Guest Blog: Contested elections in Takoma Park: Sknnnxtzzz! (thanks Dagwood!)

Dear Readers,

Your Gilbert does not necessarily agree with or endorse any of the incendiary, controversial, ROCK YOUR WORLD opinions expressed in the following post by one of our frequent commentors.

We turn the digital floor over to Alain in the service of free speech, democracy, and the sacred electoral process! Long may it wave! Also, we are lazy and prefer to let someone else do all the writing for once. In addition we are secretly (shhh!) pleased that Alain’s remarks prove there is an even grumpier curmudgeon than Your Gilbert in town.

– Gilbert

by Alain Thery

This deafening silence that you may notice is the sound of the electoral campaigns of Bruce Williams (incumbent) and Roger Schlegel for Mayor of Takoma Park.

I must say that given their respective profile and platforms in the Takoma Voice of October 2009, it may be best that we hear so little about them! In fact, the best unit of measurement of the respective programs so far may well be the Torr, a unit of measurement of vacuum!


In one corner, we have the inescapable veteran of Takoma Park City Hall, Bruce Williams, who has served on the Council, either as a member or as Mayor, for the last 16 years.

His program can be summarized as “we must look for opportunities for smart government”! After this time in City government where things have pretty much gone as they always had, I would say that if “smart government” was a hysterically screaming blue elephant sitting in the entrance of the hall long-named city hall/community center, he would probably miss it This is a man who got elected mayor the last time on a platform of reviewing the operations of every City department. That is right, “reviewing the operations of every City department”!

After the debacle of the last year in office of Kathy Porter, that suggested a fresh whiff of air in the leadership of the City. But what happened? Well, after a brief review of the operations of the Recreations Department in July 2008 that was far from flattering, the matter got buried quite fast through a “committee” that gave the seal of approval to some “changes”. As for the rest of the departments, I guess not more than one by mayoral terms and that only if the “declarations in support of…” and other resolutions commending…” do not take to much time from the substantial work! Of course not a word about that in this year platform.

As for the rest, it is all about getting grants or taking credit for things that happened that can only be very tenuously linked to him: his comments on his time talking with business organizations and the results that we see downtown should be an indication of how effective the man has been. Well except in presiding over ever rapidly increasing budgets

In the other corner, we have a new face, Roger B. Schlegel, a rare occasion, a challenger.

It should be obvious that I relished the presence of a challenger who would at the very least give the incumbent a run for his money. How wrong I was! Despite flaunting early on his MA in Public Administration, it does not appear that Mr. Schlegel has much practical experience in that field. Not only he does not mention anything about this experience (which, to my view, would be a critical plus for the position he is seeking), but also, unless he is much younger looking than he looks, the 14 years of teaching English and AP Human Geography at Gonzaga College HS did not leave many years for direct work in Public administration! I would also have expected someone with a public administration background to be more specific about what he plans to do. But instead we get non- sequiturs such as “nobody does festivals better than Takoma Park but it’s possible to improve how we watch our bottom line”! Does he know that the festivals are largely privately financed? If so, what does it have to do with the City’s bottom line? In short, what we get from Schlegel is an strong impression of dilettantism sprinkled with new-agey clichés, and pats-on-the-back bromides such as “conversation about the kind of place we want Takoma Park to be’, “celebrating sustainability like we do”.

Explicit common financial point between them

The economic downturn requires us to rethink the way we provide services. As if this was not a general necessity in view of having the budget increase every year, by 10%+ (significantly above inflation) just in the name of continuing to provide services!


In view of the fact that none of the two candidates for Mayor proposes anything that brings any changes to the way that the City has been managed, only the diehard voters will bother to show up on election day. If the weather is very nice, some may decide to go vote as an objective for a constitutional.

The likely winner is projected to be Bruce Williams by a wide margin in a low turnout (anybody surprised? let me know!)

Takoma Park, it is not this time that you will wake up from your so-deep slumber that some call it a coma..

About the Author

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.

13 Comments on "Guest Blog: Contested elections in Takoma Park: Sknnnxtzzz! (thanks Dagwood!)"

  1. Evangelista Torricelli | October 13, 2009 at 3:25 pm |

    The torr is not a unit of vacuum, it is a unit of pressure. How dare you blaspheme my unit in this manner!

  2. Seth Grimes | October 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm |

    And if either candidate proposed steps that would bring changes to the way that the City has been managed, short of disincorporation, how do you think that would affect turn-out Alain (or Gilbert)?
    I believe that it would take a bona-fide contested race, where two credible candidates put real (figurative) shoe leather into campaigning, to boost turn-out, but even then turn-out would depend on there being multiple contested races and would be unlikely to break 40%.

  3. Oh, this is a fun turnaround, Your Gilbert gets to make comments about Alain’s posting!
    Alain, what’s your source when you say of Mayor Williams that “This is a man who got elected mayor the last time on a platform of reviewing the operations of every City department.”
    This alleged platform was not mentioned in William’s inaugural speech. He listed a number accomplishments he pledged to undertake, and reviewing the operations of every City department is not one of them.
    – Gilbert

  4. Seth, what is “real (figurative) shoe leather?”
    – Gilbert

  5. Tom Gagliardo | October 13, 2009 at 5:11 pm |

    Well, we once had Sam Abbott who shook things up and defeated some 35-40 years of uninterrupted office-holding by Citizens for Sound Government or whatever the incumbents called themselves. His platform was(1) unify the city (done); (2) end double taxation (used to be sort of done, but I think we have regressed); and (3) increase city zoning authority (got a token nod, but not much changed).
    If Sam were alive he could explain real (figurative) shoe leather. Probably something about going door-to-door talking about how the county taketh more than it giveth and a strategy for changing how the county calculates what the city is owed. I once represented the city with Roger Titus (now a judge) in a suit concerning the same. But Sam’s strategy was much more political than legal.
    So, Mayor Somebody, here’s a slogan “End Double Taxation. Vote for Somebody.”
    So far I’m voting for Noneoftheabove.

