GRANOLAPARK: No contest?


Dear Readers,

What will be this year’s Nominating Caucus surprise?

Takoma Park’s city election opening event is Tuesday, Oct. 1, 7:30 pm in the city council chamber/auditorium.

The speeches may be less than thrilling, but that’s not what people turn out for. They are there for the The Surprise.

Registration table

Nominators and seconders registering prior to the caucus, 2011

What will The Surprise be? Will there even be one this year? Nobody can say, though all the city political geeks (all 3 of them) are speculating like mad.

Hardly anyone knows if there are challengers before the caucus. Sometimes challenging candidates announce themselves before hand. Often they don’t.

Call and response

Here’s how it goes. Jessie Carpenter, the city clerk, calls for nominations from each ward in turn (order chosen by lottery). She calls the ward number, and everyone holds their breath as they scan the room to see who will speak out.

Crazy things can happen. Like the time a fellow nominated his councilmember for mayor – without telling him before-hand – then nominating himself for the council seat he hoped would now be empty.


Right now there has been no solid evidence that anyone – ANYONE – is planning to run against an incumbent. There are no open seats.

This year The Surprise might be a totally uncontested election. More likely at least one candidate will come out of the woodwork. Surprise!


The Nominating Caucus is a quaint native ritual. The city’s tribes – each one supporting a candidate – gather to make their nominating and seconding speeches.

The candidate shows his/her status by who speaks for him/her. To avoid loss of face there must be a person from every consituency in the ward – or in the city if it is the mayoral race. Important community organizations must be represented, and it must be a diverse group of supporters.


The 2009 Nominating Caucus was held in another room while the city chambers were under renovation. The Surprise that year was the mayoral candidacy of Roger Schlegel, center in tie and blue shirt. A nervous-looking mayor Bruce Williams stands at the back, second from left.

High status rubs off from other politicians. The higher the politician’s office, the more status to the candidate. So, a state senator such as Jamie Raskin counts high.

The politician must be local, and it helps if, like county council member Marc Elrich, or state delegate Heather Mizeur, the politician was once a city council member. Heather Mizeur is not likely to show, she is busy running for governor.

Heather Mizeur seconding Mayor Bruce Williams

Heather Mizeur seconding Mayor Bruce Williams, 2011.

Next best is to have a former council member give a seconding speech. Look for folks such as former mayor Kathy Porter and former councilmember Colleen Clay.

If only a candidate’s friends and family make the nominating and seconding speeches, you can almost see a cloud of doom rising behind them.

The candidates themselves do not speak. Thank goodness. They just sit and squirm.


The city election page is here:

They need election judges. Interested?

Sustaininator at last?

You have to keep an eye on these consultants. They’ll grab the thinnest of facts, turn it into a pillar, then set Takoma Park’s environmental policy on top of it.

That’s what the Brendel Group tried to do at the Sept. 23 city council meeting. Fortunately, the council called them on it.

So, thanks to the vigilant council, the city’s sustainability plan is not being driven by the opinions of the 30 – 40 people who showed up at an “open house” workshop last July.


The July Open House

The consultants had ranked all the projects, proposals, and policies by the number of votes they got at that small meeting.

The council discounted that ranking, looking instead at cost efficiency.

Big, green buildings

Everybody liked the idea of greening-up big apartment/condo buildings, for example. That costs the city almost nothing. A big apartment building in Ward 5 is about to be renovated, and the council had reason to believe the landlord would be interested in making the renovations “green.” This would make a nice pilot project, thought the council.

Of course, the main recommendation is that the city get a Sustaininator. That’s Sustainabily Coordinator for you new readers.


The Open House – participants put green (of course) stickers on their favorite “strategies.”

Everyone is acting like “Yay, we finally got a sustainability coordinator!”

Well, duh. That’s pretty much the result the council wanted, and Brendle obliged.

Years in the making

The idea of hiring some kind of environmental advisor/coordinator has been floating around since the 2000 Local Plan for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions. A proposal to add the position was first made for the 2009 city budget and turned down. A task force make it the top priority recommendation in 2010. In 2011 the budget included funds to create the position. But, after some foot-dragging, rather than buy a pig-in-a-poke, they contracted with the Brendle Group to help, among other things, to define the Sustainability Coordinator job description.


Brendle Group presenter at the July Open House.

So, beware, Dear Readers! Considering all the past delays – often at points where we thought a Sustaininator was all but hired – until a flesh-and-blood Sustaininator plunks down in his/her city office, we don’t have one. Then we’ll open a bottle to celebrate. We’ll open one now just in case, too.

There is still time to register YOUR environmental priorities, Dear Reader. Call or email your representatives.

— Gilbert



Twitter feed:
Follow @Granolapark

Like us on Facebook:

The Voice