While the city council pondered the parsing of their official priorities list, a group of citizens stepped up to the microphone with a bold call for action. The city should ban gas-powered leaf blowers, said Seth Grimes, representing a group of 31 local activists.
Blowers are a noxious source of pollutants and noise, said the group, and they called on Mayor Bruce Williams to “schedule a City Council work session as soon as practicable” to devise a plan to phase them out.
The group’s letter (link is to a pdf download), presented at the Citizen Comment segment of the October 13th city council meeting, was met with silence from the mayor and council. They often do not make remarks following citizen comments, but Your Gilbert wonders if this time it was because they were thinking “oh, crap!” It is one thing to spend hours carefully crafting a statement prioritizing environmental sustainability. It is another to enact a law that does something about it, especially when it pries gas-powered tinker toys out of the hands of outraged voters.
This is a lot more problematic than banning the nonexistent production of pate foi-gras or egg-farms within the city’s boundaries.
We are confident, however, that the city council will do the right thing, even in the face of apoplectic residents who incorrectly gauge the importance of climate change vs. their right to avoid raking*. Already, the city has no problem sticking it’s nose onto people’s properties to see if they have broken window panes, holes in their trash bins, or bottles on their porch. These are finable city code offenses and the city has officers who patrol the city looking for them.
Surely, the city is as concerned with preventing air and noise pollution as it is with preventing unsightly and unkempt properties? Surely!
We’ve already kicked the council for spending so much time on officially codifying its priorities. We won’t comment further, since unlike SOME people we don’t like to waste our time and considerable brainpower.
We will just report that the council has so far identified around 15 priorities, or 43 priorities if you want to count the “sub points.” No comment.
Useful dialog on the subject included: Councilmember Terry Seamens saying he hopes that residents are soon involved in the process. Councilmember Josh Wright noting that the city is diverse but not integrated, a concern mentioned in the report but not constructively addressed.
Readers, please use the comments section here to tell the council and the world what your priorities for the city are.
Also discussed was whether to do another citizen survey and if so, when and with what frequency? Councilmember Robinson said that he thought the city staff found the recent survey useful,. The city manager confirmed this, saying a well conducted survey gives a “valid representation” of what the community feels. Periodic surveys are even more helpful, she said.
Councilmember Colleen Clay expressed disappointment that the latest Washington Adventist Hospital plan does not include a birthing center. The WAH is moving to a new suburban site, but will leave various medical facilities on their current campus to cover in some part the services it now provides. Clay hopes to persuade them that a birthing center is needed, especially since the midwifery center in Old Town closed recently.
If the city is rocked by election eve riots, don’t blame Councilmember Clay. She tried to warn us, raising the possibility that presidential election results (either way) might prompt a “big response” from city residents. Councilmember Dan Robinson, expressing the general nonplussation, asked, “what are you suggesting?” Clay speculated that streets might become clogged, threatening public safety. The rest of the council seemed unconvinced, but on election eve, Your Gilbert is headed for Councilmember Clay’s ward with a bottle opener and his dancing shoes!
Marc Elrich, former Ward 5 city counclmember, now at-large county councilmember, gave a glum report to the council. The county government will be forced to cut back due to the poor economy, he said, and this is not a good time to press for rebates the city feels the county owes it from double-taxation.
He tried to discourage city councilmember Robinson’s notion that more county towns and districts should incorporate and become independent like Takoma Park. This would have the effect, said Robinson, of creating more allies in the struggles between the county and its municipalities, and would provide more responsive, efficient government for people in those towns. It would also save the county money if new municipalities took over public services as Takoma Park does.
Elrich waved away the notion, saying that such arrangements only work well in towns like Gaithersburg where there is a large commercial tax base, and since 80% of the businesses in an area to be incorporated must agree, it was not likely to happen.
Your Gilbert hopes Councilmember Robinson is not dissuaded. Also, we would like to remind him and our Dear Readers of an effort made a few elections ago to create more and smaller county council districts. This would have had the effect of making it less expensive to run for county council – reducing the influence of monied interests. It would also have made councilmembers more responsive to their constituents, as they would have fewer to serve. Incumbents such as our local councilmember George Leventhal, and a well-bankrolled campaign against it managed to convince voters this was a bad idea, and it was defeated. Your Gilbert thinks it is an idea worth reviving.
The city has a new lobbyist, Anne Ciekot, of Ciekot and Elliot. She was introduced to the council prior to the vote approving her appointment. Hardly worth mentioning, except for a curious instance. Councilmember Terry Seamens challenged Ms Ciekot to explain why she was so much better than the other bidder for the job. He prefaced the question by saying he personally knew the other bidder. She awkwardly described her resume and experience, Seamens left the room apparently due to a coughing fit, and the council voted for Ciekot in his absence.
* the ban as envisioned by the citizen activist group would not include electric leaf blowers, however. Rakes are not the only alternative..