How will the city staunch the financial wound dealt by the state’s governor? Will it raise taxes? Will the Public Works renovation be postponed? Will city NGO’s go begging? Will dogs run free? Will President Obama attend the Takoma Park Folk Festival?
Isn’t it thrilling? The council is back, let the drama ROLL!
Bless their little tanned and rested hearts, the mayor and council returned following their August break to a new location while the auditorium is being renovated. They met in the Azalea Room for the interim, . . . and, . . . what? No they didn’t! That’s not the Azalea Room! That’s the same old crummy auditorium, and nary a seat cover has been changed!
NEXT week, says Mayor Bruce Williams. Next week they will move, and the auditorium will be under construction. Actually, the next meeting will not be at the city building at all. There is a special meeting at the Public Works Department instead. The council will view the deplorable conditions there, underscoring the immediate need for renovations.
Unfortunate timing, read on!
Mad Bomber O’Malley
When Governor Martin O’Malley came to Takoma Park to march in our July 4th Independence Day parade he snuck into the city manager’s office to plant a time bomb.
It exploded when the council was on break – the governor announced deep revenue cuts to Maryland’s counties and municipalities. Takoma Park’s cut amounts to $577,000. This is (or was) 3% of the city budget.
With more cuts expected yet, City Manager Barbara Matthews said this will have “a tremendous impact” on the city. Takoma Park is also in the midst of a property value reassessment, so it remains to be seen “how our property values are holding up,” she said. Was that thunder booming ominously in the distance? Is that the wind howling outside the municipal building, or . . . wolves?
Matthews said she has started meeting with her management team to come up with ideas to deal with the loss. She said she will share those ideas with the council in 30 days.
Is Your Gilbert the only one who sees an elephant in the room? Look! See? It is the Public Works Department renovation project and it is poking its tusks at the city council. One tusk is the $2 million the City Manager said (before the state budget cuts) could be spared from the city’s contingency funds. The other tusk is the $2 million bond loan she thought would be affordable. The hot peanut breath blowing in the council’s faces is the odor of the upcoming election, which could take on a circus-like air with an issue like this.
If real estate assessments are down, how will they make up the shortfall? Bump the taxes up? Bake sale?
Your Gilbert suggests bringing in some extra income by setting up speed cameras on every corner and removing all the city’s speed-limit signs.
Not for Granted
The city manager brought up her proposal to change the city’s grant process. She wants groups that regularly receive city grants not to, er, take them for granted. She proposed they not make any assumptions about annual grant renewals, and be made to apply every year – the same as other grant applicants.
She also proposed that grant requests be made in December so they can be reviewed by the council in January. The council could then direct the city manager where they wanted grants made early on in her yearly budget preparation.
Given the news of the state budget cuts, the council was receptive to these proposals. In fact, it put them in a neck-chopping mood. Councilmember Donna Victoria proposed that regular grant recipients make a better accounting of how they use the money. Dan Robinson cited the example of federal grant recipients being required to post their financial records online.
Mayor Williams was again thwarted from his attempt to zoom efficiently through the meeting items. Councilmember Reuben Snipper asked for some items to be removed from the consent agenda. The consent agenda, you may recall, Dear Reader, is a list of ordinances that will obviously sail through passage with no need for further discussion. For example, on this consent agenda was the city purchase of a new leaf collection vacuum, and renewal of a contract for the city’s legislative lobbyist.
On the grounds that items with a big price tag should not be placed on a consent agenda so that citizens (and councilmembers) could ask questions and make comments, Snipper asked for seperate votes on two of the items.
One was the lobbyist contract (which amounted to $100,000 over a five year period). The other was a pro-forma resolution approving a state housing development project.
Mayor Williams dutifully complied, though he watched the minute hand resentfully as each of those ordinances were read out. Both passed with little council discussion. There were no citizen comments or questions. But there MIGHT have been!
Councilmember Dan Robinson asked that something be done about what he said was an annual conflict over dogs on Ed Wilhelm field. Every year when school starts, there are complaints that dog owners should not allow their dogs off-leash on that county-owned field next to Takoma MIddle School. Apparently, the conflict gets heated. Robinson mentioned threats being made and police being called.
Though the city does not allow dogs to be let off-leash in city parks, Robinson contended that law did not apply in the county owned field. He suggested that since the field is meant for recreational activities a dog catching a frisbee meets the definition of “recreation”.
As a dog owner he appealed to the city manager to find a way to allow off-leash dogs at that park and/or a city park during certain times. He mentioned Spring Park where dogs are sometimes (illegally) let off-leash by their owners.
The city manager looked less than enthusiastic to be handed this particular hot potato.
Citizens concerned about the increase in crime might be glad to know of the city police’s COMPSTAT (Computer Statistics) program. Starting in September as part of that program the department will hold monthly meetings for residents where they will review recent criminal activity and how the department has responded to it. The COMPSTAT program’s purpose is to develop “effective strategies” to fight crime.
The meeting will be held Wednesday, September 30, 2009, 7:30 p.m. in the Azalea Room of the Community Center, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, Maryland, in the Azalea Room.
Obama at the Folk Festival
No, Obama will not attend the Takoma Park Folk Festival, Sunday Sept. 13! He was formally invited, but he sent his regrets.