All residents of College Park, whether they are community elders who have lived her their whole lives, or first year undergraduates, deserve to live in a neighborhood that is safe and secure, and which provides an environment where they can live, study, play, pray, and thrive. Many residents believe that the quality of life in College Park's neighborhoods has increased as our crime has gone down, and the number of local amenities within walking distance of several neighborhoods has increased. But there is still work to be done, and if elected I will make neighborhood safety and quality of life for ALL residents of District 3 my top priority.
A few examples of things I would like to do in this arena:
Strengthening the City's police presence, targeting enforcement, and making it more fair. The City's considerable investment in supplemental Prince Georges County officers (i.e. the "contract police"), together with University of Maryland Police have made law enforcement a strong presence in many District 3 neighborhoods. Although these resources are important, sometimes they can both feel like too much, and like not enough; some members of the community feel that their neighborhoods don't receive enough in the way of patrols, while other residents feel that the police target parties in Old Town constantly, but don't do enough to patrol for break-ins when class ends for the fall semester. As a member of city council, I will support increasing the city's contract with PGPD to grow the number officers devoted to College Park, and thus increase the regularity of police for routine patrols. I will work with our contract officers and UMPD to identify times where more property theft occurs -- such as after finals in fall semester -- and ask that they energetically patrol Old Town during those times.
Providing support to renters, and making sure they know their rights. In my conversations with district 3 residents, I have on many occasions heard stories from people with landlords who are subjecting them to abusive and threatening behavior, who rent out more of their house than is permitted by law, or who refuse to fix things in the house in a timely manner. Many of these residents either do not know their rights, or don't have an advocate on their side to help make things better with their landlord. As a member of City Council, I will work to establish a college park renter's association, which will be a non-profit providing legal advice, technical assistance, and advocacy on behalf of renters in College Park, This new association, which is inspired by the Berkeley Tenants Union could grow to become an important voice for renters in our city, and help protect their rights to safe, affordable, quality housing.
Recommit to the mission of the Neighborhood Quality of Life Committee, and continue to implement its strategies. Although this committee was recently dissolved, many of the strategies, which were developed in collaboration with residents from all over the city, were not enacted. Although the committee may go away, as a council member, I will work with the city council and staff, as well as University of Maryland students, and campus officials to continue to enact these and other strategies to enhance neighborhood quality of life.
Changing the binge drinking culture in Old Town. Although many College Park residents enjoy socializing, and most of us also enjoy an alcoholic beverage or two, binge drinking in Old Town continues to be a problem. Residents -- both student and non-student -- complain of loud parties, roving bands of loud and inebriated people, public urination, and vandalism. At the same time, inebriated people can be easy targets for criminals, or may find themselves a victim of violence or sexual assault. It doesn't have to be like this; although changing the culture is a long-term proposition, there are immediate steps we can take. As a council member, I will continue to engage with my friends in the PHA and IFC chapter houses to help find safer and better controlled environments for a party, such as on campus, or in greek organization chapter houses. I will work with the University administration to cut the red tape that stop greek organizations from organizing social events with alcohol in their houses. I will work with city staff and local law enforcement to make sure that IDs are being checked at College Park's bars and taverns. And I will work to provide City resources and logistical support for events occurring on campus.
"Hot spotting" persistently problematic rental houses. Many of the most problematic houses in terms of noise complaints, coding infractions, and vandalism are also the most persistent. When landlords are unable or unwilling to rent their houses to people who will be good neighbors, the city must take action. As a member of city council, I will work to develop tools for the city to “hotspot” problematic rental houses that destabilize our neighborhoods, develop more effective data systems to better target enforcement during predictable crime and nuisance periods, and develop new reporting mechanisms that shield residents reporting nuisance offenses. While it is my firm belief that many problems with landlords renting to bad neighbors can be solved through problem-solving with the landlord and the right city and county resource people, I will also encourage the City to take landlords of persistently problematic houses to the Prince Georges County Nuisance Abatement Board.
Targeting noise and code enforcement and police . When all else fails, sometimes you just have to call code and noise enforcement. These resources deserve city support and resources, and I will work with colleagues on city council to make sure that their staffing needs are met, and that they are available throughout the city when needed for noise measurements.
"Wailing" ban. Arlington Virginia recently passed a county "Wailing ban," which bans screaming and disruptive noisemaking between the hours of 2 and 6AM. If I am a council member, I will work with our County officials to allow College Park to enact its own version of this law so that our residents may more easily sleep at night.