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Friday, January 30, 2009

Recapping 2008 with an Eye on 2009

January 24, 2009

The year 2009 has already proven to be a awesome year. We have had extremely cold temperatures, the preparation and swearing in of the 44th President of the United States, Mr. Barack Obama just to mention two of the major events. Another awesome fact has gone unnoticed, but occurred right here at home, in the City of Mount Rainier is another full year of service from its Mayor and Council, staff, committees, and volunteers! Together they have made a major difference in all aspects of life here in Mount Rainier. The Following is a review of some of the major changes here at home during 2008.

1. Our Police Department, under the leadership of Chief Michael Scott, stepped up its policing and public relations through more regular meetings, communications, and visibility in our community. The Police Department extended its hours of operation from 9:00am to 11:00pm to provide better access to our residents, and continued to provide full-time police coverage to our sister municipality, Brentwood. Through this partnership, the leadership of the Chief, and the improved finances of the City, our Police force has been at its highest -- 18 sworn officers, and a civilian force that continues to get high marks.

2. For the second time, property rebates were given out to residents with incomes of $60,000 or less. Mount Rainier's lead in this has led other cities such as Hyattsville to implement the Mount Rainier model of giving back to its most needed residents.

3. Recreation for our youth became a true reality in Mount Rainier with the reinstatement of the basketball court at 30th and Arundel and drop-in basketball at Thomas Stone Elementary, youth bands and programs at Joe's Movement Emporium, after school programs at our schools, successful summer around the City in our churches, businesses, and schools. Mirna Mejia, a Mount Rainier resident brought organized soccer to Mount Rainier, and has now expanded it to 6th and 7th graders. It is called the Mount Rainier Community Soccer Club. Mount Rainier and Brentwood came together to form the Joint Mount Rainier Brentwood Recreation Council to work with Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission (MNCPPC).

4. Mount Rainier Day was bigger than ever. We had more vendors, TWO Bands, and dignitaries from Maryland and DC. The major accomplishment announced during Mount Rainier Day was the partnership with the District of Columbia that is moving forward, and should continue to move as we take the Gateway Arts District across the DC line.

5. New Parking meters were installed, and their hours changed to reflect the change in usage and the new hours of our liquor stores and other businesses.

6. Little Friends for Peace continued to demonstrate how to meet and deal with violence while maintaining and keeping peace. Mount Rainier Elementary School once again held its annual Peace Parade to help our children focus on peaceful solutions to problems.

7. Began producing and distributing the Message in Spanish so that our Hispanic neighbors could participate in our City in an informed manner.

8. Mount Rainier Cable Television became a more visible part of our community with the addition of Verizon, and new programs such as "On Air With the Mayor," "News You Can Use," CitiScape," and pictures shown on MRTV during Council meetings and Work Sessions that related to the issue under discussion.

9. Mount Rainier Library received a make-over and eight new computers from the Bill Gates Foundation.

10. The Mount Rainier Bike Coop found a new home at 3601 Bunker Hill Road. This move was in direct response to the growth of the Bike Coop and the need to provide move use of 3601 Bunker Hill Road. The Bike Coop and its members continue to put Mount Rainier on the map with its innovations and youth participation.

11. The Call-A-Bus continues to bring many of our residents to and from their doctors' appointments, shopping, and to City events. It also continues to provide transportation for some of our students to recreation activities and after school care. Hours of operation are Monday through Friday, 9: am to 3:30 pm. For reservations and additional information, call 301-985-6586.

12. Foreclosures became a major concern for the County and the nation, but Mount Rainier was NOT hit as hard as some of its neighbors. Our housing prices went down, but did not hit rock bottom. Our City finances also took a hit, but we were able to come through the year relatively unscathed.

13. The City began using temporary speed humps to help calm traffic in and around our schools.

14. Senator David Harrington was sworn in as the new Senator for the 47th Legislative District, and hit the ground running with a number of visits to the City of Mount Rainier to introduce himself and to identify our needs. He has continued to make himself available and has taken the lead in working with the municipalities in District 47 to be included in the Federal stimulus package.

15. The City initiated its own program in electronic recycling. Added a new trash truck to its fleet, and grappled with tipping fees, regular recycling, the need to renovate our Public Works Department. Although the City did not increase staffing in this department, it is one of the first departments in the City to increase its staff size through the use of long-term temporary employees from work programs.

16. Mount Rainier once again partnered with Brentwood to observe National Night Out (NNO) at Thomas Stone Elementary School. This annual event had a huge and wonderful turnout, and was proclaimed by many as the largest and best NNO in the County.

