Here is a link to the agenda for the September 14, 2016 City Council meeting: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/wednesday-september-14-2016-voting-session-and-work-session-of-the-city-council/
The key agenda item is a continuation of the discussion on the proposal to synchronize our local elections with Federal and State voting, which would mean moving our elections to even years starting in 2018. This topic was debated at length in our special Council session this past Monday. We will also be voting on providing additional funds to finish design of the Flower Avenue Green Street project, and considering options for re-naming the City’s recently acquired “Washington-McLaughlin” property.
The design firm handling this project has requested an additional $46,550 to complete its part of the process. I support the project and want to see it continue advancing, but I also want to understand in a more specific way why the additional funds have been requested before I commit to supporting the funding.
This is a preliminary discussion on potential approaches to re-naming the property. I don’t have strong views on this issue, and I look forward to the discussion.
Election Synchronization. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2016/council-20160914-3.pdf
We had an excellent discussion on Monday night on this issue, along with an informative presentation from our Board of Elections. If you have time, the video of our discussion is well worth viewing: http://takomapark.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=14&clip_id=2161
The purpose of tomorrow night’s discussion will be to get to a point where the Council can provide some guidance to our Takoma Park Board of Elections and City Clerk on their scheduled September 19 presentation before the County Board of Elections on our synchronization efforts. Depending on how that presentation on the 19th goes, the City Council may then be prepared to vote formally on moving ahead with synchronization. I encourage residents to take advantage of the opportunity to weigh in on this topic tomorrow night during the public comment period.
As someone who supports the idea of synchronizing our elections, I felt the discussion on Monday night went well, with a wide range of opinions expressed and arguments advanced. Ultimately, I didn’t hear any convincing political or policy reasons for opposing the concept. For me the key issue that still needs to be resolved is ensuring that – with the increased number of precincts the City would have to cover in even years – we can recruit and train a sufficient number of Election Day workers (who are typically residents of the community). I hope we will get more information about that on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the following is an edited version of some background I included with the email I sent in advance of the Monday night meeting:
The idea of synchronizing with Federal and State elections was approved by Takoma Park voters in a non-binding resolution in November. Since then, the Council -- in coordination with the Board of Elections and City staff -- has been exploring what it would take to move our elections to even years, while retaining our unique ballot features like voting rights for non-citizens, 16 – 17 year-olds, and former felons, along with same-day registration and instant run-off.
Given the generally low turnout in Takoma Park municipal elections (the average turnout has been around 10% in recent years), moving our vote to coincide with gubernatorial or Presidential elections (with recent local turnouts respectively of about 40% and 75%) would mean higher overall voter participation in local races. This is why I am a strong supporter of the synchronization concept.
But we do need a clear understanding of additional costs or other logistical challenges associated with making the switch. I’m hopeful we’ll be able to address those questions, but we aren’t yet at a point where we have all the necessary information. That includes the Election Day workers issue I mentioned above.
As always, let me know if you have questions or comments about any of the agenda items.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One