The following is the City Council Agenda for February 8, 2017: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-february-8-2017/
We’ll be voting on two agenda items this week: a proposed contract for the City's housing and economic development strategic plan, and a vote on a budget amendment relating to Community Development Block Grant funds. We’ll also be discussing a proposal from the Nuclear Free Committee relating to changing the bank used for municipal government financial services; issues relating to the personal property tax liability of a local Takoma Park business; and the draft City Council Priorities Document. We may also vote on resolutions relating to State legislation under consideration in Annapolis.
Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170208-1.pdf. The budget for this year includes funding for this strategic plan, and late last year the City issued a Request for Proposals from outside contractors to conduct the work. The submissions were vetted through a review process involving City staff and one of my Council colleagues. The reviewers have recommended the selection of the Cloudburst group, a Maryland based company with extensive background on strategic plans relating to these issues.
In last week’s meeting we heard from City staff and a representative of Cloudburst about the proposal and Cloudburst’s experience on similar projects. This week we’ll be voting on whether to approve the contract. I’m generally supportive of the selection of Cloudburst, but I do think their proposal for developing the strategic plan should include more and broader community engagement, and I’ll be suggesting that when we take up this agenda item. Here’s a link to Cloudburst’s submission:
Budget Amendment. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170208-1.pdf. Last week the Council gave initial approval to a budget amendment shifting $5,240 originally allocated for the CDBG CHEER program (which is not going forward) to two other programs that had already received some grant funding. Under the amendment the CDBG Educare Support program would see its funds increased $2,200 to $5,750 and the CDBG Village of Takoma program (on behalf of Parents of Special Needs Adults) would go up by $3,010 to $7,900. The amendment would also provide additional funds for intern services in the City's Human Resources office, needed in part to cover staff absences for medical reasons. The original amount of $10,000 would be raised to $23,000. I voted for this amendment last week, and will do so again on final passage this week.
Nuclear Free Committee. The Nuclear Free Takoma Park Committee is recommending that the City make a shift in the bank the City uses for municipal finance. The Committee recommends that we switch from Suntrust Bank to Sandy Spring Bank, an area community bank that evidently doesn’t have financial involvement with companies involved in the nuclear weapons industry. Suntrust is listed in the “Don’t Bank on the Bomb” report on financial institutions that work with the industry.
I agree with the idea of divesting municipal holdings that are connected to industries that play a particularly negative role in our economy and culture, so I appreciate the Committee for bringing this matter to our attention. I also think I need a clearer understanding of what’s involved in making a switch of this kind --including the financial impact on the City -- before I can decide whether I agree with this specific change. There are three documents relating to this agenda item, with links following here:
Personal Property Tax Issue. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170208-5.pdf This agenda item relates to a business known as Priti’s Fashion and Jewelry, which is located in the Takoma-Langley Crossroads area. Because of a glitch in the State tax documentation connected with Priti’s move from Prince George’s County to Montgomery County, the company owes back inventory tax to Takoma Park in excess of $160,000.
I support the idea of reducing the amount that small businesses located in Takoma Park have to pay under the inventory tax, and I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make some changes along those lines going forward. But that won’t benefit Priti significantly, given the size of their tax bill. Takoma Park City staff have put forward the idea of providing a waiver of some or all of the back taxes owed by the company, and that’s what we’ll be discussing at the Council meeting. I don’t know yet whether that’s something I support.
Council Priorities. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170208-5.pdf. Following two Council “retreats” earlier this year (that were open to the public), the Council Priorities document we developed at the beginning of 2016 to inform our budget and policy decisions was updated in draft form for 2017. We’ll be discussing the proposed update. I thought the 2016 document was extremely useful in helping guide us over the course of the year, and I look forward to considering the proposed changes.
Please feel free to be in touch with any comments or questions.
Peter Kovar, Takoma Park City Council, Ward One