Saturday, November 10, 2012

Re-reversal on charter change for residency and "advice" + the Safe Grow Zone Initiative

The city attorney has advised a re-reversal on the charter change the city council has been considering. That's regarding residency requirements and an "advice" role for the council in department-head hiring.

The charter change did NOT pass.

"Done like a Frenchman, turn and turn again" (1 Henry VI, iii. 4).

The city attorney's latest memo is posted on the city's Web site.The essential point is that a councilmember is allowed to change her/his vote up until the time the mayor announces the voting outcome. The mayor did not announce the outcome, of the vote on the charter-change resolution, until after a revote that included a changed vote. The final tally was 3-3-1, but a majority vote is required for a charter change so the resolution failed.

I expect there will no be further reversals, although at Tuesday evening's council meeting (Nov 13), the floor will be open to a Motion to Reconsider. See the posted agenda materials. Such a motion may be made only by a councilmember who was on the prevailing side (which opposed the charter change) in the earlier vote. I expect there will not be a motion.

Absent a successful reconsideration vote -- and I expect there will not be one -- there will be no residency requirement in the charter for the city manager or executive employees nor an "advice" provision, in the charter, that requires the city manager to consult the council when hiring executive employees.

[Added November 11:] As has been known from the start, the council can require city-manager residency without a charter change, so there may still been an initiative to create a residency requirement.

On a different topic --

At Tuesday evening's council meeting, residents Catherine Cummings and Julie Taddeo will present the Safe Grow Zone Initiative, which "seeks to have the City Council enact a ban on the use of cosmetic lawn and garden pesticides on City property and to phase in a public education campaign and restrictions on the use of cosmetic lawn pesticides on private property within the City." ("Pesticides" here refers primarily to herbicides.)

Councilmember Tim Male and I have advised Catherine and Julie on this initiative, and they have also discussed it with the mayor. While Tuesday evening will be a worksession and not an occasion for public testimony, you're welcome to comment at the start of the council meeting or send your comments to me or to the council via Moving forward, since the Safe Grow restrictions would affect (and benefit) all residents, we're definitely looking for public input.

Enjoy the holiday weekend!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Positive vote on resolution to change the charter is reinstated

Last Monday's positive City Council vote, 4-2-1, For a resolution to change the charter, is reinstated. The charter will now allow the council to create a residency requirement for the city manager and other executive staff and will now provide for an "advice" role for the council in the city manager's hiring of department heads.

To explain --

The city attorney has found that a Motion to Reconsider an initial Monday evening vote was "improper and ineffective," and that in any case, such a motion would not apply to a charter-change vote.

For my reporting on Monday evening's council meeting, see "Council does not approve charter changes" (a carefully worded title). I wrote then, "City Attorney Sue Silber will check that reconsideration was proper. If it was, the rejection will stand." But reconsideration was not proper so the first vote, Mayor Williams and Councilmembers Daniels-Cohen, Male, and Seamens voting For, Councilmembers Grimes and Schultz voting Against, and Councilmember Smith Abstain, stands.

I expect that the mayor will now schedule the ordinance, to create a city-manager residency requirement, for the next council meeting or the one following. I oppose creation of a residency requirement, a view also held by the vast majority of Takoma Park residents who have voiced an opinion, and I expect to vote Against this ordinance.

Please let me know if you have questions or concerns.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Council does not approve charter changes

The city council, by a 3-3-1 vote tonight (Monday evening, November 5), did not approve proposed changes to the city charter. A charter-change resolution requires a majority vote, which tonight's resolution, on second reading, did not receive. The resolution failed.

Also, the council approved 50% city coverage of the cost of councilmember individual enrollment in the city's health plan, effective for the council elected in 2013, and an indexed council pay increase that should amount to $100-150 per year. The council rejected city payment, into a deferred compensation plan, for councilmembers who do not enroll in the city's health plan, of an amount equal to the 50% cost coverage.

The rejected charter changes would have a) allowed the council to create, by a separate ordinance, a residency requirement for the city manager and executive employees as well as waivers and b) given the council an "advice" role in the hiring, by the city manager, of executive employees.

Voting For were Councilmembers Tim Male, Terry Seamens, and Kay Daniels-Cohen. Voting Against were Mayor Bruce Williams and Councilmembers Fred Schultz and Seth Grimes. Councilmember Jarrett Smith abstained.

The October 22, first-reading vote on the charter-change resolution was 6-0-1. I abstained, given that I opposed the residency-requirement provision but supported the "advice" provision. I reconsidered my "advice" support because it went far beyond what had originally been proposed, namely to give council a role prior to the start of recruiting. Bruce Williams, Fred, and opposed I the residency requirements. Our first-reading votes -- Fred & Bruce for, myself abstaining -- reflected recognition that there had been compromises made by the proponents.

Tonight, the initial vote was 4-2-1, with Bruce voting For. Once Bruce saw the shape of the vote, he called for reconsideration, his right as one of the majority in the first vote. He changed his vote to Against, leading to a 3-3-1 tally.

City Attorney Sue Silber will check that reconsideration was proper. If it was, the rejection will stand.

Jarrett explained his abstention as reflecting concern about the bundling of multiple, distinct charter changes in a single resolution. He had proposed to table the charter-change resolution for one week, in order to allow the changes to be handled in separate resolutions. The council rejected that proposal by a 4-3 vote.

The council had received additional written public comment at tonight's meeting, all opposed to the charter-change resolution. Residents Bruce Moyer, on behalf of the Westmoreland Area Community Organization, and Troy Jacobs of Ward 5 testified Against the changes and resident Pat Loveless of Ward 4 testified For. Opinion I have heard recently, from Ward 1 residents and from other city residents, remained overwhelmingly Against.

Please contact me if you have questions or concerns about any of this.