Ward 4 – the only election race in town

BY LEJLA SARCEVIC

Terry J. Seamens, councilmember for Takoma Park’s Ward 4, finds himself in an unusual spot; he is the only incumbent facing an opponent in the upcoming November 5 council elections.

His opponent Eric Mendoza, a long time resident of Takoma Park, is looking to unseat the popular Seamens with the help of the youth vote.

This isn’t the first time that Mendoza has run against Seamens. He was a write-in candidate in the 2009 and 2011 elections. This time around, he was successfully nominated at the recent nominating caucus.

This Ward 4 election centers around youth issues, with both candidates placing it atop of their electoral agenda.

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Incumbent Ward 4 councilmember Terry Seamens.

Seamens has been busy talking to Ward 4 residents and hearing their concerns.

He said that many of the young are having a tough time making ends meet.

“So many of the young people I talk with on the street corners are either unemployed or underemployed,” Seamens said.
Seamens’ record on youth issues is substantial. He was one of the leaders in bringing the basketball program back. It has been highly successful, with about 700 young participants last year, Seamens said.

Seamens said that he secured $20,000 in the budget for vocational training where the city will take about a dozen young adults and help them develop skills in areas like construction, in the hope that it will lead to better employment opportunities.

“We have been successful in helping with the food programs through the years and addressing some of the other concerns that the residents have,” said Seamens. “One area where I think we could really focus for the next two years is the young adults in the community that haven’t been able to secure employment.”

Seamens voted to give Takoma Park’s youth some autonomy.

“I became a supporter of lowering the voting age after listening to testimony and looking at some of the participation we receive at other sources,” Seamens said.

 

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Ward 4 council seat challenger Eric Mendoza

Ironically, it’s this very city charger change that Mendoza feels might give him an advantage in the election as he targets the youth vote.

He said he wants to focus on getting 16-year-olds to get out and vote, to participate in their community and get involved.

Mendoza wishes to instil civic values early on in a child’s life. He said one of the programs that he would like to see picked up by council is a clean up day; encouraging young kids to get out into their neighbourhoods and pick up discarded trash.

“Just one day a week, like every Sunday, have a clean up day and clean up all the trash,” said Mendoza.

He believes it would teach children to appreciate their neighborhoods more so that the next time they see somebody discard something, they will pick it up immediately.

On a recent controversy

Takoma Park is a city that prides itself on its progressive initiatives and one such controversial issue divided the city this year.

Seamens said, for example, that while he supported the pesticide ban he has some reservations about it and it may be something that the council will have to re-visit.

“There are some obvious difficulties. It will be interesting to see how it works out, but I think overall from the perspective of the health and wellbeing of the community, I think it’s a good initiative,” Seamens said. “Enforcement may be difficult.”

“I’m trying to figure out where Ward 4 would pesticides at all,” said Mendoza.

Profiling, police and crime

Mendoza doesn’t see much value in fretting over issues which he deems as unimportant to Ward 4 residents. Instead, he focuses on the things that he says he sees in the community every day.

“Another issue is racial profiling, I think a lot of that still exists and a lot of that still goes on,” said Mendoza. “At one point in time we was [sic] labelled as the highest crime rate in Takoma Park. Everybody just turned the other cheek when it came to Ward 4.”
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Hindowa Corneh nominates Ward 4 challenger Eric Mendoza at the Oct. 1 city Nominating Caucus.

He acknowledges that Ward 4 has come a long way since then, but that crime is still an issue. However, he said “definitely no more police.”

It’s something both candidates agree on, and think that the best way to tackle crime rates is through improved programs for youth.

Tax duplication

These programs may start to cost the city money. People are already tax weary after decades of tax duplication, where residents continue to be taxed by the county for services that the county doesn’t provide, but the city does. They want to know if they will see any progress on that any time soon.

Seamens remains cynical about much progress over the next two years.

“It’s one of those issues that’s going to take a lot of work. I’m pessimistic for big moves in the near term,” Seamens said. “I think the only progress we’ll be able to gain is through an improved state law, state legislation that gives the municipality more control.”

Mendoza was had less to say on the issue, only that after so much time, he believed that there is a need to speed up the process.

Key differences

The key difference between the two candidates appears to be focus. Seamens serves his community by putting it in the context of the wider Takoma Park community, while Mendoza is deeply focused on the people he sees every day in his neighborhood.

Mendoza is an active member of his community, speaking frequently with residents about some of the simplest things that affect their day to day lives. He is basing much of his campaign proposals on those conversations.

One such issue is recycling, which Mendoza claims doesn’t happen in ward 4 as much as other wards. He said it was an issue that was brought to his attention by the residents.

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A Ward 4 constituent nominates incumbent Terry Seamens at the Oct 1 city Nominating Caucus.

“Yeah, that’s true, I don’t see much recycling around here,” Mendoza said.

With such initiatives, Mendoza hopes to increase a sense of community in Ward 4, something he says that it sometimes lacks over the other wards.

“You know, because people are so busy with their day-to-day life, but if you go to another ward you can see how, you know, the community, the people that live those communities, they stick together.”

Community

Not that Seamens lacks a sense of community.

“I was always a strong supporter of allowing recently released felons to vote, because they are members of the community and we want them to be able to contribute positively,” Seamens said.

Whatever the final verdict, Mendoza hopes to continue to contribute to the community.

Even if I don’t win, you know, hopefully the city will reach out to me and help me find other things,” Mendoza said.

 

About the Author

Lejla Sarcevic
Lejla is a master's student at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She hails from Adelaide, South Australia and has a bachelor's degree in screen production from Flinders University. Lejla is interested in politics and public policy and the relationship between different levels of government.