and inspects one-third of the system each year, tests water quality at dry weather stream outfalls, conducts street sweeping operations, and provides educational information to City residents regarding how to improve the quality of stormwater discharge.
o Street sweeping is a critical method for improving water quality from stormwater runoff by removing sediment and chemicals from the street surface. The street sweeper is operated from March through October each year. The goal of the program is to sweep residential streets at least twice per month and commercial streets at least three times per month.
o Existing inlets will be evaluated for retrofitting with trash collection and sediment capture devices to meet State requirements for pollutant control. There are several systems currently in place and being evaluated: a filter at the Public Works Facility that removes pollutants and hydrocarbons and a system that includes a trash intercepter, sediment collection baskets, and removal of soluble pollutants via biological activity in a filter media that was installed at the end of Linden Avenue. Existing systems will be retrofitted to meet State requirements for pollutant removal:
o In addition to the maintenance programs above, the City has developed a Watershed Implementation Plan to provide treatment to 20% of run-off from impervious area within the City. The Plan identifies a total of 79 acres of impervious area that must receive treatment through best management practices by 2025. To date the city has implemented programs to address 14 acres. Based on the rate of progress of the program, the City anticipates treating 57 acres by 2017 and 97 acres by 2025 – which will exceed the requirements.
o Recommendations for the incorporation of stormwater management features in public and private infill development were included in the following long-range master plans: New Hampshire Avenue Concept Plan (adopted November 2009), Takoma Langley Sector Plan (adopted June 2012), Takoma Langley Design Guidelines (pending adoption September 2012), and the New Hampshire Avenue Streetscape Standards (pending adoption September 2012).
Reduction in Greenhouse Gas Emissions
· The City fleet includes 11 hybrid vehicles, out of a total fleet of 74. Of those hybrid vehicles, seven are assigned to the Police Department, two are in the administrative pool, one is in Code Enforcement, and one is assigned to Public Works. The City evaluates annually what vehicles are scheduled for replacement and whether the new vehicle can be alternatively fueled.
· The preventative maintenance schedule for each vehicle will be performed to meet or exceed the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure that vehicles are operating at their maximum efficiency and that all fuel filters, exhaust systems, and tire pressures are regularly maintained.
· The City recently completed an EECBDG grant project in the amount of $93,000, replacing the chiller and two air handling units in the Community Center.
· The City purchases Renewable Energy Credits (Wind Power), equivalent to 100% of the City’s annual electricity use, through the Montgomery County purchasing cooperative.
· The City has over 100 kW solar panel arrays on City facilities. These panels are expected to generate 20% of the City’s electricity needs. A 10kW system was installed in conjunction with the renovation of the Community Center Auditorium. The additional 90 kW system was installed through a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA). The PPA agreement provides solar power for a period of 20 years. The solar array was installed and will be maintained at no cost to the City in exchange for the City’s purchase of the power generated by the system from the owner.
· The City has an ongoing educational program designed to encourage students and their parents to walk and bike to and from school safely. Equipment such as bike racks and skate board/scooter racks are also installed at various public schools.
Flower Avenue Green Street Project
· The City has begun the design phase for a green street development for a one mile section of Flower Avenue. The project will have two significant "green" benefits. By making the street safer and more comfortable for pedestrians, bikers, and bus riders, non-vehicular modes of transportation will be encouraged. The project will also slow, filter, and reduce stormwater runoff into Sligo Creek and Long Branch Creek through the use of bio-retention features, rain gardens, and other measures.
· The City’s Tree Ordinance prohibits the cutting down of any tree on private property without a permit. The permit requires tree replacement by the property owner. The City’s Tree law was adopted in recognition that the City’s urban forest is part of a larger ecosystem that supports wildlife and contributes significantly to air, noise, and visual pollution control. The existence of shade providing trees moderates climatic extremes and reduces energy consumption. The City’s urban forest is part of the watershed of Long Branch, Takoma Branch, and Sligo Creeks and therefore plays an important role in controlling water run-off and supports the biologic and hydrologic integrity of these watersheds. The urban forest has significant aesthetic value, which affects property values and the quality of life of the community. Regulation of actions affecting the urban forest provides mutual benefits to City residents and property owners. The Public Works Urban Forest Division manages the City’s public trees and enforces the Tree Ordinance.
