Falling Out

Dear Readers,

What did you do on YOUR summer vacation? Your Gilbert went off-planet for most of the summer, and did not once think about Takoma Park or how we might bring back some alien practice or idea to improve it. Not so the city council! At the first meeting of the fall, they vied to out brownie-point each other by suggesting city government wonkery they’d like to transplant here from their vacation spots such as Maine, Cape Cod, and Costa Rica.

Clearly our overly dedicated elected officials did not get enough rest this summer – as further evidenced by the turgid, sometimes tense discussion at the Sept. 2 council meeting.

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The discussion was about council priorities. This is an ongoing discussion aimed at identifying, . . . you guessed it – council priorities! In July they crafted a general list of vague priorities and now they are trying to fill in the specifics – not something all the councilmembers agree on.

The general priorities are: 1) sustainability, 2) livable community, and 3) engaged, responsive, and service-oriented organization. Do you feel the turgitude tugging your eyelids shut, yet?

If you are still awake, Dear Readers, you can see these are rather airy-fairy terms. Councilmembers tried to weigh them down a bit with some substance. They agreed that they need “indicators” – some sort of measure of how well they are meeting these priorities. Also needed are sets of shared “assumptions.” Much time was spent crafting assumptions everyone could agree with.

This is where things started to get tense as councilmember Colleen Clay brought up what she claimed were unintended consequences of rent control on property taxes. This was regarding assumptions about maintaining the city’s socioeconomic diversity. We don’t wish to bog down in a full explanation. Councilmember Clay is welcome to explain further in a comment if she wishes. Then you can all get tense about it, too, Dear Readers.

The discussion resumed its turgidity for the rest of the hour. The point of all this appears to be that the city manager’s budget for 2009 includes $35,000 “to retain a consultant to facilitate a community-wide strategic planning process,” quoting from the Sept. 2 agenda. So, this exercise in identifying priorities seems to be a set up for the hiring of a consultant to tell the city what it wants. (and what it probably already knows)

Your Gilbert, as cynical and simplistic as always, wishes our councilmembers realized that they were elected because citizens trusted them to be capable of knowing us and representing us. So why don’t they just use their best judgment as things come up, instead of trying to hash out a committee-speak statement of what we already know – and then hire an out-of-town consultant to gaze at our navel for us? Did the council learn nothing from the episode of the Metro Survey last spring?

In that case a city consultant with incomplete information and inadequate oversight created and distributed a citizen opinion survey that angered many.
Just wing it!


PS: Creeping Yuppification Alert: The city is holding a “Sick of Signs” week during the week of September 20 – 27. Residents are urged to tear down and turn in ” illegal and unsightly signs.” Your Gilbert urges them instead to make multiple copies of The Constitution and Bill of Rights and post them on every telephone pole in town..

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.

4 Comments on "Falling Out"

  1. Gilbert, great column!
    Yes to council members talking to folks and creating their judgments what’s best for the city and then defending those judgments as they make policy.
    Posting the Constitution and the Declaration is a great idea: conceptual/performance art!

  2. Gilbert, ditto on the great column, especially on the waste of money on a consultant in a town only twice the size of Wasilla, AK.
    What ever happened to the results of that last late great city survey?
    How about we tear down all the signs and post them in front of your house? 🙂

  3. Way to go, Gilbert. I think they should take that $35k and split it between you, Seth and Bruce M, so that you can each buy yourself something nice.

  4. What a great idea, but Your Gilbert should get the lion’s share – we did most of the work.

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