Comfortable and Cuddly

Comfortable, that’s how Mayor Williams feels about the property tax rate hike. he and a majority of the council approved a 58.5 cent rate (per $100 of assessed value) in a first ordinance reading. The final reading and vote is upcoming.

The rate is lower than that first proposed in the city manager’s 2010 budget, but councilmembers Terry Seamens and Josh Wright, were NOT comfortable with the lowered rate, each saying they though it should be lower still.


They split the budget rate vote 4 to 2.

Your Gilbert arches his ironic eyebrow. Wright, who last year chastised an effort by councilmember Dan Robinson to trim the budget, has joined the Tax Cut Crusaders this year, while Robinson voted with the Tax and Spenders. This is especially ironic given that Robinson was active with Sustainable Takoma in its hey day. Sustainable Takoma was (is?) a group of fiscal conservatives that didn’t exactly call for reducing or eliminating city services, but it certainly hinted at it – it’s website had a not-entirely-accurate chart showing how much more city tax money went for services that other localities got from the county.

Your Gilbert is also curious how the mayor and the three other “yea” voters calculated their comfort level with the tax rate rise against the fact that this is an election year. It is true that fiscal issues seldom provide much traction in city elections. Even the community center boondoggle didn’t result in anyone getting booted from office. For that matter, contested races are rare. So, perhaps it is a safe calculation.

Cuddly

For whatever it is worth (opinions vary) the city now has an official Strategic Plan in all it’s vague and jumbled glory. The council voted unanimously on May 18 to adopt it. Supposedly, it will be up for yearly review and revision because issues, priorities, and strategies change. Why then, you may ask, do we need to write it down?

The answer is that some people like to write things down. They like lists, they like “crafting” statements that carefully avoid offending any of the other councilmembers. And they like having a plan, one from which catchwords and phrases can be borrowed from, so everyone can have a cuddly feeling of common purpose, or at least common jargon.

So, for at least a year, every supplicant before the city council (every supplicant who has done his/her homework) will regurgitate the phrases “sustainability,” “livable community,” and “engaged, responsive, service-orientated government” at them. If the lack of parallel grammatical construction of those three “prioritized goals” bothers you, you are not alone, Dear Reader.

Councilmember Clay stuck up for the grammarian constituency, requesting that the writing be reconstructed into parallel shape. That would be the sustainable way to support a livable community with an engaged, responsive, service-oriented government, don’t you agree?

Oooo, cuddly feeling!

– Gilbert.

About the Author

Gilbert
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.

10 Comments on "Comfortable and Cuddly"

  1. Seth Grimes | May 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm |

    “Fiscal conservatives” were in the minority chez Sustainable Takoma.
    The central, founding rationale for ST was that the city government, under former Mayor Kathy Porter and former City Manager Rick Finn, was out of control. In some ways, it still is, although we are vastly better managed under current City Manager Barb Matthews. Bruce Williams manages the council, which manages the CM, far better than Kathy did.
    The city accepted Sustainable Takoma’s agenda of attempting to rationalize the balance of county-city delivery of services and the flow of funds that pays for services. The city has not yet been successful in realizing that agenda however.
    Seth

  2. Thanks for the post, Seth.
    To Gilbert: Trying to find out what services do TP homeowners get in addition to what residents of non-incorporated areas of MontCo, not to mention residents of other municipalities, that could be justified by the highest tax burden in the county is fiscal conservatism (a political stance)? or is it simply a questioning of City management practices and a search for transparency? You obviously made up your mind without much information.
    As for the alleged “inaccuracies” on the website, too bad we did not hear from you when you noticed them! We would have gladly discussed that with you. But as many, you were not keen in discussing these issues and were quick in dismissing the issues we brought forward through rumor-mongering (which you continue to do today). As to why you and others chose to do so (in the midst of the financial debacle that the CC construction was), you and they are the only ones who can find out if you so desire.

  3. Seth, Yes, Sustainable Takoma has had some very positive effects, if only to raise the fiscal consciousness of residents and councilmembers. If only it had not given unwitting or tacit support to those who want to disincorporate the city.
    Speaking of which, Alain, the inaccuracies on the Sustainable Takoma website chart were pointed out at the time and there was discussion about it on the community email discussion lists, but the chart was not corrected (at that time).
    – Gilbert

  4. 1/ As I remember, the so-called inaccuracies on the website were more attempts at niggling on small details (like the fact that non-TP residents pay a separate fee for garbage collection)to discredit the key issue that we were trying to address, the question of what our very high level of taxes brings us in addition to what non-TP residents get.
    2/ It is only in the last 2 years that some consciousness about the tax burden has become evident in some Council members. Prior to that, the council generally voted unanimously for passing the full impact of the increased property assessment to city tax payers. Although not in favor of disincorporation initially, that lack of attention by Council members to a key city management issue that was leading to outcomes contrary to the ones stated (in particular diversity) led me to gradually favor that radical solution.

  5. Perhaps it is time for a disincorporation slate to be formed for the coming election.
    The citys’ primary reasons for founding, to provide protective services not provided for by the county, no longer exist.
    It is a city government out of control. Almost no one wants to redirect it.
    Silver Spring, Kensington, and Bethesda are doing quite well without municipal government.
    A time to every season, and Takoma Parks season has passed.
    Lawrence

  6. Anonymous | May 30, 2009 at 2:30 pm |

    Are there Takoma Park residents who have openly advocated disincorporation? Who are these people Gilbert is referring to? How can we place the question on the ballot coming up? Has the Voice or Gazette ever run such a story?

  7. Anonymous | May 30, 2009 at 2:31 pm |

    OBTW
    Kudos Lawrence, well said!

  8. Not many people I speak to are interested in disincorporation. If the city did vote to disincorporate, the county will still tax us for the bonds for the community center, the bonded road repairs, and other outstanding debt. I’m sure they’d come up with other reasons to tax us as well, such as upkeep for additional parks, etc.
    I have frequently asked constituents which services they’d give up to have lower taxes. There is certainly no consensus on that, or even on giving up services in exchange for lower taxes.
    Colleen

  9. Not many people I speak to are interested in disincorporation. If the city did vote to disincorporate, the county will still tax us for the bonds for the community center, the bonded road repairs, and other outstanding debt. I’m sure they’d come up with other reasons to tax us as well, such as upkeep for additional parks, etc.
    I have frequently asked constituents which services they’d give up to have lower taxes. There is certainly no consensus on that, or even on giving up services in exchange for lower taxes.
    Colleen

  10. Anonymous | May 31, 2009 at 12:26 pm |

    Maybe we could rent out the CC for an emergency critical care center (since we’ve managed to lose the hospital, the only real asset we had) or turn it into doctor suites – we do not need the additional cost of this city. I feel sorry for the people on fixed income that have to deal with this double taxation.

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