· The City provides a $100 subsidy for property owners to purchase trees through the semi-annual bulk buy tree program. The goal of the program is to encourage the planting of large overstory trees on private property.
· The City spends $22,000 annually to plant trees on public right-of-way.
· The annual Arbor Day celebration promotes tree planting and care of trees on private property. Tree seedlings of several varieties are handed out at this event.
Green Space and Habitat
· The New Hampshire Avenue Corridor Community Gardens/Greening Project encourages local neighborhood associations, private property owners, and organizations to establish and maintain community gardens and landscaped areas designed to beautify the New Hampshire Avenue Corridor through the use of green space.
Commercial Property and Development/Planning
· The City plans to continue ongoing development review efforts to guide appropriate commercial and residential development and redevelopment throughout the community, working in partnership with Maryland-National Capital Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) and Montgomery County’s Permitting Services Department staff. Efforts are made to encourage low impact stormwater design and other environmental features.
· The New Hampshire Avenue Concept Plan, Holton Lane Area Improvement Plan, and the Takoma Langley Crossroads Sector Plan and Design Guidelines have been adopted. They promote the creation of environmentally sustainable transit oriented development and require the inclusion of integrated stormwater infiltration facilities.
· By grinding collected leaves, the City avoids transportation for disposal at the County facility and provides a very green product. Leaf mulch can be used to enhance gardens and planting areas around the City. Cost avoidance for disposal fees ($40 per ton at Montgomery County) is about $80,000. The City offers leaf mulch for pick up at the Public Works facility and also delivers mulch for a fee to area residents.
· The Public Works Department will continue to research and explore additional opportunities to expand the types of items able to be collected for recycling from residents. The single stream recycling collection program implemented last year has reduced the number of truck trips required for collection of recycling and enables all residents who receive City collection to have their recycling and trash collected on the same day. Same day programs simplify collection for residents.
· The Public Works Department provides yard waste compost containers to residents at no cost. The containers are provided through Montgomery County. The simple compost containers can be picked up at the Public Works Facility. Publications detailing how to compost food waste and yard waste are provided with the compost bin.
· The City has many trash and recycling containers in the right-of-way. Currently, when a new trash can is located in the right-of-way, it is paired with a recycling container.
· The City also has a drop-off location for small electronics, and computer components, and compact fluorescent bulbs. These materials are processed by licensed waste companies to keep the dangerous components out of the environment.
· The Takoma Park Arts and Humanities Commission established the ReCycling Artist in Residence Program and the Trashy Art contest. These programs are designed to encourage the reuse and repurposing of materials and include educational workshops for children and adults. This year the City established an Artist In Residency Program at the Public Works facility. The commissioned art piece will be installed upon completion.
Greening City Operations
The City recently renovated its Public Works Facility to meet LEED Certified standards. It has numerous energy efficient features, including a geothermal heat pump and high efficiency cooling and heating system, high efficiency lighting, rain water harvesting, a grey water system (the first of its kind in the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission service area), and daylighting in several spaces.
The City has reduced vehicle fuel use due to the switch to hybrid vehicles and the reduction to one recycling truck from two as a result of single stream recycling collection. Fuel use has been reduced by approximately 500 gallons a month with a corresponding reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
· The City’s garden and landscape maintenance program emphasizes the use of drought tolerant and hardy plants, using native plants whenever possible. Pesticides are only used after attempts to address the problem with Integrated Pest Management and non-toxic alternatives have failed.
· Currently, the primary methods of weed management used by the Public Works Department include hand weeding, use of a propane torch for burning weeds and grass, and use of high strength vinegar applications.
