Our city is growing and transforming itself, and will emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic strong. However, there are a five big issues that I believe we need to focus on in the immediate term to ensure that College Park remains an affordable, fair, livable community which respects our past even while looking to an even better future.
These five big issues are:
1. Affordable housing. College Park has long prided itself as being an affordable place (by DMV standards) to live, for student and long-term residents alike. However, increased demand for housing in the city, coupled with profiteering behavior from real estate speculators, and from certain landlords seeking to maximize profits at the expense of tenants and neighborhoods have caused rents to rise unsustainably.
It's time for the city to step in. If re-elected I will:
Press for residential rent stabilization in single family neighborhoods. This will both reduce the economic incentives for investors to convert houses from owner-occupied to rental housing, but also help make sure College Park's neighborhoods continue to be affordable for all.
Establish a student housing voucher program for student apartments. Privately-owned dormlike apartments have stepped in to fill a need for student housing in College Park. Unfortunately, the increased supply has not yet proven to be a constraint on price. If re-elected I will seek local and state funds to establish a student housing voucher program for students of modest means so that they can more easily afford to live in our city's growing stock of student apartments.
Re-invest in senior housing. There is a substantial need for investment in Attick Towers, and in adaptive renovation needed for seniors to continue living in their homes. If re-elected, I will seek funding for these senior housing priorities.
Seek inclusionary zoning in College Park. Surrounding jurisdictions, including neighboring Montgomery County have exclusionary zoning, which requires apartment developers to set aside a proportion of their development for affordable housing. Although not currently the practice in Prince George's County, it definitely should be. If re-elected, I will advocate for inclusionary zoning in our county.
2. Neighborhood stabilization and quality of life. One of College Park's many strengths lay in the quality of life in our traditional neighborhoods. Unfortunately, many residents have found that overcrowded housing, loud and unruly behavior, binge drinking, and streets crowded with cars have diminished their quality of life and even prompted some long-term neighbors to leave. The net effect can be sustained neighborhood destabilization, and even a loss of community identity. The city must do what we can to help stabilize these long-established neighborhoods, and continue improving their quality of life.
If re-elected, I will:
Seek to un-crowd our dense residential neighborhoods. Density can be a very good, thing, but crowded unsafe conditions from neighbors who don't respect other neighbors' right to peaceful enjoyment cannot be tolerated. This can be addressed by seeking to diminish the overcrowding that is permitted in densely-built single family homes, and by better enforcing the residency limits already in place.
Support community events that bring neighbors together and build a sense of belonging. Many neighborhoods in our city have organically-developed community events, such as picnics, kickball games, movies at a park, etc. The city should seek to more explicitly support these activities, and even provide logistic assistance when needed.
3. Small business sustainment and development. My Mom was a small business owner in my home town of Littleton, Colorado. I know a great deal about the difficulties associated with building and sustaining a small business, and the inherent fragility associated with many small businesses that depend on an individual or a small family to stay in operation. Yet, small businesses create a vibrancy in a town (especially a college town) and provide a critical source of economic development for local owners. Attracting and retaining small businesses is a vital issue in College Park.
If re-elected, I will:
Advocate for development that includes dedicated spaces for small businesses. In prior waves of College Park's development, the city has not been in a position where it could effectively bargain with developers over commercial build-outs. However, with white-hot demand in our city comes a new opportunity to make developers consider building smaller commercial spaces that de-risk investment somewhat for small entrepreneurs.
Continue focusing on increasing our number of year-round residents. All our businesses - but especially our small businesses - suffer during University of Maryland breaks in the winter and summer. Although we cannot change UMD's academic schedule, we can continue making our city an attractive place for year-round residents through housing and amenities designed to meet their needs. The new Aster College Park development will be one such complex, but more housing is needed for young adults and families.
4. Community infrastructure & resilience. Climate change is an unfortunate reality in College Park and around the world, and our city is not fully prepared for its effects. In order to make our city more prepared and resilient, we must invest in public infrastructure, and make sure our residents have information and resources available at their disposal to help their own families prepare.
If re-elected I will:
Seek funding for dedicated stormwater management analysis and investment. Although stormwater management is the responsibility of Prince George's County, their analysis of the College Park area is dated and incomplete. I will seek funding for a city wide hydrology report that will help us gain the insights needed for building true community resilience, including but not limited to advocating for stormwater revisions through Prince George's County.
Seek tax credits for flood insurance. Flood insurance through FEMA is vastly under-invested in most American communities incluing in College Park who nonetheless have a history of experiencing flooding. If re-elected I will seek home property tax credits for residents who purchase low-cost flood insurance.
5. Doing right by Lakeland. Lakeland is College Park's historic African American neighborhood. Incorporated with the rest of the city in 1945, the neighborhood never recieved the same level of service experienced in other neighborhoods. Consequently, during the "urban renewal" movement of the 1960s and 60s, substantial portions of historic Lakeland were leveled. This injustice was further compounded by the construction of the WMATA Green Line, and the "need" to force Lakelanders off their land and convert portions of the neighborhood into parkland.
The city has just begun our exploration of this history and, more importantly, the restorative justice actions that need to occur to do right by Lakelanders and the Lakeland diaspora., I'm committed to seeing it through this next term (if re-elected). Although I am not honored to represent Lakeland in my own district, I love its history, people, and culture, and would seek an opportunity to provide considerable city resources to help account and atone for these past actions taken on behalf of the City.