Sunday, April 7, 2013

Reminder: Hearing on electoral initiatives; plus, proposed city FY14 budget and city manager search

Neighbors, a reminder that the city council will hold a public hearing, tomorrow evening, Monday April 8, 2013 on electoral changes to the city charter that:
  • Lower the voting age for city elections to 16.
  • Establish Same Day Registration (SDR), that is, the ability to register and immediately participate on election day, the day of the nominating caucus, and during the early-voting period.
  • Allow felons on parole or probation to vote in city elections.
  • Reduce the residency requirement for city voting to 21 days from 30 days.
  • Establish a minimum age of 18 for election to the city council or as mayor.
See the agenda item online. The hearing is slated to start at 8 pm although you might wish to get there a bit earlier. If you have comments and don't wish to testify at the hearing, please send them to clerk@takomagov.org.

My Positions on the Electoral Initiatives

I introduced the SDR initiative, which responds to the fact that we have a short election season here in Takoma Park. Some potential voters don't become aware of up-coming elections until they're visited by a candidate.

I support lowering the voting age to 16, which was introduced by Councilmember Tim Male. Some European countries and cities (Norway, Austria, in Germany) allow teen voting, and studies show a higher rate of voting later in life among those who first vote young. I see little downside: Teens who are not engaged or uninformed simply won't vote in city elections, just as unengaged and uninformed adults don't vote. Yet there are enough motivated teens to justify this step. (See a Montgomery County Students' Coalition video, The Kind of Voter I Will Be.)

I know that some consitutents disagree with my positions. The hearing is a venue for you to express your views. The council could modify, defer, or even abandon the charter changes based on public comment.

Proposed FY14 Budget

Also on the Monday April 8 council agenda: Acting City Manager (ACM) Suzanne Ludlow will introduce her proposed city budget for the 2014 fiscal year, which starts July 1.

The council will hold a series of worksession discussions of the budget during subsequent council meetings, as well as public hearings on April 15 and April 29, before voting in May. While property-tax assessments are down, we do have some surplus FY13 funds that the city would return to taxpayers by holding the property-tax rate at current amount. Based on council direction, the ACM proposes to allocate an extra $100,000 to the city's Police Employees' Retirement Plan.

The ACM's proposed FY14 budget is online.

I will call out one particular item, the product of well over a year's organizing work by residents that I have been glad to support --
"The creation of a part-time, two year contract position to coordinate and provide services to seniors, persons with disabilities and others. This position is a key part of a pilot  
program coordinating City staff, County agencies and nonprofits to help residents receive needed services. It will also help support 'villages' and other similar organizations that have      
been developing within the Takoma Park community."
I will be asking you, in the coming weeks, to express your support to the council for funding this position.

City Manager Search

Lastly, our city-manager search has reached the point where the council, working with the City Manager Search Committee, has identified finalist candidates. Our search consulting is doing background checks, and we expect to conduct interviews later this month. If all goes smoothly, we should have a new city manager on board by early summer.

In the interim, the city continues to be very ably managed by Suzanne Ludlow as acting city manager.

Seth

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