· The City Code includes a purchase preference for materials with recycled content and requires use of paper with recycled content. The City uses green cleaning products for all City facilities. Informational and promotional materials developed by the Housing and Community Development Department and others are made with recycled products.
· The pilot program endorsed by the City Council for the operation of mobile food vendors (food trucks) discourages the use of polystyrene or Styrofoam food service ware and containers.
· All surfactants and detergents used for facility cleaning are biodegradable and phosphate-free. Staff uses products with the lowest amount of volatile organic compounds, the highest recycled content, and low or no formaldehyde whenever possible. Supplies are purchased in bulk or condensed forms and in recyclable containers, whenever possible.
· The City has tracked energy use for each utility meter since 1994. This process has identified billing errors and alerted us to problem areas within facilities. From 1994 to the present, electricity use has increased by 15%, although the square footage of building space has almost doubled, and the use of natural gas has dropped 50%.
· The Public Works Department established an anti-idling policy for Department vehicles. GPS units have been tested and installed on a number of vehicles. The units provide real time evaluation of speeding, idling, and stops and starts. The devices have been helpful in significantly reducing idling and providing more accurate information about routing and vehicle use.
· The Public Works Department has ceased use of gasoline powered leaf blowers in its operations. Staff continues to explore options for alternatives to two-stroke engines.
· The Public Works Department ensures that all offices and public areas in City facilities have appropriate containers available for staff and the public for the collection of paper, glass, and plastic bottles.
· The City uses bio-diesel, made of 20% soy and 80% diesel, as an alternative fuel for all trucks and heavy equipment that have diesel engines. In addition to continuing use of bio-diesel, staff will continue to explore other options for reducing diesel particulate emissions from trucks and equipment.
· Staff will explore environmentally friendly turf maintenance programs and alternatively powered maintenance equipment. Grasscycling (the process of leaving grass clippings directly on the lawn when grass is cut) will be implemented when grass clippings are less than one inch.
· The Public Works Department follows COG guidelines for Air Quality Action Days. On Code Orange or Red Air Quality Days, the Department curtails line painting, mowing, and asphalt paving and refuels vehicles only in the morning.
New sidewalk construction is done in a way that encourages walkability, incorporates low impact stormwater management measures when applicable, and preserves trees whenever possible.
The City has implemented an ADA sidewalk retrofit project in 2010. The goal is to make repairs to all existing sidewalks and curb ramps in the City to bring them into compliance with accessibility laws.
The following text is the first draft of a proposal to create a little more connection between the Council democratically elected by you and the City administration. The first change below would give the Council an 'advice and consent' role in the hiring (but not firing) of City Department heads. I think this is a modest change that would provide a modest but healthy increase in the role of the Council in setting priorities in the City. I think its important to limit it to hiring - if Council were involved in terminations it could become far too political. The second change is a proposed residency requirement that would mean that senior City staff had to live in (or near) Takoma Park and is meant to strengthen the sense of community between the City staff and residents. The downside of such a change is that it could be harder to attract exceptional applicants (because its expensive to live here) or could increase staff costs in order to attract them. Another downside is that while Councilmembers are elected and thus should be very accessible much of the time to constituents, city staff are not, and there is value in being able to go home to your neighborhood and not still feel like you are 'on duty.' I'd be happy to get any comments on this between now and the meeting on the 30th, when this proposal (or an amended version) will be open for public comment. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT ORDAINED BY THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF TAKOMA PARK, MARYLAND,
that, effective immediately, Chapter 2.08 of the Takoma
Park Code is hereby amended as follows: 2.08.010 Appointment and duties of City Manager.
