Published on: Friday, November 20, 2015 City Council & Mayor Blog

Montgomery Delegation Joint Priorities Hearing Testimony

NOTE:  What follows is testimony from Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart at the Montgomery County Joint Priorities Hearing on November 18, 2015.

Good evening. I am Kate Stewart, Mayor of the City of Takoma Park. The Takoma Park City Council and I look forward to working with you in the Legislative Session that convenes in January.

Today, however, as nations across the world face terrorism and the fear that terrorism engenders, we ask that you and all of our State leaders make it clear that the word “immigrant” does not equal “terrorist” and the word “Muslim” does not equal “terrorist.” Maryland should be a safe haven for people whose lives have been shattered by war, not a closed door. Takoma Park has a long history of welcoming immigrants and building a caring community, as does Montgomery County. The State of Maryland should do the same.

Takoma Park’s Legislative Priorities

The recent announcement that the State of Maryland is on a firmer financial foundation than originally projected will allow for restoration of funding of several key services or projects. We know that this Delegation will be pursuing restoration of needed school funding for Montgomery County.

We also ask that you pursue:

  • restoration of a full funding formula for municipal Highway User Revenue, and
  • increased funding for small and medium-sized economic development initiatives in our commercial areas and in conjunction with Washington Adventist Hospital on the Takoma Park campus, if the main hospital moves. 

Economic Development

Thank you for your long advocacy for the Purple Line. With the announcement of support of the Purple Line by the Governor, we are now able to finalize plans to spur reinvestment along University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue. However, the cuts to public art and aesthetic features along the line reduce the economic benefits the Purple Line can bring to Takoma Park, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, and the State of Maryland. Please work to restore these features to the Purple Line. Private investment will be greater when development occurs near an attractive transit facility. Takoma Park prides itself on its public art and we want to see art and streetscape and other aesthetic improvements all along the length of the Purple Line.

Besides making the Purple Line project the best it can be, we will be asking for your help in obtaining State funds for economic development initiatives and infrastructure improvements along University Boulevard, the New Hampshire Avenue Corridor and on the Takoma Park campus of Washington Adventist Hospital. We want New Hampshire Avenue (MD 650) to better accommodate transit, bicyclists and pedestrians and we want Community Legacy and other economic development funds to assist businesses in renovating their small commercial properties along the Corridor. We also want to make sure we are not left with an unattractive, largely vacant property in the center of our community if Washington Adventist Hospital receives approval to move its acute care beds to White Oak. Investments in these areas will more than pay for themselves in taxes, jobs and private investment.

Highway User Revenue

As always, we ask your help in restoring Highway User Revenue funding to the FY 2009 levels via a permanent funding formula. Once again, this is the top priority of the Maryland Municipal League because it is so very important. Municipalities simply don’t have the revenue-generating flexibility that counties have to maintain basic infrastructure. Our taxpayers pay for road repairs while residents from the whole region use our roads. Highway User Revenue helps associate the funding for road improvements with the users of those roads. It’s time to fix the HUR funding formula permanently.

In FY 2009, the City of Takoma Park received $509,000 in Highway User Revenue to help pay for road maintenance. In FY 2011, it was down to $43,000. For several years, there have been one-time larger Highway Revenue payments to municipalities included in the State budget, but the formula to provide a reliable source of funds at an adequate level was not included in the Transportation Trust Fund legislation. We strongly supported the Transportation Trust Fund for its other benefits, but municipalities need the section related to Highway User Revenue corrected. While the overall amount of Highway User Revenue for municipalities is small to the State, it is huge for municipalities like Takoma Park that depend on it for funding basic road maintenance. If the formula cannot be corrected this Session, the one-time payments need to continue until the correction can be made.

City Initiatives For Which State Support Is Requested

There are several efforts underway in the City of Takoma Park that will make Takoma Park an even better place to live. We are redeveloping a City-owned lot in our Takoma Junction area into a neighborhood commercial center, we are making plans to renovate and expand our Takoma Park Library, and we will be renovating our Police Department.

The “Takoma Junction” is the intersection of Carroll Avenue (MD 195) and Ethan Allen Avenue (MD 410 or “East-West Highway”) in Takoma Park. The area is terribly congested most of the day, slows car and bus travel through town and is unsafe for pedestrians or bicyclists. State Highway has done a preliminary concept plan for a limited reconfiguration of the intersection that would be a great improvement. A well-functioning, safe intersection will help our Takoma Junction development project succeed. However, funding for this road work needs to be allocated. We ask for your support of this State Highway project.

Takoma Park will be doing the design work for our library and police department renovations in the coming year. As we move forward on these needed projects, we may be requesting Bond Bills for them in a future year.

State Programs We Wish to See Protected

The City of Takoma Park has benefited from its State-authorized stormwater fee system and speed camera program, and we have benefited from the Community Legacy program and Program Open Space funding. Please continue to protect these programs, and work to expand funding for Community Legacy and Program Open Space.

We also wish to continue to see progress on environmental protection programs. Takoma Park has used a number of Maryland programs to help pay for innovative stormwater systems to ensure clean water in the streams that go to the Chesapeake Bay and to pay for energy-saving fixtures and improvements to reduce energy consumption. Besides the environmental benefits of these programs, many of them result in reduced energy costs for our residents, businesses and our government facilities.

Again, in the upcoming Legislative Session, we ask that the Montgomery Delegation pursues:

  • restoration of a full funding formula for municipal Highway User Revenue, and
  • funding for Takoma Park’s economic development initiatives.

And, we invite you to take a tour of Takoma Park!

We invite you to visit Takoma Park, take a tour of our commercial areas, see our plans for the Takoma Junction project, the Takoma Park Library and Police Department. Feel free to contact City Manager Suzanne Ludlow or myself and we will make the arrangements to meet your schedule.

Thank you for the opportunity of addressing you today.