Tuesday, October 30, 2007

on the red line, new battles for old freeway fighters

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: ICC study underestimates air pollution; Shops, condos and labs for science complex on Cherry Hill Road; Poetry review eulogizes businesses in Downtown Silver Spring.

Takoma Park residents are protesting Bethesda-based developer EYA's plans to build townhomes, like these shown at Forest Glen Seminary, on WMATA-owned land at the Takoma Metro.

What happens when a Metro stop suddenly makes your neighborhood hot property? Since the Red Line first opened in 1976, transit-oriented development has been turning ignored corners of MoCo into cash cows, and residents on the ever-expanding frontiers of Metro accessibility are increasingly skittish.

On the listservs, Silver Spring residents have been anxiously watching the Sacks community in Downtown Bethesda, where a developer has offered some $200 million to buy out the neighborhood and replace it with office and condo towers. It's a move that echoes the sale of a subdivision adjacent to the Vienna Metro last year for a controversial, high-density project called MetroWest.

The possibility that fat-pocketed developers could snatch up an entire neighborhood is becoming a major concern in East Silver Spring if the Purple Line is built there. Audience behavior at recent focus groups for the proposed transitway illustrate just how wary neighbors have become of transit-oriented development.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A conceptual plan from 2005 shows how the Takoma Metro site would be used for housing, a small park, and a bus turnaround. Graphic courtesy of EYA.

Meanwhile in Takoma Park, the potential sale of land at the Takoma Metro for townhouses
is stirring up controversy in the most liberal of MoCo's crunchy enclaves. Gilbert of the Takoma Voice's Granola Park blog is calling for a revival of the bulldozer-blocking activism that so-called "Parkies" were known for in the 1960's to stop the development from going forward.

If you've ever driven down University Boulevard east of Takoma Park, you'll see the huge swath of land where the North Central Freeway were originally slated to cut across inside-the-Beltway Montgomery and Prince George's counties. In an ironic twist, plans for the proposed freeways - which would have followed the current Red Line - would have incorporated housing at a transit station located where the Takoma Metro is now.

Plans by EYA - the same developer whose projects helped to jumpstart Silver Spring's and Wheaton's revitalizations - for the Takoma Metro site
wouldn't involve the razing of an established neighborhood as has already happened in Vienna or could happen in Bethesda or even parts of Silver Spring, Long Branch and Langley Park if the Purple Line is built. Forty years ago, "freeway fighters" like future mayor Sam Abbott used the chant of "White Men's Roads Through Black Men's Homes" to protest freeway construction through working-class and minority neighborhoods; today, the heft of their words can't be applied to this project. Takoma Park claims there'll be a loss of parkland; to the naked eye, it's only a parking lot.

The Takoma/Takoma Park commercial center, which straddles the D.C./Maryland line, is characterized by low-rise buildings like these apartments on Carroll Avenue.

Never mind, of course, that the Takoma Metro site is in the District. It may be contiguous with the City of Takoma Park, but it's not in their jurisdiction. Known as "the Azalea City," Takoma Park has every right to watch out for green space within its limits - but this isn't exactly wilderness. And it's not like EYA is proposing something out of character with the low-rise development currently along Carroll Avenue. Nonetheless, "Parkies" do have a tradition to uphold.

Freeways tear communities apart. Transit-oriented development can, theoretically, bring people together - even if in protest of it. In the end, it seems like TOD is doing its job.

Monday, October 29, 2007

coming soon . . .

Just Up The Pike introduces a new feature: East County Eating, a series of restaurant reviews. You might have three McDonald's, two Wendy's and a Popeyes within five minutes of your house (I know I do), but there's a lot more to local dining then you may have expected.

Come back and check it out!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

guest blog: the "micro-neighborhood" of bonifant and thayer

The Crescent condos loom over Bonifant Street, one block south of the Downtown Silver Spring complex.

