In addition to delegates, representatives of Towson University and Goucher College regularly attend meetings, as do representatives of Greater Baltimore and St. Joseph medical centers, the Towson Chamber of Commerce, county police, planning and zoning officials and Towson Area Citizens on Patrol.

Elected officials are frequent guests, and most sessions feature a presentation with a proposal or key issue, and opportunity for outsiders to raise issues and provide or receive information.

But at each meeting, at about 9 p.m, guests are excused — strategizing and treasury reports are done in a closed-door session reserved for delegates.

Rodgers Forge resident and former president Don Gerding defends that practice.


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Previously "sometimes discussion was misinterpreted and information got out to the public that wasn't true," he said. "And honestly people feel freer to talk. But we're still examining if this is the most effective way of doing things."

"The membership meeting is not a public or town hall meeting," Kilcullen said. "We need to be able to discuss things openly and not show our hand."

"Strategy as it relates to litigation, personnel decisions, and financial matters (are) nobody's business but the delegates," agreed Parsons. "You don't want it known how to bleed us."

Young blood

The GTCCA nearly tanked more than 20 years ago after interest waned and one president didn't hold a meeting for a year and a half.

When Steve Lafferty, who then lived in Idlewylde, became president in 1990, he revived it by pitching to the disparate associations that they would be able to get things done if they united.

Lafferty, who is now a delegate for the 42nd District, said that when he left, "people from different parts of Towson were talking to each other, and learning they can't push a problem out of one neighborhood into another. We all had to pull together."

But until Ertel became president in 2005, that didn't include the other "T" groups. Tension had developed between GTCCA and the business community and developers in general.

It began to dispel in 2006 during meetings of the Urban Design Assistance Team, which had representatives of every faction in town sitting down together to help determine a future for Towson.

Nancy Hafford, a board member for the then-Towson Business Association (now the Towson Chamber of Commerce), believed it was important for the business and residential groups to support each other.

"The business community is like the front door of the residential community," she said. "You need a nice front door if you want to keep your property values up."

Ertel echoed that sentiment, and the GTCCA evolved a more collaborative stance. The group set up a University Committee to establish better relations with Towson University. Kilcullen, who succeeded Ertel, took the ball and ran with it, forging even closer ties.

Now Kosak is in charge, and has called for more GTCCA involvement in the revitalization of downtown Towson, and support for restaurants and businesses that residents want to see. He envisions more partnerships with Goucher College and Towson University, and with hospitals and other institutions.

He was set up a system of committees to divide the work, and has instituted a GTCCA email blast to keep residents informed. The website, http://www.gtcca.org, includes links to county and community resources, and a way to contact the council.

Kosak said information flow, and use of technology, are key to get others involved, particularly younger people.

Ertel said involvement in the GTCCA is worth the effort to keep Towson a unique place to live and work.

"If we want Towson to stay special," he said, "we need new people who have decided to make it their home."

GTCCA open meetings are held from 7:30 to 9 p.m the third Thursday of the month at the Pickersgill Retirement Community, 615 Chestnut Ave. For more details on the GTCCA, go to http://www.gtcca.org.