For the first time in a very long time (John Tyner can perhaps assign a precise date), the Mayor and Council held one of their regular meetings at the Twinbrook Recreation Center since, as Mayor Marcuccio stated, “you can’t come to see us, so we’re coming to see you.” It was a regular meeting, so no agenda items were Twinbrook-focused, but half of the people who spoke at Citizen’s Forum were from Twinbrook and raised the following concerns:
- Poor condition of the Twinbrook Shopping Center: “not inviting,” “shabby,” “unpleasant,” “loitering,” “crime” were among the adjectives used to describe the strip mall on Viers Mill Road.
- Lack of responsiveness by owners of neglected properties and apparent inability of City to intervene for years.
- Need for increased pedestrian safety: street lighting along Halpine by the Metro station, incomplete pedestrian sidewalks near the Safeway grocery store, snow plows dumping huge piles of snow on sidewalks making them impassable for weeks
- Better parks and recreation: more small “pocket” parks, installing trashcans, expanding the recreation center, providing more community meeting space for workshops.
Mayor Marcuccio stated that the staff were listening closely and would be taking care of these issues, but I’m skeptical. I’ve heard these same topics over and over during the last ten years. The lack of action has me absolutely puzzled and frankly, the Mayor’s response seemed to be a dismissive pat on the head. The street lights on Halpine have been out of months, perhaps even years, even though the residents on that street have complained to Pepco and the City about it regularly. Property maintenance of abandoned properties has been a longtime issue throughout Twinbrook, yet the recent round of budget cuts eliminated a housing code inspector. And despite the ongoing complaints about the appearance and maintenance of the shopping center, the City hasn’t been willing to require such common practices as adequate landscaping or enclosed trash and grease dumpsters in the new zoning code.
I was delighted to hear that two residents (which included a representative from the Plymouth Woods civic ssociation) state their concerns over the planned elimination of bus service on Route #45 on Saturdays. I was surprised that no one from Twinbrook mentioned this, especially since it travels from the Twinbrook to Rockville Metro stations via Twinbrook Parkway and Baltimore Road. Although some people (including Councilmember Pierzchala) mentioned the value of this route to persons with limited mobility, no one mentioned that this “Round Rockville” bus connects several major neighborhoods in the city (it runs from Twinbrook through East Rockville, Town Center, and College Gardens to Fallsgrove) and that it cost $1 million in city and federal funds to implement this service just a few years ago.
Finally, although I welcome the City Council to hold their meetings in various neighborhoods, it falls short of the ideals we discussed during the 2009 council campaign. Many of the candidates expressed their desire to re-establish the “walking town meetings,” in which the Council and residents explored a section of the town during the day to see and discuss the issues that mattered to the neighborhood. The meeting’s entire focus was on the neighborhood and the Council and staff couldn’t claim ignorance or avoid facing a tough community issue. I hope that will happen soon, otherwise we’ll continue to receive more dismissive pats on the head.