Spices, Santeria shops and saloons: it's just business as usual on Bonifant and Thayer streets, sitting in the shadow of the "new" Downtown Silver Spring. That may be threatened by the Purple Line, which could run straight through the neighborhood. Bonifant Street resident Elisabeth Higgins Null - who first appeared in
Just Up The Pike last July - writes this guest post about what could be lost on her street.

To me, the largely minority- and immigrant-owned businesses of Bonifant and Thayer between Fenton and Georgia are the soul of the community I live in and depend on. My hairdresser is on Bonifant, my bookstore, my coffee shop and arts cafe. In this two-block micro-neighborhood, I can find cleaners, another coffee shop, multiple ethnic restaurants, an oriental spice store, a Thai grocery store, a key shop, autoparts store, soda shop, santeria supply store, balloon shop, tuxedo rental, prominent basement saloon, cobbler, body shops, picture framer, store front churches, nail salons and and a world-class comic and "oldies" record store. Paris never had such neighborhoods.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

As a writer and someone who works at home, I welcome the chance to get out at mid-day for a few hours in my neighborhood. I have a car, a handicapped permit, and a crutch. So far, they've suited me well. I've got it timed so that I can usually scoot into a metered parking space nearby to where I am going. This is my neighborhood -- you learn these things. I've been able to park outside a store while the clerk comes out to take my money and deliver packages. There are lots of people in my area like me, people who would like to grow old in their homes but who develop debilitating conditions even though they are not yet in wheelchairs. In the clustered parking garage, pedestrian megamall approach to civic revitalization, my kind of people are anomalies.

We have avoided confronting this problem in the revitalization of downtown. It has its pulsing, teeming hub, good for entertainment or an outing, but many of us also seek out the quieter charms of Thayer and Bonifant for local residents to go about their filling their needs. For many, this is the old-fashioned walkable town, and the population is stable enough so that relations develop between service providers and their customers. When I can't walk any further, I drop in for chat and maybe a shampoo at Cyncole's or ask Nani at the corner Citgo to call me a cab. Once or twice I've gotten a lift, more often I get a coffee and a little good conversation.

This kind of rapport grows slowly over time and small businesses like these are not transported to a new locale with their equipment and furniture. They embody trust and mutual experience between service provider and customer over time. These businesses are those that survived the bad times economically and stayed with us.

How tragic that they might be shoved out during plans for improving the economic and transportational vitality of our community. How tragic that I and older and partially handicapped citizens like myself might be shoved out for lack of close-up parking and/or a local traffic lane.

I beg the MTA to explore my concern about damage the Purple Line may do to the Bonifant/Fenton/Thayer commercial district. My needs and theirs are interdependent. Beyond this, they are a shining example of the American dream fulfilled.

Elisabeth Higgins Null

Monday, October 22, 2007

east county in review: not quite halloween edition

This sort-of spooky old farmhouse on Georgia Avenue will soon be incorporated into a new townhouse development.

Dan Silverman of Prince of Petworth, one of my favorite D.C. blogs, shows how community-based blogs are supposed to be done. (It's no surprise that the Post's Marc Fisher nominated him Blogger of the Month. Next month, Fisher picks a MoCo blog . . . we've [I've] got our fingers crossed over here at Just Up The Pike. Anyway. (I digress.) Here's a look at what's going on in East County this week:

PEDESTRIAN PERILS: Georgia Avenue makes no friends of pedestrians. A new video of the dangerous Georgia Avenue/Forest Glen Road intersection has been posted on Crossing Georgia's website. The Forest Glen-based advocacy group is lobbying for safety improvements to make walking a little easier one stoplight north of the State's busiest intersection, Georgia Avenue and the Beltway.

B'VILLE BURGEONS: The Amish Market may be on its way out, but bigger things may be in store for Burtonsville Town Center. Montgomery County unveils its Burtonsville economic study to East County residents and businesses 7pm Wednesday at the East County Regional Services Center, 3300 Briggs Chaney Road.

