TAKOMA PARK — The Takoma Park City Council laid out the municipality’s priorities for the upcoming legislative session in front of the District 20 delegation, taking into account the likelihood of budget cuts in next year's legislative session.
“Takoma Park has a very active citizenry, and the government is very proactive here about getting these kinds of conversations going,” Del. David Moon (D) said after the meeting.
Moon, who is the only member of the delegation to reside in the Takoma Park, explained that the state and county governments are facing major budget shortfalls that would complicate the policymaking environment in Annapolis.
“The state is showing red on our balance sheet for years to come, and we have revenue shortfalls totaling into the hundreds of millions … and some indicators are this may be getting worse,” he said during the meeting. “The county announced it has a 120 million dollar shortfall in the coming year and in the coming years the is facing 600 million.”
Joining Moon, were Sen. Will Smith (D) and Del. Jheanelle Wilkins (D), Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart, and City Councilmembers Terry Seamens, Talisha Searcy, and Kacy Kostiuk. Del. Sheila Hixson (D) was not in attendance.
Major priorities for the city are bond funding for several construction projects including the expansion of the Takoma Park Library, improvements to the New Hampshire Avenue (MD650) corridor, and reconfiguring the Takoma Junction development.
In expanding the library, the city is requesting $150,000 of additional funding that would include additional space for storing collections and reading rooms for teens and adults. During the 2017 legislative session, the city received a bond bill for the same amount sponsored by Smith and Hixson.
The New Hampshire Avenue project, which Mayor Kate Stewart labeled as an “orphan project,” seeks to develop the corridor with multiple sector plans and right-of-way changes to improve the flow of traffic through the city.
“New Hampshire Avenue goes in an out of Montgomery and Prince George’s County, and unfortunately it’s a difficult project to work and bring people together on,” Stewart said during the meeting. “Unfortunately it is unattractive and difficult to navigate, and we have a golden opportunity to make some changes and fulfill the vision already in the sector plans.”
Additional requests also seek assistance to address potential economic impacts of Purple Line construction, restore Highway User Revenue to pre-recession levels, and school construction funding.
Moon also added that financial subsidies for the private sector, the majority of which he said go to Fortune 500 companies, in the state are ineffective.
“We have new reports from our non-partisan analysts showing that these tax credits for every sector you can imagine … do not actually generate the jobs and economic activity that they’re supposed to,” he said during the meeting.
Smith explained that although Takoma Park is a regular factor in his legislative activity, municipalities face competing priorities during the budget-making process.
“Municipalities face a lot of the funding issues for school construction, for transportation issues, for highways, for community development block grants,” he said after the meeting.
Residents at the meeting also voiced their concerns about Takoma Park’s priorities in Annapolis.
Merrill Leffler, a local author and Ward 3 resident, stressed the importance of the library renovation.
“The library program attendance exceeds 17,000 annually and includes book discussions, multilingual programs, reading readiness for children, a fully staffed computer center and yet the library has insufficient space for collections, no collaborative space for teens, limited lounge and study seating, outdated and inefficient energy and mechanical systems and failure to meet current ADA accessibility standards,” he said.
Paul Huebner, a contractor and also Ward 3 resident, asked the delegation to pay attention to the legislative activities in Congress.
“As the proposed tax bill eliminated the deduction of state and local taxes … it is imperative the Maryland legislature work to get us tax relief through cost savings and to target expenditures for those most in need, especially in the inner city of Baltimore,” he said.