GRANOLAPARK: South vs. north

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

We’re not going to endorse a candidate in tomorrow’s Ward 3 special election, though we’re tempted to.

The last real campaign – one with actual contested seats – we almost endorsed someone, and boy are we glad we held off. That person won and immediately smashed our expectations like a gin bottle dropped down a stair-well. So, we are NOT yielding to temptation this time.

However, we’re itching to talk about an issue the election raises. An issue that thousands, hundreds or at least 3 city residents care about.

The forgotten

Takoma Park’s “forgotten” wards and forgotten parts of wards get rediscovered in city election years.

In the current Ward 3 special election campaign, it’s the ward’s south end that’s been called “forgotten” by candidate Roger Schlegel.

The ward has a fat-bottomed hour-glass shape. The smaller top bubble to the north of the ward’s “Mason-Dixon Line,” Carroll Avenue and East-West Highway, has been the home of every city ward representative since 1993 when Hank Prensky held the office. They’ve all lived on that section’s streets named for generals or presidents. All are a few blocks from the city community center, seat of the city council.

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When she first ran for council in 2011, the late, beloved Sherman Avenue resident Kay Daniels-Cohen remarked on how enthusiasm for city government decreased the farther south she campaigned.

Current candidate Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum also ran in that election, and though he lives in the northern section, he grew up in the southern part. One of his 2011 campaign promises was to re-district the ward to eliminate the split – even if it meant redistricting himself out the ward.

He lost the election to Daniels-Cohen, the city was redistricted, but Ward 3 retained it’s shape. The Redistricting Committee was instructed not to gerrymander around any councilmember’s homes. But, in the end Ward 3’s shape was not touched.

At the March 28 candidate forum Noel-Nosbaum lamented that the city won’t have another chance to redraw the lines for ten years. Redistricting is done after each national census.

Southies

Resentment is high in the south end, especially in the south of the south end, where Roger Schlegel lives, and his campaign signs proliferate.

He electrified the audience of about 40 attending the March 29 candidates forum at the VFW Hall, sitting dead-center in “Hell’s Bottom,” the old nickname for the neighborhood.

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From left to right, candidates Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum, Kate Stewart, and Roger Schlegel, at the March 29 candidates forum.

It was largely a “southie” crowd, and they ate up Schlegel’s serving of bitter greens.

The proximity to city hall makes a difference, he said, a larger, critical mass of civically involved people live in the “president/general streets” have a stronger voice than that of the southerners. Instead, they get “mysterious delays” on the things they are promised – a playground, or new sidewalks, for example.

“These are real people with real needs.” said Schlegel. “I’m tired,” he said “of city staff whispering ‘this used to be PG county'” when they show officials around the area.

Less traffic – less attention

The third candidate, Kate Stewart, agreed that there is a north/south difference in sidewalks and upkeep of parks. She laid it to “less trafficked” areas getting less city attention. She said that she’s been going door-to-door in both parts of the wards and “not seeing many differences, or priority differences.”

Stewart lives on the south side, too, and has ties to the northern side – her mother-in-law lives there.

She lives on Sycamore, a street with clout, as we saw when Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchott, who also lives on that street, was able to get 8 regional police chiefs to a city meeting on crime.

Clout

Stewart has a lot of clout herself. She has the support of all the well-known city’s movers-and-shakers, including two sitting city council members, and Heather Mizeur, currently a candidate for governor. It’s an impressive list for someone with almost no experience in civic affairs. In some cases it has backfired, however – we’re heard grumbles that carpetbaggers from other wards have no business telling Ward 3 how to vote.

Schlegel has made a point of this, especially in the April 1 candidate forum, resentfully charging that the “hidden” political and social structure has anointed a new council member while he, who has toiled for years in the ranks of city committees and late-night meetings, has been passed over.

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At the April 1 forum, the candidates got to try out the city council dais seats. From left to right: Roger Schlegel, Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum, Kate Stewart.

And, yes, both Schlegel and Noel-Nosbaum do have more experience in city committees and the board of elections. Yet, Stewart sometimes has a more realistic vision of what a city councilmember can do.

For all his experience, Schlegel has some pie-in-the-sky notions of how to deal with double-taxation, for example – whereas Stewart has no plans other than to match step with the current city council. Which is the only realistic option.

Not forgotten

We haven’t forgotten Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum. Like Kay Daniels-Cohen he was raised in Takoma Park, and went through the schools and local athletic programs.

He may be the youngest at 31, but that gives him 10 more years as a city resident than the other candidates.

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Candidate Jeffrey Noel-Nosbaum.

He’s also a renter, which would make him the only renter on the council.

In some ways, he combines the aspects of the other two candidates, without the resentments or the elitism. He also has strong ties to both north and south, but clearly sees how the south has been let down. He’s been civically involved, serving on the city board of elections. He works for the county so he’s pretty savvy about how government works.

Are we endorsing him? Nah, just giving him equal time so he won’t yell at us for leaving him out. We’ll even pass on the plea he made at the first candidate’s forum, “We have IRV [Instant Runoff Voting}, please consider me for your second choice vote.”

He amended that at the second forum, asking for first choice votes, but noting – as are all the candidates, the voters and the voting-policy geeks – that if none of the three gets at least 50% of the vote, IRV will kick in. So, voting your first, second, and third choices is crucial, Dear Readers.

– Gilbert

 

 

 

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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 on "GRANOLAPARK: South vs. north"

  1. Gilbert, I think your analysis is astute, although I see three sub-regions within Ward 3 rather than two: South, Central, and North, with boundary streets Elm Avenue (South/Central) and Carroll Avenue (Central/North).

    This sort of divide isn’t unique to Ward 3. In my own ward, Ward 1, the last 4 councilmembers have lived in the Philadelphia-Eastern Neighborhood although each of us had/has paid attention to all neighborhoods in the ward. I think a factor that isolates neighborhoods is that each has its own e-mail list, with membership outside the neighborhood often not allowed.

  2. I read to the end and never found out who the winning candidate was who became the busted gin bottle.

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