INTERCOUNTY COMMUNIQUE: As InterCounty Connector construction begins in Gaithersburg, residents on the eastern end of the controversial highway will get their first glimpse of what life with the ICC will be like. The State Highway Administration's hosting a ICC Outreach Meeting 7pm Thursday at Paint Branch High School.

DIVERSE AND ENDANGERED: The 700 block of Bonifant Street might be the most eclectic in Downtown Silver Spring - but it may not be long for this Earth if the Purple Line rolls through. Seven Oaks resident Elisabeth Higgins-Null writes this guest post on the "micro-neighborhood" of Bonifant Street later this week.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

trying to write a "frequently asked questions" list

JUTP would like to know what you'd like to know about us. Send any questions you have about the blog, what a blog is, or what I'm about to danreed at umd dot edu and they might make it into a long-overdue "frequently asked questions" page. Thanks!

second purple line focus group breeds MTA distrust

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Burtonsville ripe for redevelopment; Indian Spring redevelopment to include new school; ParkView development on Greencastle to expand.

Selected community members inspect maps of the Purple Line at Tuesday night's focus group.

Over one hundred anxious residents packed the Oakview Elementary School cafeteria Tuesday night for the second Purple Line focus group in the Downcounty. Maryland Transit Administration officials discussed three potential routes the controversial transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton could take through East Silver Spring.

After years of debate, many who attended the meeting were frustrated with the lack of trust some residents have for MTA. "I . . . was frustrated by the amount of people who had made up their minds not to listen to the presenters," says Queen Anne's Drive resident Vickie King, a Purple Line supporter. "People just kept shaking their heads at the presenters and applauding audience members who made predictions of doom that seemed to be purely conjecture."

Unlike last week's more open focus group, Tuesday's meeting introduced a table at the front of the cafeteria where representatives from civic associations and local businesses could examine the State's documents in detail. Project director Mike Madden noted that those at the table seemed to be suffering from stage fright.

"You all have to look alive now," says Madden, gesturing to the audience, "pretend these people aren't here."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The Maryland Transit Administration invited dozens of civic association presidents and local business owners to represent the community at a more structured focus group meeting.

Among those seated at the table were Karen Roper of the East Silver Spring Civic Association (whom JUTP interviewed last summer), who has been skeptical of the project; and Jim Johnson of the Long Branch Neighborhood Initiative, which supports the Purple Line as a means of redeveloping the Flower Avenue shopping district.

"We have a lot of density in isolated areas," says Johnson, a Flower Avenue resident. "People have to walk a long distance or catch the bus [for groceries] so we bring people to the amenities."

While the general audience didn't have as much access to State officials as they did last week, Purple Line opponents made their opinions clear. In an e-mail to JUTP, King relayed an incident where a member of the audience claimed the Purple Line would create pollution; an MTA official who suggested otherwise was "shouted down with 'where do you live?'" from the audience.

Rebecca F. Motz, executive director of the Springvale Terrace retirement home on Wayne Avenue, suggested that the MTA wasn't listening enough to local concerns. "Hasn’t anyone learned that building something new is not always the better solution?" asks Motz. "How about fixing what we already have since we know it works and is not disrupting those who live here?"

Discussion centered on a proposal to route the Purple Line on Wayne Avenue, taking lanes currently used for auto traffic. Many asked project director Mike Madden why the transitway couldn't be placed underground similar to another alignment on Silver Spring and Thayer avenues. Frustrated with his refusal to consider their demands, Seven Oaks residents Carol and Allan Leventhal brought their complaint to several Montgomery County Council members in an e-mail sent this morning.

"It would appear that no serious consideration is being given to this alternative because of the cost involved," laments the Leventhals in the e-mail. "What is sacrificed in the process is the cost to this community."

