GRANOLAPARK: Grumble, grumble, grumble


Dear Readers,

No, the Takoma Park city council is not going to put police officers in schools.

How it got on the council’s “top priority” list wasn’t clear, but it is now clear that the council doesn’t want it there. It is also clear that the “top priority” list that reached the public was a work-in-progress. It was meant to be a conversation-starter at the council’s retreat Nov. 12.


Facilitator Ellen Kandell (standing) leads council through unfamiliar territory. City manager Brian Kenner, smiling at center, is happy to have the coherent information he needs to craft a budget.

The list was put together by the new city manager Brian Kenner. In gathering the data earlier, he made the mistake of asking each council member individually what their personal priorities and goals are. It came out that each answered using assumptions that none of the others did.

The results left everyone: the council, the staff and the public, scrunching their faces into “whaaa?” expressions.

“Police in School” was the most perplexing item. Not even the city manager seemed to know how it got there.

This was topic #1 at the beginning, so the retreat’s opening dialog went something like this:

COUNCIL: grumble, grumble, grumble.

CITY MANAGER: mumble, mumble, mumble.


The retreat, attended by the council and staff (city manager and deputy city manager) covered a couple of topics, aided by a facilitator – a contractor.

The first topic was council priorities. This was for the sake of the city manager. He needs to know the council’s priorities and objectives so he can craft a budget.


City council, staff members, and facilitator.

The facilitator, using a team of sturdy oxen, dragged the council from their usual narrow focus on details to a wider one on criteria. From there they agreed on a general consensus on criteria. Using that at a guide they each called out their priorities and goals. They did the same for long-range (5 to 10 years) goals. The facilitator wrote notes on big sheets of paper and posted them on the walls.

This is still a work-in-progress, so there’s no official priorities and goals list to report. Sorry, Dear Readers, nothing you can grouse about. Yet.

Comfort goal

We can say it likely contains some old and familiar goals (“comfort goals?”), tax duplication, for example. One interesting development there is that councilmember Terry Seamens says he’s given up on it. He thinks we’ll never get satisfactory tax reimbursement from the county, and the city is wasting its time trying to. Mayor Bruce Williams, on the other hand, thinks the city is close to getting state-legislation that will resolve tax duplication. He admits, however, that every year for the last two decades he thought the resolution was near.

Tax duplication, or double taxation, is when the county and the city both take out resident taxes for services. The city provides the services instead of the county, but the county doesn’t fully reimburse us.

A newer goal emerged. Tim Male’s long range goal for Takoma Park is to have the “lowest car-ownership in America.”

He and others noted that the development planned in and around the city means in increase in population. This means an increase in children, which means a strain on the schools. So another long-range goal is to get the county school system to plan for that increase.

Citizen comment change

The second retreat topic was how to improve council meetings and the legislative process. They also talked about the council’s decision-making process.

One change – the mayor’s decision – is that at city council meetings they will take comments on voting items at the beginning, instead of waiting for the item to come up. This is so citizens won’t have to hang around until late at night when their item comes up. Though they will also have that option if they want to hear what the council has to say about it before they speak.

They had a longer agenda – including a discussion of the budget process – but that was all they had time for. There will be another retreat to finish up.


Secret spy-camera view. Higher rez view available to highest bidder.

– Gilbert



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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.