Emptying the Seat

Dear Readers,

Do you live in Takoma Park’s Ward 5? Are your Monday evenings free? Would you like to spend those Monday evenings chatting with a friendly group of people about local and world events? Would you like to costar in a long-running television drama?

Do you have 10 friends?

If the answer to all these questions is “yes!” pay close attention to the following information.

In the long standing and recently wildly successful plan for Takoma Park to take over the world, city councilmember Marc Elrich was elected to the Montgomery Council Council. Gilbert lapses into a reverie – wondering if being elevated from City Ward 5 to County At-Large makes one feel “bigger” somehow. Does Marc, after he catches up on his sleep, stand at the corner of Flower and Piney Branch saying “yesterday, just that [waves at Ward 5 behind him] was mine, Now, i am master of ALL I SURVEY!” as his gaze takes in the vista from the county liquor store, the high rises in Silver Spring, and the Sligo Creek Parkway beyond. Does he visualize Purple Line stops on every corner? Solar panels on every building? Tenants enjoying $700 rents and landlords tearing out their hair from Mount Airy to Chevy Chase? Greedy developers leaving their sleezy jobs to take up careers as light-rail operators?

Marc and all the other recently elected county representatives will officially begin their terms of office Monday December 4th, 2006. According to Takoma Park’s city charter the city council must call a special election to fill the empty Ward 5 seat.

First that seat must be empty. Marc could wait until the last possible moment, which might be the November 27th council meeting, or he could step down today. So, the timing is all up to Marc, now. Gilbert suspects it will not be too soon, as the city council is still working on revising the rent control ordinances, a subject near and dear to Marc’s heart

As soon as he does step down, the special election must occur no sooner than 45 days but no later than 60 days after the departing council member steps down. .

Candidates for the Ward 5 seat must present a petition with at least 10 signatures. There will be no nominating caucus event as there is in a regular city election. Candidates must file 20 days before the date of the special election.

Who runs for that seat is of enormous interest in the city. Marc has been the leading advocate of rent control and tenant’s rights. The city’s rent control has always been controversial, but as the ordinance is currently being reviewed it is a particularly hot topic and some on the council are eager to roll back rent control’s provisions or even to eliminate rent control entirely.

Two of the seven-member council (seven including the mayor) generally oppose rent control. The Mayor has made statements that indicate she supports it though agrees it needs adjustments. Terry Seamens who represents many tenants in his ward and Joy Austin-Lane seem to support it in principle, but also seem open to tinkering with it. It is not clear (to Gilbert, anyway) which way Doug Barry leans, though Gilbert suspects he also supports the concept of rent control.

Though rent-control advocates would likely remain in the majority, none of them have the knowledge and articulation that Elrich has on the subject.

– Gilbert.

About the Author

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.