“Perhaps it is time for a disincorporation slate to be formed for the coming election. The city’s’ primary reasons for founding, to provide protective services not provided for by the county, no longer exist. . . . . Silver Spring, Kensington, and Bethesda are doing quite well without municipal government. A time to every season, and Takoma Park’s season has passed.”
No, it’s not. Yes, they do. No, they don’t. And, No, it hasn’t, Lawrence.
Lawrence, you are so sadly misguided! A dis-incorporation movement would be about as popular in Takoma Park as a gun club (and, there would probably be a lot of overlapping membership).
For proof of this, observe the angry pile of folk who steamed up to the mic at the Citizen’s Comment session of the May 25 Takoma Park city council meeting. They were young parents, relative newcomers to the city, and they were there to bellow “HELLLLP!” at their nearest and dearest elected officials.
The county school system is changing school district boundaries, as it does from time to time, and these parents were afraid their kids would end up in a school outside the city. This upsets them because: 1) they want their children to be in school with their friends, 2) they feel that the city boundaries should be respected by the school system, and 3) they deliberately bought houses in Takoma Park, despite the higher taxes and home costs, so their kids could attend the schools here. One mother said that she was mad because if her neighborhood is switched to a non-city school, it would lower her property values.
Now, how do you suppose such people would react if you suggested dis-incorporating, Lawrence?
There are a LOT of residents who deliberately moved to Takoma Park despite the higher prices and the additional tax burden. They like the community, the city services, the schools, and the rising-or-at-least-solid property values. Whisper “dis-incorporate” to these people and they would jump down your throat faster than a swine-flu bug.
Tell Me Why
Mayor Bruce Williams, no fool in the face of irate uber-parents, told them that on their behalf the council would ask the county to follow its own criteria – which call for maintaining communities when making boundary changes. He did gently point out that the “tendency” of the city council was not to get involved in school boundary issues. He also dropped the hint that the county school system has a process that is “fairly constricted” to public input. But, he said, the council would talk to people in the county system and represent their concerns.
And that’s ANOTHER reason dis-incorporation will never happen.
Dear Readers, tell me why these people were seeking redress for a COUNTY problem from CITY elected officials when city officials have NO authority over the county schools?
We’ll tell you why! Its because the city council is accessible and responsive. Relative to the county or state, anyway The huge, top-down, bureaucratic school system and the aloof school board don’t give a rat’s tail about 25 families in Takoma Park. Same for our elected county councilmembers. 25 votes are nothing to them.
25 votes in Takoma Park could carry an election. So, even though the city council has no authority, they will DO something for these constituents, even if it is only to talk to the authorities on their behalf.
This is the value of local government. It is not a value you can measure by tax dollars, Dear Readers. This is why people want to move here. This is why property values are so high here.
Unincorporated areas such as Silver Spring and Kensington get similar services for fewer taxes, but they don’t have an accessible and responsive local government as we do. How much is that worth? Apparently, it is worth a lot. Despite our higher tax rate, people want to move here and the high property values demonstrate the desirability of Takoma Park.
And while we’re tossing down rhetorical questions, Dear Readers; how do you suppose Takoma Park got this way?
Sammie Abbott, that’s how!
Or it was Sammie’s friends and allies, or, most likely, all of ‘em together. The record shows a citizen initiated ballot referendum establishing our current ward system was passed in 1980, the same year Sammie was first elected mayor. The actual change came in 1982, the next election.
Prior to that, the city councilmembers were elected at-large. The 1980-1982 council was hostile to Abbott and his ideas. In 1982, the first ward elections were held and a slate of Abbott supporters swept into office. Without having to spend much money or depend on citywide influence the new candidates won the votes by going door to door through their own neighborhoods.
The small size of the wards made the representatives highly sensitive to consistent needs (and votes).
If only we had this kind of responsive representation on the county council and the school board with their huge districts that require huge campaign chests and political influence to run a campaign in.
Turn the telescope around, you dis-incorporationists, you are looking at it though the wrong end! The solution to double-taxation and high taxes is not to dis-incorporate the city. It is to dis-incorporate the COUNTY! Incorporate Silver Spring, Kensington, and Bethesda and let them experience real democracy!
The final vote was taken on the budget. As expected there were 2 votes against it. “Nay” voters Terry Seamens and Josh Wright said the budget could have been squeezed a bit more.
Fare Thee Well, Sir Barry
Councilmember Doug Barry attended his last meeting (as Ward 6 representative, anyway). He is moving from Takoma Park and cannot serve out his term. A replacement will be appointed by the council However, so far there have been no applications for the temporary post. Perhaps this is because of the condition that whoever fills the last few months of Barry’s term may not run for the office this fall.
Your Gilbert bids a fond farewell to councilmember Barry, whom we once described as “a blast of oxygen” and a knight “riding in on a white horse” for his businesslike, efficient, and effective style. It stood in stark contrast to that of his council colleagues at the time, and perhaps now.