GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT
A lot of amending going on here in Takoma Park, and it’s all controversial: amendments to the city charter, amendments to the ward borders.
Charter a new course?
Wanna change the city charter? Yes? No?
Either way, get yourself over to the city council auditorium next Monday, Oct. 22 – at 7:45pm and tell the council what you think!
You must sign up to speak. Copies of the proposed charter amendment and the alternative proposal are online.
The controversial charter amendment proposal would do two things. It would require the city’s senior staff to live in or near Takoma Park. It would also allow council to vote on the city manager’s choices for new department heads. A city ordinance that helps enact the charter change has also been proposed.
Right now, the city manager is totally in charge of hires and fires. He or she hires the best people for the job – in his or her professional opinion. A previous city council set up a firewall between the politicians and city staff – other than the city manager.
Or . . .
There is an alternative offered.
It is a proposed ordinance, not a charter change. Instead of the council having a vote on the city manager’s choice for an executive department-head position, the council would tell the city manager what sort of candidate they want. They would then check in with the city manager throughout the process.
It also gives “preference” to people who live here if they apply for an executive position. This applies to people who don’t live here now, but say they will if they get the job. The city manager is authorized to spend city revenues on incentives: moving expenses, salary increases, stipends, and signing bonuses. Or whatever else it takes.
As it says on the city website, “All interested persons should attend the public hearing. Written comments also may be submitted to the City Clerk, 7500 Maple Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912 or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For information, call the City Clerk at 301-891-7267.”
To “C” what they can see
The latest Takoma Park redistricting option splits a neighborhood. A half-dozen residents stomped up to the podium at the Oct. 15 city council meeting to complain. They gave “quite a lot of push-back,” as Councilmember Kay Daniels-Cohen said to the Redistricting Task Force members who came in later. Most of the push-back crowd live on Jefferson and Lincoln Avenues. which would shift from Ward 3 to Ward 5.
The proposed division splits Lincoln Avenue up the middle, putting the north side west of Carroll Ave. in Ward 5. Those streets are in the SS-Caroll neighborhood association, which covers about 8 square blocks in the northwest corner of Ward 3.
“Option C,” the redistricting proposal that shifts the lines of most city wards, was presented by the council-appointed Redistricting Task Force Oct. 15th. This was the task force’s second presentation. When they presented their options “A” and “B” last May, the council held their noses and said “Try again.”
There were hardly any council objections this time, to the relief of the task force which was eager to disband. The council will now “tweak” the plan. They will be dealing with the same census data that make the task force’s job so difficult – and with resident complaints.
See bottom of the article for larger maps.
Out of our census
The city charter requires the wards to be of roughly equal population. The last census showed that a was no longer the case. Both Wards 5 and 6 lost population since the previous census. So, lines had to be redrawn – but not just to keep population equal, they also had to consider neighborhoods, and to draw lines along “natural” boundaries: major roads, along the creek bed, and other buffer zones.
Ward 5 was enlarged by taking a bit of Ward 3, Ward 6 nipped a piece out of Ward 2. Ward 1 alone remained the same. The plan keeps Ward 3’s controversial “hour-glass” shape. There is some resentment in the “lower” part of Ward 3 because the last three ward representatives resided in the “upper” part.
Your Gilbert thinks they should base the lines on geography more than population. The city charter says, “wards shall be as nearly equal in population as is practical.” (emphasis ours). It ALSO says “wards shall be geographically contiguous, ward boundaries shall to the extent practical recognize natural boundaries.” So, geography and natural boundaries get equal time with population in the charter.
We think residents care more about whether their neighborhood is all in the same ward than they care about the next ward having a couple dozen more people than theirs.
So, we have our own proposal, which we modestly call “Option AAA+” The boundaries follow creek-beds or major roads, and when those aren’t available, cutting through “buffer zones”
You can thank us later. Meanwhile, buy us a drink.