The Council shall appoint a City Manager, who shall be responsible for the proper administration of all day-to-day affairs of the City. The City Manager shall be vested with the powers and authority necessary to perform such duties, except where they may be inconsistent with other provisions of the Charter or this Code. The City Manager shall manage the departments of the City, through the department heads, to enforce the laws of the City. In addition, the City Manager shall perform such other duties as the Council may lawfully require. (Ord. 2004-3 (part), 2004) Article 2. Department Heads 2.08.020 Power of appointment. With the advice and consent of the Council, the City Manager shall have the power to appoint all department heads. Council ratification of each proposed department-head or deputy city manager appointment, by affirmative vote of the council, shall be required. The City Manager shall have the power to
suspend and remove all department heads at his or her sole discretion. The City Manager is authorized to negotiate and finalize all terms of employment with department heads and other appointed City officials. (Ord. 2004-3 (part), 2004) 2.08.030 Designation of department heads.
The City Manager may establish such department head positions as the City Manager deems necessary to manage the functions of the City government. The department heads may include:
A. Library Director. The Library Director shall have overall responsibility for the general operation of the library. The Library Director shall plan, coordinate and direct library services for the City.
B. Public Works Director. The Public Works Director shall have general charge of all public works done in the City. The Public Works Director shall plan, direct, supervise, and coordinate activities in such areas as infrastructure, building and vehicle maintenance, construction, park and street maintenance, refuse collection and disposal, recycling, trees and vegetation and stormwater management.
C. Police Chief. The Police Chief shall arrange all activities and programs of the Police Department and shall be responsible for law enforcement in the City.
D. Director of Recreation. The Director of Recreation shall plan, promote and administer recreation programs for the City.
E. Director of Economic and Community Development. The Director of Economic and Community Development shall manage the City’s community and economic development and housing service functions. These functions include planning, historic preservation, development, enforcement of laws relating to landlord-tenant matters, housing code enforcement, and code enforcement, generally. (Ord. 2004-3 (part), 2004) 2.08.040 Residency requirement.Effective September 1, 2012 all department heads, including the City Manager and Deputy City Manager, hired on or after August 15, 2012 will be required to live within the City limits unless this requirement is waived or modified by the Council on a case by case basis.
Mr. Brian P. MacDonald, CEO
1818 Market Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Dear Mr. MacDonald,
We are writing to you as neighbors and community leaders from the City of Takoma Park, Maryland. A Sunoco gas station in our community has been the source of more than a dozen assaults and robberies in the past three years, typically involving a suspect grabbing valuables and electronics from unlocked cars while owners are pumping gas or paying for gas. On several occasions there have been cars stolen as well.
We realize that your position as CEO provides you with limited opportunities to influence the behavior of individual franchise operators. However, our Chief of Police has repeatedly discussed crimes at this gas station with the community and has publicly stated that the owners of the Sunoco gas station have not been very cooperative with the Police Department's efforts to make the gas station a safer place for customers. While staff and the station manager have been helpful, additional requests by our Police Chief to the station owner have fallen on deaf ears.
Robberies, assault and other crimes at this Sunoco gas station are a concern throughout our community and neighborhoods. We ask your help in working with the Takoma Park Police Department to make this gas station a safer part of our community.
Requirements: The Redistricting Task Force was formed in January 2012.The Task Force sought to find boundaries that would create wards of nearly equal population, that were geographically contiguous and compact, that recognized natural boundaries, and that were not gerrymandered to ensure the election or defeat of any incumbent or potential candidate. The most important legal requirement (as Sally noted) is that the Wards need to be of approximately equal population and current census data shows that they are not, hence the need to adjust ward boundaries.
Guidelines: The Task Force also sought to follow the Council's guidance to look at commonality of social and economic interests, preservation of existing ward boundaries, and respect both neighborhoods and neighborhood associations.
Why two options?
The Council asked for two options. The Task Force reported that in one approach they chose to try to move the current boundaries around as little as possible. They reported that in the second option they thought about what it would look like to really start from scratch and only consider the requirements, not the guidelines, above. Thus, the second map (Option B) really looks quite different from current wards and results in Kay Daniels-Cohen moving to Ward 2, me moving to Ward 3, and both neighborhood associations in Ward 2 being divided up.
