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Takoma Park mayor stays committed to racial equity

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takoma park logoTAKOMA PARK — After residents voiced concerns about the potential impact of a proposed development in Takoma Park on the City’s minority community, Mayor Kate Stewart said she is still committed to racial equity as the City Council weighs the issue.

Introduced in April 2017 and sponsored by Council member Jarrett Smith (Ward 5), the Racial Equity Lens establishes that the Council consider the impact each project or resolution would have on minority groups in the city by including a Racial Equity Impact Statement on all agenda items discussed by the Council.

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Takoma Problems Persist

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takoma park logoTAKOMA PARK — Tensions between residents and the Takoma Park City Council remain high as the project to redevelop a city-owned parking lot adjacent to the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op enters its fifth year.

“Our county and the world is already affected enough by our cars and our carbon footprint, without trucks adding to it all,” said 13-year-old Ward 2 resident Elizabeth Comfort-Cohen during the City Council's weekly meeting Wednesday. Comfort-Cohen, who goes by the Co-op on her commute to school, expressed concern the proposed Takoma Junction Redevelopment project could have on pedestrians and cyclists. “All I’m asking, council members, is that you think long and hard about the effect this project can make on the community and not just the government.”

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Folk Festival Draws Hundreds in Takoma Park

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TAKOMA PARK – Hundreds of Takoma Park residents gathered Sunday afternoon for the city's annual folk festival to celebrate cultural diversity.

"Today's event is terrific, one, we have perfect weather for it, second we have amazing organizers who have taken up the planning of the folk festival this year and they've done an amazing job," said Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart. "It appeals to all different tastes," she added.

Set on the grounds of Takoma Park Middle School, the festival attracted musicians, dancers, and artists from across the region who displayed their talents and crafts to an observant crowd that strolled between booths and stages.

"I think it's terrific, the music is good, people seem to be enjoying themselves, the weather is perfect, and hopefully next year it's going to be bigger, bolder, and stronger," said 40-year Takoma Park resident and Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot.

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Takoma Park votes and changes its election laws

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Takoma Park Govt logoTAKOMA PARK— The City mayor and Council changed the voting rules in the city charter May 10, bringing a slew of changes to the election process.

“It passed, we just changed our elections…it was harder than giving birth,” said Mayor Kate Stewart.

With the adoption of the charter amendment, the date of City elections will change from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, synchronizing it with State and County elections.

It will also change the date of the nominating meeting, the day which the mayor and Council take office, and will extend the time for certification of election results. The length of the 2017 term will change, too.

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Takoma Park concerned about status

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Takoma Park is concerned after the Trump administration issued an executive order that may punish sanctuary cities.

The City of Takoma Park considers itself to be a sanctuary city, where city officials (including police) will not identify illegal immigrants. The city has been a sanctuary city since 1985, and its sanctuary law specifically prohibits city employees from asking city residents about their citizenship and immigration status, as well as cooperating with federal laws that may lead to deportations, according to the city.

“One of the things we want to make sure is that people have the information they need and resources they need to answer their questions and to meet the challenges that are facing us,” said Mayor Kate Stewart.

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Takoma Park seals its reputation as a political nesting ground

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The center of power in the county, state and even at times the federal government is not Washington D.C., but a cozy city nestled just north of it.

During the last few decades, Takoma Park has transformed from a small town home to minority religious community to a progressive political haven and the crucible where political careers begin.

For a small city of 17,000 people, it is home to a long list of political players, such as Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-8), newly elected Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez, former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot and three members of the County Council George Leventhal (D-at large), Marc Elrich (D-at large) and Hans Riemer (D-at large).

“When you have a political belief, be absolutely fearless in promoting it,” said political activist Robin Ficker, who was born in Takoma Park. “Speak your mind and speak your mind until the heavens fall and don't let anyone intimidate you. It's a belief that springs from Takoma Park.”

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Developer seeks other tenant for Takoma Junction

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Takoma Junction moved a step closer to becoming reality after the City Council meeting on Jan. 11 allowed the developer to choose another tenant.

With a unanimous vote, the council allowed the developer, NDC, to choose another anchor tenant for the Takoma Junction project.

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Takoma Park to remain a sanctuary city despite Trump's executive order

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While the future of Pres. Donald Trump’s executive order to severely limit the number of people from some Muslim-majority countries is played out in the courts and out in the streets filled with protesters, Takoma Park stands strong in its decades-old decision to be a sanctuary city.

“Nothing is changing,” said Mayor Kate Stewart.

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Takoma Park and developers deadlocked

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As the extension for the letter of intent between the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op and developer NDC wind downs once again, progress seems to be halted.

On Dec. 7, the Takoma Park City Council granted a 30-day extension for the Co-op and NDC to come up with a letter of intent for the next steps in the process but not without strain on many involved.

“I have to say, as council member [Rizzy] Qureshi said, there were moments in the last three days where I said, ‘No, we’re not going to do the 30-day extension,’” said Mayor Kate Stewart at the Dec. 7 council meeting.

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