This week’s City Council meeting will have a different format: it will be a roundtable discussion with senior City staff about Council priorities. The meeting, which is open to the public, will take place in the Azalea Room rather than the Community Center Auditorium. With this format, we won’t have the usual public comment period. However, it’s important to have feedback from the community on the priorities, so I encourage residents to let me know the priorities you agree with or disagree with or those that you would like to see changed. Also, what’s missing from the list? Here’s a link to the agenda, which includes the draft priorities document: https://takomaparkmd.gov/meeting_agendas/city-council-roundtable-with-staff-on-council-priorities/.
Background. This is the third year the Council has developed a detailed listing of our priorities. Using last year’s document as a starting point, the Council met in January at two “retreats,” open to the public, where we discussed potential changes or additions to the list. We continued this work in regular Council meetings, eventually producing the draft that’s in the agenda packet for this week.
As you can see if you peruse the document, many of the items it includes are initiatives that entail ongoing work which won’t be finished in a single year. Indeed, some priority items have been part of the document since it was first prepared in 2016, which reflects their long-term nature. Others are more discrete projects that can be completed this year.
The document has been very valuable as a way for the Council to publicly commit to our policy goals and to signal to City staff the areas on which we think it’s important for them to focus, as well as outlining strategies for achieving the goals. Based on this week’s discussion, the Council will consider whether any refinements of the priorities list are needed, and then we’ll be voting next week on formally adopting it.
I would emphasize that the priorities document isn’t just a wish list; we expect progress to be made in all these areas over time. But we also understand that – given the size of the City staff and our budget constraints – we can’t anticipate that every one of these priorities will see immediate action. Thus, a key purpose of this week’s roundtable is to get a clearer sense from staff on the level of City resources that would be required to implement the priorities.
That will enable us to determine the priorities we’d like to include in the City budget for the next Fiscal Year, which starts July 1. The staff is already developing the budget, and the Council will formally consider it in April and May. If priority items aren’t explicitly flagged for inclusion in the budget that doesn’t mean they will fall off the list. But for this year at least they may have to be pursued separately from the budget (which could make sense anyway on priorities that involve, for example, the City working with State and County officials).
Key Changes to this Year’s Priorities List. As mentioned, some of our policy goals have been on the priorities list at least in some form for several years. Through our process over the last two months, we made a number of important additions or amendments to the previous document. Among the key changes I proposed that were approved by the Council for inclusion on the list are the following:
· including seniors as a group within the community whose needs we should focus more on
· placing a greater emphasis on having a wide range of affordable housing options
· minimizing adverse impacts from the recently enacted Federal tax law
· increasing non-English communication of City documents and notices
· improving notification to residents in advance of street work and strengthening monitoring of utility and contractor work in public areas
· exploring ways of improving code enforcement related to quality of life issues like noise, garbage and lighting in residential-commercial boundary areas
· providing more outreach and support for local businesses
Again, I welcome residents’ thoughts and comments about the current draft of the priorities document.
Takoma Park City Council