Random Rumors

Overheard at Busboys and Poets in Takoma (aka “the beating heart of the radical Takoma Park syndicate”) this morning . . .

confirming the two recent statements by Takoma Park’s own Vladimir I. Lenin, construction on the wall creating Maryland’s new Ninth Congressional District will begin in the next several weeks. “CD9” is the week’s trending hip phrase now. Why? Because I said so, and I’m the Snarkster in Chief.

Somebody better get the noted witch hunter Barry O’Connell on the case before this gets out of hand.

Election Day!

I’m planning to do some reporting from the field today, happy not to be either a campaign operative or a candidate today. We’ll start with a report this morning from Takoma Park, where there are two contested races (mayor and city council ward 1), then hoof it over to Gaithersburg, where three candidates are running for mayor and four candidates are running for three city council seats. I’ll finish up later on today in Rockville, where the battle for mayor and four city council seats has raged among 11 candidates for several months now.

Stay tuned. Should be a fun day. At least for me. And hopefully for you too.

Guest Blog – Terrill North: Vote Yes On TP Question 1

The issue is whether to align Takoma Park elections with state and federal elections in even years, which would enhance turnout and participation. Terrill North says vote yes, and I concur. More people voting is always a good thing. Here’s Terrill.

Terrill North is the Board Chair of Making a New United People (MANUP), a Takoma Park-based mentoring program serving nearly 500 disconnected youth in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties. He will be taking MANUP students aged 16 & up to vote on Tuesday.

YES on Question One

Takoma Park is thought of by many as a hippie commune. In reality, the community is home to the highest concentration of poverty in Montgomery County. Like the county, the city has no ethnic majority with many blocks where jollof rice or pupusas are more popular than the crunchiest granola.
That diversity, however, does not extend to local elections. Turnout in 2013 was an anemic 10.1% (5.9% and 7.5% in predominantly black Wards 5 and 6 respectively). This is a fall from 25% in 2005 and 32% in 1995. At the same time, the city boasted a 76% turnout in the 2012 national election (78% in Ward 6 where I live). 
This is why I am supporting a ‘YES’ vote on Question One on the ballot this Tuesday, which would allow the city to synch local elections with state and federal elections in even years. The city would have 2-3 years to develop plans to continue local voting among special populations like 16 and 17 year olds, parolees, and resident aliens, who are only allowed to vote in the city.
Turnout in Richmond, VA grew from 17% to 42% after synching election dates. Ocean City, MD’s turnout doubled to 48% after synching. This is why communities like Baltimore, Cumberland, Sharpsburg, and Chesapeake Beach, MD have recently realigned their local elections with state/federal elections. We don’t check off boxes by race when we vote, but I believe increasing turnout from 7.5% to 78% in a community like Ward 6 that is 82% people of color would likely increase the vote among residents of color.
Takoma Park is not alone in dealing with this challenge. The Gazette published an interesting piece on minority participation in Takoma Park, Gaithersburg, and Rockville government back in 2012. Our communities will not be the inclusive places we want unless we start thinking seriously about ways to get everyone involved. 

I believe the shenanigans with Hampshire Tower’s 40-70% rent increases would have gone differently if city officials thought those 200+ households voted. If the 78% that voted for Obama in 2012 had voted in the city elections over the past few cycles instead of 7.5%, I believe those residents would have had stronger representatives every step of the process, including the sales of the building in 2006 and 2015, proposed 40-70% increases this summer, and the 15% “compromise” negotiated this month.
Changing an election date is only a partial solution, but I believe building a larger, more inclusive electorate is an important step to creating a smaller, more inclusive city.

Kate Stewart Fundraiser

District 5 County Councilmember Tom Hucker hosted a fundraiser for Takoma Park mayoral candidate Kate Stewart this afternoon at Republic Restaurant. Senator Jamie Raskin and outgoing Mayor Bruce Williams also spoke at the event, as did the candidate. There are no other candidates in the race right now, and events like this will do a lot to keep it that way.

I wa there with my trusty iPhone 6 (just a little over a month old, on its maiden Maryland Scramble voyage), and shot the whole thing so you can see and hear what was said.

Also, if you got the email of the earlier blog post, discard it. I had to delete the old post because YouTube, for no rational reason, refused to post my video properly. I eventually triumphed because I am stubborn and refused to give in.

Grimes Out In TP

Takoma Park City Councilman Seth Grimes had planned to run for mayor. Today he announced that he’s not running, nor is he running for reelection in Ward 1. His email to constituents in its entirety:

I had earlier announced a run for mayor of Takoma Park. After weeks of reflection, even while developing a campaign, I have realized that serving as mayor is not the path for me so I am discontinuing my campaign. I’m out.

It has been an honor serving Ward 1 and the city, which I’ve done to the best of my ability.”
I’d venture that I have originated more legislation and led more initiatives in 2 terms than any other councilmember has, ever: The 2013 Safe Grow legislation and electoral reforms (in partnership with Tim Male); the Young Activist Act of 2014 banning polystyrene and this year’s business recycling bill; leadership of Takoma Junction revitalization from vision to choice of a top-tier developer and winning a soon-to-be-built Takoma Junction crosswalk (in earlier stages in partnership with Kay Daniels-Cohen with a strong assist from Tim); Sunday library hours (with Kay) and advancing library renovation; creation of the Lifelong Takoma program; council leadership in the fight against over-development at the Takoma Metro station, Montgomery College, and Washington Adventist University; critical early support for the commercial kitchen at the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church (before the project was expanded); steps toward tackling congestion that included hiring of a new half-time parking enforcement officer (with support from Kate Stewart); helping bring millions in funding to city projects as the city’s representative on the Transportation Planning Board; and more.
So I’ll leave office in November on that high note, and continue working for you until then.
The best to all,

Seth

Kate Stewart is now the only candidate running for mayor. Peter Kovar is the only announced Ward 1 candidate. That could change, of course, but for right now both look like big favorites.

Peter Kovar Running In TP Ward 1

Got an email from fellow progressive activist Peter Kovar that he is running for the Ward 1 council seat in Takoma Park being vacated by Seth Grimes.

Kovar worked for many years as an aide to Congressman Barney Frank, as well as for several Hill committees. We met during the 2006 Raskin campaign and have remained friends since then. He was my successor as chair of Heather Mizeur’s gubernatorial campaign and we also both sit on the steering committee of Progressive Neighbors. He will be a strong candidate for the council.