Asking the city council for money can be tough. It certainly was for the Community Indicators Project director Bruce Baker.
The Community Indicators Project’s purpose is to measure at least three of the city’s “quality of life indicators:” housing, economic development, and health.
Even with former mayor Cathy Porter sitting next to him, the project director’s update presentation to the council did not go over well, particularly the part about needing an increase in funds to, . . . well, to pay more to the project director. The amount of work, he said, is much more than anticipated, and the current amount granted by the city does not cover his time adequately.
The mayor noted that usually such projects get DECREASING amounts of money from year to year, lest they become a permanent burden on the budget.
The information presented to them about housing costs and disparities was not particularly new, said Councilmembers Wright and Seamens, the self-appointed wet-blanket brigade.
Councilmembers Clay and Snipper, however said they appreciated the report, and Clay encouraged Baker to “value your time” and seek adequate compensation.
Former mayor Porter also stuck up for Baker, saying that the project participants didn’t expect to find any startling new information at this early point. The idea, she said, is to take detailed measurements of social, economic, and other conditions, and compare them over time. This will help them track the indicators to see how they work. Eventually, it will be possible to see whether city and county policies are effective or not.
The indicators project, by the way, is supposed to be for both Silver Spring and Takoma Park. But the cash-strapped county has not chipped in their share of grant-money.
The Community Indicators Project could take lessons in asking the city for money from Historical Takoma, Inc. (HTI) It helps to bring an air of outrage, apparently.
The back story here is that HTI recently purchased a property on Carroll Ave, the former Barcelona Nut Shop, to use as its offices, meeting space, and archive. HTI is a nonprofit volunteer organization. It is independent of the city government. The money to buy the building came mostly from state and county grants – $260,000 each. That’s not enough to finish the job, but the work is ongoing and at a crucial stage – and more money is needed.
The city promised to kick in $30,000 this year. They chatted with the HTI folks about it last September, had the city staff write up a Memorandum of Understanding, and sent a copy to HTI.
The Historic Takoma folks were unhappy with some of the memorandum’s terms. “Unhappy” doesn’t quite describe it. They were unhappy in the way most property owners are in the final stages of a renovation. That’s when they are worn down to the last frizzle of their frazzle and their response to anything from “We have a little problem,” to “Good morning!” is “WHAT!? WHAT!? NOW WHAT?!”
Their construction company, HTI said, might leave them in the lurch for a another job unless the city’s donation was made available pronto. So, they were under considerable stress to get the Memorandum of Understanding amended that very evening. They were a desperate bunch at the eleventh hour – literally and figuratively.
To reduce YOUR stress and desperation, Dear Readers, we assure you it all worked out at the end, though on the way there were some flashes of annoyance and terse exchanges about lack of trust – on both sides.
Details such as whether the money should be distributed as a lump sum or in small increments, restrictions on how the money could be spent, how much free use of the building the city would receive in return, how much if anything HTI would owe the city if they decided to sell the building, and a number of word edits, deletions, and clarifications were finally made at a late hour. The March 23rd council meeting adjourned and all dispersed, tired and more-or-less happy.
There was no city council meeting Monday, March 30, so Your Gilbert will take a break, too. We were unable to cover the WSSC meeting last Thursday, so if any of you Dear Readers were there, please tell us what happened.