As a 23-year Takoma Park resident, I have been active in many local initiatives and community groups, and I’m excited to now be a candidate in this fall’s election for the Ward 1 City Council (which includes PEN, North Takoma, Hodges Heights and the business district along Laurel and Carroll Avenues).
My local involvement (in groups like the Takoma Foundation, the Village of Takoma Park, and DC-MD Neighbors for Takoma Transit), my 30 years in the Federal Government (including serving as Chief of Staff for Congressman Barney Frank and as a Housing Assistant Secretary under President Obama), and my work for Democratic candidates like Jamie Raskin and Heather Mizeur, have contributed to my sense of the challenges we face as a city and ways of trying to address them. Above all I believe that government can be a positive force for improving our society, including here at the local level.
We are entering a critical phase for the City in which we have to think about development in a more comprehensive way. I appreciate the emerging businesses in Old Town, but we need to ensure that growth is respectful of the things we like about our community, and that the City remains an affordable place for renters and lower income residents. This is true not only in Old Town, but in areas like Takoma Junction and Takoma-Langley Crossroads. And it requires creative thinking about topics like traffic, parking and zoning, plus improved ties with officials in DC and Montgomery County.
In addition, our local government needs to be forward looking about issues like youth empowerment and opportunity, preserving affordable housing, County tax duplication, community policing, aging in place, increasing our sustainability efforts, and improved engagement with residents including those in immigrant and non-English speaking families. These are some of the areas I intend to focus on if I’m elected, but I want to stress that my focus will be through the lens of what makes Takoma Park a great place to live.
That gets back to my experiences as a long time resident. In 1992 my wife Paula and I moved to Takoma Park from Washington, DC with our three year old daughter Sarah, because we loved the City’s small town feel, its diverse housing and population, its incredible trees, and its proximity to DC. What we didn’t fully anticipate, and what we have learned to love, is the City’s remarkable sense of community.
From the July 4th parade and the festivals, to the owner operated shops, the wide array of local organizations, the amazing schools, the vibrant political debates, and perhaps most important the daily support neighbors give to neighbors, this is a unique place that truly deserves to be called a community.
Of course we all love the City’s quirkiness, demonstrated so well in the parade (which I had the honor of helping to judge this year), but I think all the media coverage misses the real point: our parade and our City embody many of the small town values Americans often praise. We spend our weekends with youth sports, household chores, worship, community get-togethers, friendly barbecues, and civic involvement. We just do it with a progressive twist, a global perspective, and a dose of DC’s urban character.
Looking back, with my daughter Sarah and my son Paul having gone all the way through local schools (from Takoma Elementary to Blair), I can’t imagine a better place to have raised a family. Looking forward, I’m thrilled to have a chance to be part of the City’s next phase. I’ll be talking to Ward 1 friends, new and old, as the November 3 election draws closer, and I hope you will feel free to share with me your thoughts and visions for Takoma Park’s future.