United the City stands: Q&A with City Manager Suzanne Ludlow
Takoma Park City Manager Suzanne Ludlow joins other City leaders in addressing residents’ concerns about how the post-election environment in the country as a whole might affect their local community.
TP News: What is the role of a city manager in a time of national political upheaval?
Ludlow: As a city manager, I serve the City Council and the residents impartially, recognizing that elected officials and the public need to be able to rely on me and the city staff no matter their political persuasion.
The council sets the policies and goals of the City of Takoma Park, and it is my job to implement those policies and attain those goals through the work of the staff I manage on a day-to-day basis. That remains my focus. In times of change at the federal level, I advise the council on the potential impacts to the city of changes in laws, processes and funding streams, and I work to ensure the city’s finances are protected.
TP News: What about your staff?
Ludlow: As a manager of the human beings that make up city staff, I also need to be sensitive to the concerns of my staff regarding how change at the national level may affect them or their families. The standards we uphold in the workplace regarding mutual respect and freedom from harassment will continue to be enforced. Staff has been advised that our human resources department can help with access to counseling services for those who may need them. Department heads recognize the need to remain calm, professional and supportive during this time.
TP News: What kinds of impacts might the City face from the change in president?
Ludlow: Much is unknown right now, so we are monitoring statements and proposals from President-Elect Trump. Certainly the vitriol of the recent election has left targets of that vitriol – immigrants, women, people of color, Muslims, and others – nervous about potential hate crimes, harassment and bullying. Our city staff, particularly our police department, must protect our residents from that kind of behavior. We also need to realize that residents may be more hesitant to work with city staff due to their fears.
TP News: What might be the financial impact?
Ludlow: Uncertainty in general can lead to wide variations in the stock market. Cuts in federal employment and changes in tax law can result in reduced tax revenue. Since 25 percent of the City’s budget comes from Montgomery County and the State of Maryland, we are particularly vulnerable when their finances are tight, so reductions in revenue can hurt us directly and indirectly.
A number of people have asked about Takoma Park’s status as a Sanctuary City and the pledge to not allow Sanctuary Cities to receive federal funds. We don’t receive a lot of federal funding, but if passed, those restrictions could hurt. We are evaluating the proposals and possible impacts and will discuss them with the City Council.
TP News: What won’t change?
Ludlow: The commitment my staff and I have to serving this community. We have an aggressive agenda of services and improvements set out by the Council that we intend to do well. We also are committed to listening to and communicating with the public so that we remain a friendly part of Takoma Park.
This article appeared in the December 2016 edition of the Takoma Park Newsletter. The Takoma Park Newsletter is available for download here.