On October 19 the Takoma Voice hosted a forum for the candidates in the upcoming City Council election in Takoma Park. The forum was moderated by Eric Bond, editor in chief, and Bill Brown, creator of Citizen Bill.
Not surprisingly, all seven candidates running for the three contested seats (in Wards Two, Three and Six) think they know what is wrong with the city, and all think they are the best solution moving forward. Only a few differences came out during the forum.
Both Ward Two candidates, Tim Male and Lorig Charkoudian, highlighted the fact that they have experience handling budgets for non-profit organizations. He is vice-president for policy at Defenders of Wildlife, and she is director of Community Mediation Maryland. Male’s annual budget is $2.1 million, while Charkoudian oversees and raises the money for an annual $900,000 budget.
Both of them also mentioned their PhDs, his in conservation biology, and hers in economics.
In Ward Three, Jeffery Noel-Nosbaum is the youngest candidate, at 29, which he argued was one of his strong points. He also said he would bring a unique perspective to the table because he is a renter. He also is a government employee for Montgomery County, which he says will also be a useful insight. However, he did not mention any civic engagement or fiscal experience.
A second Ward Three candidate, Kay Daniels-Cohen, has lived in Takoma Park since 1946 and describes herself as “home-grown.” Daniels-Cohen also added that she is living on a fixed income, and can therefore empathize with those who sometimes struggle to pay for city services. While she has an impressive list of civic accomplishments, including being named Activist of the Year in 2009, she did not emphasize any experience working with budgets.
The third Ward Three candidate, Mike Graul, is a 30-year resident of Takoma Park. He listed his experience as a lobbyist for 25 years on the federal level. He said he has gained insight into by walking around town and talking to his neighbors.
Ward Six also has two candidates, Barrie Howard and Fred Shultz. Howard spoke at length about his involvement in city issues and his activism in trying to limit the scale of a Bethesda-like development at the Takoma-Langley Crossroads. Shultz, the only incumbent running against an opponent, also talked about the numerous meetings he’s attended in dealing with zoning issues for the same development, which he predicted would have an impact on Takoma Park for the next 50 years
In response to several rounds of questioning, Charkoudian stated that the budget process needs to be more transparent and should be based on data and performance, adding that her expertise is in cost-benefit analysis. Male brought up the need for the City to get a higher percentage of rebates from Montgomery County and suggested that, given the duplicate taxes City residents pay, local services should be improved, noting trash pickup and recycling.
Graul also raised criticism about City services, admitting they are “good” but said they should be “exceptional.” While most of the candidates generally praised the work of Council-appointed committees, Graul suggested that the committee system is archaic and needs to be reevaluated.
Noel-Nosbaum questioned the value of speed bumps but spoke strongly in favor of maintaining the library as a high priority. Daniels-Cohen said that one of her priorities will be to work on revitalizing the Takoma Junction. She is a member of the Junction task force that is scheduled to issue a report by the year’s end.
Both Shultz and Howard mentioned the issue of double taxation and said the City should take a harder line with the County. “This is money that belongs to us,” Schultz said. No one, though, had a concrete plan for obtaining more rebates, which is a long-running City-County dispute aggravated in recent years by lean budget times.
The full forum can be seen below or at:
(Get popcorn: the forum is two hours long.)
Featured photo by Jesse Allen
Many thanks to Alvaro Calabia and the crew at Takoma Park City TV and Jessie Carpenter.