Many residents seemed well aware of the Purple Line's potential costs to East Silver Spring. "We're all for the Purple Line," says Johnson, referring to the Long Branch Neighborhood Initiative. "But we realize it'll probably gentrify the community."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

looking for reader input on purple line focus group

If you attend tonight's Purple Line Focus Group for East Silver Spring (7 p.m., Oakview Elementary School, 400 East Wayne Avenue) and have anything you'd like to say about the MTA, the Purple Line, or how the meeting was run, please feel free to e-mail me at danreed at umd dot edu before 2 p.m. Wednesday. I'm looking for resident quotes for a story on the meeting in addition to any that may come from in-person interviews.


Dan Reed

fundraiser reveals gap between purple line supporters, beneficiaries (updated)

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Hillandale Rec Center set to close; East Silver Spring Purple Line focus group TONIGHT (see below).

WHOSE PURPLE LINE? Outside last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser at Montgomery College. There remains a gap between line's eventual riders and its outspoken defenders.

If you listen to jazz artist and Silver Spring native Marcus Johnson, public transit might sound like the key to success.

"I took the Z2 when I went to Blair, I took the 70 when I went to Howard," said Johnson, emcee of last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser, held at Montgomery College in South Silver Spring. "And they opened more opportunities for me than I would've imagined."

Johnson may be one of the few bus riders looking forward to the Purple Line, a proposed transitway between New Carrollton and Bethesda. Last week's fundraiser served to illustrate a widening gap between the Purple Line's support base and its eventual riders.

"What community speaks for what community?" says County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who donated to the fundraiser. "The MTA [Maryland Transit Authority]'s looking at who's using the transit line . . . if you look at who's using [transit] now, it's the poor, the young, blacks and Latinos."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Many residents of Langley Park, which may have as many as three Purple Line stops, are barely aware of the project's existence.

In communities with high minority populations and heavy transit ridership, awareness of the project is much lower than it is in other neighborhoods. Over a year ago, the Gazette asked people in Langley Park and Takoma Park if they'd heard of the Purple Line, only to discover that most people had no idea what it was.

A ride on the J4 Metrobus, which parallels the Purple Line route from College Park to Bethesda, brings you in contact with people as diverse as the places the bus passes through. You'll see line-order cooks and lawyers; schoolkids and secretaries; blacks, whites, Latinos and everyone in between. But that cross-section of commuters - and potential Purple Line riders - was largely absent from last week's Purple Line Now! fundraiser. The crowd that night could have passed for any East County civic association meeting: mostly white, middle-aged and middle-class.

"If you look at who shows up representing the community, you don't see a lot of young people," says Ervin, who is black. "I mean, look at this room. We need to broaden the diversity of opinion."

To attract more residents, MTA has been holding focus groups in the Silver Spring area this month, including one tonight (7 p.m., Oakview Elementary School, East Silver Spring). Open houses for those uninitiated to the Purple Line will follow in November, according to Mike Madden, the project's director.

People boarding a bus in the Briggs Chaney neighborhood.

Many labor groups, including the transit workers' union - who would benefit from the line's construction and operations - are already aware of the Purple Line, but have become increasingly skeptical of its becoming a reality, according to Jos Williams, head of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO, a labor organization.

"Many of our members are beginning to wonder 'is this [the Purple Line] a reality' because there are some very powerful forces opposing the Purple Line," says Williams. "We have to keep them motivated."

"Workers in this region who are the backbone of this economy must have an economic way to work," adds Williams. "Workers have to have the Purple Line."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

purple line gets star treatment at fundraiser (updated)

MONDAY: Who'll be riding the Purple Line? Do they know it's coming? Check out part TWO of our fundraiser coverage.

Purple Line Now! debuted its new name at a fundraiser last night at the Montgomery College Student Services Center.

With a new name and a new focus, Purple Line Now! - formerly called the Coalition to Build the Inner Purple Line - made its debut at a fundraiser held last night at the Montgomery College Student Services Center in South Silver Spring.

Hundreds of supporters for the controversial proposed transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton came out to enjoy music from local jazz artist Marcus Johnson - who played at last month's Silver Spring Jazz Festival - and hear speakers including Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), Jos Williams of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO, and environmental activist Mike Tidwell.

