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Candidate Eric Hensal

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Dear Readers,

As a public service and at great personal expense and sacrifice, Your Gilbert is providing space for the Ward 5 Takoma Park City Council candidates: Alexandra Quéré Barrionuevo, Eric Hensal, and Reuben Snipper. Each candidate has been asked to respond to a questionnaire and their replies will be posted as they come in, each on its own page.

No, no, Dear Readers, don’t thank us! Not yet. Wait until we also tell you that we’re encouraging a dialog between readers and candidates here on these pages. Please add your comments and questions for the candidates.

NOW, you may thank us!

The election will be held Tuesday, January 30th, at Columbia Union College, Wilkinson Hall, 7600 Flower Avenue in Takoma Park. The polls will be open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Links to additional information, including candidate photos and statements and a pdf download of a sample ballot can be found on the city web site.

We note that the ballot sample features candidates John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr (and write-in candidate Bob Dylan). We applaud the city staff’s sense of humor, but we wince slightly at the suggestion, once again, that Takoma Park is stuck in the 60s, man, and we hope next time, they use the names from a more recent well known band, the Sex Pistols, for example, or The Spice Girls.

By the way, as you can see from the comment posted to this (the ONE comment on all this candidate information! Ward 5 voters, have you no questions or comments for the candidates?)
- Gilbert

PS. This just in: as a comment from our relentless friends at FairVote notes (see comments section), this will be the very first city election to use instant runoff voting. That means you Ward 5 voters get to vote for your second, third, or fouth (if you write-in a name) choices This election is going to be SO FAIR, that there will actually be NO LOSERS! We ALL win! The city council podium is going to get pretty crowded!

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CANDIDATE Eric Hensal

Question: What is your opinion of the city’s rent stabilization (rent control) ordinances? Do you support the revisions to the rent stabilization ordinance proposed by city housing policy consultant Kenneth Barr, Ph’d?

I support rent stabilization and the revisions put forward by Dr. Barr. The ordinance does need adjustment and his recommendations are balanced changes that will make the program more fair and efficient. In addition to rent stabilization, the city does need to examine how to strengthen and diversify our affordable housing efforts to make renting and owning homes more accessible to working families. I’ve heard from many renters who want to stay in Takoma Park but are unable to buy a home in the city and we should put more effort into working with residents who have rented in the city who want to move into home ownership.

Question: If you do not support rent control, what alternative form of affordable housing do you propose, if any?

Question: Should the city build a gymnasium? If “yes,” what price limit would you place on the project?

Most residents I spoke with on this subject are frustrated with the city on this point. Residents are asking–how could the city spend so much money, go so far over budget, and have a building without a gym?

I think before we discuss the construction of a gymnasium, we should first have a complete investigation of the policies and procedures that lead to the cost overruns and schedule delays in the community center project. Without learning from past mistakes, a new gym will be a repeat of the past.

In the interim, we should look to available resources, such a existing school facilities, which may provide gymnasium access to the community.

Also, before undertaking new construction projects, I’d like to see the city adopt responsible contractor requirements for bidders. This would mean contractors would be required to participate in certified apprenticeship programs, provide health care, and fund pensions for construction workers on the job.

Question: Should the city keep all of its municipal departments: library, police, recreation, trash-collection/recycling, and so forth? If not, which should go?

First, any discussion of losing departments must begin with a commitment to city employees to protect their employment. It is easy to talk about letting programs and services go but we should consider and respect the work city employees provide the community and the commitment they have made to Takoma Park.

When Takoma Park was split between Montgomery and Prince Georges Counties, there were clear reasons why the city took on task of delivering many services. Now that we are wholly within Montgomery County, we should examine if there are services that can be transitioned to the county and at the same time, develop innovative programs that deliver new services to Takoma Park residents that are not available to county residents.

Question: What, in your opinion, is going to happen to the Washinton Adventist Hospital (WAH)? Will they go or stay? Would you encourage them to stay and if so, how? If WAH leaves, what should be done with the property?

I believe we have to approach this issue in a new way. It is not simply a matter of resuming negotiations to try to keep some of the the hospital here through a split facility. While opposing the hospital expansion and its traffic burden was an important stand, today we need to move away from opposition and realize the need to re-engage the community and WAH in a discussion about the future of the site. WAH has been in the city for one hundred years and we should work together to keep this asset in our community. However, if the hospital leaves, it should be on good terms and in a spirit of cooperation that puts a facility in its place that meets the essential needs of our community.

