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January  11,  2012

Make nice with each other, guys

Members of County Council were gently admonished to make an effort to get along.

Stopping short of making it a rebuke, president Tom Kovach referred generally to recent exchanges during plenary and committee meetings as he distributed copies of a section from the book of Council rules at an executive committee meeting.

 That, it was said, was done to promote civility -- a virtue said by some to be fraying in government bodies up to and including the Congress of the United States.

The operative paragraph: "Council members shall conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times and avoid characterizing another member's personal interests or motives. Council members shall refrain from speaking disrespectfully of the presiding officer or other members, engaging in personal attacks and from using profane or vulgar language."

"We all get heated. We all get emotional. I think it is why we got elected -- we get passionate about issues," Kovach said.

There was no further discussion on that point but another rule came up for extended discussion at the meeting when members were asked to approve a rule to govern the procedure for their recently reactivated grants-for-worthy-causes practice. Each of the 13 members will be authorized to propose grants up to a total of $75,000 this fiscal year, the money to be drawn from half of Council's contingency fund.

Policy director Jim Boyle said the rules he presented contained no substantive change from ones that were used before the program was suspended two years ago. But Councilman Penrose Hollins objected to a provision requiring grant applicants to possess Internal Revenue certification as a non-profit entity. Obtaining such a certification, he said, is prohibitively cumbersome for the small local organizations which make up the majority of applicants for Council grants.

While voting orally to eliminate that requirement, the rule was amended to specify that Council had the right to waive other documentation requirements on a case-by-case basis.

Nature also came in for consideration in a couple of matters before Council on Jan. 10.

The county's property maintenance code was revised to restrict use of running bamboo --- considered an aggressively invasive plant. The revision requires that the plant be in a container or surrounded by a barrier which prevents its spread and that no part of it, including stems and roots, extend closer than 10 feet from any property line.

Councilman John Cartier introduced a proposed ordinance, to be acted upon on Jan. 24 exempting Arden, Ardentown and Ardencoft from the code prohibition defining trees and tree branches as "rubbish." That also would apply to other municipalities which, like the Ardens, have adopted a 'forest stewardship' policy.

Such policies, according to the preamble of the proposed ordinance "encourages fallen trees, tree limbs and fallen tree branches to be left to naturally return to organic matter, thereby enriching the soil." State parks, among other venues, have been following that practice for several years.

It could not immediately be determined approximately how long it takes for the natural return to be accomplished.

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Read previous Delaforum article: Council agrees to pay a portion of social agency's utility bill

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