Sometimes, it's okay for progressives to embrace progress
Takoma Park has long been known for civic activism, dating back to the freeway fighters who stopped I-95 and I-270 from cutting through the area 40 years ago. But that culture of resistance to change could prevent the community from allowing positive improvements to take place.
Writing in Utne Reader, the same publication that once called Montgomery County the "Most Enlightened Suburb," Alex Steffen notes that Takoma Park's progressive politics prevent it from being truly progressive:
One of the most unfortunate side effects of the urban activism of the '60s and '70s is the belief that development is wrong and that fighting it makes you an environmentalist.
We know that dense cities are both environmentally better and dramatically more equitable places. Walkable neighborhoods are better than the suburbs for people with a wide range of incomes, and what happens in cities that don't grow is that they gentrify and poor people are pushed out. Trying to fight change makes you less sustainable and more unfair.Sometimes, standing in front of bulldozers is the right thing to do. It's likely that Takoma Park wouldn't have become a sought-after place to live if it were carved up by highways. And sometimes it's harmful, like the efforts of some residents to block a housing development adjacent to the Takoma Metro station back in 2007.
Well-designed urban infill development in places like Old Town Takoma can get people out of their cars and bring customers to the area's struggling local businesses, which presumably are progressive ideals. Not allowing development to happen effectively enables all of the things progressives say they don't want, such as more driving, more gentrification, more suburban sprawl, and more destruction of farmland.
Greater density would in fact support progressive causes, according to Takoma Park resident Victor Reinoso. He says that there would be more progressive businesses, such as the TPSS Grocery Coop, and the ones that exist would get more business, if his neighbors didn't oppose greater density at every juncture.
Not all progress is bad. It's the mark of a true progressive when they can tell the difference.
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