How did they deal with neighborhoods?
The Task Force tried to keep neighborhoods together by keeping residents on opposite sides of streets together, but were less stringent about splitting the upper and lower ends of streets or different streets from which residents might share backyards. In some places the Task Force was able to unite blocks that had been split by the current ward boundaries. However, they couldn't find ways to keep whole neighborhood associations together and still meet requirements (this is especially true in Option B but also to some extent in Option A)
How did the Task Force deal with the homes of existing (or candidate) councilmembers?
The Task Force operated as if it did not know the location of the homes of any existing councilmember because, by doing so, they would help avoid gerrymandering. In various options, the homes of Councilmembers and Council candidates from Wards 2,3, 4, and 5 (and the Mayor) all move wards, sometimes in ways that result in two individuals being placed in the same ward.
Last night's meeting was the first presentation by the Task Force to the Council - it was our first chance to see the report and speak directly with the Task Force and ask them questions about the process they went through and decisions they made. Next week's Council session includes a worksession (and opportunity for public comment) on the report. I expect there will be more meetings in the future. I believe (but we are seeking legal counsel to confirm) that any plan won't become effective until after the Ward 5 Special Election and before the 2013 city-wide election so we have some time to get this right and to allow lots of Council deliberation and neighborhood input.
Thank you for all your feedback so far - please feel free to continue to email me and your neighborhood associations or to participate in upcoming Council meetings on the Task Force's redistricting plan.
There has been a lot of discussion on neighborhood listservs recently about the $653,220 the City received from Montgomery County in additional payments beyond what was expected from either the County or the State. In response to some of the discussion, here are a few points I would make in response to some of the questions raised in many messages to Council.Sincerely,
Whose money is it?
Its your money - taxpayers money - as is every dollar that the City or County or State or Federal government receives. The recent $650,000 addition is no different than the $5 million that was already in the budget by March that comes from the State and County to us as tax duplication payments and other transfers. Its also no different than any of the other funds in the budget from property and business taxes. All money that government holds is ultimately your money. I’ve tried my best to have lots of open conversations with all Ward 2 residents about your priorities for how the City use tax dollars you provide to the City and how we deliver the best possible value to you for those dollars.
Are taxes in Takoma Park high?
We have the highest property tax rate in Montgomery County. Communities in many other states have higher tax rates. I grew up in North Haven, Connecticut (which typically has Republican elected officials!). The tax burden is much higher in North Haven than Takoma Park (similar size communities, similar per capita income, etc.)
If we had simply returned the funding by lowering the tax rate, how might you have benefited?
This amount is about 5% of the total property taxes the City received so, if we had returned it all by lowering tax rates, a homeowner paying a $5,000 property tax bill might have seen a $250 reduction in that bill. We likely would have needed to raise tax rates next year because its not expected we will get this $650,000 from the County again next year.
Did I ask for your input on the City’s budget, including on reducing taxes?Some messages on neighborhood listservs raised questions about whether residents were ever asked their opinions on how revenue should be allocated in this year’s budget. Here is some more information on the many, many times I asked questions, including about tax rates.
On March 2nd, I surveyed residents of Ward 2 on your budget priorities – asking both an open ended question and asking you to rate the importance of 10 potential priorities – including lower taxes in the budget. I received responses from about 40 residents (although not all used the survey form, some emailed me directly). I reported back to you on March 23rd that of those responding, lowering taxes ranked 10th of the 10 priorities I asked about. I also received suggestions that the City create a new tax on delivery vehicles, put more resources into bike trails, the junction of 410/New Hampshire, new business recruitment, and rain gardens.
How did I vote?I voted against the proposal to lower the property tax and business tax rates that was proposed at the last minute, made after weeks of discussions about the budget at which no Councilmember had previously indicated strong interest in lowering tax rates. This $653,000 from the County came to us less than 2 business days before the City Council’s final vote on the budget. When budget documents had been completed and made available for the public's review. It was too late for a thoughtful discussion among the Council and with residents about how this last minute revenue should be used.
