Interview #40: Gaithersburg, MD Council Member Ryan Spiegel (with podcast)

This podcast interview is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM, and right here:

In addition to being a part-time chicken daddy, Ryan Spiegel was ensnared in the infamous “city council walkout” of 2016. How did he respond? Take a listen!

Q: Something special happened to you guys: you got a new council member recently. There was a vacancy late last year and you, the council, got to appoint someone. How much of your decision was whether you could get along with that person at a council meeting?

A: That’s a big piece of it. There are, I’m sure, many councils you’ve covered that have been a bit more adversarial. Pretty much all of the candidates who applied for that opening are people who we could get along with.

Q: Yeah, you actually did that prior to this with Council Member Neil Harris. So you’ve got two people on the council who you personally had a say in appointing–

A: That’s right. And I won’t let them forget it!

Q: [Laughs] Let’s get into the tough issues: roosters. You were on the city council in 2010 when Gaithersburg banned roosters. Tell me what those meetings were like and please do use fowl language.

A: Well, look, I’m not going to squawk about something–

Q: Nice, nice.

A: And you can claw my eyes out–

Q: Boom!

A: One of the feathers in my cap has been my ability to listen to the public. Of all the controversial things we’ve dealt with, the ONE public hearing that had by FAR the largest attendance was about our chicken ordinance. Roosters can be loud, so we thought it was reasonable to ban roosters but to allow hens.

Q: Mmhmm.

A: We had cub scouts showing up with pictures of their little pet hen saying, “make sure our hens have a safe place in Gaithersburg!” When I was voting back in 2010, I had no idea that I would be one of the people who would have chickens in his own backyard. A few years ago, my wife found a company called Rent a Coop and surprised me by renting a little portable coop and two hens for the summer!

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Gaithersburg, MD Council Member Ryan Spiegel

Q: December 19, 2016. The city council was deciding whether to annex a parcel of land for development. It’s pretty mundane. But there was one vacant council seat and you were out sick, leaving three voting members. Council Member Robert Wu wanted to wait until a new council member was sworn in to vote. Your thoughts?

A: [The annexation] wasn’t exactly the most controversial thing in the world. It had been vetted, there had been public hearings….the charter allows us to have a vote of 2-1.

Q: Wu dropped this bombshell: he walked out of the meeting, taking away the quorum. You were watching at home–did you think you were delirious?

A: I was surprised that he got up and left. I think he believed he was doing something right. He was making some grand gesture. But I strongly disagree with the tactics.

Q: You texted the mayor, “I’m on my way.” You drove down, not so you could vote (due to a conflict of interest), but to have the quorum so the other two council members could vote. Did you want to be the hero?

A: No! There wasn’t a lot of strategizing here. It’s important for us to be doing the business of the city.


Follow Council Member Ryan Spiegel on Twitter: @RySpiegel

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