Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart discusses her outlook for the city and her 2020 re-election campaign, while also revealing some shocking personal secrets in this exclusive one-on-one interview with the Takoma Torch. Below is the full transcript of the interview, lightly edited for clarity and length.
TAKOMA TORCH: Mayor Kate, thank you for agreeing to meet with us for this interview.
MAYOR KATE STEWART: It’s my pleasure!
TT: I first want to ask why you thought doing this interview with the Takoma Torch was a good idea knowing our reputation as a satirical news source. Have you taken a cognitive test yet to prove that you’re mentally fit to run this town?
KS: I blame sleep deprivation. What’s your excuse?
TT: Cheap laughs and a few Facebook “likes”. So, what you’re saying is that the residents of the People’s Republic of Takoma Park should feel confident that you can easily identify an elephant from among a group of animals?
KS: Absolutely. But, really, in Takoma Park the most important animal is the rooster.
TT: We agree. They’re very delicious…OK, let’s get right to hardball. Your first two terms as mayor has been full of difficult and controversial issues, such as the Takoma Junction development project, a global pandemic, tree ordinance revisions, and most importantly, 5G cell towers. Tell us, why do you still want to be mayor of this city?
KS: You named a number of issues that we have faced in the city. But I’m running for re-election not because of any issue, but because of the people and this great community. The next two years we are going to face a number of challenges, and continuing to serve the people in Takoma Park has been a great privilege, especially these last few months. Working to bring pop up testing to the city, delivering food and masks, connecting people to health care. And, unfortunately, helping families when they have lost a loved one. It has been a lot of hard work these last six months and I know we are not in the clear yet. So I want to continue helping as many people as we can in the city…I guess I got a bit serious there. Unlike the Takoma Torch, I prefer to address REAL issues.
TT: Hey! Low blow, Mayor Stewart! The Takoma Torch is tackling some serious issues, like non-permitted Little Free Libraries. But enough about our award-seeking journalism… Some people have said that you are no different than Trump because you support development at Takoma Junction. So tell us, what are your connections to Russia?
KS: That is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. I ACED RUSSIAN HISTORY IN COLLEGE and I’m willing to release my transcript.
TT: Is that the long form transcript?
KS: Are we really doing this?
TT: Let’s go on to the next question…As Mayor, you earn an income of less than $15k per year, yet work well over 40 hours per week. If you really wanted to be underpaid, why didn’t you just take a job at Taco Bell?
KS: Wheat allergy. But the real answer is something Jamie Raskin was quoted in the paper saying. I actually cut it out and taped it to my computer:
“Life is hard enough with all the natural misfortune that we don’t need to compound it with socially created injustices. The role of government should be to liberate people from injustice as much as possible.”
TT: Wow, Raskin really has a way with words, doesn’t he? So, does your heart also skip a beat like ours does when he talks about the Emoluments Clause?
KS: No comment.
TT: Let it be noted that Mayor Stewart is blushing…Let’s talk about national issues affecting all Americans. With regard to the toilet paper rule: over or under, and why?
KS: Right now, I am just glad to have toilet paper.
TT: Good point. Let’s talk important budget issues. If someone like Warren Buffett decided to give Takoma Park one billion dollars, how much would you allocate annually for new Roscoe the Rooster statues?
KS: Really, we need to create an affordable Rooster Statue Reserve modeled on the Housing Reserve I created in my first term…Actually, if we did get that money I would advocate that we buy the old Adventist hospital campus and build some missing middle housing, housing for residents who want to age in place, and a new MCPS school with a community clinic. Then we could transform Piney Branch into a behavioral and mental health clinic to serve the community and help us increase mental health services so that we can move away from having the police responding to mental health calls…A girl can dream, right?
TT: Sure, as long as your dream doesn’t take away someone’s parking space…Let’s talk about the pandemic. Do you think you could have done a better job than Dr. Fauci when it comes to throwing out the ceremonial first pitch in a baseball game?
KS: Already done at a Thunderbolts game. Got it right over the plate on the first try!
