That’s the weather forecast for the city. It’s been a long time since we’ve had peetybeeties (PTBTs – Pitchfork and Torch-Bearing Townsfolk) mobbing a city council meeting, but they could well develop in the wake of the high-pressure challenging conditions that are descending on us like a rapidly deflating hot-air balloon.
“Challenging,” was the word most used in the newly affirmed city council’s inaugural speeches. We say “affirmed” because that was the popular choice when given the option of “swear or affirm” by the county judge (first swearing-in, . . . er, affirming, the mayor), then the mayor (who turned to the council to affirm them).
The solemn oaths to the state and constitution of Maryland were followed by a comically loud and crackling (due to the placement of two microphones on the table) paper-signing procedure. Then, photos of both the old and new council were snapped. The only difference between them was that Ward 6 representative Donna Victoria stepped out, and Fred Schultz stepped in.
Up to it?
Talk of challenging conditions came from the councilmembers. Colleen Clay said the council and city are facing a “challenging couple of years” due to budget cuts flowing down from the state. She anticipates having to engage in a “pretty tough dialogue” over these matters on the council.
Josh Wright similarly noted the “more challenging conditions,” economically and financially, facing the new council.
Dan Robinson, wreathed in inaugural optimism, said it was a “challenge we can rise to.” The city has some tough years coming up, he said, but we’re a rich community in many ways and can deal with it.
What these folks mean by “challenges,” Dear Readers, is that the city has to either cut some costs (i.e. jobs and services, maybe an entire department), or find ways to raise revenue and/or devise clever workarounds to fill the budget gaps. Higher taxes? Cut the police? More speed cameras? Abandon the library? Cue the PTBTs!
Mayor Bruce Williams did not mention challenge, but he mentioned his challenger. A lot. He has embraced Roger Schlegel’s suggestion to hold ward-focused council meetings.
The mayor, his heels still smoking from the heat they had on them Election Day, gave Schlegel credit for the idea, and repeated much of Schlegel’s campaign rhetoric about it: that the council needs to “get out more,” hear some new voices, get more people involved, and “make new partnerships.”
So, the mayor said, not only will there be council meetings devoted to individual wards, the council will hold meeting in buildings in those wards.
Considering his emphasis on getting new folks involved in civic affairs, he said, he was gratified to see so many folks attending the affirming-in, including his erstwhile opponent Roger Schlegel. He then ordered the doors locked and guarded by city staffers with clipboards, volunteer sign-up sheets, and pens.
The New Guy
The newest council member, Fred Schultz, Ward 6, spoke for the first time from the dais. He thanked the voters, his campaign volunteers, his wife, and his opponent. Despite being a retiree, he said he felt very much like a “freshman.”
The other councilmembers made “rabbit-ear” fingers behind his head, surreptitiously tied his shoelaces together, then sent him to the city clerk’s office to ask for a copy of the “Snark Hunting Ordinance”
Victorian Era Ends
Donna Victoria was honored for serving out the term of the dearly departed (departed out of town, that is) Doug Barry. She was much praised, especially for her work on the Crossroads development/Langley Park Sector Plan. Victoria said that despite some preconceptions about the council, she learned to appreciate the good job the council does and feels “a lot better about leaving you in charge now.”
And Now . . .
And so, Dear Readers, the challenges begin. First up is the next council meeting, at which the Public Works Department renovations will be discussed. This project, with a price tag that has risen (so far) to around $3 million, was calculated into the city budget before the state and county slashed it. The question on many people’s minds (some of them councilmembers) is whether this is a good time to proceed with such an expense.
Dust off those pitchforks!