The Junction of Grief and Hope

There are now almost 500 electronic signatures on the Community Vision petition asking the City Council to vote “No” on the current Junction site plan, and 187 comments. We recommend reading all of them. But many individuals have also taken the time to write to City officials at length, recording the history of our community at this moment. Read Dennis Huffman’s email to the City here. And to reach the whole Council, send your comments, while you still can, to

May 31, 2019

I am among the significant number of Takoma Park residents who are struggling to come to terms with what feels like the slow-motion death of a loved one.  While the patient’s demise has not been certified, the City Council will be voting on it very soon.

No. I am not taking about a piece of asphalt between the fire house and the Co-op – that’s just a symptom.  The imminent death I am talking about is Sam Abbott’s vision for a city committed to building racial and economic equity.

Perhaps it would be helpful to view this through the lens of the five stages of grief.  Many of us have been in a long period of denial (the first stage).  The council seems still to be denying its role in the problem, acting as though it is duty bound simply to cut the City’s losses and ratify the inevitable.  In the community, a common refrain (and I’ve said it myself) is that we are just now realizing how perilous things are.  Many of us were asleep, wanting to believe that our leaders were wise and progressive people who would always act in our best interest.

Which brings me to anger.  There has been a lot of anger expressed in a lot of meetings over the past few months.  Anger at the breach of trust.  Anger at the privatization of public land.  Anger at the Council’s blind faith in the developers.  And anger at Council’s stone-faced deafness in hearing after hearing.  Council appears to be angry that we’re angry. 

Bargaining, the third stage in the grieving process, is generally done with God, but in this case, it’s being done with the developers, who seem to be held up as somehow god-like by the council and City staff.  Rather than having big conversations, early on, about the beliefs and values of the people of Takoma Park, and how they might be reflected in the use of public land, the developer was left to negotiate with the Co-op about things like the loading dock.  And it turns out this “god” doesn’t heed the prayers of nonbelievers – the future of the Co-op is clearly threatened by this project.  But even those who may be unmoved by the plight of the Co-op are expressing alarm at the council’s unwillingness to stand up for its own criteria.  The city seems not to realize that it holds the upper hand in any negotiations with the developers.

Back to Sam Abbott’s vision.  Some may question how one development project can harm “equity,” but the problem with that question is that it presumes somehow that equity exists.  Equity does not exist.  It is equity itself that must be developed – built, if you will.  And the proposed project is utterly indifferent to equity.

This is all, of course, quite depressing (stage 4). The City needs the development to make money to hire staff to plan more development to make more money to hire more staff.  It’s the inevitable way of the world.  Some are already sighing deeply and slipping into acceptance (stage 5).  “Traffic will just get worse and worse,” they say.  “That’s how it is.”  But what if Sam Abbott had said that about I-95?  Takoma Park is a living breathing example of how we don’t always have to accept things as the rest of the world presents them to us. 

The Takoma Junction project sits at the intersection of grief and hope.  You are rolling rapidly into that junction, and you will either have to stop to reconsider or close your eyes and pray that things somehow turn out okay.  I, and many hundreds of others, are asking you to stop.  It is not too late to keep Mayor Abbot’s vision of an inclusive and equitable city alive.

Thank you.

 Dennis Huffman, Ward 3


Author: Susan Katz Miller

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