"I know there are many times when I drove to Bethesda when I would've loved to take the Purple Line," says Tidwell, author of The Ravaging Tide, a book about the effects of climate change. "As someone who takes 94 degrees [on Monday] seriously, I support the Purple Line."

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Jazz artist Marcus Johnson, County Councilwoman Valerie Ervin and developer Bruce Lee pose for a picture.

The evening's guest list that read like a Who's Who of local movers and shakers. Former Planning Board Chairman Derick Berlage nervously worked the room. County Councilman George Leventhal (D-At Large) networked alongside his wife and son. Bruce Lee of the Lee Development Group, - which plans to build a Fillmore music hall on Colesville Road - schmoozed with Councilwoman Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), who brought her entire staff.

Ervin, a resident of Sligo Park Hills - one of many neighborhoods the Purple Line could pass through if built - was unafraid to express her support for the project. "I'd like to see an alignment that puts us in the best position to get built," she says. "The at-grade alignment makes the most sense."

State Delegate Jacqueline Peña-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21), one of a handful of representatives from Prince George's County, insisted that her county was fully in support of the Purple Line. "We want it yesterday," she says. "It's actually on the priority list in the Prince George's County Council. The ICC is not a priority."

The Purple Line would be a boon for the University of Maryland, which lies in her district. "We need to focus on mass transit, especially in the College Park area," Peña-Melnyk states. "It would be terrific for those students in Montgomery County to take transit [to school]."

State Comptroller Peter Franchot and Congressman Al Wynn share a funny with a raft of elected officials.

While idealism and good tidings fueled by an open bar dominated the evening, the issue of funding for the Purple Line hung over the event like a rain cloud. The project needs $600 million to get built - money that will come not only from limited Federal funding but Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund as well.

"The big issue is will everyone in this room support a gas tax increase to get this money [for the Purple Line]," says Councilwoman Nancy Floreen (D-At Large).

The Purple Line's found support in some unexpected - or not so unexpected places - as noted by Lon Anderson of the American Automobile Association, a go-to expert for local news reports about the region's horrible traffic.

"We need both a healthy mass transit system and a healthy road system in order to move people in the D.C. area," says Anderson. "My grandmother said 'Washington will rue the day they ended streetcars' . . . I'm glad they're bringing them back."

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

stops, starts at purple line focus group

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Laurel set to become the new Bethesda; Ike Leggett seeks business opportunities in the Promised Land.

NEXT STOP, HARRY POTTER: A new Silver Spring Library could straddle the Purple Line, says MTA officials at a focus group held last night at the current library. Check out coverage of an earlier Purple Line focus group in Bethesda at Maryland Politics Watch.

Skeptical residents filled the basement of the Silver Spring Library last night to attend a focus group for the proposed Purple Line held by the Maryland Transportation Authority, which unveiled new routes in Downtown for the controversial transitway between Bethesda and New Carrollton.

"I want to hear somebody who's in favor of it tell me why they think it should be built," says Pershing Drive resident Vicki Warren, who lives a block away from the proposed Wayne Avenue alignment.

For nearly two hours, project coordinator Mike Madden, consultant Harriet Levine and lead engineer Joe Romanowski listened to concerns about traffic, property impacts and the cost-effectiveness ratings that will determine if the project receives Federal funding in 2009. The MTA representatives also presented the three remaining route options through Downtown Silver Spring - at-grade on Wayne Avenue or Bonifant Street and a tunnel beneath Silver Spring Avenue.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

Purple Line project coordinator Mike Madden discusses route options through Downtown Silver Spring.

While MTA officials denied their preference for a single alignment, discussion focused on the Bonifant Street option, which would take two lanes for transit and only allow one-way traffic on Bonifant between Ramsey Avenue and Fenton Street. A stop would be located at a new Silver Spring Library at Bonifant and Fenton, which would straddle the transitway as it swung north to Wayne Avenue.

Several alignments originally under consideration - including one along Sligo Avenue that JUTP toured last summer - were dropped earlier this year.

