Takoma Park residents and businesses look to the Mayor and City Council for leadership on a broad range of issues. We expect our local leaders to make sensible decisions that respond to the broad set of community needs, reflecting public opinion and priorities and advancing racial equity.

Voters judge candidates on background and accomplishments and of course on positions. Here are mine on a number of critical issues facing the City of Takoma Park.

Please note: This page is a work in progress. I will be adding to it in the coming weeks.

Climate Action

The Climate Emergency is a global crisis that calls for a response at all levels including local. Climate Action is central to my mayoral platform.

The City Council declared a Climate Emergency in 2019 in response to a community call that I led. (Jumping back, as a council member, in 2011-5, I wrote several pieces of environmental legislation and was a leading council voice in hiring the city’s sustainability manager and creating our food-waste composting program.) In 2019, I joined the city’s Committee on the Environment in order to promote Climate Action. But it is disconcerting that the City Council has enacted zero climate legislation beyond a framework resolution.

I was shocked to learn that the only route put forward by the city (March 2022), to meet its commitment to being net zero by 2035, is the purchase of carbon offsets, “which at current GHG emissions levels would cost at minimum about $757,000 per year.” This is a total cop-out. Further evidence of recent inattention: Library renovation plans didn’t meet even basic green-building standards until community members spoke out.

The city must take strong action on stormwater, fleet conversion, tree-canopy expansion, and green construction of city buildings. We should prioritize decarbonization via education, assistance, and incentives. Now is the time, and the Biden Administration’s Inflation Reduction Act, via the Energy Efficient Home Improvement credit and other incentives, will facilitate this work.

I believe strongly in community involvement, so long as we maintain strong equity, representation, and inclusion criteria. The Climate Action Coffee and its subgroups, the Takoma Park Mobilization Environment Committee, and Friends of Native Trees Takoma are among the homegrown groups that are making a difference. I fully support their efforts. We count many climate professionals and advocates among our Takoma Park neighbors and should tap their expertise and energy.

The Budget Process

Takoma Park’s budget process is backward. Each year, the city manager proposes a budget for the next fiscal year, and then the council conducts a somewhat-painful process of altering the proposed programming, staffing, and spending to meet council priorities and respond to public testimony. As mayor, I will turn the process around with extensive up-front public-council-staff discussion of programs and services to guide the city manager’s budget drafting. I’d like to see the city manager develop a budget proposal with programs and staffing based on property-tax revenue generated at a target rate, providing additions for the council to weigh. My inclination is to set the target at the inflation rate because, absent an increase in other revenues and given inflation, a limitation to the constant-yield rate — yielding zero growth in property-tax revenues — will force reductions.

I would prioritize meeting residents’ needs including food and housing security and public safety, centering on equity, before curbing and perhaps rolling back recent years’ staff and spending growth. Our strategy in all cases should be data-informed, with defined performance and impact metrics. We should ask whether service-level targets being met and, importantly, whether a given service actually addressing the challenge it’s targeting. 

Property Taxes

The city should be able to hold property taxes at or near the constant-yield rate for the next 2-3 years — that is, zero year-on-year growth — given additional county tax-duplication funds expected each of the next two years under Montgomery County Bill 2-22. Takoma Park is receiving $5,394,306 in tax-duplication funds this fiscal year, FY23. That’s 80% of the full calculated payment under Bill 2-22, $6,742,883. We’ll receive 90% of the full payment in FY24 and 100% in FY25. This means we will receive about $675,000 additional each year. That amount represents 4.7% of the adopted FY23 property tax yield of $14,425,815, that is, the additional county payment will offset a 4.7% inflation rate. (The Consumer Price Index for Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the Washington DC area rose 7.5% in the year to July 2022.) 
 
Do my calculations make sense?  

