TAKOMA PARK, MD – Acting on a tip from a famous local whistleblower, a group of long-time residents set out to prove corruption among city officials in what they call “Azaleagate,” but instead discovered that the Takoma Park government is actually transparent and accommodating to a fault.
“Our original goal was to prove that the city hid critical information in an attempt to rush through approval of the Takoma Junction development proposal,” said Andres Strottman, leader of KobuchAnon, an online conspiracy group that believes in a secret government plan to turn Takoma Park into a corporate-run metropolis. “But after reviewing 13 truckloads of documents spanning four years, we quickly realized it’s a miracle the approval process ever reached a conclusion. It turns out the city lets the whiniest citizens walk all over them.”
In one of the biggest conspiracies since Pupusagate, Azaleagate (whose name is derived from combining the city’s favorite shrub with the overused need to throw “gate” on the end of everything they can drum up) is the name for the conspiracy created by KombuchAnon to suggest a deep state of city officials working secretly with local developers to build two story buildings on half used parking lots.
Using insider information provided by the locally famous whistleblower “DeepCock,” whose alias is derived from the city’s iconic rooster mascot, KombuchAnon planned to expose officials by revealing secret documents obtained using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). According to Strottman, DeepCock would leave secret messages buried in the organic quinoa bin at the Co-op grocery store after sending an encrypted signal via local listserv posts with the subject line “Gunshots or Fireworks?”
In one message, DeepCock wrote:
“Look, it’s been four long years and this development project is going to happen. I personally think you all are wasting your time, but I guess you could try using FOIA to obtain documents. This will be my last message. Please stop contacting me. People at the co-op are starting to get suspicious about the guy who is always contaminating the quinoa bin during a pandemic.
(P.S. Also, where is the money you promised me from that GoFundMe campaign?!)”
Strottman took DeepCock’s advice and immediately filed a FOIA request to obtain all documentation related to the Junction development over the past several years.
“We were thrilled when the city said FOIA documents required a fee, as that allowed us to further paint ourselves as victims of government overreach to our supporters,” said Strottman. “Unfortunately, the city was so kind and transparent that they then informed us that we could have just checked a box to request a fee waiver. Surprisingly, they kindly offered to waive the fee anyway. Shit.”
Once the documents were obtained, members of KombuchAnon spent hours poring through every single page, which included such highlights as the meeting minutes of a State Highway Administration “Vision Study” where members of the community wasted hours of their lives they’ll never get back playing ‘Mad Libs’-style games to articulate their feelings about a Takoma Park intersection.
“Going through those old documents reminded me how pointless that vision study exercise was. It’s amazing that city council members would allow such an open and transparent exercise allowing anyone to participate,” said KombuchAnon member Dan Hagan. “But then we discovered a text message showing that the Mayor shared the overall sentiment that the exercise was pointless, and we knew we had them right where we wanted them.”
While the documents didn’t provide the smoking gun KombuchAnon was looking for, they instead proved how inefficient Takoma Park is because of its commitment to transparency. KombuchAnon used this information to flip the script and portray an incompetent city government that can’t make progress due to involving way too many people in their decision-making process.
“It turns out Azaleagate was more boring than actual azaleas,” said Strottman. “However, our thorough review helped us uncover a city government fraught with transparency and an unhealthy obsession with making everyone happy. Why did they allow over four years and 30-plus public hearings involving the community before approving a small development? That’s not efficient government. No wonder our taxes are so high!”
Completing their reversal, KombuchAnon published the entire 13 truckloads of correspondence on their website, which nobody can access because it keeps crashing. They also sent a formal letter to the city council denouncing any further delays to the Junction development by means of excessive public input and threatening a possible second formal letter, but with even more snark and ad-hominem attacks.