The College Park City Council discussed improving the system for handling resident correspondence Tuesday night to ensure each letter seeking a response receives one.
While the mayor and city council members typically respond to the letters they individually receive, there is no rule requiring it, or any internal system in place to handle constituent mail addressed to the city or the council as a whole, Scott Somers, College Park city manager, said.
Council members at Tuesday’s meeting expressed an interest in formalizing a response system.
Somers proposed there should be a way to track letters and ensure they are answered, “rather than hoping someone is going to respond.”
District 2 Councilman Monroe Dennis agreed.
“I like [Somers’] suggestion for a procedure,” he said. “It’s on us to assess the assistance that’s needed.”
District 4 Councilwoman Mary Cook proposed city staff could draft responses to letters after talking to the council and mayor. After discussing constituent concerns, staffers could write responses and the mayor could sign it, she said.
Mayor Patrick Wojahn did not oppose help from the city staff but said he didn’t want to politicize their work.
“I am concerned that the staff would be answering for political decisions that this body makes,” he said. “The responsibility lies with the mayor and the council to explain and justify those decisions.”
While the council did not propose any specifics of a new system, Somers said approving letter responses should not become a weekly meeting agenda item, as “that’s more bureaucratic than we need to be.”
He also added that back-and-forth between the council and the city staff could become unnecessarily complicated, but offered his help with handling the correspondence.
“I’m not sure that I want to edit and wordsmith nine elected officials,” Somers joked. “Staff is always here and available to help you … we just need some direction on what you’d like us to do.”
District 2 Councilman P. J. Brennan said adopting a single standard for all resident correspondents would be “premature and would not apply to all scenarios.”
“Sometimes residents just want to have their opinions heard,” Brennan said. “We don’t want to get to the situation where someone points a finger and says that this is an unresponsive body.”