  6. I do not have the time to go dig in the archives of either the Voice or the Gazette but there must be a record somewhere of Williams’s platform in his fist run for Mayor. I know that I had a (brief) moment of support for Williams when I read his platform last time around as it addressed an issue that I, as well as others, had asked for, the review of the operations of the City Departments. I thought that Williams after his years of experience on the Council may have had an epiphany! But if as you said he did not even mention it in his inaugural speech, he is just a double-talking politician just out for your vote with no real platform except get elected. So I will vote as Tom, Noneotheabove!

  7. Andrew Hogg Brown | October 13, 2009 at 6:06 pm |

    Tom Gagliardo: “Well, we once had Sam Abbott …. His platform was(1) unify the city (done); ….”
    A bit mixed up on the history there, hoss. Unification was “done” in 1995. Abbott was long dead by then. He had been out of office ten years at the time. Unification was pronounced dead around the time that he ended his term, and revived by his successor (Del Guidice), who really was the one most responsible for its success.

  8. Alain, Your Gilbert’s staff has time. They did a quick search of Gazette and Voice online archives and found precious little about William’s 2007 campaign positions. That is undoubtedly due to the fact that he was running unopposed.
    His Voice campaign ad has no platform, only quotes from local notables attesting to his leadership skills.
    The only coverage of his inaugural remarks that we can find is our own. As noted, we find no reference to a department review. He addressed development, the need to lobby other politicians as well as Mayor Porter did, county tax rebates, the renovation of the council chambers, “changing the budget proposal format so people can understand it better, addressing greenhouse gas reduction in the city, and the forthcoming results of the city services survey.”
    – Gilbert

  9. Gilbert, in this month Voice there is a presentation of the candidates that is presumably written by each one of them although it is not an ad and presents what certainly looks like a platform. There was something similar last time around and it contained the review of the operations of the City departments! That is why I had a brief moment of enthusiasm for Bruce Williams (who up to then had looked to me as the Yes Man for Kathy Porter). Since then I have talked about it with some Council members who remembered it, made noise about reminding the Mayor but it looks like it stopped there. So congratulations to your staff for trying but it seems to have fallen short… As for the inaugural speech, you are the one who introduced that point and I already answered that point. Although being something of an iconoclast, I am always surprised by people who seem to have such allegiance to officialdom pronouncements (although they present themselves as curmudgeons), especially, as in this case, not only it is irrelevant but they are the only record. Thanks anyway for giving me my 30 seconds in the spotlight!

  10. Alain, you mistake our journalistic attempt to back up your allegation for “allegiance to officialdom pronouncements.”
    Our crackerjack staff did not “fall short” trying to substantiate YOUR allegation for you. We reviewed the October and November issues of the Voice and found no review of the candidates like the one in this month’s issue. The closest thing to it is a report on the candidate forum in the November issue. There is nothing in the article about Williams pledging to review all the city departments. Not even close. In fact he is quoted as praising the city staff.
    Memory can be faulty, even yours! This is why we want come kind of confirmation about such an allegation, as we’re sure you understand.
    Digging further, however, we find an article about the same event in the Gazette (Oct. 22, 2007), and it says the following:
    “Williams said the city should examine existing programs to see if it can cut down on expenditures.”
    Williams is quoted as saying “The first part of it is using the tax dollars we have the most wisely and looking at the services we provide and see how we can provide them better, many with less cost.”
    Is that the “smoking gun?”
    – Gilbert

  11. I agree that my memory can fail. But somehow, I also fail to reconcile my brief moment of enthusiasm for the man with his performance until then unless there was something new or the similar memory of what Williams claimed then with what some others remember… But this is not a trial!
    Do you have access to hard copies of the Voice from that time? From the web I find 9/10 of references to your blog even though you occupy only 1/10 of the paper1

  12. Alain, the Voice archive can be found at:

    Everything is there – pdfs of every issue by page. It’s possible we missed something as we did not examine each page, just the articles that seemed likely, but there’s nothing in the October or November 2007 Table of Contents indicating a candidate profile page of the sort you suggest.
    The City newsletter (archives also available online at the city site) does have candidate profiles, but Williams’ does not mention reviewing departments, programs, or services.
    Perhaps you are remembering a piece of campaign literature?
    – Gilbert

  13. Alain,
    As Roger’s wife, I can attest to the fact that we have been “pounding the pavement” – I know because I’ve been pushing the double stroller with 60 lbs. of kid in it! We’ve obviously missed your residence, but Roger would be happy to pay you a visit (or have an old-fashioned phone call like he had with Gilbert) – and we welcome anyone to visit his website to read a little, send an e-mail… and we look forward to the candidate’s forum on the 18th!

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