Your Gilbert was as nonplussed as Colleen Clay, who said “I’m not sure how this ended up on the agenda,” when the discussion on “How to approach Environmental issues in implementation of the Strategic Plan” came up at the July 7 city council meeting. But councilmember Clay was not blinking in disbelief, as Your Gilbert was, as the council skipped down the following path of logic:
1), Despite the fact that some seats on the city’s Committee on the Environment have gone unfilled, the committee has presented a lot of good ideas to the city council.
2). The city council has failed to implement many of the committee’s good ideas.
3). Therefore the Committee on the Environment should be suspended.
In Your Gilbert’s World of Reason, those first two facts lead to a different conclusion. Those of you Dear Readers who reside in the same or similar world may also conclude that the impediment to the sort of environmental leadership the council aspires to is the council itself.
If anything is to be suspended, perhaps it should be the council, and the committee put in charge.
The convoluted reasoning, the odd backslapping with knife in hand, and the fact that no committee members were present to comment (it was not clear if they were not invited or just didn’t bother to show), makes your Gilbert wonder if there is Something Else going on, and the council is trying to sidestep it.
Your Gilbert can only speculate that there may be a personality problem somewhere. Maybe that’s why the committee can’t get new members. Or maybe the “great ideas” the committee presented to the council were not actually so great, or were too radical. Perhaps the committee has simply lost steam (solar powered, of course) and the council has to push it to the side of the road to get down the path.
We can only scratch our heads and wonder. Meanwhile, the city clerk is charged with coming up with a resolution before the August break that will call for the formation of a task force on environmental sustainability (Ooo, the magic “S” word!).
The task force will be, er . . . tasked with coming up with a broad overview of the city’s environmental sustainability policy, or something like that. The city clerk will write a draft based on the ideas the council tossed around, present it to the council in a couple of weeks, and let them hash out the details then.
The council hastened to add that current members of the Committee on the Environment would be welcome to participate in the task force. Also, the Committee will only be suspended temporarily, and maybe reborn, or absorbed into a new committee, or something of the sort, depending on what the task force recommends.
The Perfect Storm Water
All of the councilmembers decried the city’s loss of place as an environmental leader since the heady days of greener yore when it devised one of the first and most comprehensive curbside recycling programs in the country. The mayor assured them that in some ways the city is on the leading edge, but in ways that are less flashy. Storm water management fees, for instance.
Yeah, storm water management is a yawner. But, the mayor says that at the Maryland Municipal League conference they all just attended, the buzz among municipal-types was that funding storm water management via fees instead of taxes is the New Cool Thing, and His Honor was able to be the coolest breeze in the room by saying, Oh, we’ve done that for YEARS, dewd!
Measure Twice, Cut Once
The council clamped onto an idea first voiced by councilmember Seamens that the Indicators Project be enlisted in measuring the city’s environmental sustainability. The Indicators Project is largely funded by the city, and last week, you may recall, the council came close to not funding it next year, grousing that the indicators being measured are not very useful for judging the effectiveness of city programs.
This, it seemed to the council, was the Indicators Project’s chance to prove itself useful.
Your Gilbert is left wondering, however, just how well the Project can turn on a dime and start measuring a completely different set of indicators. The effectiveness of studying indicators depends on repeated measurements over a length of time. Should they discard the data already collected? If they continue to follow the current measurements, won’t the additional ones mean more work? If so, will the council pay more for it?
Does this mean the Indicators Project will become a permanent or long-lasting adjunct to city staff, right after the council made the point that the usual funding track for non-governmental projects is to gradually decrease funding precisely because they don’t want them to become an adjunct part of city staff?
Can We Order From the Kiddie Menu?
The council was given a presentation of proposed plans for the renovated public works facility. The building would be LEED certified, meaning that it meets certain environmentally friendly criteria, and the plans include regarding the facility’s steep “back” entrance to make it into a main entrance. Currently the main entrance is via a small neighborhood street.
The cost of the draft plan is 3.5 million dollars, almost twice the 2 million provided in the budget. The council requested that the design firm return with a “menu of cost options” as Councilmember Dan Robinson put it. Mayor Bruce Williams suggested to Public Works director Daryl Braithwaite that she look into grants for additional funding as well.
Clean Plate Club
The council approved the city police use of a license plate scanner after a small revision to the resolution wording by Terry Seamens. The change reinforced the provision that the city council is in charge of any future changes in license scanner policy. The policy, passed earlier, protects the civil rights of those scanned.
The Victorian Era
Donna Victoria was sworn in (actually, she was “affirmed,” as the oath is worded) as Ward 6 representative for the remainder of the council term. She quickly proved herself to be capable, making cogent and useful remarks and questions during her first meeting
The Things One Learns At City Council Meetings
Erwin Mack, executive director of the Crossroads Development Authority, digressively remarked to the council that he heard at a pedestrian safety committee meeting that the county has re-termed all speed “humps” speed “bumps”, because young persons swipe signs that say “speed hump” to hang in their rooms – over the bed, presumably.
Your Gilbert’s Crystal Ball
The future is cloudy, then partly cloudy with occasional showers! The council’s next meeting will be a closed session to discuss a legal settlement with the Community Center construction firm, and to work on the city manager’s evaluation. The councilmembers will then scoot over to a planning workshop on the Montgomery County version of the Takoma/Langley Sector Plan.
The next regular meeting will be July 20 at which the council will discuss, among other things, the county school boundary redistricting issue, and a proposed ban on gas-powered leaf-blowers.
The July 28th meeting will be the last of the summer. The council takes August off.