At last night's (November 2)) County Council meeting, the Howard County Council voted to table TAO-1: FY2021; an act transferring a total of $54,652,000 from Contingency to Capital Projects to fund the County's share of the New Cultural Center.
Council Chair Deb Jung motioned to table the act and David Yungmann seconded the motion. The motion to table passed 4-1, with Councilmember Christiana Rigby the lone vote against tabling the Council's vote.
The Council's consideration of this act is set to expire on 12/14/20, though the Council can vote to extend their consideration of the motion until 1/18/21 and again until 2/22/21. The next opportunity for the Council to vote on this act is during their December 7, 2020 legislative session.
Following the vote, several Councilmembers made brief statements.
Council Chair Deb Jung said: "I want the people who are very concerned about the bill – and I realize that there are many of you out there – that this does not stop this project. As Mr. Yungmann and I have said over and over, we have been working very hard to make this project move forward and we hope this will be a big month for doing that. And we look forward to getting more work done on the new Cultural Center."
Council member David Yungmann added, "So folks don’t feel that this is a tabling followed by a tabling followed by a tabling, there are several really important documents that have been ordered and it’s unfortunate that this has delayed the process, but the timeline for receiving those is within the next 2 weeks. So, it’s not just that we want another month to talk about it, but that we are waiting on a few specific things."
Finally, Councilmember Dr. Opel Jones stated "I look forward to supporting this project, as I attempted to do during the budget discussions, and I hope that things go well over the next month or two."
Tabling the motion at last night's legislative session is not a surprise following the 10/26 Council worksession because the Council mentioned during this meeting that they were waiting for several key documents, including updated appraisals, business models, financial models, and a new marketing analysis. Please see the note below that I posted on The Merriweather Post's Facebook page on 10/27:
Quick update on the New Cultural Center. The NCC was (the last) agenda item on yesterday's Council Legislative Work Session, but the meeting concluded prior to getting into any substantive conversation on this item. In the closing moments of the meeting, Councilmember Youngmann said that the Council is waiting for updated appraisals, business models, financial models, and a new marketing analysis on the project, and that the Council expects to receive this information within the next 2 to 3 weeks. Had the Council gotten into this agenda item during the meeting, it likely would have only been a discussion on the status of these items and when they will be completed. Therefore, Councilmember Youngmann and Jung said it makes sense anyway for the Council to hold off on having any substantive conversation until after all this additional information is received, at which time a half day worksession will be scheduled to discuss these items. Councilwomen Jung assured those listening that the Council is doing everything they can to move this matter forward, and that dealing with this project has become almost like a full-time job. In addition to last Monday Night's (10/19) public hearing, Councilmember Jung mentioned that Councilmembers spent about 8 hours over this past weekend on the project. What this means is that the Council is unlikely to vote on the NCC during their 11/2 legislative session.
The next Council worksession is scheduled for 9:30 AM on Monday November 23, so presumable the Council will have all the requested documents and be prepared to collectively discuss them as a Council during this session.
I"ll continue to follow this story closely over the coming month. I'm currently working on a series of articles providing my take on several of the key questions being discussed as it relates to the history, risks, and impacts of the New Cultural Center.
For more coverage of the New Cultural Center from The Merriweather Post, see my July 9 blog post describing the project based off an interview I conducted with Toby and Hal Orenstein. Also find my notes from the September 14 County Council discussion on the project and an 10/16 article about the campaign from community groups and Clergy urging the Council to "Seal the Deal."