“Set a Brave and Bold Example”

Community Vision for Takoma Junction (CVTJ) is not the only group organizing for a more inclusive and public use for the lot at Takoma Junction. Here, we print a letter from Badia AlBanna, Dara Orenstein, Michele Bollinger, Ron Resetarits, Kerry Danner-McDonald, Jennifer Satlin-Fernandez, Adriana Kuehnel, and Dave Zirin, who have been organizing meetings on Takoma Junction. To join them, email michele.bollinger@gmail.com.

An open letter to Takoma Park residents and elected officials:

We call upon you to live up to the values that Takoma Park symbolizes and to reject the current plan for Takoma Junction. Our goals are twofold: to promote racial equity and to provide a higher quality of life for all residents, especially those who are the least-resourced and most marginalized.

  • The City has pledged that it is committed to analyzing racial equity in each of its decisions—yet its attempt at a “racial equity statement” about the Junction has been woefully inadequate.
  • Only a plan that designs a space to be accessed and used by all will be truly equitable. The space at the Junction is the last piece of open public land in Takoma Park. To lease it to a private, commercial developer violates the spirit of democracy. Even if that developer recruits small businesses, and even if all parties are minority-owned, still, private individuals are profiting off of public resources. A few individuals are exploiting the City’s land, location, and cultural capital to enrich themselves, and in return the 17,000 citizens of the City are receiving, what exactly, a modest stream of property taxes that the omnipotent City Manager will allow to trickle down to the masses? The City should not be subsidizing an individual’s path to greater wealth. It should devote public resources to the common good. No trickle-down economics.
  • There are many ways to create opportunities for minority-owned businesses in Takoma Park, beyond the public land at the Junction. Let’s set standards and guidelines for economic development that center on racial equity—and let’s not allow the elite of Takoma Park to co-opt the language of racial equity as a hedge against those who want to preserve public resources for the public good.
  • Moreover, let’s set standards and guidelines for economic development that contemplate what it means to work in Takoma Park, not merely what it means to profit (as a business owner) or to shop. The Junction should model this principle. Low-wage, low-skill service jobs with minimal or zero benefits or workplace rights are not the answer for the Junction.
  • Speaking of shopping, our community is facing an affordability crisis. Property values have skyrocketed. A single cookie can sell for $3.00. Most businesses that have opened lately cater to the affluent customer. The current plan for development will bring in upper-end retail accessible primarily to upper-middle class households and will contribute to rising rents and prices. It is disingenuous to call such a scenario a “Junction for All.” It is selfish to prioritize enhanced consumer options for upper-middle class people—not to mention that it is the opposite of “racial equity.”
  • A better solution is to create a space that everyone can enjoy, free of charge. The Junction lies at the heart of Takoma Park: it should unite residents across all six wards. Only a commons-style plan can support this role. A youth center, a technology center, a basketball court, a community theater, a community kitchen—these are just some of the ideas in the air. Never would we challenge the current plan were it for a homeless shelter, a refugee shelter, a daycare center. We are not NIMBYers—we are YIMBYers! Yes to the People’s Junction!
  • Focus on our youth, especially our teens. There are many parks for our very youngest residents to frequent. But, at the Takoma Park Community Center, older kids are confined to a game room and a basketball court. As one veteran of Takoma Park civic life put it to us, “The Community Center is mainly for white adults.” Takoma Park does not support young adults by providing numerous facilities where they can mingle and play—and as a result we fear some children are getting the message (yard signs aside) that their lives do not matter. They deserve better.

We will not give up on our fight to do what is right for Takoma Park. We are eager to help the City launch a transformative planning process, starting, maybe, with a community advisory board. Our elected leaders are in a position to set a brave and bold example of how to shore up against the tidal wave of gentrification that has wrecked urban communities, if they abandon the current plan. We understand that to do so would mean to give up on years of effort (for now, at least). It may take us a long time to reach a healthy decision for the Junction, but, then, as the saying goes, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain.

Signed on June 5, 2018

Badia AlBanna, Dara Orenstein, Michele Bollinger, Ron Resetarits, Kerry Danner-McDonald, Jennifer Satlin-Fernandez, Adriana Kuehnel, Dave Zirin

 

Author: Susan Katz Miller

http://onbeingboth.wordpress.com/