GRANOLAPARK: Fire in the belly


Dear Readers,

There are seven new candidates in Takoma Park city election. Most of them, poor dears, suffer from Fire in The Belly (FTB). How do you know if a candidate has this condition, you ask? Look for signs of fever – fever to reform the way city government operates. If a candidate has a grand scheme involving the city budget, city staff, city services, citizen committees, double-taxation, pro-active planning, and such-like, there’s a good chance he or she has a case of FTB.

Fortunately for the sufferers, these symptoms will fade and eventually disappear. The cure is a regular dose of reality, which, once elected, new councilmembers will have shoved down their throats daily.

Here are a few reality pills the new kids will have to swallow, from a recent public posting by councilmember Dan Robinson. Robinson himself had a mild case of FTB when he took office. He found the cure after a few of his speeches and suggestions were met with council throat-clearing and eye-rolling. Robinson’s post was not about FTB, he listed things new councilmembers will need to learn – which amounts to the same thing.

The sound of one councilmember speaking

He says freshmen councilmembers should learn what the approximately 140 city staff do, “so that you can respect their expertise and ask for appropriate help.” “The council’s only employees,” Robinson adds, “are the City Manager and the City Attorney.”

“Learn that little happens on the Council unless four people want it to happen” Robinson says. At higher levels of government,”the county and state hierarchies have their own political reality, and things don’t happen easily.”

“Balance enthusiasm for a pet project with an understanding of the consequences,” says the Zen-like, retiring councilmember Robinson. “Be open to changing your mind,” Grasshopper!

The point

Don’t misunderstand, Dear Readers! Candidates with Fire in The Belly are NOT bad candidates! In fact they could end up being excellent council representatives. Just because they failed to do their homework, and framed a reform plan based on partial  information or misunderstandings now, doesn’t mean they will continue to do so once they are in office and getting all the facts.

We only mention this as a warning to voters not to vote for a candidate based on his or her reform plan. That plan will soon go “poof” in a cloud of embarrassment. Instead, ignore their proposals and just vote for the one that you think will provide best constituent services, and will be able to work with the rest of the council.

– Gilbert

About the Author

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.

2 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Fire in the belly"

  1. Too funny. As I recall I was going to fix the block by block disjointed approach to traffic calming and pedestrian safety and replace it with a comprehensive neighborhhod based approach. Hahahahaha. OK, well I had some success, but Gilbert you are right on. It’s not long before you are smacked in the face with bureaucratic reality and realize how much really hard work goes into each little win. The notion that anyone is going to step onto the council and have a hotline to the governor’s office, or march into county offices and get a big tax rebate, is beyond naive. (with my own apologies to Kathy Porter whom I was convinced, when I ran for office, was just not willing to fight hard enough for whatever it was I was fired up about.) There is no simple fix. If there was, one of us would have already implemented it. Between the PhDs, MBAs and MCPs on the council, one of us would have already done it if it was that easy. Look for people who are honest and realistic, have good decision making skills, play well with others, and are independent and not overly tied to any particular Takoma Park special interest group or lobby. And, avoid single issue candidates or “blank slate” candidates.

    Good Luck to everyone. Anyone who puts themselves out there to run for office is a contributing to this city in a big way. And one last thing, if you like having choices in elections, send five dollars to EACH of the Candidates in your ward. It is expensive to run for office. A few thousand dollars expensive.


  2. I don’t think anyone would diagnose me as having FTB. Working for the County has taught me that all you can do is try and help people and make incremental improvements.

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