Hope you all had a good weekend, and are enjoying the nice weather! Soon, the leaves will be falling. It’s really amazing how quickly this year is going by.
There are a number of important items on tomorrow’s agenda:
1. DISCUSSION OF CITY-UMD ECONOMIC INTERDEPENDENCE STUDY. The University of Maryland has initiated a study of the economic relationship between the University and the City of College Park. This study came out of a request from the Board of Regents after the City fought last year to keep the revenue we receive through the Admissions and Amusement Tax. Although the Council has concerns about the purpose of this study and what it will be used for, we accepted the University’s invitation to have a say in how the study is done, so that we can ensure that, to the extent possible, the study is done fairly. The University drafted a scope of the study earlier this year, and we added some things for them to consider. Most recently, in July, the University responded with some proposed edits. Some of us, including me, have expressed concerns about their most recent edits, because they appear to preordain the conclusions of certain aspects of the study. For example, the scope of the study notes that students may not need as many services because they are “in general health, economically independent, and have no children” – this seems like something that the study should determine, not something that should be pre-determined in the scope of the study. The University also noted that “students provide extensive community service hours,” while it is at this point unclear how extensive those hours may be. I would like to take these provisions out and leave it up to the consultant to determine the impact of these factors.
2. GENERAL REVIEW OF STUDENT LIAISON POSITION. For the past eight years or so, the Council has appointed every year a student liaison to attend Council meetings as a non-voting member. Starting in FY 2009, the Council budgeted $1500 for a stipend for this position. The responsibilities of the liaison include that he or she shall attend every City Council meeting and worksession, report on student-city relations as necessary, provide information to students on City issues that impact them, and assist in hiring a student liaison for the following year. Beginning last year, the Council has also hired a deputy student liaison to help out with the work of the student liaison when he or she couldn’t be present. The Council asked to discuss the payment of the stipend in light of the fact that we now have a deputy student liaison position as well. I support keeping these positions, but I’m not sure I would want to extend a stipend to both of them, unless we establish specific requirements and roles for both the student liaison and the deputy student liaison positions.
3. RESIDENT SATISFACTION SURVEY. The Resident Satisfaction Survey will be online on November 9 for residents to fill out. Every resident will receive a postcard saying how to fill out the survey online, and also notifying residents that they may request a paper copy of the satisfaction survey. The deadline for the surveys will be January 10, 2011. The Council reviewed the Survey at the last worksession and discussed some new questions to add, including questions about residents’ familiarity with certain services. The Council is working with the staff to try to strike a balance between making sure we get enough information from the survey while making sure it is not so long as to be cumbersome for residents to fill out. A draft of the survey is attached – please Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions.
4. SPEED CAMERAS. Because the City of College Park does not have a law enforcement agency itself, under the law regarding the speed cameras, we have to set up an agency to operate the speed monitoring system. The staff proposes that we establish an agency with the City contract police officers, to be administered by the City’s Public Services Department. Additionally, the Council has to adopt the Paint Branch Parkway speed camera location as an appropriate location for a speed camera. These are both formalities to operate the program, but the City may need to pass these ordinances on an emergency basis in order to implement the speed camera program on schedule.
5. COUNCIL RULES AND PROCEDURES. Every two years, the Council is required, pursuant to our City Charter, to review City Council rules and procedures. The staff has proposed a couple of amendments, including:
1. Providing that comments from the audience regarding specific items on the agenda may only be made regarding items not on the consent agenda. (Comments about consent items and non-agenda items may still be made at the beginning of the meeting.)
2. Establishing a procedure for City Charter Amendments. Provisions regarding amendments to the City Charter are now laid out in the Charter itself, but not in the Council rules and procedures. The draft provision requires a public hearing on charter resolutions following public notice in a local newspaper of general circulation
3. “Two-hour rule.” In the past, the Council has had an informal rule that, if any Councilmember wishes to ask for any work to be done by staff that requires more than two hours staff time, the Council must waive the two-hour rule. This limits what Councilmembers can ask of the staff, to make sure that Councilmembers don’t overburden staff without approval of the whole Council. The current provision requires prior approval of any such task by the Mayor and Council, but it doesn’t how this approval should be granted, and doesn’t allow for any exceptions. I would like to discuss this some more, including possibly allowing for the City Manager to grant a waiver to the two-hour rule in urgent situations.
I would also like to ask if we might consider establishing a procedure for written comment regarding agenda items. In the past, people have submitted comments about agenda items by e-mail or by letter, and the clerk has distributed these to the Council, but the whole process is very informal. I would like us to consider adding a procedure for collecting and distributing comments (with, perhaps, a certain deadline before the meeting). With our website, we might even allow a formal process to submit comments online – this is now usually done through members of the public submitting e-mails to Councilmembers.
6. AMENDMENT TO HOMEOWNERSHIP GRANT PROGRAM. The City staff has a homeownership grant program, which provides grants to people who purchase homes in the City that were used as rentals at least two years prior to the purchase. The staff has proposed an amendment to allow City Employees to use the program even if a non-employee co-owner of the property does not actually live in the house. I’m not certain what the genesis of this request is, and why this exemption should apply to city employees only. I have a lot of questions about why this is being proposed now.
7. AGENDA ITEMS FOR FOUR CITIES MEETING. The next Four Cities meeting, with Greenbelt, Berwyn Heights and New Carrollton, is scheduled for next Wednesday, October 27. We typically discuss issues in common with the other cities. One issue I would like to bring up this month is our street sweeper, which we share with the other three cities in the coalition. Unfortunately, the street sweeper that the City recently purchased does not seem to do as good of a job as the other street sweepers we’ve used in the past, so I would like to discuss if there is any way we can upgrade over the next year.
8. BOARDS AND COMMITTEES. The following Boards and Committees have possible vacancies for residents of District 1: the Airport Authority, the Animal Control Board, the Animal Welfare Committee, the Cable Television Commission, the Committee for a Better Environment, the Noise Control Board, the Rent Stabilization Board (especially TENANTS!), and the Veterans Memorial Improvement Committee. Please let me know if you might be interested. Thanks!!
As always, let me know if you have any questions or comments about any of these items.