BY DYSTANY MUSE
TAKOMA PARK – Council candidates for Takoma Park’s Ward One appealed for votes at the Takoma Voice candidate forum, Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Peter Kovar, Victor Thuronyi and Elizabeth Wallace are the three candidates. They took the podium following a round-table discussion featuring uncontested candidates. Ward One and the mayoralty are the only two contested races this year.
In his introduction Thuronyi responded to the preceding round-table’s discussion “on bringing people in this city together.”
He said he the city council needs to make it a priority even if it isn’t easy.
He addressed the reasons so few eligible residents vote. “Turnout is low and we don’t like that,” said Thuronyi.
“One of the reasons people don’t vote is because they don’t feel engaged with the city,” he said.
“[The] second reason people don’t vote is because there aren’t contested elections,” said Thuronyi.
Thuronyi suggests that more people would run if the councilmember and mayoral salaries were increased, so more residents can afford to run and serve on the council.
Thuronyi said a third reason people do not vote is because it is not as easy as it could be.
He wants to make the city cutting-edge by incorporating online voting and voting by mail.
Thuronyi is in favor of city outreach, especially to those who are immigrants and were not aware they could vote in the city.
He is against the ballot question, which seeks citizen opinion on whether to move the city’s elections to the same dates as state and national elections.
“Increasing participation would seem to be sort of an afterthought, I would go a little bit differently and really make it a goal to have people be connected to the city,” said Thuronyi.
Thuronyi said Takoma Park needs to worry less about the numbers and more about residents feeling included enough to vote.
He suggests that residents should be involved just as much as the council in the tax-lowering process.
Kovar, a Takoma Park resident since 1992, plans to use his experience working on Capitol Hill to succeed in city government.
“We really live in a unique place which has this incredible sense of community,” said Kovar.
Kovar is on the board of Takoma Foundation and Village of Takoma Park.
“We don’t want development to destroy the things that I think everybody here loves about Takoma Park,” said Kovar.
There are several development projects underway or in the future. Kovar is a leader in the Right-Sized Not Super-Sized Development group opposing aspects of the Takoma Metro development project.
Kovar wants to keep the city affordable by monitoring the upcoming developments and by lowering taxes.
Kovar said residents reported parking as one of the biggest ward issues stemming from development.
He also supports increasing translation for immigrant communities, and he supports rent control.
Kovar supports plans to increase youth outreach and the suggestion to provide ballot translation to non-English speaking immigrants. He supports the ballot question to move the city election date, based on what he’s heard from residents.
“I think people are pretty well informed about what’s happening here,” said Kovar.
“Change can be good,” said Wallace.
Wallace said the community should face change head on and bring the diversity of experience to the community.
She said the biggest issue facing ward one is police response. She is in favor of more proactive policing.
She has heard from various residents that this has been an increasing problem.
Wallace is not in favor of changing the election date.
“If I don’t win, I don’t win. but the most valuable lesson I had was to face my own fears. I was afraid of our police department,” said Wallace.
Wallace went on a ride-along with the Takoma Park police department to face those fears and used this as an example to get others to face their fears.
“I really want to learn from the city staff, as well as the former city councilmen, what it was that they were talking about these twenty something years about getting our money back and tax duplication. Why has it taken this long?” said Wallace.
Wallace said she has a lot to learn about what did work in the past but a streamlined budget is the best idea for lowering taxes.
She said she would also implement programs to track the process at which things are moving in the city.
See the Unification needed again report on the Voice Election Forum round-table discussion, and the Mayoral candidates offer contrasts report on that portion of the forum. See the Voice Voter Guide for additional forums and other election information.