The real cliff will come when we’ve expended our federal ARPA funds. Quoting the city’s FY23 adopted budget, this year we are adding “three ARPA administrative positions that will be full-time positions funded by ARPA only for the duration of the ARPA funding period through March 2026.” But outside those fixed-duration positions, this year:

  • “the Community Ambassadors program ($50,000) funding source switch[ed] from General Fund to the ARPA Fund”;
  • we instituted an ARPA-funded Direct Cash Assistance program and we’re giving funds to local small businesses;
  • we have the goal of hiring “an ARPA funded Payroll Specialist”;
  • moved $433,753 in the Sustainability budget to the ARPA budget;
  • we’re hiring Mental Health Crisis Counselors at a cost of $600,000 ARPA funds over 2 years; etc.
There’s going to be a lot of interest in continuing this spending. We’ll need discipline to make sensible choices, some of which may involve shifting funding from non-ARPA programs to continue stuff we started with ARPA funds.

Takoma Junction

The unrolling of Takoma Junction revitalization effort is truly regrettable, and we are at an impasse. The City of Takoma Park should seek to end it by seeking to negotiate termination of developer NDC’s ground lease absent a new development proposal that would be acceptable to the city, the Planning Board, and other authorities. However the city may be legally vulnerable. Precipitous action to terminate NDC’s ground lease could be counterproductive. An NDC lawsuit would be expensive for the city and could prompt NDC action that would harm the TPSS Co-op. Let’s proceed carefully.

I am well positioned to lead the city forward in seeking a Takoma Junction resolution. I co-chaired the city’s Takoma Junction Task Force and served on the council that selected developer NDC’s plan. I have been open about my disdain for the bait-and-switch NDC pulled in 2015, when they eliminated the 2nd story apartments they had proposed and moved the TPSS Co-op delivery solution off the city lot to a layby service lane. I was the only council member to oppose this move. Nonetheless, I have maintained a working relationship with developer NDC and with both pro-development community members and the Community Vision group.

I believe we can find common cause around other opportunities and rebuild community trust in order to move forward on Takoma Junction and other city matters. I pledge to work to do just that.

Our Local Economy

Business-Economic Equity
Takoma Park has fallen short in support for Ward 5 businesses at Flower & Erie and near Piney Branch Road. The city should put more resources into Ward 5 business support, both in cooperation with the Long Branch Business League and also directly. I also advocate creation of a business association covering New Hampshire Avenue from Eastern Ave NW, north past East-West Highway, patterned on the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority and the Old Takoma Business Association. OTBA coverage notably spans the Maryland-D.C. border; Flower Avenue in Ward 5 and New Hampshire Avenue south of Route 410 are similarly border streets so we should work cooperatively with Montgomery County and Prince George’s County, respectively.
 
I’d like to see mixed-use redevelopment of the former Washington Adventist Hospital campus that combine multi-unit housing (larger apartment buildings and “missing middle”), retail & commercial space, and community amenities. A land-use process is underway, a Takoma Park Minor Master Plan amendment, extended north along Maple Avenue to the Takoma Park Community Center.

Tax & Service Duplication 

Takoma Park and Montgomery County both offer police, recreation, library, parks, and public works services and own and maintain their roads. State law recognizes this duplication and mandates tax-duplication payments from the county to the city, however payments reimburse only part of the city’s service-delivery cost. Should the city stop offering certain services and in favor of county service delivery? 

I believe the city should not give up services to the county. City service quality is high and often broader than the county’s. The county would not support our library or likely the New Hampshire Ave. Rec Center, and we’d lose the coverage and innovation we benefit from in having our own police force. (I particularly appreciate Police Chief Antonio DeVaul’s policy drastically reducing traffic stops in non-threatening situations.)

I’ve tracked this issue for almost 20 years. I served on the leadership team of Takoma Park’s Tax and Services Duplication Issues (TASDI) Committee back in the day. We can and should continue to seek a boost to tax-duplication payments. One step is to negotiate for Takoma Park property owners to receive the same exemption from the county’s line-item Recreational Tax — $0.0259 per $100 assessed value for the current levy year, $129.50 for a $500,000 property — that Rockville and Gaithersburg property owners receive. 

In any case, I’m open to discussing a city-service remix. Setting up a city Charter Review Commission — Montgomery County has one — would provide a public mechanism for this discussion. Let’s explore this in the months ahead.