TAKOMA PARK – In an effort to create a more streamlined, efficient government bureaucracy, Montgomery County officials announced this week that all county services will now be performed by the City of Takoma Park.
The surprise announcement was only the latest twist in a drama that has been building for months and already produced several out-of-the-box government proposals.
Events kicked off earlier this summer, when Takoma Park residents overwhelmed their city government with numerous and strident complaints about development plans for a city parking lot, ever-increasing local property taxes, and the last minute re-routing of this year’s annual 4th of July Parade. Facing the deluge of complaints and the absence of any clear path to pleasing all of the complainers, the City Council hit on what was, at the time, a novel solution: to give Takoma Park to Montgomery County and let county officials deal with the stress.
“We thought a city government with direct local control was a good idea, but we were wrong,” stated the Mayor. “The 18,000 residents of this city need way more resources and attention than we could ever reasonably provide. We didn’t see any option except to hope that a bigger entity with more resources could step in and take over this burden.”
The county, however, was not receptive to the Mayor’s proposal, which was dubbed “Absorption”.
“There is absolutely no way we can afford the massive strain on county resources that would result from Absorption,” stated County Councilman Tom Hucker. “Although Takoma Park has only 2% of the county’s population, the Council’s analysis shows that we’d have to triple the county budget just to respond to all of their emails.”
“Absolutely not. No way in hell,” stated Councilman Evan Glass. “I’m a happy guy who likes his life. And I’ve seen what goes on over there, and I can’t imagine why I would want to voluntarily take on that nonsense.”
Despite hopes that veteran Council member Hans Reimer, a Takoma Park resident, would support Absorption as a statement of solidarity for his friends and neighbors in the City government, Absorption proponents failed to win a single vote when the issue was taken up last month. Asked about his “no” vote, Reimer noted his respect and admiration for city officials, but also his love for his wife and children, who—he believes—he might not ever have time to see again if he became responsible for mediating Takoma Park’s legendarily numerous local disputes.
The defeat of absorption was a relief to many Takoma Park residents, who didn’t want to lose cherished traditions such as shouting at the City Council at 11PM on a Wednesday about the lack of public space for juggling and interpretive dance. They also feared that County leadership, responsible for representing a much broader constituency, might be less responsive to some of Takoma Park’s quirkier policy ideas. And their victory in mobilizing against Absorption empowered them to then push forward a counter proposal: a city takeover of the county government, or as locals dubbed it #TakoverPark”.
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich resisted #TakoverPark at first, but was persuaded by the opportunity to engage in another contentious and bruising Democratic primary, this time for Takoma Park County Executive in a special election held next month. “Most of the county leadership already lives in Takoma Park anyway,” he reasoned. “So in some respects, this is just making formal what has been the unofficial status quo for some time.”
Residents of both Montgomery County and Takoma Park had mixed reviews. “I think it’s for the best,” stated Takoma Park resident Carol Parsons. “I’m really looking forward handing out ‘Co-Exist’ bumper stickers while protesting massive development in Bethesda.”
Fred Dawson was not so thrilled. “I purposely bought my home just outside of Takoma Park to avoid others telling me what to do on my property,” stated Dawson. “Now I worry that my street will have purple-painted houses with weird lawn art. I’m starting a petition!”
Before the special election, the current Mayor of Takoma Park will be installed as Interim Takoma Park County Executive. She announced she will immediately pass major new county-wide legislation, such as banning plastic straws and declaring the entire county as a nuclear free zone. She also proposed plans to greatly increase revenue.
“Raising property taxes on the rest of the county to Takoma Park levels will bring a windfall of revenue to champion our progressive agenda,” said the Interim Executive. “I’m really looking forward to healthier budgets for important items like Pajamarama, and the installation of more Roscoe the Rooster statues everywhere.”