17. Mount Rainier began to rebuild its relationship with the Gateway CDC (representing Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood), after many years of mistrust and an inability to work together on projects that were beneficial (e.g., the facade program)to Mount Rainier. With the new director in place it appears that Mount Rainier and Gateway CDC will be working together to rebuild trust and partnerships throughout the Gateway Arts District with immediate attention to the facade program on 34th Street.

18. Jodi-Beth McCain led the City through the needed steps to approve a corn co-op at 3601 Bunker Hill Road. Although not yet in operation, the City is looking forward to making the Corn Bin a reality in 2009. This just one more step for the City in its efforts to go green and to save our environment.

19. The City Council voted unanimously in August to purchase the Bass properties in the 3200 block of Rhode Island Ave. for the negotiated price of $953,000 (the appraised value). In December 2008, the Bass property was purchased by the City after the City received a 1.2 million bond from Sun Trust Bank. Currently the City is looking to raise the buildings on the property and convert the lot to parking until it can fine a developer.

20. Finally, Mount Rainier witnessed the largest voter turnout in its history on November 4, 2008. Lines were wrapped around the schools, and people waited patiently to cast their votes. This was a milestone in the City, and contributed to the overwhelming election of Senator Barack Obama as 44th President of the United States of America.

There is change in America, but there is change in Mount Rainier. Our City is growing in population, resources, the number of youth, and the number of seniors. With this growth comes the need for more services. Mayor and Council are beginning the budget process, and we already know that this year there will be major cuts in funds from the State and the County. We also know that there are projects underway that must be funded.

GOALS FOR 2009

1. Pass a balanced budget prior to June 30, 2009

2. Build the skate park prior to November 2009

3. Raise the buildings on the Bass property and build a public/commuter parking lot

4. Identify new sources of funding to supplement current funding stream

5. Install a regular traffic light on Queens Chapel Road, and replace the current walk light

6. Implement and complete the facade program on 34th Street

7. Identify programs that qualify the City for funding under the Federal Stimulus Package

8. Move forward with the development of new library for the citizens of Mount Rainier

9. Continue to build on partnerships with neighboring municipalities, and to collaborate with them on various funding projects

10. Continue to look for ways to expand the City's commercial base

11. Work more closely with the 47th Legislative Team in ensuring the sovereignty of Mount Rainier

12. Identify and bring to Mount Rainier a Federal, State, or County program that services residents in Mount Rainier and in the neighboring municipalities.

13. Continue working with the District of Columbia on the Rhode Island Avenue project that will expand the Gateway Arts District into the District.

14. Improve and the overall financial condition of the City without raising taxes; while increasing and/or improving services.

15. Continue to bring positive recognition to the City of Mount Rainier as we prepare to celebrate our 100th year anniversary.

16. Moving forward in the City's efforts to go green. This is an important movement for the City as we as a nation and part of the global community see the effects of global warming. Recycling is a major stride in the right direction, but we need to do more. For the past few month the Mayor and Council has discussed recycling bins. If you do not have one, select one of your trash cans and place your recyclables in it and set it on the curb on Fridays. Public Works will collect it. We are also discussing many other environmentally friendly projects that will help save our environment.

The Maryland General Assembly is back in session, and you are invited and encouraged to stay in touch with our representatives (Senator David Harrington; Delegates Doyle Neimann, Victor Ramirez, and Jolene Ivey; County Councilman Will Campos). The Governor and everyone else is predicting a very lean year for the State. Cuts will be made to critical programs, but we need to make sure that those who represent us remember that we are an older municipality with limited resources and income. Every dollar they take away from us has a major impact on our future growth and development.

The Limited Partnership with Landmark LLC. This has kind of fizzled. I am not sure where we are at this time. A few months ago, the City received a letter suggesting that the market is so bad that maybe it is a good time to end our contract with them and wait on the market. As noted earlier, the City has purchased the Bass property. Landmark continues to say that their ability to move is contingent on taking control of all of the properties (funeral home, Bass, and Thrifty's). This has been an ongoing dialogue, with no results. The Council is in agreement that we should begin dissolution of the partnership, and seeking other alternatives. More on this during the coming year.

Crime Prevention an Crime Control. This continue to be a high priority, and our Police Department has done and continue to do an excellent job. As we move into the latter half of this fiscal year, we will receive a few additional police vehicles to replace the old ones, and continue to have good maintenance on the old ones. We will strive to maintain our contingency of police officers who are serving our residents at top quality. The station will continue to remain open until midnight to provide additional service to the community.

Planning for 2010 is under way. Mr. William Haskett, the father of one of our residents, has volunteered (pro bono) to write our history from 1985 to present. He is a retired professor from the University of the District of Columbia, and is quite well known in his field. We are honored to have him volunteer to write our history. Many of you will be called upon for your old pictures, news clippings, recollections, and documents. When called, please answer affirmatively so that we can capture the most accurate and up-to-date information about our wonderful City.

