The figurative trumpet sounded retreat, that is, a non-meeting meeting of the the Takoma Park City Council. Council members got together for dinner and discussion this last Monday evening, December 5, at the Ward 5 home of Council Member Reuben Snipper. Picture Deborah Kerr and crew, Getting to Know You, albeit without the singing and dancing.
(The council non-met met despite being in December recess, as voted at the November 28 council meeting. This non-hiatus hiatus in formal, scheduled meetings will also be interrupted by a December 12 special meeting that had been planned even before the council recess vote. The council, on December 12, will consider a contract award and will vote on appointments to the Council Compensation Committee and to the Redistricting Task Force. The city charter requires 2011 establishment of a compensation committee; in all likelihood, given financial conditions that led to reduction in city staff by 7 full-time-equivalents in the last couple of years, council salaries will not be changed.)
So council members met at Reuben’s — good food from Samantha’s — discussion of topics that I would characterize as focusing on opportunity: How to create and nurture it — for instance, via committee work on behalf of organizations such as the Maryland Municipal League (MML) and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) — and certain types of personal opportunity to avoid, drawing from the ethical travails of Washington DC city council member Harry Thomas Jr. and corrupt former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson.
No, we didn’t talk about you, gentle residents (with just a few exceptions including a couple of state officials who have clear moving-up aspirations), nor about city issues. Our retreat was about relationships and not about city policy, else the council would have conducted the meeting in open session.
Relationships are of key importance to effective local government, relationships with state and county officials, with city staff and committees, and with residents and other city stakeholders who have high expectations and, sometimes, conflicting needs and agendas. They’re where I’ll be spending the bulk of my city time during the council recess, an investment in the people part of my job as council rep that’s enjoyable and should pay off in my ability to look out for constituent and city interests. On which topic, do get in touch (301-873-8225, firstname.lastname@example.org) if there are city issues you’d like to discuss.
And do stay tuned for more on particular issues I’m working on, which I’ll aim to cover in a later posting.