Berwyn District Civic Association Meeting

October 15, 2020

 

Meeting came to order at 7:35 p.m.  Meeting was held via ZOOM on the internet. BDCA Board Members in attendance: Bob Catlin, Chad Stern, Jim Nealis, Lily Fountain, Kelly Jordan, Tim Triplett, Karyn Keating, Ron Cameau. Other attendees included Dan Alpert, Robert Thurston, Dan Blasberg, Clara Niel, James Hunt, Patrice Cameau, Robert Day, Andre Philemon, Denise Mitchell, Patrick Wojahn, the Shohfis, Monroe Dennis, Jon Najmi, Kelvin Esters, Mary Hartnett, Sandra Tyler.  Candidates for City Council seat: Llatetra Esters, Ron Cameau, Lindsay Dively

 

Tim Triplett proposed acceptance of September’s meeting minutes – Kyle Shohfi seconded, passed.

Chad delivered the Treasurer’s Report as of September 30th – the BDCA had a balance of $3,016.29, with $1,665.00 income in Sept.  Jim moved to accept – it also passed.

 

Halloween recommendation is to place candy in bags for individuals to pick up on a table at the curb.  Interested parties can submit pictures of kids in costume and pumpkin carvings to myberwyn.org.  Some pictures may be displayed on our web site and in next month’s newsletter.  There will be a virtual (via Zoom) wreath-making event for those interested on Nov. 7th. 

 

Mayor Wojahn said the city will hold a special Halloween event called Halloboo Drive-thru at the Duvall Field parking lot on Oct. 30th, 5-8 p.m.  Candy will be given away.  Also, Christy Dollymore will host a food pantry collection at her house every other Friday, 2–4 p.m.  Location: 4710 Tecumseh St.  Please, no perishable items.  And BDCA is holding a Holiday Decoration contest from Nov. 15th to Dec. 31st, with prizes for 1st, 2nd, 3rd place.  So, get those lights and decorations up!  The city will hold its own decorating contest as well.

 

Lily announced the city had approved parking permits for 48th Ave., between Pontiac and Berwyn Rd.  Not certain yet when the signs will be posted.

 

Candidates for District 2 Councilmember Seat:

 

Ron Cameau – his biography is on the city website.  Served as Neighborhood Watch coordinator for BDCA, local food drive, helped get a Stop sign on Pontiac St.  Wants to build diversity and sense of community, preserve green space, streamline channels of communication for all residents.  Pursue better local policing – get to know names of patrol officers.  City needs to help improve local school quality, assist home buyers here in the city.  Will donate his salary to local charities and needs such as Branchville VFD, food bank, etc.

 

Llatetra Esters – is invested in the city, serves on advisory planning commission, has experience handling complex problems.  Supports more public safety (auto theft and speeding are problems), diversity, inclusion, smart growth.  All residents need to be engaged and have their voices heard.  More fiscal responsibility, new development needs to benefit city residents.

 

Lindsay Dively – biography is on the city web site. She thanked BDCA for hosting the forum.  Branchville and Berwyn resident for many years, played softball at Duvall Field, volunteered with city activities.  Will be accountable to city residents.  We need quality infrastructure and sustainable economic health, sidewalks, bike lanes.  More partnerships with UM and community associations.  Together we can build a better city.

 

Questions:  David Jones (emailed?) this to Esters: Will there be a conflict of interest since you work for the UM System?  Esters replied – no, she works for the Univ. of Baltimore as Dean of Students, not for UM College Park.  She would recuse herself if a conflict existed. 

 

Lily and Richard Fountain asked: What are your top 3 issues facing Berwyn?  Ron replied – parking by transient individuals causing some danger for local kids walking to school, crimes like breaking into cars, we need cops driving through Berwyn, not just up/down Rt. 1, and better communication between city and residents.  Lindsay replied – reinstate trust with city leadership, more transparency since many residents don’t know what city committees and leaders do.  Small business grants and sustainable assistance.  Improve home ownership assistance programs, meet resident needs.  Llatetra replied – her Oak Springs neighborhood has similar issues to Berwyn, more business development such as new café for vacant Fishnet site, noise complaints require better neighbor/student cooperation, thefts from autos require more presence from law enforcement.

 

Another question:  District 2 includes about ½ of the campus, so how can we better support transient student residents?  Ron replied – students should have a voice, so work with UM and find a balance where student needs are met.  Llatetra replied – we need to create a welcoming community where even short-term students are heard.  Lindsay replied – she is an UM graduate.  We need to bridge the gap between the community and the students, get students more involved in the community since they may have new ideas.