Elections are coming up the first Monday in May. Positions up for election are the Mayor, once Councilmember in Ward one and Ward two. Persons interested in running for these positions are encouraged to visit City Hall and obtain a copy of our current election guide. Also request a copy of recent changes voted in by the Mayor and Council at its January meeting. Nomination petitions must be picked up from City Hall and turned in to the Supervisor of Elections sitting at City Hall between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on the first Monday in April. The election will be held the first Monday in May, with those elected being sworn in the following week. Elections are held at the Mount Rainier City Hall from 7:00am until 8:00pm.

Senator David Harrington proposed the formation of an 47th Legislative District Economic Commission to come up with projects that could be implemented within 90 to 120 days after the economic stimulus package is released. The Commission has met several times since its formation and came up with a letter that was sent to President Barack Obama, Governor Martin O'Malley, County Executive Jack Johnson, Congressman Chris Van Hollen, Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski as well as the Prince George's County Delegation. The City identified several projects that we believe are shovel ready, and simply in need of funds. More will be coming out on this over the next few months.

As part of its go green effort, the Mayor and Council approved two resolutions in support of green initiatives proposed by the Gateway CDC and Washington Area Community Investment Fund (WACIF). These green initiatives, if funded will provide grants to residents for energy audits, weatherization and rehabilitation for older homes in Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood. Corn stoves, solar energy projects, and other similar home improvements would qualify for this program. Initially the program will select up to five homes in the three municipalities to receive the grants based on a specified formula with the goal being that the project would be successful and additional funding would be made available. WACIF has promised to commit up to $200,000 to fund this Green Initiative. Mayor and Council are looking forward to working with the Gateway Community Development Corporation new executive Director Cheryl Derricotte who has attended a number of our Council meetings and the Economic Commission meetings held by Senator Harrington.


VOLUNTEER. Your City Needs YOU!

GeoCaching

The Maryland Municipal League Geocache Trail
Celebrating Maryland’s Cities and Towns.
MML District 9


The trail consists of 11 MML Districts (regions).

The MML Geocache Trail project will launch January 1, 2009 with 78 participating cities and towns. A trackable geo coin will be given to the first 500 geocachers as an incentive for locating at least 2 municipal caches in each of the 11 districts. To be eligible for the coin, geocachers must pick up a Passport at any of the designated county visitor centers. Geocachers must use the stamp in the cache on their Passports and write down the cache code word listed in each cache. After at least two municipal caches in each district are discovered, geocachers may return to one of the county visitor centers and have their Passports validated to receive their collectable coin.

For a complete list of participating visitor centers visit the MML web site at http://www.mdmunicipal.org/mmlhome/index.cfm or MGS web site at www.mdgps.org.

Recorded evidence from the early 18th century indicates that a settlement named Beale Town on the Anacostia River was located on the site that later became Hyattsville. The little outpost never achieved town status, and in 1742, for both economic and topographical reasons, the residents of the hamlet petitioned to have a new town laid out a half mile below Beale Town at Garrisons Landing (which was later named Bladensburg). The legislature granted the petition, and Beale Town ceased to function as a legal entity.

About a hundred years later, in March of 1845, Christopher Clark Hyatt purchased his first parcel of land in the area. The presence of the railroad and telegraph made it ideal for settlement, and soon the surrounding farmland began to be subdivided into housing lots. By 1859, the area had unofficially become known as Hyattsville by the post office and cartographers. The Act of Incorporation of the City of Hyattsville was signed into law in April 1886.

The city grew quickly as both a summer residence for Washingtonians beleaguered by hot and humid weather and as a community of year-round residents. During the mid 20th century, Hyattsville was the center of the commercial and political activities of Prince George’s County. In 1992, a portion of the residential area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, Hyattsville is a thriving suburb enjoying the advantages of a small town. The types of homes cover the spectrum—Victorian mansions, bungalows, foursquares, Tudor cottages, contemporary town homes, and modern apartments. Just as the housing stock is diverse, so too are the backgrounds and interests of Hyattsville’s very active citizenry. Local projects focus on education, art, horticulture, the environment, religion, historic preservation, and business revitalization, just to name few.

The cache is located in a small municipal park in historic downtown Hyattsville, just past the Town Hall and Police Department. This little park has everything a kid would need to have a blast! There are also a couple of covered picnic tables for your use. Be mindful of parking signs and the traffic pattern close to the park. Find a spot to park and walk around town, there are a lot of little shops close by. Enjoy the incredible architecture as you walk through the town. The cache is a large Tupperware container packed with tons of Hyattsville goodies and information. Be aware that you will be in plain view all the time! Enjoy it, and welcome to Hyattsville.