Jane, who asked that her last name not be given, may have a tunnel under her Grove Street home if the Silver Spring Avenue alignment is chosen. "I'd rather not have it in our neighborhood," she says, "but I don't want to be a NIMBY, so I'd like it to be in a deep tunnel."

"I'm for the Purple Line," adds Jane, a member of the East Silver Spring Civic Association. "I just don't want it to destroy property and businesses."

Many residents questioned if the Purple Line would reduce traffic Downtown, even laughing when MTA officials quoted studies that said most intersections in the business district would fail by 2030. "You've got problems discouraging people from coming to our new downtown," laments one resident. "I don't feel you can afford to remove lanes on Wayne [Avenue] without damaging traffic movements throughout the downtown."

While congestion would not necessarily improve, the Purple Line would prevent it from deteriorating further, responds Madden. "We're not out in the boonies here. We're in an urban area. Traffic is going to get worse," he states.

Despite the continuing opposition of the Town of Chevy Chase and other communities to the project, residents across the study area are warming up to the Purple Line. "I think there's a fair amount of skepticism," says Mike Madden. "We're also seeing a number of the public who are saying 'this is not a bad idea'."

Without quality examples of light rail in the region, residents have a hard time grasping what the Purple Line will feel like. "The average person has really not seen a good light rail line" like those in Portland, Oregon or Salt Lake City, says Harry Sanders of Action Committee for Transit, an advocacy group for transit in Montgomery County. "I think that does hurt."

As a result, public education remains a high priority for the State, explaining the need for focus groups and other meetings. "There's . . . some misunderstanding about how the project would fit in with the community," adds Madden.

Friday, October 5, 2007

next week on just up the pike . . .

WHAT'S UP THE PIKE: Downtown needs to go on a diet; Takoma Park spurns Valerie Ervin.

While Fillmore fallout has dominated local news over the past two weeks, the Purple Line stands to burst back into dinner-table discussion with a couple of events taking place in the week to come.

On Monday, the MTA will be holding a focus group for potential Purple Line routes in Downtown Silver Spring. That'll be at the Silver Spring Library at 7.

On Wednesday, Purple Line Now!, formerly the Coalition to Build the Inner Purple Line, is holding a fundraiser at Montgomery College. Attractions include jazz from Marcus Johnson, an array of alcoholic beverages, and a formal announcement that Purple Line Now! has changed its name. It'll start at 6 in the MC Student Center.

Will the threat of Unfamiliar People flooding Silver Spring by train get more people talking than the threat of Unfamiliar People flooding Silver Spring after a rock show? We'll find out next week.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

silver sprUng: fat, happy, and rocking out

Not-quite-Christian rock band Anberlin plays the 9:30 Club last spring. Rock concerts like this might become a municipal affair if the Fillmore opens in 2010.

Does Downtown Silver Spring have an eating problem?

Yesterday's Diamondback laments that the "Silver SprUng model" of redevelopment could starve College Park of its personality. It's an argument that was previously raised last March by Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space's Richard Layman. While JUTP completely disagreed with Layman's assessment of Silver Spring, he makes a good point in saying elsewhere that former County Executive Doug Duncan "appreciate[d] the economic development power of arts and culture."

That's where the Post's Marc Fisher comes in. Fisher, who championed the "public" part of Silver Spring's revitalization - writes in a column today that plans to open a Fillmore music venue show how County funding is overwhelming Downtown:
"After the county's massive investment in downtown Silver Spring, the Discovery Channel headquarters and the AFI theater, there ought to be a point when the market is allowed to take over . . . Is this the last investment the county will have to make to nourish downtown Silver Spring?"
And he may have a point. After all, JUTP asked the very same question last summer when the Birchmere plans originally fell through. Downtown Silver Spring is currently home to what one resident called a "nascent music scene," with everything from punk shows in group houses to folk icons playing at church - and Ike Leggett didn't have to foot the bill.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

The County's largesse helped pay for the Downtown Silver Spring development along Ellsworth Drive.

