As many of you may already know, I believe really strongly in the importance of representation. The ward system is important because, although we are a small town there are some different needs and concerns from ward to ward. During the last general election when we didn't have anyone running for Ward 5, I decided to spend one of my canvassing days over there looking for a candidate and because of that Ward 5 has had a strong voice in CM Jennifer Garcia for the past two years.
That's why I was taking the Ward 2 vacancy so seriously. Last fall I started asking about firming up our procedures but was not able to get any proposals up for a vote. I have had the chance to know all three candidates prior to their applying for the seat and they are all such good people and neighbors.
Prior to hearing from the candidates the council debated and voted on the procedure. Attending the meeting were Mayor Callahan, Council Member Riazi, Council Member Eldridge, Council Member Stewart, Council Member Garcia and myself.
The Mayor and Town Attorney insisted that the Mayor gets to have a vote for a ward replacement. Typical process is that the Mayor only votes if there is a tie. I expressed concern that because there are now only 5 Council Members that a tie could be very likely if the Mayor had a vote since that would bring us to 6 voters.
The council also voted on whether the voting would be closed or open and how many times we'd vote before ending the process for the evening. We unanimously agreed to only vote 5 times before stopping for the evening and regrouping. We then voted 3-2 for an open vote (Stewart, Garcia and MacKenzie voting for the open vote).
At the beginning of the meeting Mr. Espinoza decided to withdraw his name from consideration and endorsed Ms. Hallman. After a careful examination of the application packets and supporting documents as well as the opening statements and answers to the council's questions. I decided to vote for Ms. Hallman, she had gone door to door, meeting new neighbors and collected over 100 signatures in support. Mr. Watson also had a ton of great references and experience, but I appreciated Ms. Hallman's, communication and technical background, interest in addressing issues of inclusion, as well as her experience in hiring and HR. As we go through the process of hiring new leaders in this town I think that experience would be invaluable.
We heard from the almost 30 people sitting around the room and afterwards voted 5 times. CM Riazi expressed a concern that the council could possibly be putting their thumb on the scale of the May election by appointing someone and only at the last minute did she decide to cast a vote as opposed to abstaining.
Each time, the vote was a 3-3 split for these two incredibly qualified candidates.(Callahan, Riazi and Eldridge for Watson. Stewart, Garcia and MacKenzie for Hallman) To be honest, it is unclear what happens from here, this is why I asked to formalize the process months ago. Having an empty seat, even for three months isn't what I wanted, but it's not unprecedented. The ward 5 seat, for example has gone empty from time to time. While Mayor Callahan and the Town Attorney are working through these logistics, I would like to extend an invitation to all Ward 2 residents to show up at our meetings and make your voices heard.
I will keep you all updated as we learn more about next steps!
Are you creative? Did you know that Cheverly is filled with talented creative folks and they are convening on facebook! Check it out at Cheverly Artists Collective Group!
5G-Small Cell Towers
The Council voted on an emergency ordinance to comply with the FCC's instruction that municipalities can not legislate whether or not 5G comes in, but rather on the aesthetics. The Council will now introduce this legislation as a regular ordinance. Cheverly is close enough to D.C. that we need to stay on top of this issue.
Code Enforcement/Tall Grass
Instead of passing an ordinance, Mr. Deutsch has developed a policy regarding the height of grass and will post it on the website and possibly with FAQs
The Council will be examining the code in detail in the upcoming months to make sure it aligns with the Towns values.
Board of Elections
The Board has been considering adding a few new supervisors and judges in order to accommodate a pre-voting day during the 2021 election. Additionally, the board is looking at ways to make voting by mail (absentee voting) easier. It is unclear what may or may not happen before the election on May 6. We voted unanimously to approve Margaret MacDonald and Elizabeth Guy-Stewart as election supervisors and to appoint the below for Election judges:
Ward 1: Sandra Neugent
Ward 2: Barbara Goodalle
Ward 3: Barbara Pejokovich
Ward 4: Gary Williams
Ward 5: (to be filled at next meeting)
Ward 6: Afua Banful
FY 17-18 Audit
The process if finally coming to a close the new deadline is Thursday. January 31st. The Auditor will come to the February Town Meeting to discuss her findings with the council and the community.
Air Quality Monitoring Proposal
The Council will vote on the proposal in the February meeting. Dr. Wilson will also attend the Feb 4 Green infrastructure Meeting. also the update cost projections suggest it may cost around $15,000
The Mayor and Council agreed to look at changing the code to allow for there to be seven members. There are currently two members that agreed to continue on the Ethics board with 5 more to be selected.
This email is the personal work of Beth MacKenzie and is not an official Town Communication.