An Open Letter to Rachel Hardwick, President, TPSS Co-op Board of Representatives

Rachel,

I am writing to ask if the TPSS Co-op is truly entering mediation with the goal of reaching agreement with NDC on details that will allow the Takoma Junction Development to move forward. I am asking because, despite what you have said in public meetings, I continue to fear that the Co-op Board’s true objective is to stop the project.

Let me explain.

I was pleased and encouraged to hear you talk at the last Council meeting, on June 6, when you indicated that you are entering mediation with good intentions. However, I was immediately struck and confused because your messages from that evening were not consistent with those I had heard from other members of the TPSS Co-op Board who spoke at another public meeting just the night before. This leads me to question the true intent of the Board.

On June 5, I attended a meeting at the Essex Apartments on Maple Avenue that was organized by a member of the Community Vision for Takoma Junction group. At the meeting, three Co-op Board members attended and described the local shopping opportunities the Co-op presents to the building residents. It was certainly nice that after so many years, the Co-op is now doing outreach to our lower income community members. (I won’t guess at your Board’s motivation for beginning this outreach at this time.)

However, I was disappointed when shortly after promoting the Co-op as a place to shop, a significant portion of the meeting was spent discussing opinions of problems with the development plans and encouraging the residents to lobby the City Council against the project.

I believe the Co-op is a valuable community business and asset that contributes greatly to the character of Takoma Park. I also strongly believe that it is in the best interests of city residents to move forward with developing the city lot.

I’m hopeful the Co-op Board can get on the same page and work with us to make the project a success for all.

Please contact me if you would like to sit down and discuss this at any time.

Sincerely,
Terry

4 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Rachel Hardwick, President, TPSS Co-op Board of Representatives

  1. Councilmember Seamans, I am one of many who favor right-size development of the lot, in bed with neither the Co-op nor NDC, who believes the NDC proposal is NOT right-sized. Personally, I believe Resolution 2017-53 laid the groundwork for a good compromise, yet the Council–that includes you, Terry–seemingly has abandoned that resolution in favor of a max-size development that the just-released traffic study shows will crush the intersection beyond already unacceptable levels. Just last week, you pled for civility, yet now, you write this one-sided broadside against the Co-op, while saying nothing about NDC’s departure from the guidance of Resolution 2017-53 and the actions of NDC’s bed-fellows, “Junction 4 All,” a group that is every bit as loud and divisive as some of the Co-op’s Board members and supporters. When the Council pays no fealty to its own prior actions, and shows such evident bias, it’s no wonder that settlement has proved difficult. NDC has no reason to compromise, because the only power-broker here–the City–refuses to hold NDC to the goals of the RFP. It is the City’s naivete and mismanagement of this process that has allowed it to fester into a bitter, divided, acrimonious dispute, and that is painfully obvious to any and all who deal with disputes. Last night, walking home from Old Town on a quiet evening, my wife and I wondered, what problem is the City trying to solve here? It’s past time for the City to push for a meaningful compromise.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My professional background includes convening mediation processes. My experience is that, during the period of mediation, parties agree to avoid lobbying the public to advocate for their position, as a sign of good faith negotiations.

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  3. As you know, the Co-op responded with this letter:

    June 15, 2018

    Dear Terry,

    Thank you for attending the Co-op’s outreach meeting on June 5, when four Co-op representatives spoke with residents of Essex House about the benefits of Co-op membership, the Co-op’s involvement in the community, and our concerns about the potentially harmful effects of the proposed Junction development on our operations. We appreciate the time you took to attend and listen to the discussion. Thank you also for your follow-up letter, which you recently posted on your blog.

    I write now to address three concerns you expressed in your letter. First, the meeting at Essex House was organized and presented by the Co-op, not the community group “Community Vision for Takoma Junction.” That community group appears to be involved in a larger discussion about the entire Junction project; the Co-op is focused on our needs to ensure that we can continue to serve the community and offer employment for our diverse workforce. Our outreach to the community — through the meeting at Essex House and other meetings we plan to hold in the future — is purely our initiative and responsibility. And this is indeed a particularly important time to do outreach, to answer our shoppers’ concerns and make sure they understand what is at stake for our business at the Junction.

    Second, as I noted above, the focus of our meeting was not intended to be a broader discussion of the Junction development; and in fact, most of our time was spent discussing the benefits of Co-op membership, describing the Co-op’s involvement in the community through charitable activities, and answering questions. One of the topics we discussed, for example, was how the Co-op can continue to support the Lunch and Learn program for Takoma Park children during the summer, which was originated at Essex House. The Co-op has provided food and conversation with the children about healthy food for several years. (See Attachment A for additional TPSS Co-op outreach efforts.)

