SEABROOK – For its final meeting of the year, the Hyattsville City Council addressed the new county and federal laws that directly affect local policy.
In particular, the council adopted a resolution to consent to the resettling of refugees within the city limits of Hyattsville.
In September, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that required state and local government to deliver written consent to the Department of State to resettle refugees within their jurisdictions. Maryland had been one of 12 states that initially attempted to block the order.
The vote was unanimous, but it did not mean council members were happy to have to cast it in the first place.
“I think it’s important also to recognize the context of why we have to make this resolution, given that certain demagogues believe that they have political gain to reap from spreading fear and misinformation and hatred,” Ward 3 Councilmember Ben Simasek said.
“I know that our city, we value our neighbors,” Simasek said. “We don’t need to say that we welcome our neighbors no matter where you come from and the hardships that you’ve been through.”
The resolution stated that the city “is committed to and maintains a long history of supporting, celebrating and empowering refugees.” While Ward 5 Councilmember Joseph Solomon supported it, he believed it wasn’t enough, wanting the resolution to explicitly state the city’s opinion on refugee resettlement.
“It’s just too bad we even need to make this resolution,” Ward 2 Councilmember Danny Schaible said. “It’s an encroachment on refugee civil liberties that cities have to prepare resolutions like this to allow them to settle. Nevertheless, it’s the right thing to do, given the circumstance, and I support it.”
Shortly after, the council voted unanimously for Mayor Candance Hollingsworth to send a letter to the Maryland General Assembly that showed support for a “Community Choice Aggregation Act,” a bill that would give municipalities autonomy in their acquiring of renewable electricity.
The bill would allow the city to negotiate with electricity providers directly and create their own benchmarks and metrics when purchasing their electricity service. Alternatively, the city could also work with other municipalities in creating an overarching plan for their jurisdictions.
Schaible sponsored the resolution, also liaison to the Hyattsville Environment Committee. In analyzing community choice aggregation, the committee looked to Illinois.
In February 2019, Illinois saw 76% of its municipalities with Community Choice Aggregation (CCA)’s had better rates of electricity generated than those following state standards.
“It’s something that I feel passionately about,” Schaible said. “It’s a chance for us to lead.”
Ward 5 Councilmember Erica Wolf voiced concern about approving a bill that has not been passed, leaving it open to change in language that the city or the council might not support. City Administrator Tracey Douglas and city lawyers similarly did not want to support the bill outright, given that the state has yet to draft it, and so the city has not been able to read it.
“Getting this in front of them early, we’re making noise about this particular bill,” Schaible said. “I would like us to try to encourage them to make a determination early in the process to put muscle behind this bill early on.”
With no actual legislation to actually pass, Douglas said the resolution was supporting “the concept” of community choice aggregation.
The bill is expected to be debated in the General Assembly’s 2020 regular session.