GRANOLAPARK: Kate kicks off

GRANOLAPARK • BY GILBERT

Dear Readers,

Part I of this week’s council/campaign coverage.

Kate Stewart kicked off her campaign last Friday, only four days after sitting mayor Bruce Williams announced he would not run this fall.

She’s the first one of at least two. Ward 1 council member Seth Grimes is the other announced candidate. His first election event will be in August.

Stewart’s speech, which she delivered without notes, introduced herself and her three issues: police/community relations, responsive government and thoughtful development.

She used the slogan “Listen, hear and act” a number of times, and “proactive” was an oft-repeated catch-word, “What our community needs is, first of all, pro-active leadership.”

She was introduced as a “good listener” by her mother-in-law Barbara Griffith, and that’s how she was described by a couple of her supporters among the 50 or more people crowded into Stewart’s Elm Street home.

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Barbara Griffith introduces her daughter-in-law, mayoral candidate Kate Stewart. Photo by Bill Brown

She described some of the work she’s done on behalf of her constituents, for example – vacant and blighted buildings. Since she won office in the 2014 special election two vacant Ward 3 homes have caught fire, worrying many homeowners, especially those who live near such buildings.

Stewart said she was disappointed by the issue’s slow progress up the crowded city council meeting agenda list. But she was pleased that in response the city staff has compiled an inventory of all abandoned city buildings – 87 of them.

She’s getting ready, she said, to give “a tool” to the staff to do something about them. By that she means an ordinance that allows the city to levy tax fines on the owners of vacant, unkempt properties. The draft ordinance is on the city council’s Sept. 14th agenda – tentatively.

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She stressed three issues. First was community/police relations, which earned the candidate an approving murmur from the crowd. The city is doing well in some ways, she said, but it could do better, “We can improve. We can be a leader.”

She was disturbed, she said by anecdotes minority youth told her about interactions with Takoma Park police. Minority youth she spoke to, she said, feel as though they live in Takoma Park but are not part of the community,

To get the law-enforcement perspective, Stewart also went for a police “ride-along,” she said.

It was she who proposed the city hire a police/community public relations consultant, she said. The proposal passed and revenues were set aside for the purpose.


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Stewart’s second issue is progressive sustainable government. The city says that is its goal, but it is not realizing that goal, she says.

The city falls short when it comes to engaging more of the community, said Stewart. She observed this when the city went though discussions about Takoma Junction development. The city, she said, did not dialog well with the community.

She wants to change council meeting times to accommodate more citizens. It doesn’t seem right to her, she said, to only have meetings on Mondays from 7:00 PM, sometimes to the wee-hours. She wants to make innovations: providing childcare, holding meetings at different locations around the city, and on different days and times – Saturday afternoons, perhaps.

 

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Ward 3 residents Linda and Sean Lipton with candidate Kate Stewart. Photo by Bill Brown

Takoma Park has to work harder at being an inclusive community, she said. All the people who live here have be be considered when thinking about police policies, development and other issues.

What is needed, she said is proactive thinking about how to bridge economic and racial divides.

Her goal, she said, to make sure that everyone who lives in the city feels they are part of it.

Her third third is sustainable economic development. Development around the Purple Line and on New Hampshire Avenue will mean changes for city residents. As exciting as it is, she said, the city has to be thoughtful and engaged.

“If we just let things happen and we don’t have leadership that will take a strong pro-active stand we’ll all wake up one morning and be, like, ‘Ah, I don’t know where we are, this isn’t the community I want to live in or the one i came to.'”

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Kate Stewart and a supporter. Photo by Bill Brown.

She told the crowd she expected a tough race. She asked for volunteers, endorsements and contributions.

Attending was a mix of neighbors and movers-and-shakers. Howard and Diane Kohn were there. people from the Jaime Raskin campaign, former Ward 3 council member Hank Prensky and Jonathan Shurberg, one of several unsuccessful candidates for the state assembly District 20 seat last year. Self-styled progressive Shurberg doesn’t live in Takoma Park, but he pays close attention to local politics in his blog Maryland Scramble.

Christa Burton, political outreach director for the Jamie Raskin for Congress campaign, was there. Stewart mentioned her and an upcoming Women for Raskin event. Gender was mentioned a few times. In her introduction Mother-in-law Griffin said that as a feminist she was pleased to see the the younger generation – Stewart – continuing the fight. Stewart is currently the only woman on the council, and when she ran – against two men – for her Ward 3 seat, she actively sought the women’s vote.

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A re-purposed campaign sign originally from Stewart’s 2014 council campaign. Photo by Bill Brown.

Most attending were from Stewart’s Ward 3. Mark Swartz, a five-year Poplar Avenue resident, was one – though he wasn’t sure what ward he lives in. He may not follow politics, but he was impressed by Stewart when she attended a meeting about immigrant rights. Also, his children and and hers are in the same theater program.

Some were there not as supporters but to hear what the candidate had to say. Karen Henry of Ward 3 was one. Her friend Caroline Zwicker of Ward 2 was more of a supporter.

Linda and Sean Lipton, Ward 3, good, said Stewart has been a responsive council member and would make a good responsive mayor.

Also present were Stewart’s husband Jon Griffith and their daughters Maya and Bridget.

Candidate Stewart has a website.

Candidate Seth Grimes also has a basic site up.

No other candidates have announced as of yet.

Part II of this week’s council/campaign coverage.

– 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.