If I’m elected to the City Council one of my goals will be ensuring that major decisions are based on solid long-term planning. This means paying attention to the City’s strategic plan; addressing County tax duplication; looking closely at advisory recommendations like those submitted by the streetscape committee; and, if we receive funding through the Georgetown University Energy Prize, using that grant to take further steps to reduce our carbon footprint.
I also want to make our government more responsive and accountable. This means that I’ll be both an advocate for better Ward 1 policies and Ward 1 residents who need assistance, and that I will consider the needs of the city as a whole on key matters like development, keeping housing affordable, and public safety.
Here are some more detailed thoughts on those and other issues:
With development on our borders and in the City on the rise, we’re entering a critical period. I like the new options for shopping and dining in Old Town, but we need to ensure that further development preserves the things that make Takoma Park a great place to live, without becoming too costly for renters and lower income residents. Finding the right balance on those factors means active engagement within the City and with our neighbors and elected officials in other jurisdictions like Washington, DC and Montgomery County, plus taking a comprehensive look at parking and traffic.
Diversity and Affordability
Takoma Park has long been a community with economic and ethnic diversity – it’s one reason many of us like living here. But not all residents have shared in the financial benefits that have come with recent home price increases. In addition to keeping the City affordable for renters, we need to ensure that immigrant and lower income residents (in particular our youth) feel fully part of the City and its economy. This means strengthening tenant protections, preserving affordable housing, and a heightened focus on youth employment.
With our small town feel and neighbors who look out for each other, Takoma Park is a safe place. But nowhere is entirely crime-free these days, and, being near a large urban area, we do face concerns relating to public safety. As we grapple with these challenges, I believe an increased focus by our police department on involvement with City residents at the neighborhood level is crucial. With additional engagement of this type, police have a better chance to get ahead of trends like the robberies that often occur near the Metro station prior to the year-end holidays, or the break-ins that flare up periodically in other sections of the City. Increased community policing can also help ensure that law enforcement interactions with youth are positive.
Our Library is one of the wonderful local institutions that makes Takoma Park the vibrant community it is. Day or night you can see lots of folks there: toddlers mobbing the morning circle times; middle schoolers doing research; seniors catching up on periodicals; and local residents of all backgrounds using computers or checking out books. But the Library needs to be updated to meet 21st Century needs. The City Council is considering renovation design and funding options. I support renovating the Library to ensure it remains a vital resource, and if elected I will make it a high priority to work for that goal in a way that is affordable.
I have long favored the idea of synchronizing our municipal elections so they coincide with Federal and State elections (meaning that our votes would happen in even calendar years). At a recent City Council meeting, I spoke in favor of a proposed non-binding referendum calling for that change, and I was pleased that the Council approved it on a 4 - 3 vote. This means the referendum will be on the ballot on November 3. I will be voting "yes" because I believe this change will contribute significantly to boosting our turnout above the 10 percent level we saw in the last municipal election, and promoting greater civic engagement, particularly among under-served communities within our City. In order to function properly in 2018 (the first year the change could happen), we will have to work here in the City and with the State of Maryland to ensure that the rights of our unique voting populations (16 and 17 year-olds; lawful permanent residents; and certain categories of felons) are protected. I look forward to working on that set of issues if I am elected.
As of October 15, I have knocked on more than half the doors in Ward One (I’m planning to visit every house before Election Day), and one issue that has come up in all neighborhoods is parking. The streets of Takoma Park are narrow, and the development taking place around our borders makes parking more difficult. Whether it is pressure from new apartments in Takoma DC, uncertainties about permit policies, the needs of residents without driveways, or how to handle temporary parking restrictions when streets are being re-paved, we should look at our parking challenges and options on a comprehensive city-wide basis, and traffic patterns and trends should be included. I will be pushing for that kind of deeper analysis if I am elected. And, for the Old Town commercial district we need to reach out to Washington, DC officials to find a way to involve them in helping to address parking and traffic issues.
We should build on our strong local environmental policies by establishing carbon reduction targets for the municipal government over the next 10 years, with the ultimate goal of carbon neutrality. Takoma Park is already a sustainability leader due to the commitment and hard work of City staff, the Committee on the Environment, and our residents. Setting far-reaching sustainability targets, including moving toward divestment from fossil fuel industries, would help make us a model for other communities to follow. Meanwhile, my family and I are doing our part through the Takoma Park Neighborhood Energy Challenge. This fall, we had our energy audit, and then a City-approved contractor completed the improvements identified in the audit, including major upgrades to our insulation. I urge other Takoma Park residents to join the challenge (which, in addition to making individual homes more energy efficient, also helps the City compete for the $5 million Georgetown Energy Prize).