GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
No geekness! The new Takoma Park city council had no geeky aprez-vacation reports. In fact, only a few councilmembers spoke during the first fall meeting’s Council Comment segment Sept. 4.
The council has been on “recess” since late July. For years past, many councilmembers turned their August break into fact-finding tours and giving a report on, say, the relative sizes of cash reserve funds in each town they drove through on the way to Dinosaur Park.
Fred Schultz flicked a dart at it, but missed the board. His efforts to link the Adirondacks and Finger Lakes region to Takoma Park seemed more like a desperate attempt to prolong his own holiday trip and put off for a few moments the horrible reality of life, if you can call it that, on the city council.
A whiz and a wizard
Speaking of horrible realities, manager Barbara Matthews is gone. She has moved up Interstate 270 a few miles to become Rockville, MD’s city manager. Takoma Park’s council, former councilmembers, and a few citizens gave her a sendoff with sincere thanks and honors, including a council resolution recognizing her considerable contributions over the last 8 years.
Their comments reflect what Your Gilbert has observed. Matthews brought a high level of professionalism and efficiency into city government. She is a whiz at budget crafting, and a wizard at finding revenue. Yet the public has little understanding or appreciation of what she accomplished, because, though she ran the “business” side of the city, she left the city’s public face to the elected officials.
Chewing on the council
She took the job 8 years ago when the city was at a low point, pointed out former councilmember Doug Barry (riding in on a white horse again!). There were controversies, including the over-budget community center project. Residents regularly showed up at council meetings to chew them out. But, Matthews turned that around, much to the appreciation of council and staff.
Deputy city manager Suzanne Ludow will be acting city manager until a new one is hired. That could be a while. The citizens committee to review candidates hasn’t even been appointed, yet.
The council only just voted Sept. 4 to award a contract to an executive head hunting agency. It was an all but unanimous vote. Fred Schultz abstained because, he said, he had been out of town, unavailable to read the many-paged applications.
There was no public discussion about last July’s proposals to change the city manager job description. The council talked about requiring the city manager to live in Takoma Park. They also talked about changing city manager’s hiring powers. The city manager currently is solely responsible for hiring and firing other city staff. Some on the council would like to be involved in the hiring of other city staff.
Those issues are scheduled to be discussed in a “work session” Sept. 18th. The council uses work sessions to discuss issues and proposals, but not vote on them – other than informal “straw votes” to gauge council opinions. If a council majority seems to be in favor of taking action, they move on to drafting legislation: resolutions, ordinances, and proclamations. The council votes on those in legislative sessions, though they continue to discuss and revise through the two “readings” any legislation must pass.
If that process seems thrilling to you, Dear Readers, you should run for city council.