Councilmember Colleen Clay said she was “frustrated about being the only woman on the council,” an issue she raised at a previous meeting.
She said, “What I find is that ideas get presented, and then they may or may not get traction, . . . and they come around again as somebody else’s idea, and they DO get traction, which frustrates me.” Then “the press picks it up,” she said, and attributes the idea to the other person.
“Being the only woman on the council, when I [raise] an idea that that happens to, it’s always the guy then who gets the . . . interest and the press.”
All Talk, No Action
She said, “While it frustrates me on the smaller level, on the bigger level we’re repeatedly bringing up issues, [but] we have no mechanism to track them when we don’t have an immediate resolution.” It is a problem she said “we’ve talked about over the five years that I’ve been on the council,” but not acted on.
The council does not track ideas and requests that come up in meetings, she said. Many good ideas get forgotten, and requests are not acted upon. It is inefficient, she said.
As an example, she said recently Councilmember Josh Wright suggested a change to city tree regulations, “something I had brought up before.” The idea was to give homeowners “credit for planting a tree before a tree that you know is at the end of it life, dies.”
She requested the council discuss this lack of follow-through in the near future and explore solutions to the problem – computer software, perhaps.
Something similar happens on city council e-mail exchanges, she said. She cited a recent example. The Recreation Department last week sent an e-mail saying their programs were full . She replied, she said, asking “what are the numbers for the whole summer, not just this one week.” She hasn’t seen a reply to that request, she said.
Mayor Bruce Williams said he does “make note” of ideas and requests on his agenda, and goes over them with the city manager and city clerk, “but, it’s an imperfect system.”
Some of the council were against it, some were for it. All agreed there should be a system to honor the city’s deceased luminaries.
They were discussing renaming a park.
Takoma Park’s iconic gazebo sits in a county park unimaginatively named “Takoma Urban Park.” The gazebo is part of the Old Town cityscape on Carroll Avenue, but most of the park faces residential Westmoreland Avenue where there is a popular playground, small field, and a community bulletin board.
The neighborhood organization, the Westmoreland Area Community Association (WACO), will ask the county Park and Planning department to change the park name to “Gilbert Kombe Park.” Park and Planning policy is not to name parks after people unless there is strong community support. WACO thinks it can show that community support. Dan Robinson, who introduced the resolution on behalf of his Ward 3 constituents, asked the council to add its support as well.
Gilbert Kombe was a Westmoreland Avenue resident who died last year at the age of 49. His widow and young children still live there.
Kombe, born in Zambia, was a doctor who, according to his Washington Post obituary “was a leader in the international effort to respond to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis . . . [helping] organizations deliver HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment in 114 countries.” He was also active in local schools and youth soccer leagues.
Kombe’s widow and his son made their request in person to the council, supported by community members.
Clay Suggests An Alternative
Colleen Clay was the first to respond. Thanking the bereaved family and supporters for coming before the council, she told them, “I’m going to suggest an alternative to this.”
The park, she said, is a “citywide resource, not just a WACO resource.” “We have people who die unexpectedly in our communities,” she said. She added, “I’ve unfortunately had folks who passed on unexpectedly,” citing three of her own constituents who died recently.
She suggested as an alternative dedicating a bench or tree, or erecting a monument, perhaps in the city hall. She said the council should consider establishing a mechanism for honoring expired city residents of note.
Councilmember Reuben Snipper said he had “the same thoughts.” He said the city should “honor our heroes” in another way, one that does not involve petitioning the notoriously arbitrary county, as this request does. He suggested a mural.
Though he agreed with Councilmember Clay that the city should have a method of honoring deceased worthies, Councilmember Terry Seamens supported naming the park after Kombe. He was highly impressed with the doctor’s selfless accomplishments, which Seamens said, served as an example to residents, especially young ones. He called it “a no-brainer. I fully support this!”
Councilmember Schultz, expressed sympathy for Kombe’s son, who had left the room. Schultz said he too had lost his father at a young age.
But, he too was reluctant to support naming the park for Kombe. He thought parks such as the recently re-named Belle Ziegler Park, should be named for those who had “contributed mightily to the city.”
Somewhat dismayed, Dan Robinson said that perhaps he had given the wrong impression. He didn’t think the county Park and Planning department would be as hostile to the renaming proposal as the rest of the council seemed to think. The community would go forward with the request, he said, and he was fairly confident of success.
Mayor Bruce Williams, who lives in Ward 3, said “We need to honor our heroes, . . . We need to honor the work of WACO, and we need to approve this resolution.”
The council will vote on the resolution to support the name change next Monday.