Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Takoma Park City Council Members Should Take Up Non-City Issues!

I blogged last week on the question, Should the Takoma Park City Council Take Up Non-City Issues? Now I see how to answer Yes.

My disinclination to back council action on non-municipal matters was shared by Councilmember Tim Male. It was well received by some folks. One constituent posted to a neighborhood e-mail list, regarding my and Tim's no vote on a council resolution urging overturn of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision,

I am delighted that our newly elected local council members won't waste time with symbolic resolutions on matters that are beyond their jurisdiction. Takoma Park's city council has no legislative authority over federal campaign finance issues. It's pointless for them to have a "full debate" over a Supreme Court decision they've got zero power to change. That's a matter for federal legislators. Our council members were elected to take care of matters in Takoma Park, and that's what they should do. Good going Seth & Tim!

Others didn't agree, regarding council inattention to non-city issues. One wrote,

I would hate to see Takoma Park lose this part of its identity. Given the case at hand, I also would like to hear what Jamie [Raskin] has to say.

That latter suggestion is a good one. Our neighbor Jamie represents Maryland's District 20 in the state senate. His political and policy views, his positions and tactics, inform us all.

Jamie's approach to Citizens United shows a way forward. Rather than introduce legislation in the Maryland Senate, Jamie drafted a letter, co-signed by D-20 Delegate Sheila Hixson, addressed to US legislators. They asked members of the Maryland General Assembly to sign on.

Personally, I think that letters are a great way to bring the council's attention to an issue. I've organized them myself, albeit focused on city issues, in the past, a 2007 letter advocating a city living-wage ordinance and one in 2008, calling for a ban on gasoline-powered leaf blowers. Appropriately targeted letters from individuals work.

Should the the Takoma Park City Council voice an opinion on matters that do not relate to municipal government? If you think so, please consider Jamie's sensible approach. Draft a letter for council-member signatures. If you make the case -- if the views expressed resonate with council members and the broad community -- winning council signatures will be easy. And if it's a council resolution you're hoping for, demonstrating wide/deep local support, again via a letter, will help you get the exception you seek.

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