Question: What is your position on the WMATA development issue?

In order to best protect the city’s interests, council members must make personal efforts to reach out to decision makers on WMATA board and the member governments to lobby for our positions. There are no straight lines of influence to have our opinions on the site’s development taken into account. This requires coalition building with other constituencies and governments to ensure the site is developed in a way that best suits Takoma Park.

Question: What is your position on development in general in the city?

Development clearly should reflect the small town quality that Takoma Park has. New projects should be on a ‘walkable’ scale, integrated into the neighborhoods and provide a greater range of goods and services than we currently have in the city.

Question: Aside from the WAH issue, what development issues are there in Ward 5 and how do you plan on addressing them?

The largest potential changes for the ward, outside the hospital, revolve around future construction at Columbia Union College. The new facilities built on campus and their availability to the surrounding neighborhoods can create a great deal of change and potential opportunities for the ward. Also, although the project falls mostly outside of the ward, an obvious influence will be any future development in the Long Branch community and the potential Purple Line stop in the area.

These projects may be tremendous assets to our community, if we are part of the process early on and are an active participant in their development.

Question: In the recent elections, a number of Takoma Park politicians ran for and won higher office. Does higher office interest you and if so, how many terms do you think a city councilmember should serve before running for another office?

Term limits are for the voters to set. If a person runs and is elected, that is decided by voters who know the records of the candidates.

Question: Are there issues other than the ones discussed above that are important to you? Please describe!

I am a strong supporter of a municipal electric system for Takoma Park. Municipal electric utilities typically provide electricity to residents at a 30% discount from the area investor owned utility. This is a long term project that takes the most advantage of our status as a city and creates a service that will benefit everyone for generations to come. This includes local businesses, such as WAH, which would also benefit from the lower rates without government providing any tax subsidies. Also, a municipal electric company is supported by rate payers, so this will not be a project that will increase our taxes to provide the service..

Question: Is there a website, newspaper article or other public place where voters can learn about your positions? Is there an email address people can write to or a phone number to call through which voters can ask you about your campaign? (other than the city website page)?

eric@erichensal.org is my email address. I can also be reached at 301-920-1928.

Eric Hensal is endorsed by the Washington Metropolitan AFL-CIO. For more information visit www.dclabor.org

Eric Hensal

About the author: Gilbert

Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

2 comments

  1. Jack says:

    IRV lets you rank the candidates so, if your favorite doesn’t win, your second most preferred has a shot. Here’s a great reason to learn something about all the candidates – or at least more than a single favorite.

  2. Angie says:

    Gilbert, I truly appreciate your offering these statements to us. I will be supporting Alexandra in the election, because she has given the most thought to the rent stabilization changes. I don’t believe the other candidates have really looked at this issue as it will affect the residents of Ward 5. I have contacted each personally and have only gotten the same “I support the proposed changes” you see in their statements, without thoughtful dialog. Only Alexandra could respond with ready knowledge of the facts.
    Ward 5 has the most small apartment buildings of any in Takoma Park. The changes proposed by Dr. Barr’s report will not offer the relief needed for these landlords. Even if exemptions are granted to buildings with four or less units (as in DC), that won’t change much for Ward 5 landlords, since many have 5 or more units. Several landlords have already listed their builings on the real estate market, with more coming soon. These will be wide open for condo conversion. Although conversion is not as profitable as it was two years ago, it’s still a better option then renting out units in small buildings.
    Even with the proposed tweaks to the current law, small buildings will continue to fall into disrepair and Ward 5 tenants will continue to live in slum-like dwellings.
    Rent stabilization is not affordable housing. It is a nice idea that allows the City to feel good about itself without really addressing the issue of low income housing needs. In the Takoma Park rent stabilization law there are no guarantees that lower rent units go to those who need it. No matter what the rent rate, when it comes to screening tenants, every landlord is going to choose the applicant with the highest income and best credit history. Unless the city finds some other way to control who goes into each apartment, those who need low rent are not going to easily find it.
    Regardless of the outcome of today’s election, I am praying that all council members carefully consider the true needs of Takoma Park citizens (and future citizens) and come up with an affordable housing plan that will benefit those in need.
    Thanks for the space to share my views. Ward 5 residents, please come out and vote!

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