Here’s what’s happened since my July post.
We thought COVID was receding, given the availability of vaccines. Restrictions were relaxed, with antictipation this would comntinue. There was even talk of starting in-person Town Council meetings again!
Unfortunatelty, the Delta variant exploded. As of early September, our county has the highest infection rate in Maryland.
The county then re-instated mandatory indoor masking. We had a special session to determine if the Town would do nothing, or follow the county’s lead. We had our new county attorney provide legal guidance. This was a contentous session, with political undertones – those arguing do nothing, masking should be a choice, not a mandate, while others saying the Town needed to demosntrate leadership and not always follow the county’s lead.
I urged mandatory indoor masking, to demonstrate leaderhip and that public health and safety is the top priority. The pushback argument was we would face whithering critisiscm from businesses and on Facebook. I began to lose my cool, countering that we, as elected officials and leaders, shouldn’t cowtow because of Facebook vitriol – “bring it on” I responded.
We recessed and later got a call from a council member, attempting to dissaude my support for masking and that we should present a united front when voting on this in a later public session. While I understand the need for unity, my belief was and still is public health and safey are paramount now during this health crisis. I was sticking to my belief and values.
Prior to the public session, another council member suggested a compromise – “indoor masking is recommended”. While not perfect, this was a accetable to me, that at a minimun, we as a council would step up and take a stand. It passed unanimously.
- Listen more (“two ears, one mouth”)
- Stick to my core values and beliefs
- Compromise and consensus is a good thing.
- There will be more conflicts, and decisions will not be easy.
As a new Town Council, we were briefed about two residential annexations requests that have been in the queue for a number of years, with no actions by the previous Town Council. I remember these and wrote staff reports as Town Planning Director six years ago. I asked our new Town attorney, if this was a conflict of interset and therefore should I recuse myself from any further discussion. The response was no, so I can participate.
For both annexations I submitted questions in writing to each applicant. These focused on their respetive reports and documentation about impacts on the town – traffic, water/sewer, stormwater management and fiscal impact. This last issue is particularily important because fiscal impact reports had no source or documentation supporting their claim the town would receive increased tax revenues from the respective residential projects. I wasn’t going to accept thier general statement, with no proof or facts.
I have mixed feelings about approval of these and other potential annexation requests. I worked for engineering companies, advocating approval of these type of projects for our clients. But the pandemic has exposed and heightened my awareness about economic and racial inquality, and climate change/environmental impacts. Now that I’m an elected official, the impacts are specific – how do we pay for all the needed infrastructure and provide water?! COVID-19 has exposed that perhaps the status has not worked and time fo new ideas.
So I expect to be in the minority and will take a lot of heat. But that’s part of the job I signed up for, so it will be fascintaing to see how I perform. This is still a journey, with still much to learn and do.
I’ve talked a long time about developing a podcast. I took free courses, read Buzzsprout and other podcast host blogs, and read books.
I reached out to a former local news reporter to collaborate on an interview podcast about growth/development, similar to this blog. We talked for several months, enlisted a local podcast producer, deveoped an interview list, artwork, and an introductory episode script.
Unfortunately, the news reporter moved out of the area and the producer couldn’t commit the time. So I lost the momentum and motivation to start.
So I now have a podcast, posting two episodes, using Anchor and initially posted to my politician Facebook page. It’s a ” Bi-weekly update about La Plata Town Council meetings, activities, and issues.”
I practiced recording using Audacity, then as a suggestion of a very well-known national blogger and podaster, use Auphonic for audio post production to improve the sound quality of the recording. I then drag the audio into Anchor, added intro and ending music, then published them.
This is still a work and progress. I have a lot to learn, including not to write and read a script! I did this for Episode 2 and it was terrible – too stiff! This was deleted and did another take, just talking into the mic, refering to brief topic headlines.
So I will continue to practice and improve.
Here is the link to the public website and two episodes:
Let me know what you think!