Nonetheless, civic art has always been the cornerstone of good urban planning. While a concert hall is a larger investment than a sculpture in Woodside Park, it reflects a commitment to the arts, be it the patron-funded Sistine Chapel ceiling or a Senses Fail show. And as long as the average new home in MoCo tops a million dollars, there doesn't seem to be much wrong with the County's policy of running liquor stores and building a sports facility so large it could only be called "The Soccerplex."

Even with a budget crunch looming overhead, Montgomery County residents have gotten used to a large amount of municipal services and publicly funded development. Given that standard, is the public investment in Downtown Silver Spring really that excessive? Or, as Ike Leggett himself explained to us last week, "If this [public investment] does not justify economic development, what is the reason to do it?"

The arts are thriving in Downtown Silver Spring - not just via public money but by good old-fashioned private investment as well. Perhaps the bigger struggle is to ensure that the community maintains a strong art scene - rather than questioning where it comes from. After all, the kids who some residents fear will flood Downtown after the Fillmore opens won't care if they saw a show in a government-subsidized venue.

Pictured above:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

good intentions, bad spelling: valerie ervin, takoma park and the ICC

A hastily erected street sign for a new development of two-million-dollar houses on Noorwood - ahem, Norwood Road in Cloverly.

When's a good time to admit a mistake? Ideally, it should be before anything's put in the ground, like this misspelled street sign near Blake High School. For the controversial InterCounty Connector, the call was raised with little time to spare.

Two weeks before the controversial InterCounty Connector was scheduled to begin construction, the State Highway Administration finds itself in court this week defending the project against accusations that they didn't consider the environmental damage it would cause. This is just a week after the Montgomery County Council demanded more precautions for water quality and public health - and a month after the Prince George's Council rejected the road altogether.

For some opponents of the highway, which would connect Gaithersburg and Laurel, the lawsuit and increased political scrutiny might be enough to kill the project once again - if not an effective stalling tactic. In Takoma Park, the ICC has become a symbol of what some Parkies regard as another mistake: electing Valerie Ervin to County Councilwoman.

so much more AFTER THE JUMP . . .

A bill for dim sum at Oriental East in the Blair Park Shops in Sliver - I mean, Silver Spring.

The Takoma Voice's aptly-named Granola Park blog laments that Councilwoman Ervin's unwillingness to take a stand on the ICC destroys her "progressive" cred in a community made famous for its liberal politics. But Ervin, who represents Takoma Park and Silver Spring below Randolph Road (well south of the ICC), expressed her full support for the road in a JUTP interview last March.

"We could be finding a cure for cancer if we're able to connect FDA to Johns Hopkins to biotech corridors in Shady Grove," Ervin said. An exaggeration, yes, but at the least a genuine response. Nonetheless, it was her suggestions of a moratorium in the Downcounty that won over Takoma Park voters during election season last summer.

Takoma Park is, after all, where three years ago a Subway sandwich shop and other chain stores was vandalized with anarchist slogans. While that's a very extreme form of the community's political slant, Takoma Park's more general intolerance to growth - and anyone who espouses it - comes through in its activists' writings.

"I want her [Ervin] to be on our side," insists betrayed Parkie activist Keith Berner, the subject of the Granola Park post. Berner also urges that Ervin "join the 'good guys'" opposed to the InterCounty Connector. That "us versus them" mentality is divisive. Valerie Ervin's campaign last year took advantage of it to get elected in Takoma Park - and her new constituents may use it to have their promises kept.

Takoma Park's "quirky" character - vintage shops and a thriving artist community - is largely powered by an affluent consumer base who can afford these goods (and willingly pay the taxes that support government subsidies - like the city's rent controls). Will Takoma Park residents recognize that and not penalize its elected officials for trying to support economic growth (and whatever drives it) - or will the "quirky" politics that made "Parkie" a dirty word prevail?

Special thanks to guest blogger Adam Pagnucco for catching the Granola Park post.