New Hampshire Avenue’s heavy traffic has increased so much in the past few years, motorists are now fleeing the oppressive gridlock and entering into Takoma Park, cutting through the city.
The influx of non-Takoma Park residents has been controversial for local residents. Some feel that the “cutters” actually support the local economy, stopping to shop in the city on their way through. Others felt they were not welcome and were concerned for their kids’ safety.
The Mayor, now in the midst of a second term, is worried the anti-cutter sentiment is getting out of hand. One local resident was overheard saying “We need to keep these people out because what they are doing is illegal; They’re coming over here, causing accidents, killing our pedestrians, although some are good drivers.”
The Mayor’s re-election campaign is trying to focus on uniting residents, but a rift has grown over the southern border, specifically the city-owned “Mural Wall”, an existing 253′ long concrete retaining wall along New Hampshire Avenue. Ward 2 residents are at odds over completion of the partially completed project. Some feel the Mural Wall should remain as it was before; plain and non-controversial. Others feel the wall should be covered with as much unique art as humanly possible to confuse drivers into staying away. “We want to make a bold statement through our big, beautiful Mural Wall that Takoma Park doesn’t want cut-through motorists here. Think of those children painted on it. They could be playing in the streets!”
Facing mounting pressure from constituents to complete this 3 year project, the mayor has requested more funding to the tune of 1.5 million dollars to finish the mural wall, which is already 750,000 dollars over budget, but she has struggled to convince the majority of city council members to fully fund it.
In the most recent budget bill, Council members came back with a much lower figure.
“We approved 450,000 dollars in our 2020 budget for better lighting and vegetation, but not a penny more for the Mural Wall. It’s just not going to happen,” said the Ward 2 Council member as she exited budget talks with the Mayor wearing her red coat and Ray-Bans. She then busted out some fresh lyrics from the hit musical, Hamilton, “You dont have the votes! You dont have the votes! Ahhahahahah! You want to get your mural wall funded, but you dont have the votes!”
The Mayor has insisted she will veto the council’s budget proposal, likely causing a shutdown of the city. Neighbors were split on the potential effects of a shutdown. “Damn right I support it!” shouted Joe Harris. “Also, with the city shut down, I can remove that tree in my yard while the City Arborist is furloughed.”
“A shutdown is just what this city needs,” Kathy Dreyfus agreed. “Who needs police officers anyway when we have helicopter moms? Our kids never get into trouble – I’m always watching every move they make.”
Many residents didn’t care or even know about the Mural Wall, but were very surprised it would lead to a shutdown. “I guess I’ll have to cancel my bi-weekly council meeting sit-in. I was really looking forward to protesting whatever was on the agenda this week,” explained Ward 1 resident, Laura Vello.
“A shutdown would be detrimental. I’ve already been waiting 6 weeks for a copy of Michelle Obama’s new book at the library. My book club is definitely going to kick me out,” worried Fred Garfield, resident of Ward 4.
While most residents are concerned about the shutdown, for the residents of Conway Avenue, the Mural Wall has become an issue about community morale.
“Spending more on this Mural Wall sends the wrong message,” cried Peter Lyle, “It’s done nothing but tear families apart. My next door neighbor and I dont even speak to each other anymore. We just argue about the Mural Wall on our local list serv all day.”
Patty McArthur echoed those sentiments. “I’ve never witnessed such animosity from our small street. I thought I knew who my neighbors were. I was wrong. The Mural Wall has become a dog whistle for some people. It’s really sad.”
The deadline is fast approaching for the budget resolution. The mayor needs at least 3 council members to jump aboard, which is mathematically impossible at the moment. If the votes aren’t there, residents can expect a shutdown by end of April, which could threaten the Art Hop, devastating 75% of the local economy.