New Beginnings... A Message from Takoma Park Mayor Kate Stewart
This time of year is one of transitions and reflections. We look back on 2021 and forward to 2022. Over the last year, there has been a great deal of change in the City. We have said goodbye to long-time residents, who helped shape the community we live in today. We have welcomed many new families and businesses.
As we reflect on 2021, I ask, as you read this, to pause for a moment to recall those who we have lost this year — members of our community who cared for others, championed the causes of justice and fairness, and made our community so much better for being a part of it.
Now, let us look back on 2021. A significant change in the City was welcoming a new City Manager. After conducting a thorough national search and an extensive interview process, the City Council selected Jamal T. Fox as the new City Manager. Mr. Fox began work at the City of Takoma Park on August 2, 2021.
Another significant shift in the second half of 2021 was the re-opening on August 23 of many City facilities. The Recreation Center and the Community Center returned to regular building hours while the Library, Computer Center and Passport Services offered extended hours. A mask mandate is still in effect for all facilities and will continue until further notice.
Even though we had to follow COVID-19 restrictions for much of the year, City staff did a fantastic job of safely bringing our community together, and here are a few samples:
- National Night Out – first open event for the City
- Public Space Values Workshop – Parks and Playgrounds
- Drives (Winter Coat, Pet Drive, Domestic Violence Care packages)
- We Belong Here: Race Equity Walk
- Monster Bash with Trunk n Treat
The City also continues to partner with various organizations, health and wellness clinics, and federal agencies to bring FREE COVID-19 Vaccines to the Community.
These partnerships include:
- Partnering with Small Things Matter for Free Vaccine Pop Up Clinics in front of the Community Center
- Collaborating with Southern Management/Park Ritchie Apartments, FEMA, the National Guard, and Food Justice DMV for apartment-based clinics.
- Working with the Office of Community Partnerships, FEMA Strike Team and the 2020 Complete Count Committee to bring the FEMA Mobile Vaccination Units to the City and sending bilingual volunteers door-to-door in the community to let residents know that the units were available, free and interpreters were there to answer questions.
Throughout 2021, the City continued to address food insecurity and assist residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, we have been working with nonprofits to get food for those in need.
We also know residents need assistance paying their rents or condo fees, receiving unemployment benefits, and much more. Our City staff continues to provide one-on-one support. Personally, I have seen them in action late at night and on the weekends. Together, we have been on the phone, talking with building managers and owners to ensure buildings are properly maintained during the pandemic and assisting residents with accurate information in different languages.
As we look back on 2021, we have excelled in our work on housing. Homeownership is possible thanks to the City’s Home Stretch Down Payment Assistance Program, which provides financial assistance to eligible individuals and families seeking to achieve homeownership. Ten thousand dollars is available for down payment assistance per qualified individual or household on a first-come, first-served basis. This year our tenth family was able to purchase a home in the City of Takoma Park utilizing this program.
This year also marks Habitat for Humanity’s first home project in lower Montgomery County, thanks to a partnership with the City. Through this partnership, an existing multi-family rental property will be fully renovated into a duplex (one two-bedroom home, one three-bedroom home), using sustainable materials and following the City’s Climate Emergency Response Framework guidelines. In addition, Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland will incorporate energy efficiency standards into its building practices, such as continuous spray foam insulation for the entire structure, water sense fixtures, LED lighting, smart thermostats, and Energy Star mechanical equipment and appliances. This rehab will also be the first example of gas abandonment in residential development in the City. Once development is complete, Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland will sell the duplex homes to two local families unable to afford a home through the traditional market.
Reimaging public safety was a focus of our work in 2021. The City of Takoma Park appreciates all of the hard work done by the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force (RPSTF) and the thoughtful recommendations. The City of Takoma Park is committed to reimagining public safety in Takoma Park. This involves a comprehensive staff review of all of the RPSTF recommendations and a holistic approach to how the City can best provide public safety services. Specifically, as we move into 2022, the City will be looking at how best to provide mental health services in our community.
A major accomplishment on the City Council was a multi-year effort to reimagine our committee structure. Council members and staff worked to create and support more diverse and representative Council-appointed committees.
We took measures this year to put in place:
- A fresh approach to recruitment and appointment of Committee members
- Address financial and social barriers that committee participation for residents of color face disproportionately higher rates than white residents
- Improvements in training and operations of committees – a critical component to ensure that committees and members function in a welcoming way for all residents
- Bolster committee’s capacity to apply race equity considerations to their work.
We have also seen an increase in new businesses in our community. On November 13, thanks to Main Street Takoma and Takoma Langley Crossroads, we held 21 ribbon cuttings for businesses that had opened since COVID-19 began.
We have also seen façade improvements and a new mural along New Hampshire Avenue. The City was awarded a Facade grant from the State to partner with commercial property owners on New Hampshire Avenue to renovate their properties. The funds leveraged reinvestment for the Takoma-Langley Crossroads Center, which is undergoing a significant upgrade for the businesses’ facades.
In addition, the City completed Community Engagement for the Takoma Park Recreation Center and will be moving forward with plans for the site in 2022.
Looking forward, 2022 will be an exciting year for the City.
- Continue to work to address the impact of COVID-19 on businesses and residents and focus on how best to allocate the federal funds to become a Resilient Takoma Park post-COVID. Join us on January 12, 2022, for the Council work session and presentation from staff.
- Begin construction and renovation of the library!
- Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Unification of the City in July 2022.
- Continue plans for the renovation of the New Hampshire Avenue Recreation Center.
- Advance priorities and continue to implement:
- Housing and Economic Development Strategic Plan
- Climate Emergency Response Framework
- Race Equity Framework
- Recommendations on Reimaging Public Safety
- And so much more!!!
This time of year, my family observes Advent, and each Sunday evening in the weeks leading up to Christmas, we light a candle in our Advent wreath. When my children were younger, they wrote this poem that we recite when lighting the candles each week:
- On the 1st week, I have hope.
- On the 2nd week, I have love.
- On the 3rd week, I have joy.
- On the 4th week, I wish for peace for all, through winter, spring, summer, and fall.
As we enter the final weeks of 2021, I wish you all hope, love, joy, and peace for the coming year.