City-council topics, February 6 2012

At its Monday evening’s meeting, the city council is slated to hear annual reports from the city’s Tree Commission and the City Arborist, covering the state of the city’s tree canopy. The council will consider two resolution related to bills in the state legislature and discuss grant applications from organizations seeking city funding.

Background materials for the agenda items are online.

I’ve posted my criteria for assessing grant-funding requests to my blog. There are 9 applications; large grants are for amounts greater than $2,500. Please do share your thoughts on the requests.

The two resolutions regarding state-legislative items are a) Supporting Efforts to Reverse the Decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission and b) Resolution Supporting Raising the Tax on Gasoline in Maryland. See the backgrounder for this agenda item.

Governor O’Malley has proposed extending the 6% Maryland sales tax to gasoline. Funds could go to transporation projects and other uses. The city resolution would support the tax and call for the money to be spent on transportation projects and increase in highway-user revenues, provided by the state to local governments, which have been cut severely in recent years. I favor it.

I have misgivings about the other item. The Citizens United decision is bad news — corporations are not people, and heavy corporate spending in electoral campaigns is pernicious — but Citizens United isn’t a city issue. Should the city devote time and resources to this question? Again, please share your thoughts.


Seth, 301-873-8225

One Reply to “City-council topics, February 6 2012”

  1. I wish I'd seen this sooner. I'll share my thoughts per your request, even if it's too late for the Citizens United vote.

    I think you're making a mistake if you remain committed to avoiding national political issues and resolutions of this kind purely on principle.

    It won't surprise you to hear me say it's important for its own sake: sometimes national leaders fall down on the job, so sometimes they need to hear from local politicians. And when you and city council say something, you have a particular kind of recognition and respect that I don't. Don't let people tell you your statements would be discounted just because it's a Takoma Park resolution. You've taken the trouble to run for office, and you've been elected. That matters.

    I also don't think this resolution or others like it need to take significant resources on the part of the city. The resolutions are generally written for you, you'll have to listen to people advocate for it regardless, you'll take as much or as little time to discuss it as you like.

    But I think it's also particularly important even when one is focused, by preference, on a purely Takoma Park agenda and goals.

    That's because part of what sets Takoma Park apart is precisely its reputation for not shying away from national issues when a reasonable, timely, cogent statement can be made. I think both current and prospective residents really value that. And I don't mean in just a vague, "that's nice" way, I mean in a way that makes people want to live here.
    Therefore, that reputation is indirectly a part of what helps maintain the unique population and unique political climate that are so important to accomplishing your local political and policy goals.

    We're proud of the Nuclear Free Zone, of the impeachment resolution, of the sanctuary city status, of votes condemning the Iraq war or the PATRIOT Act. So whatever your feelings about any particular "national issue" resolution per se — whether Citizens United or anything else — I hope you'll reconsider ruling out supporting any such resolution in the future. I think you'd be upholding a proud Takoma Park tradition. And I think that, too, is a part of your job.

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