Summary of the January 28 Joint Meeting of the Sligo Headwaters Civic Association and the Upper Sligo Civic Association

A joint meeting of the two civic associations drew 60 people to Arcola Elementary School on January 28, 2008. At the beginning of the meeting, Kathy Michels showed an aerial map that showed how Sligo Creek and Park lie at the heart of and link our communities on the north and south sides of Sligo Creek. She talked about what a civic association is and is not, including the fact that a civic association does not make regulations for the community, but provides a way for neighbors to communicate with each other, help each other, work to address issues that concern us as a community, and communicate with local government officials. She noted that Upper Sligo and then later Sligo Headwaters formed in part in response to incidents that made it clear that we all needed to know our neighbors better and look out for each other. We then introduced ourselves.

In addition to its wonderful location within walking distance of almost anything anyone would want, the sheer diversity our community in is another one of its hallmarks and strengths. Some of those attending have lived in the neighborhood 30 to 40 years, while others have been here only a few years. Some have no children, some young children, some grown children and grandchildren. Many of us have pets (dogs seemed to outnumber cats!). But, long time resident or newcomer, dog lover or cat person, we all seem to share the same concerns.

When we were given a chance to raise issues that should be addressed, people seemed most concerned about these three: traffic issues, crime and police response, and the redevelopment of Wheaton. Several people said that Wheaton has been "forgotten" by the local government and that resources are going to other communities, but not to ours. Specifically people are concerned about the businesses in Wheaton - where are the shops and restaurants that families would enjoy? What is taking the place of unique and popular shops like Barry's music shop that has been forced out to Rockville and Sabang's restaurant which closed after decades of serving the community? How are the public safety issues in Wheaton being addressed? Will Wheaton deteriorate instead of improve and how will it affect our neighborhood? How much influence does Westfield Mall has on public policy in this area?

Ben Stutz, Legislative Aide to Valerie Ervin (our District 5 County Council member), attended the meeting and explained the process by which a bill is passed by the County Council. He says that it pays to have a civic association cultivate a relationship with our County Council member. He repeatedly said that we should bring our concerns to Valerie so that she can help us see that they are addressed. He emphasized the fact that he and Valerie want to be helpful, by getting us in touch with the appropriate agency to deal with a problem or even doing a walk through to look at traffic situations. He said that she would come and talk to our civic association (we need about 2 months advanced notice). He also suggested that we get Robert Klein (Wheaton Redevelopment Program)and Natalie Cantor (Mid-County Regional Center) to come to a meeting and discuss the Wheaton development issue.

When asked whether it was better to send letters or emails with our views to the County Council members, he said that sending an e-mail is probably the most efficient way of contacting the Council.

Ed Murtagh pointed out that if we want to have much impact, we need to join together to have a "louder voice." Because both of our civic associations are small, we are considering merging the two, having just one listserve and website. Having a larger number of families would give us a bigger pool of volunteers. What needs to be done? We need to work on the governance of the new, consolidated civic association. Please contact Ed Murtagh if you are interested in helping to organize the new structure and/or serve on a subcommittee. Ben Stutz said that the civic associations that advocate best generally seem to be organized with subcommittees that deal with different issues. Complicated issues can not be adequately addressed in one civic association meeting.

When we get the Neighborhood Watch organized, we will need block captains. We are proposing the next community meeting will be about forming a Neighborhood Watch. At the meeting we will learn what our roles and responsibilities as neighbors and block captains will be. We would also like parents with children in our neighborhood schools to serve as point of contact/liaison for the civic association.

Because crime and neighborhood security seem to be top priority issues, Doree Huneven in charge of organizing next month's meeting on that topic, including information on Neighborhood Watch. She will present information about how to make you home a "hard target" and how to organize the community to watch out for each other. We will ask to have someone from the police department here to speak to us as well.

Several people at the meeting said they had been disappointed with police response, so this will be a good time to ask some questions about that.

It was suggested that we have an environmental theme on our April meeting since it will be near Earthday. Subjects could include saving energy, recycling and RainScapes (environmental landscaping) at your home.

We were so engaged in our discussions of issues and solutions to our community problems that we neglected to thank the neighbors who helped make this meeting happen. We would therefore like to end these minutes with the thanks to Stacy Menendez for arranging the use of the auditorium; and Hedy Chen, Judy Weinsheimer, Donna Calacone, Rose Goudreau, Annie Corveller, Joshua Murtagh, and Lisa Chaki for distributing flyers. Please forgive me if I left anyone out (so many people helped pull this together.)