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Council Adds ‘Legislative Body’ to City Charter, with Mayor Part of it

At last night’s Council meeting, the City Council approved an amendment to the City Charter. The amendment passed 5-2 (CM Mitchell and Kabir voted against)

There were about 30 residents who attended the hearing. About 12 residents spoke at the hearing. Several residents also wrote to us. I want to thank everyone who spoke at last night’s meeting and also wrote to us. I believe all spoke and wrote against the proposed change.

In summary, the Charter amendment 18-CR-02 has two purposes (1) add the term ‘legislative body’ and (2) make the Mayor part of the legislative body. In order to accomplish these two goals, the amendment makes a number of changes to the current charter. The status quo surrounding mayor voting power did not change.

The State law has the term “legislative body”, but our charter does not have, and hence it’s suggested that we add that term to our Charter. However, the contention was whether we should have added Mayor as part of the legislative body.

Personally, I was fine with adding the term “legislative body” to the Charter, however, I wasn’t convinced that the mayor should be part of it.

There are two places in the State law where the term “legislative body” is used. They are in article $4-304 and $5-205(b). Article $4-304 deals with members of legislative body voting in charter amendment votes and $5-205(B) is about legislative body voting on moving budget money. Traditionally, College Park Mayor never voted in these cases in the past. Thus it’s not true to say that, especially in light of these two state laws, Mayor has been traditionally part of the legislative body.

Also, after last year’s non-citizen voting, the City Council engaged an outside attorney last year to review our charter. The attorney later sent a legal memo to the City Council about her view about our Charter. After that, on October 18, 2017, the City released a statement saying that “the legislative body of the City of College Park consists of 8 Council members”. To me, it indicates that the Mayor is not part of the legislative body. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to confirm this in public without having residents to see that legal memo.

I find it very frustrating that we are not letting the public see this legal memo, and thus have a comprehensive debate on this subject. The City spent $20,000 of our taxpayers’ money on the outside attorney to get her opinion. There is a cloud hanging over the city right now about this outside attorney’s memo, and everyone is saying what is in it? If we think that we’re not releasing the memo because this will confuse people and they will not understand the memo’s language, then this is really an insult to the intelligence of our residents. Because I truly believe they are smarter than many of us may think.

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