The following is a link to the agenda for the May 10, 2017 City Council meeting agenda: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-meeting-agenda-wednesday-may-10-2017/. We’ll have key votes on the City’s budget and tax rates, plus the stormwater fee, and we’ll also take a final vote on the proposal to synchronize our local elections with Federal and State elections. Following a non-controversial vote on Police equipment and appointments to resident committees, we’ll receive an update on community consultation on the Takoma Junction project.
I also want to remind residents that the second community conversation with Montgomery College about the plans for the College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring campus will take place on Tuesday, May 9 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM at the Community Center. I urge all interested residents to attend.
Tax Rate, Stormwater Fee, and Budget. City staff are still preparing the background documents on these issues (they are expected to be posted later tonight). Meanwhile, you can find my summary of the Council’s actions last week on all these topics here: http://www.councilmemberkovar.com/blog/2017/5/7/report-on-budget-amendments-and-votes.
Election Synchronization. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170510-4.pdf. I have previously described my support for changing our local elections to even years in order to promote higher voter turnout. As noted before, turnout in our local elections is generally in the 10 – 20 percent range, while it’s in the 40 – 75 percent range in State and Federal election years. The column I recently wrote for the Takoma Voice provides more details: http://takomavoice.com/2017/04/25/opinion-takoma-park-election-alignment-will-increase-voter-turn/. The Council had an initial vote on this proposal on April 26, when it was approved 4 – 3. This week’s vote will be the final vote, and I’ll be voting in favor of synchronization.
Two synchronization issues were raised during our April 26 debate which could come up as amendments in this week’s meeting. First, there is the question of whether the City Council term that will start after this fall’s election should be for one year or three. In order to make the switch from odd year elections to even year elections it’s necessary to have a term of non-standard length.
Since the Council began working actively on this issue -- following the 2015 City referendum vote in favor of synchronization -- the proposal has included language calling for the 2017 election to be for a one-year term, though we have heard from some residents who favor a three-year term. I favor a one year term, both because I don’t think as an elected official it’s appropriate for me to vote myself a longer term, and because a three-year term will simply extend further the impact of our low turnout local elections.
The other issue was whether candidates for Council and Mayor should be allowed to join a “slate” with candidates running for other offices in our area, like State Delegate, County Council, etc. Because our elections are non-partisan, Federal employees who live in Takoma Park can run for office and serve, which they wouldn’t be able to do in the case of partisan elected positions. If a local Takoma Park candidate working for the Federal government added their name to a slate of other candidates running in partisan races it would be a violation of the prohibition on Federal employee political activity. The ability of Takoma Park non-federal workers to slate in this fashion in theory could put federal employee candidates at a disadvantage.
The initial finding by our City Attorney is that prohibiting slating is unconstitutional. That being said, I think in practice this type of slating would be so rare that it wouldn’t constitute a meaningful barrier to local candidacies on the part of Federal employees residing in Takoma Park. But, I’m happy to explore other ideas for helping to ensure that we continue to attract as local candidates people like my Council colleagues Tim Male and Rizzy Qureshi, who have made many valuable contributions to the Council’s work while serving in the Federal government.
The next three non-controversial items, which I support, will be combined in a single vote.
Police Radios. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170510-5a.pdf. This is an equipment upgrade for which funding is included in this year’s budget.
Façade Advisory Board Appointments. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170510-5b.pdf
Emergency Preparedness Committee Appointments. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170510-5c.pdf
Takoma Junction Community Consultation Feedback. https://documents.takomaparkmd.gov/government/city-council/agendas/2017/council-20170510-6.pdf. This will be a report on the information that was gathered through the Takoma Junction community consultation process.
Please feel free to be in touch with any questions or comments about these agenda items.
Takoma Park City Councilmember