Notes on 6/20 council meeting

The meeting tonight (June 20) struck me as very important to the issues I am trying to take up, so some quick thoughts here.
The main things to take away are:
-Holly Edwards is not going to be on council as she is stepping down, and her much needed strong voice for social justice needs to be represented, I can be that strong voice.
-The Mayor, too, has shown some progressive leadership and I think I would find a supporting partner in him on some of my ideas were I to make it onto council.

I’ll start with the “Mayors for Peace” declaration that Mayor Dave Norris signed onto, and which was passed with near unanimity this morning in Baltimore. I had the chance to thank him personally earlier in the day when he made a public announcement. I say “public” even though just a handful of folks were there to witness his announcement.
But- Good Job Dave! this is exactly something I would support if elected to city council, and glad to know I would have support for a more public and active anti-war message from council.

Later, at the council meeting, he mentioned this in the announcements, and I had a chance to thank him, and encourage council to take action (not just words!) in matters by the public. I also mentioned the war’s effect on money that could instead make it’s way to localities for things such as the Community Development Block grant and HOME. I then mentioned the ridiculous Board of Supervisors meeting that I witnessed and how we should always consider that the County has no interest in sustainability, regional planning, what the city thinks, or honest and open government.

The most important portion of the meeting concerned “Section 3” compliance. Section 3 is a federal statute that requires any project using HUD funds to use specifically a workforce made up mostly of public housing and low income residents. A good idea to begin with. The City however, in the past has not used enough HUD money to have to meet the requirements and be in compliance. The new resolution takes it further so this concept can be expanded in many ways, and sets up a coordinator to make sure low income folks are getting access to jobs. The new plan also gets local business who want to contract with the city to become Section 3 eligible and encourages other  projects to use the same concept of putting folks to work. Holly Edwards has worked hard at this over the years and we should all be thankful for her consistent attention to this. I was especially glad to here some interest expressed in how to make this work with the other big projects coming down the line such as water infrastructure repair (Dredge!) and other projects. One example given was the re-bricking of the downtown mall- which I opposed vigorously, in part because the original plan said nothing about a local workforce. I like to think my hard work on that issue contributed greatly to the hiring of some local folks on that project, and that they were able to remain employed after the project had ended. Another thing to consider is that this coordinator could be a first step in opening a city jobs center, and could also fit into my plans for guaranteed employment.

I was eager to hear what councilors would say about the revival of the western by-pass. Generally I was pleased with the thoughts offered by most of the council. Holly Edwards was quite blunt about the situation, saying that the county obviously is shutting us out and has no interest in what we think about the plan and said “I wash my hands of it”. I share her position wholeheartedly. Besides the by-pass being a terrible idea, the revival of the plan subverts democracy in a number ways, and has put 4 supervisors in the position of making a decision that should be done in cooperation with the city, and with adequate public input. A council vote was made to oppose the by-pass on the MPO if it comes to a vote before public input is given. Huja abstained, and I think he and Brown are of the mindset that the city might be able to secure funding for some local projects if we support it, and they also pointed to greater public input. I don’t think Brown will ultimately want the by-pass, but not so sure about Huja and he sits on the MPO with Szakos as the the city’s reps. Not that it matters, they would be outvoted 3-2 on the MPO in any event. To me, that alone is all the more reason to remain strongly opposed to the project on principle. I think that Holly, Dave, and Kristin share that view, and I am glad to see it. The whole thing, I hope, shows how pointless it is to work with the Board of Supervisors on any issue. At best we can hope to work with Anne Mallek and Dennis Rooker, even though I am generally in disagreement with them on some big things, as they are the only ones on the BoS that seem to be interested in working with the city instead of consistently demanding their way.

In this election season we will be hearing the question asked- how do we improve city/county relationships? I say there is nothing there to improve on. The City, mistakenly, has “compromised” way too often namely on the Meadowcreek Parkway the water supply plan. “Compromised” in quotes because really all we have done is cave in to the interests of developers in the county, and their supporters on the BoS. With the County possibly re-considering the revenue sharing agreement, their irresponsible position on regional planning and sustainability, and now their shady attempt to build an un-funded road it is time for us to admit that improving relations with the county is going to have to wait. We must take a strong position in our own interests, as they do theirs, and if we need to be contentious that is a perfectly viable stance to have, in fact, there is no avoiding it. We will find ways to cooperate eventually, sometimes struggle is the only way to get there.

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