Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Steps toward residency and ratification resolution


Last night, the city council held public hearings and then voted on an approach to handling an initiative a) to require the city manager and department heads to reside in the city and b) to give the council an "advice and consent" ratification role in the city manager's department-head hiring.

Thank you to everyone who came to the hearing to testify, sent in an opinion, or participated in discussions. Community involvement and guidance were helpful.

The decision was to amend the charter a) to allow residency requirements or preferences to be enacted, for the city manager and for department heads, by ordinance, and b) to have the city manager consult the council in the course of department-head hiring, which eliminates the "consent" part of "advice and consent." I support (b) but not (a), and since I can't vote Yes & No, I chose to abstain, a luxury I allowed myself since all other votes were cast in favor.

This was a first-reading vote of a charter change that will require a second vote, and we should expect that vote to uphold the first vote without significant alterations to the text. (One gap or grey area did occur to me, on my walk home from the council meeting. The current text does not cover "advice" regarding Acting and Interim appointments like that of Interim Police Chief Drew Tracy, whom the city manager hired to lead the department, when former Chief Ron Ricucci retired, until a new chief could come on board.)

And there will be an ordinance regarding city-manager and department-head residency. Support for a department-head residency requirement has weakened, and I don't expect one to be enacted. Whether city-manager residency, or a preference for city residency, will be enacted, I can't say. One interesting possibility was raised: Requiring that a city manager who relocates from outside the area live here, but not requiring someone who lives in the area to move to Takoma Park.

The outcome was a compromise, involving a less substantive charter change than other outcomes. In particular, residency requirements that are set by ordinance can be undone by ordinance. And allowing the city council only an "advice" role in department-head hiring is a smaller departure from current practice than a "consent" role would represent.

Again, thanks to all of you who have watched and participated in the issues discussion of the past few months.

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