Bickering, chairman changes signal need for mayor-council government
Cottage City should be the poster town for a mayor-council form of government.
The tiny town of about 1,300 has a commissioner-based government, with five elected leaders who have equal say on government matters. Sure, the commission selects a chairman and vice chairman, but the posts hold little authority — and can be voted out as easily as they were voted in.
So it’s no surprise that the commission just ousted its fourth chairman in less than a year.
Changing the government structure would allow for a mayor to be elected and serve as a constant leader for the council — without worrying about being forced out over minor disputes. Perhaps commissioners would be more encouraged to work together if changing the head of the group whenever disagreements occurred wasn’t an option.
It’s a shame, for example, that no solution outside of a leadership change could be reached regarding the latest apparently insurmountable quandary: commissioners felt ill-informed by the chairwoman, who claimed the commissioners weren’t reading emails she sent them.
The government’s instability is hurting residents, as agenda items take a back seat to bickering at meetings.
The problems take on greater meaning as the commission is seeking to extend terms from two to four years. Commissioners say longer terms will provide more consistency; fortunately, residents know it also means extended squabbling and petitioned for the decision to go before voters. A decision on the petition has yet to be announced.
Upper Marlboro is the only other municipality in Prince George’s that has the commissioner form of government, and it seems to be working well there. However, Upper Marlboro officials may want to reconsider the structure since — as Cottage City shows — getting the wrong mix of leaders can lead to chaos.
The commission has long suffered from public, unprofessional arguments. In April, Cottage City Commissioner Anna Marie Angolia quit after alleging then-Commissioner Demetrius Givens physically threatened her, which Givens denied. While neither remains on the council, the current group isn’t showing much more promise. After the vote ousting Commissioner Patricia Gross as the group’s leader Aug. 14, one of the commissioners who voted against Gross flipped her name card face down on the table.
“It adds to the craziness of the Cottage City commission,” Gross said.
Cottage City residents need to mobilize — and soon — to get the government structure changed and demand better of those they elected.