GRANOLAPARK: Council feeds pets

Council reconciling the budget.

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

It’s dark down here. And quiet. But NOT QUIET ENOUGH.

News about Takoma Park city budget talks is STILL seeping through our concrete budget-proof bunker and 80 tons of empty liquor bottles.

Councilmembers are tinkering with the proposed budget. Oh, like that’s news? That’s a chronic condition, predictable as nightfall. Nice, dark, quiet nightfall.

Even though the acting city manager’s proposed budget keeps the tax rate steady, and still manages to hire a few new staff members, there are council members who want to lower the tax rate, and cut expenses. On the other hand, each has his own “pet” project that he or she wants funded.

Acting City Manager Suzanne Ludlow, whose budget the city council has been voting on.

Acting City Manager Suzanne Ludlow, whose budget the city council has been voting on.

Reconciliation

So, the council has a “reconciliation” session or two or three to sort out what cuts to make and what pet projects to feed.

Funny how “Reconciliation” sounds like it would be peaceful and calm. Ha! In reality it sounds grumpy and tired. It sounds like it wants everyone to shut UP so it can go home and go to bed, or even make a run for Your Gilbert’s budget-proof bunker. No, way, council members! That IS a mine field outside Granolapark HQ. There’s only enough booze for one here.

One cent

The tax rebate was just one of councilmember Tim Male’s pets. He proposed knocking the tax rate down a penny to reduce taxes by around $160,500. That’s the amount the city was reimbursed last year for county tax duplication – which they’ve been holding onto since “just in case.”

At the May 6 meeting the city council unanimously voted in favor of lowering the tax rate to do this. This will gratify many residents, (not to mention Your Gilbert) who have pointed out that when politicians rail about tax duplication, should pass the rebates onto the tax-payers when given the opportunity. Unless they want to make their constituents MAD.

Male was fiscally conservative when it came to adding staff, he wanted to cut all of those proposals. He was not so frugal when it came to his other pet projects – such as sustainability projects. He wanted $60,000 additional funds for those.

Council reconciling the budget.

Council reconciling the budget.

Pets and pet peeves

That’s not to single Male out, other councilmembers expressed their priorities through proposed budget cuts and additions. Councilmembers Jarrett Smith and Seth Grimes joined Male in opposing a new police position – Emergency Management Coordinator. That would have eiminated $50,000, but the rest of the council didn’t go along with them – they want their emergencies managed.

Smith wanted to add $20,000 for a city-wide anti-littering campaign, and he wanted more funds to turn Flower Avenue (in his ward) into a “green-street.” The council went along with the green-street and the anti-littering campaign, but not with councilmember Fred Schultz’s proposal to spend $10,000 investigating whether the city could take up enforcement of county signage code.

Grimes also wanted to reduce by $200,000 the funds for Takoma Junction redevelopment. It isn’t that he opposes development, he said that realistically the only funds needed next year would be for studies that wouldn’t cost that much. The rest of the council agreed.

After school

The council made one dramatic turn-around, reconsidering the previous week’s vote on funding a Rec. Dept. after-school child care staff position.

Speaking against the new hire, Male and Smith came off sounding like free-market economists, saying the city’s low-priced after-school program was unfairly competing with more expensive private programs, and that without the expanded city program, the market would provide private after-school care – at the market price.

Daniels-Cohen1

Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen spoke up for expanding the after-school child care program.

This was too Scrooge-like for the rest of the council, particularly councilmembers Kay Daniels-Cohen, who has a long history with the Rec. Dept., and Terry Seamens, who has many low-income constituents who benefit from Rec. Dept. programs. The vote was reversed 5 to 2 in favor. Takoma Park’s Tiny Tims will not find themselves on the streets next winter.

Was the council reconciled at the end? More like worn out, but they did deal with all the items on the reconcilliation list, and they cut more than they added. They cut $20,643, according to city clerk Jessie Carpenter.  ALL of the new staff positions survived the cuts.

The worst

They saved the worst for last – a discussion of the Equipment Reserve Fund. This is the “savings account” the city adds to every year to buy big-ticket items. The council wanted to know if the city really needed to put in as much revenue as it usually does. There’s a rationale, and a formula, and a lot of language in between in Bureaucratese. In short, it’s confusing, especially as the clock approaches the midnight hour.

As councilmember Fred Schultz said, “I’m in over my head, glub, glub!”

The council agreed to set it aside for another time.

Each reconciliation item was sponsored by one or more council members. The list gives insight into each council members interests, priorities, and style. We post it here for your own edification and study.

Councilmember Seth Grimes.

Councilmember Seth Grimes.

Seth Grimes, Ward 1

Eliminate Emergency Management Coordinator -$50,000: DEFEATED
Reduce Takoma Junction project, $200,000: PASSED

Male1

Hero and Councilmember Tim Male.

Tim Male, Ward 2

Increase for sustainability programs, $60,000: PASSED
Increase for digitizing city documents, $10,000: PASSED
Increase $5000 for consultant to spend unused cable capital grant funds, $5000: SET ASIDE
Eliminate Emergency Management Coordinator -$50,000: DEFEATED
Eliminate ROW Trail (paper street) project $25,000: DEFEATED
Reduce funds for public art from $20,000 to $10,000 $10,000: SET ASIDE
Eliminate proposed staff position in Library/computer center, $15,000: DEFEATED
Eliminate proposed staff position/time in city cable TV $40,000: DEFEATED
Eliminate proposed staff position/time in Red Dept. after school program, $35,000: DEFEATED

Councilmember Terry Seamens.

Councilmember Terry Seamens.

Terry Seamens, Ward 4

Vocational training for youth $20,000: PASSED
Assistance for code violation offenders, $20,000: PASSED

Councilmember Jarrett Smith.

Councilmember Jarrett Smith.

Jarrett Smith, Ward 5

Funds for Flower Ave. green project (amount to be determined by matching grants): PASSED
Anti-littering campaign, $20,000: PASSED
Eliminate Emergency Management Coordinator -$50,000: DEFEATED

Councilmember Fred Schultz.

Councilmember Fred Schultz.

Fred Schultz, Ward 6

Add funds to research whether the city could take on county sign code enforcement, $10,000 DEFEATED

Newlywed Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams.

Newlywed Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams.

Mayor Bruce Williams

Eliminate BY Morrison Park study, PASSED
Eliminate some or all of ADA sidewalk corrections $600,000: WITHDRAWN*
Eliminate some or all of sidewalk and traffic calming work $400,000: WITHDRAWN*
Eliminate Ethan Allen gateway project, $105,000: WITHDRAWN*
Eliminate $100,000 additional payment to Police Retirement Fund, $100,000: PASSED

 

– Gilbert

* Previously reported as “defeated.”

 

 

 

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About the Author

Gilbert
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.

3 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: Council feeds pets"

  1. Bruce Williams | May 9, 2013 at 9:57 pm |

    Gilbert–
    I withdrew my three items that you have marked as defeated. I put them on the list only to make the point that they are large items, and we could reduce or increase them depending on where other items went. I’ve been a strong advocate for ADA sidewalk work in particular, so there was no way I was going to lead the charge to reduce that.

  2. Bruce Williams | May 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm |

    Also, you missed any mention of the large grant discussion and how that fared in reconciliation. I helped push funding for MANUP’s college prep program thru at the end.

  3. Yes, “withdrawn” is more accurate than “defeated.”

    We didn’t mention the large grant discussion because the rest of the reconciliation items were hard enough on the Dear Readers. More would be abusive.

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