    Finally, we would like to emphasize that we remain strongly committed to the mediation, just as we know the City and NDC are committed. We are hopeful that an open and transparent mediation process will best serve all stakeholders, but we also believe that it is important to continue to communicate with the public about our concerns regarding the potential impacts of the development on our operations, and to seek their support in the Council’s decision-making process.

    As you suggest, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss our views and concerns.

    Sincerely,
    Rachel Hardwick

    Attachment A
    1. Our annual outreach events are:
    • National Night Out – An event to promote police-community partnerships and camaraderie to make our neighborhoods safer and more caring places to live
    • Real Food for MoCo Kids – At the Real Food Fest we teamed up with TPSS Community Kitchen to sponsor one of their graduates, Diva Fresh. We competed in a children’s lunch menu cook-off with a team of children. We won.
    • Monster Bash – The annual seasonal event that starts in our parking lot with over a hundred attendees in costumes. We provide free face painting.
    • Shephard’s Table Fall Event – We were sponsors by providing food and were a member of their planning committee.
    • Alternative Gift Fair – A Takoma Park holiday tradition where gifts are purchased to pay forward for those in need. We donated a basket of local vendor items and another one with fair trade products from Haiti Projects.
    • Earth Day Festival – This gathering is in our parking lot with various participants joining us to promote a sustainable environment for Takoma Park and the world.
    2. Members and other shoppers contributed to the wellbeing of others through participating in the following programs:
    • The Round-Up program whereby funds were raised for hurricane relief for Texas ($4,139) and Puerto Rico ($960), and for feeding those in daily need through Spring Spring’s Shephard’s Table ($261). The Texas Round-Up was the first one and TPSS contributed $2,000 out of the $4,139.
    • Box Tops-Goodness Gives Back
    • Pay it Forward – Customers purchase products from a list; TPSS takes donated product(s) to Manna’s Choice Pantry
    • Poker Chips – TPSS donates $0.05 to charity for every shopping bag a customer brings in
    • Crossroads Farmers Market Re-Useable Bag Drive
    • Future Organic Farmers Fund

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rachel,

      Thank you for your clarifying letter.

      Denise Jones, a Community Vision member and an Essex House resident, invited me to attend a meeting where the Crossroads Community Food Network and the TPSS Co-op were to describe their respective community food resources. (See e-mail, below.) I wasn’t surprised by this, since Denise is passionate in providing programs to assist the residents o the Essex House. I can’t list from memory all of the many positive programs she has led through the past few years to teach people skills that will help them advance in employment, to be more engaged in the community and to assist the children.

      The day before the meeting, Denise ran into me and my wife on the street and encouraged us to come to her meeting. I hope you can see how I got confused about who organized the meeting, especially when Denise sat at a table at the front of the room, introduced the Co-op Board members, who sat among the rest of us, ran the meeting and apologized that the Crossroads Food Network would not attend.

      Again, I really appreciate that the Co-op is striving to serve lower income community members. I know many will appreciate learning that the Co-op sells healthy food at competitive prices. When I ask why they don’t shop at the Co-op, the most common answer is their perception that there are better transportation options to get to and from Langley Park.

      The reason I wrote my original blog post was not about who organized the meeting. I was just concerned that I was hearing two messages from the Co-op Board, interest in finding compromise through mediation, and striving to organize the community against the development project.

      Terry
      ——————-
      Good afternoon Jarret and Terry,

      I am inviting you both to attend a meeting on Tuesday evening, June 5th at Essex House – Healthy Foods Information and Resources. We’ve invited Crossroads Community Foods Network (they are partnering with Essex House for an upcoming series of cooking classes) and the TPSS Coop, our local grocery store. This will be an opportunity for both organizations to share information and the good resources they both offer the community and engage residents they may not normally reach. Additionally, this meeting will serve as an opportunity for an informational meeting regarding Coop in the Junction development. Many residents (apartment dwellers) in your wards are not likely attending the Community Vision meetings or City Council meetings regarding the Junction development and this can serve an a chance to share information about our local food resources.

      I hope you will both attend, and also spread the word to your Maple Avenue apartment dwellers in both Wards 4 & 5. The Coop asked me for help in sharing there benefits and I want to bring this information to these residents and involve them in the community conversation so many are engaged in.

      Best regards,
      Denise

      Liked by 1 person

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