GRANOLAPARK: “No clear path”

IMAGE: City attorney Kenneth Sigman delivers the mixed news.


Dear Readers,

The Takoma Park city council voted unanimously May 11 to stop it’s hurried attempt to combine city, state and county ballots next election. However, it voted 5-2 to keep working on re-scheduling city election dates to match the state’s – though it would mean residents would have to get in two lines and possibly go to another location to vote in both elections on the same day.

The council voted after hearing the city attorney and city clerk’s report on a recent phone conference they held with the state board of elections deputy director, the county board of elections director, an election software vender representative, and the city board of election chair.

The conversation was to determine whether city elections could be placed on the state ballot, while retaining the city’s unique voting features: instant runoff voting, non-citizen voting, 16-17 year old voting, same-day voter registration, and felon voting. Retaining those features is the condition of the “election synchronization” ballot question in last year’s city election.

In short, it can’t be done. Not using one ballot, anyway.

“There’s no clear path to that,” said city clerk Jessie Carpenter.

The deal-breakers were instant runoff voting and non-citizen voting. City attorney Kenneth Sigman said it is not feasible to keep them and be on the state ballot. The city would have to remove them from the city charter.

The only way to keep those provisions and hold elections on the same dates is to have separate ballots. Non-citizens and minors could vote in a designated city precinct, distinct from the state election precincts. Early voting would have to be conducted in different locations also.

Changing the election date requires a city charter change, which takes more time and is more bureaucratically difficult than passing a city code change. Fully synchronizing the city and state/county ballots would require even more charter changes this month.

If it holds a two ballot-box election the city could retain, if it chooses to, the city nominating caucus and short election season, rather than complying with the state schedule and requirements. It would lose it’s single city election voting location. Voters, except for non-citizens and 16-17 year olds, would vote at one of the four state precincts in the city. Felons are now allowed to vote in state elections as well. That feature is no longer unique to Takoma Park.

With council members Fred Schultz and Jarrett Smith the only nay votes, the council moved toward holding a two-ballot election in 2018.

There will be one more city election in 2017 before the change. The council and mayor elected in 2017 will have a one-year term.

No farmers market pass

The city’s plastic bag ban is moving toward becoming law. The first “reading” – i.e. “vote” – will be next week. The second, final reading will follow. The time between votes depends on how revision-y the council gets during the first reading.

They discussed revisions at the May 11 meeting, particularly an exemption for the Takoma Park Sunday Farmers’ Market. The farmers have been pushing for this pretty hard. But the council has hardened against it. An exemption was written in, but the more they’ve looked at it, fiddled with the language, and tried to determine why the farmer’s market should get a pass have not found a convincing rationale to give the farmers’ market – and not similar businesses – a pass.

So they voted to eliminate the farmers’ market exemption, but to give them a one-year grace period.

– 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.

3 Comments on "GRANOLAPARK: “No clear path”"

  1. Does this mean that the Council appears willing to go forward with the change even if it means having to vote twice on election day?

  2. Yes, that is where the council is going. With a 5 – 2 majority on the current council, it seems inevitable. Of course, there are city elections in 2017. It could get complicated if a new council wants to change course. At that point, they would be committed by a city charter amendment to a one-year term and a two-ballot city election in 2018.

  3. Can’t people leave well enough alone? Just because we have a city council and a bunch of city committees doesn’t necessarily mean that they should be doing things.

    Speaking of which, I found a business card from a city functionary affixed to my front door wondering if my home is vacant.

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