- On April 13th I requested your input on how the City’s budget should be spent, noting that I believed we had additional funding available already in the budget – I specifically proposed ~ $200,000 in tax relief, more funding for Takoma Junction, sustainability, sidewalk improvements in the Junction, funding for park land acquisition and park improvements and $1 million in debt pay-down. An email on April 23rd also reported on your feedback to me about your budget priorities of what we should do with unobligated funding – you again indicated that more work on roads, sidewalks, sustainability, Takoma Junction and tax relief were all priorities.
- Residents attended a number of meetings in March and April and May and commented on the budget. The majority of comments provided by Ward 2 residents encouraged us to maintain a priority on (or expand focus on) traffic calming in the Long Branch Sligo neighborhood, road improvements, sustainability, Takoma Junction and public safety. There were very few comments on the tax rate or on reducing taxes at any meeting.
- There were two meetings at which the Council took comments on the tax rate – both in May. No public comments were provided at either meeting indicating that the tax rate was too high. In the lead up to these meetings, by email I received only 4 emails suggesting that the tax rate should be lowered.
The good news is that I believe this money and potentially more will still be there next after January and for the 2014 budget and I will continue to champion the new programs and reduced tax levels for which residents of Ward 2 show the strongest support. I'm ultimately for the City carrying a smaller year-to-year unreserved fund balance than we currently do. The risk of doing so is that some external shock could mean we have to cut services or raise taxes, but I just don't think that is likely. A $3-$4 million unreserved fund balance would give us plenty of room to manage risk, along with the millions we have in reserved funds for maintenance and equipment replacement.
What happens to the $653,000 since the Council did not vote to use it to reduce the tax rate?I expect like many of you, my family tries to keep money in a checking account all the time so there is always money to pay bills and to not have to live paycheck-to-paycheck. Similarly, the City maintains a balance of funding from year-to-year that helps the City make all its payments, deal with ups and downs in costs (and revenue) and cover maintenance. In general, in recent years the City has had between $7-$9 million in ‘unreserved’ and ‘reserved’ funds like this between years and during the year. This $650,000 will add to the unreserved balance that the City carries into the next year. If it were just up to me, I would have us carry less of this funding from year to year and spend down this balance by putting it into more of the priorities you have indicated you support (including a limited amount into lowering taxes). I pushed these ideas again and again at Council meetings but did not get enough support from other Councilmembers for many of these proposals to move forward. The same was true for other Councilmembers' proposals - 'win some and lose some' is the way budgets are likely to work. I hope you judge my representation of you on Council by whether I win enough, on the things that matter to you.
What’s next? My efforts and those of other Councilmembers have been only modestly successful in getting some of the changes made that you indicated you supported in the budget. We made only a tiny increase in sustainability funding (~8,000), a significant increase in Takoma Junction funding (~$100,000 - $150,000). We got the one allocation to a future bond pay-back stopped while keeping more than $1 million into paying down other debt. No additional funding for parks, but the City did submit an application for additional stormwater funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
But what we also got is a promise from the Mayor (and his support) and broad support from the Council to come back and look at the unreserved balance of funds in January. The Council will have more information at that time about projected revenues for next year, another new Councilmember will have joined us (Ward 5), and will be able to make better and more thoughtful decisions about all of your priorities for use of these funds in 2013 and 2014 and including possibly lowering tax rates in FY2014.
Throughout the year and the budget process, I’ve not been hearing from many residents that people want police services, or recreation classes, or trash/recycling services or other government services cut. I’ve mostly been hearing from people that residents want more funding for Takoma Junction, public safety, better streets, our community’s sustainability, business development and other new funding priorities. I will make sure to give Ward 2 residents lots of advance notice when we start to talk about these budget issues again in January. If your priorities change - I will do my best to champion them in the next round of budget discussions.