Last night I attended the final East Silver Spring Citizens' Association meeting of the 2010-11 season. If you know me, then you know that I would rather have dental surgery that attend another ESSCA meeting, but it had to be done.
I have a low opinion of ESSCA, although I do admit that this organization has done a great service to the community over the years. They have protected the neighborhood from thoughtless development with dogged determination. The problem is that the organization is aging, with no real plan or program for the future in evidence. What makes the organization so powerful in protecting the community makes it weak in communicating with it. ESSCA has become a very insular organization that protects the status quo as fiercely as it defends against over-sized buildings. For example; Bob has been president since the year I graduated from high school. Things change slowyt at ESSCA, to say the least.
The reason I attended last night's meeting was to see Kurshead Bilgrami - or KB - present revised plans for sidewalk improvements on Sligo Avenue. I planned to spend the rest of my time listening, not talking. This, on its face, is a ridiculous plan. However, it worked this time - mostly because there was almost no one at this meeting. Maybe ten, if you count the guests.
Here are the revised plans.
KB explained each plan in detail and took questions. The group seemed to be happy with the changes he had made since the last meeting, which mostly dealt with bicycle issues. A breif discussion, and the plans seemed to be approved.
KB noted that a fire hydrant will be moved out of the way in one location. I pointed out that there are at least four other hydrant on the street that cause obstructions and do not comply with ADA. I asked if they could look into doing all of them at once. What is the point of moving one out of the way if there is another one on the next block? The answer? The usual - it's expensive.
Residents who use Ritchie Avenue expressed concerns about the lack of sidewalks on most of that street. A neighbor was hit by a car on Ritchie near the intersection with Sligo last week. It was night and she was travelling beside her blind father when she was struck. The driver did not remain on the scene. She suffered a sprain and other injuries.
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I know this intersection well. Walked by it on the way home.
KB said he would look into remedies, including adjusting the parking.
There was a brief discussion about the practice of needing 100% support from all property owners to build a new sidewalk. One holdout on this street is preventing improvements for pedestrian safety. Is there a way to override this antiquated practice? At what point does public safety trump a property owner's wishes? Why is there a right-of-way, after all?
Given that Silver Spring has dozens of streets like Ritchie Avenue - with no sidewalks on one or both sides - this should be an important issue to resolve. If you live on a street with no sidewalks, you should think about that. Is your right to maintain a more bucolic atmosphere more important than access for the disabled? The elderly? The young?
I left the meeting happy that the presentation had been well-received, but a little depressed at the sad state of the East Silver Spring Citizens' Association. Six people voted to return the Executive Board back to their positions for another year - even though many of them weren't there. The last time I had been to such a meeting was in 2005, when I ran against Bob for President. 78 People voted that night, and I lost by 2-1.
Back then the voting was done poorly, and the animosity I felt from the grey-haired and entrenched members of the audience put me off ESSCA for good. I paid dues and went to a couple of meetings since then, but I have usually found them to be more of an obstruction than a help. Still, I think the organization plays an important role in our relationship with the County, and it makes me sad to see things so slack and poorly managed.
DelegateTom Hucker finished-off the meeting with a report on events during the recent legislative session in Annapolis.