Keep a light on for me

I’ve begun playing around with geospatial information and how it can be used at the local level. The first experiment involved walking around the perimeter of the neighborhood with a GPS receiver, and cataloging all the utility poles along the state highways that make up much of the border around the New Hampshire Gardens neighborhood.

The idea is to be able to quickly identify poles with street lights and report them to Pepco when the lights go out. As the winter approaches with shorter days, keeping the lights is not only practical; keeping the streetscape well lit can also make the neighborhood safer. To report an outage call it in by dialing 877-737-2662, or going online and report it using Pepco’s streetlight outage reporting webform.

I dumped the list of poles into a free service powered by The Library of Congress called Viewshare. I will be playing around with different views of the data over time, but the current version is available from this link.

Posted in Geospatial information, Infrastructure, Seasons | Leave a comment

Back in the saddle again

It feels good to be unencumbered with a campaign. Now I have time to get back into the grass roots that got me into local politics in the first place. I have many observations to share after delving into myriad issues, and will be blogging about these over the next month. Stay tuned…

Posted in Local politics | Leave a comment

Breaking the silence

After a five month hiatus on Horn of Takoma, I’m redirecting my energy on running for Ward 6 Councilmember on the City Council. Going forward I will be blogging from http://howard4ward6.wordpress.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Pan-e-way

PanAm

Pan-proprietorship of 1101 University Blvd

It’s easy to miss the “new” grocery store at 1101 University Boulevard East. It suffers from an identity crisis perpetuated by history, lack if branding, and limited marketing.

The store is called PanAm Supermarket and has been at this location for about half a year. From the street, the only clue of its current proprietorship are 3 delivery vans. The signs still advertise Expo Emart, which lasted for about a year after the Safeway exited, and the shopping cart shelters are still branded for Safeway.

Safeway had been in the space for 3-4 decades, so it’s easy to understand why some folks around these parts still refer to the property by that name. However, if PanAm really wants to stake a claim in the area, it would be fitting to take down the Expo Emart signage. As for what PanAm has to offer, it is a locally owned business with other locations in Laurel and DC, and a bent towards Hispanic foods. There is an excellent fish market, and a butcher counter with cut-rate deals. There’s also plenty of standard American processed foods like canned soup and breakfast cereals, along with a produce section with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Posted in Business, Identity | Leave a comment

The twilight zones: somewhere between daylight and darkness

The Montgomery County Planning Board is having another worksession on the Commercial/Residential (CR) Zones Zoning Text Amendment (ZTA) 11-01 on May 12, 2011. I have to commend the Planning Board for their patience, given this will be the ninth worksession. Obviously both activists and commercial developers are concerned about the language of the CR Zones, or there wouldn’t have already been eight rounds of discussion.

The difference this time is that the Planning Board was ready to put their work on ZTA 11-01 to bed, and had transmitted it to the County Council  on March 11 in hopes they would move the code along towards adoption and approval. The code was introduced to the Council a month later, but sent back after review by the Council’s Advisory Committee on ZTA 11-01.

The Planning Board isn’t the only group that was ready to move the process forward. Many activists who have been monitoring the progress of ZTA 11-01 have been preparing testimony for a showdown at the public hearing on May 17 in the Council Hearing Room in Rockville. Frustration has been constant throughout the process, as often times revised editions of ZTA 11-01 weren’t available for their review between worksessions. This continues, as the Advisory Committee’s comments for the Planning Board have not been publicly released to my knowledge.

The original CR Zones ordinance was passed by the County Council in March 2010, and many amendments have been in process since then. ZTA 11-01 continues to vacillate between daylight and darkness, and continues to confound and frustrate Montgomery County residents concerned about how commercial re-development will impact their neighborhoods. Twilight occurs twice a day, in the morning and evening, and is somewhere between darkness and daylight, and vice versa. Going forward I will refer to the CR Zones, and associated Zoning Text Amendment, as the Twilight Zones until County officials take public participation more seriously and cease shielding their work in progress from the daylight.

Posted in Social issues, Urban planning, Zoning | Leave a comment

Doesn’t add up

During the month of April, Ward 6 residents engaged in the design process for a project to lay new sidewalks in the area. There were two preliminary meetings before the three April ones, and the City will schedule one more before its all over.

While these meetings have been valuable for gathering public input, and moving the decision process forward regarding location and materials, there has been little discussion of cost. Perhaps the Dept of Public Works thinks this of little concern to residents, which is probably true on most accounts. However, the City Council has been busy reconciling the fiscal year 2012 budget, and there are councilmembers who don’t support new sidewalks and would prefer to reallocate the money.

Despite the issue that some councilmembers want to derail the sidewalks project, there is a big discrepency in the two estimates of what it would cost. The Toole Design Group estimates for the roughly half a mile of sidewalks is $1,020,986. I’ll have to go back to the 2009 report to be reminded of how they came up with that figure. However the City Manager’s current budget estimates sidewalks construction would cost $303,500. Even with the bill for the design work taking place in FY2011, that’s a huge difference. It just doesn’t add up!

Posted in Fiscal matters, Governance | Leave a comment

Between a rock and a hard place

Stuck truck

Mountable curb gone too far

At about 8:00 p.m. this evening, some poor soul mounted the mountable curb of the traffic circle at Kennewick Avenue and Kirklynn Avenue, and came to a grinding halt. The bio-rention field in the middle is retaining much more than water this evening; the better part of 70,000 pounds of a fully loaded truck.

This is actually the second accident that I am aware of since the traffic circle was installed in the fall of 2010. The first involved a car that overturned. Some neighbors opposed this circle on the grounds that trucks couldn’t circumnavigate it easily. How does this prove the point?

Posted in Public safety | 1 Comment