TAKOMA PARK – Like many municipal governments, the Takoma Park City Council relies on input from its numerous advisory committees, made up of city residents, on certain issues such as road safety or the environment.
“Much of our work is about quite a bit of research,” said Council member Terry Seamens (Ward 4). “It’s far more work than any one council member can do.”
However, vacancies currently leave some of the committees partially staffed, with a few having only a handful of voting members.
Of the city’s 17 advisory committees, boards and commissions, these partially staffed committees consist of memberships ranging from four to 15. The Safe Roadways Committee, which includes 11 voting members, has eight vacancies.
The committees provide advisory opinions, often through regular meetings, allowing the City Council to stay informed on the “best practices, new technologies and what the residents think,” Seamens added.
Although each committee, board and commission is governed by individual charters outlining their membership eligibility and operations, the city charter requires members be city residents unless specified.
The city charter also requires that each committee prepare an annual report to be delivered to the City Council, with additional briefings as needed.
Jessica Landman, a recent appointee to the Safe Roadways Committee, said that the city is currently “reevaluating the committee charter” and has put appointments temporarily on hold.
Landman explained that unlike other committees, which have a staff person from the city government serving as a liaison, the Safe Roadways Committee did not have a designated staffer from the city assigned to work with committee members.
The vacancies also exist in the Commemoration Commission, which includes 12 members with seven vacancies, and the Recreation Committee, which consists of 15 members with five vacancies.
The Commemoration Commission recently evaluated the renaming of streets named after Civil War-era generals and decided to install commemorative plaques at each street in question.
Seamens explained that the council benefits when the committees are at full strength, adding that, “We get more work done.”
Kacy Kostiuk, a past member of the Safe Roadways Committee, added the city council would explore ways to improve “diversity” and to have the committees “work better with the council.”
Seamens said that changes in trends often change the function of a particular committee. He explained the workload of the city’s Nuclear-Free Takoma Park Committee increased when information on companies avoiding business with the nuclear industry became harder to research. Seamens described this as an example ofthe city needing to rely on city residents with specific “knowledge and expertise.”
The Nuclear-Free Takoma Park Committee is currently exploring options to divest the city’s funds from companies tied to the production or manufacture of nuclear weapons.
Seamens said that the city council needs to do a better job of reaching out to the community to find interested and residents willing to serve on Takoma Park’s numerous committees, boards and commissions – adding that the city is in “worse shape” than in the past.