TT: But he was wearing a mask, which we all know makes it impossible to breathe. You realize you had a clear advantage because you were not wearing one, correct?
KS: I suppose…But let’s be real: wearing a mask is important and so is making sure everyone has the information they need to keep themselves healthy. That is why I worked with Del. Lorig Charkoudian this year to get information to renters about protecting themselves in their buildings and staying healthy.
TT: Speaking of Del. Charkodian, I’ve seen her take some mean swings at the plate. Do you think you could strike her out?
KS: Probably not. She is one tough woman and makes a mean kale salad. And, I hope to never find out because I always want to be on her team.
TT: Speaking of picking teams…Biggie or Tupac?
KS: Dolly Parton.
TT: You have stated your support for allowing residents as young as 16 years of age to vote in local elections. So what’s next? Trees? Pets? Can my dog vote in this election, and, if so, what would you say to him right now to earn his support?
KS: Well, based on the advocacy of former resident Jen Wofford, I’d have to say llamas next. But to address your dog, I’d tell him that during my term, we built the city’s first dog park where he can now enjoy all of his rights and privileges without the confines of having to wear a leash.
TT: Well, he’s deaf so he probably wouldn’t be able to hear any of that.
KS: Okay, well, I’ll just give him a little treat and a pat on his head then.
TT: Not sure if that goes against campaigning regulations, but I think that would work.
KS: Don’t worry, we printed in very tiny print an authorization line on each treat. See? Paid for By Kate Stewart for Takoma. We are good.
TT: As long as they are gluten free…In your next term, what issues will you promise to fight for that will continue to provide hilarious material for the Takoma Torch?
KS: Building on the success of converting all the streetlights to LED…I think the next steps I plan to do include hiring a chief equity officer, hiring a new city manager, re-imagining public safety, putting in place a pilot community-engaged budgeting process, and continuing to keep residents safe and businesses open during the pandemic.
TT: Wow, none of that sounds hilarious at all. How are we supposed to make funny headlines on those topics?
KS: Well, these are serious matters and this job’s no joke.
TT: Well, we’ll do our best to find humor in it somehow. And by the way, I must say that you have been such a great sport about all the ribbing we’ve been giving you. Thanks for having such a great sense of humor and being so gracious.
KS: It’s really not a problem! While sometimes the Torch pushes my buttons, some articles make me crack up laughing. Something we could all do a little more of these days.
TT: Speaking of unfair attacks, do you own a controversial tan suit?
KS: Of course. Everyone needs a tan Josh Lyman Tuesday suit.
TT: So…big fan of the West Wing? Are you hinting at larger political aspirations? After the success of Pete Buttigieg, do you think the nation will be cheering for “Mayor Kate” in 2024?
KS: Honestly, I’m just focused on Takoma Park and trying to get my camera to work for the next Zoom meeting.
TT: Last question: Residents are living in a scary time right now, and the most obvious scary threat is the Bethesdafication of Takoma Park. What are you doing to keep Takoma Park from turning into a corporate hellish nightmare?
KS: It won’t happen. First, because of the people who live here. Takoma Park is Takoma Park not because of the buildings or streets, but because of the people. Second, because we have the right policies in place. We need to keep rent stabilization, continue to be a Sanctuary City, advance our Affordable Housing Strategic Plan and continue programs like the HomeStretch DownPayment assistance program I spearheaded in the City. That is what will ensure that we stay Takoma Park – and frankly become an even better version of ourselves in the future. Because it is important that we realize that, while we are a great community, we do have a lot of work to continue to do until every resident can thrive. And that is why racial equity is so important and is an ongoing priority.
TT: Wow! Take that, Bethesda! Mayor Stewart, thank you so much for taking the time to goof arou…er…discuss important issues with us. We wish you good luck with your campaign against some tough competition. I hear the Takoma Junction parking lot is polling well among residents age 50-70.
KS: You’re very welcome! I assume none of this will be published, right?
KS: Never mind. It doesn’t matter because I’m sure it will come out in a FOIA request anyway.