 

Another question:  Part of District 2 is north of Greenbelt Rd, so how do we learn about issues in Oak Springs?  Llatetra replied – Rt. 193 makes Oak Springs feel ‘disconnected’ – talk more with people in Oak Springs, bridge the gap between that neighborhood and Berwyn.  Ron replied – everyone needs a voice – let’s have once-a-month meetings between the three neighborhoods – Berwyn-Lakeland-Oak Springs, maybe with Zoom.  Lindsay replied – agreed with Ron and Llatetra, need more communication, interaction between code enforcement, policing, other city functions. 

 

Lily and Richard Fountain asked about plans to move Oak Springs out of Dist. 2, but Llatetra had not heard about this – she wondered if 2020 census numbers would cause a change in city council district boundaries?

 

Another question:  College Park has no police force of its own, but what can be done about police having fatal interactions with persons of color?  Lindsay replied – more education, inclusion, reduction of crime through community policing and prevention.  Llatetra replied – we are served by five police forces – PG Co., UM, Metro, Park and Planning, State police – let’s pull them together to serve all residents, community involvement is key.  Ron replied – he has worked 20+ years in federal law enforcement, including nation-building operations in the Middle East.  We need officers to be seen not as conquerors but as part of the community.  Officers interacting with younger kids at, say, elementary schools.  All the local departments can work more on community policing, be more involved with the community.

 

Another question:  What College Park initiatives have you participated in recently?  Llatetra replied – food distribution at Attick Towers, Spellman House.  Ron replied – the BDCA, National Night Out, Trolley Trail clean-up, food pantry drive, Nextdoor Berwyn, 2020 Census enumerator.  Lindsay replied – was overseas until recently in Zambia and South Africa working on humanitarian activities. She has mentored with Senator Rosapepe.  Wants to get involved in future initiatives here.

 

Another question:  What about raising or lowering property taxes?  Ron replied – he hopes taxes won’t go up again – already pays nearly $9,000.  Developers must pay their fair share.  Only an emergency dire need would justify a tax increase, but otherwise city should not increase taxes now.  Perhaps lower taxes for lower-income folks, possibly with tax credits.  We need better use of state/federal grants and funds.  Llatetra replied – city has lowest taxes in PG Co. Let’s maintain that, need more fiscal responsibility by the city.  Lindsay replied – she does not see a need to raise taxes, PG Co. taxes are already high.  But situations can change, so we need more transparency.

 

Another question:  Should we reduce or eliminate the use of non-recyclable plastic bags?  Lindsay replied – Yes, let’s eliminate them and get reusable bags.  Lidl uses them or supplies them.  Ron replied – ban non-recyclable bags, and work with local businesses to remove them.  But plastic bags for trash cans may be OK, not sure those can be banned.  Llatetra – also not sure about the trash can bags, but get local businesses to work toward eliminating non-recyclable bags.

 

Another question:  What can our city council do to promote trust in local government?  Lindsay replied – recent events inspired her to run, she is a ‘people person.’  We need more communication and need to shelve personal agendas.  She will take feedback to the council.  Llatetra replied – need to focus on our communities and need to represent our constituents.  Need more transparency, trust, do more door-knocking and engaging with folks.  Ron replied – the city’s Planning Survey proved residents don’t feel represented, and feel we are ignored by the University.  Use social media, Nextdoor, other means of communication to reach people, and make decisions based on residents’ needs.

 

Another question:  Plans for developing the Stone industrial property in District 2:  Llatetra replied – attended a recent meeting about this – there are a variety of suggestions, including residential, other industry, maybe a crawfish? production facility.  Would a fish ‘farm’ cause water contamination, odors, etc.? More traffic on Rhode Island Ave. could be a problem.  What other industry might be erected there?  Lindsay replied – we want quality infrastructure and want to meet local residents’ needs.  Ron replied – housing development might be best use of the land.  We should have a ‘town hall’ meeting to determine what local citizens want – affordable homes? More green space?

 

Another question:  What initiatives can College Park launch to help deal with the pandemic?  Ron replied – city already has funds earmarked for pandemic assistance, so we should use them. Churches and social media can spread word about aid available.  Work with local health departments, use Code Enforcement for crowd control/social distance violations.  Wear masks!  Make use of state/federal aid.  Lindsay replied – she had not seen information about city assistance that is available, we need more communication.  CARES Act has funds for residents, businesses.  The city of Laurel has an effective business assistance program.  We may need bilingual assistance, and churches and businesses can spread the word.  Lllatetra replied – grants are important and we need more communication about them.  Food drives and mental health services are needed.  Partnering with UM might smooth connections between Code Enforcement and the local community.

 

Another question:  How will Purple Line Metro rail affect College Park?  Lindsay replied – city will need more community and UM policing due to more transient population.  Llatetra replied – more people will come and enjoy our city, may bring new restaurants, etc.  Ron replied – there have been conflicts between Governor Hogan and some contractors working on the project.  It could lessen congestion, but the new line should bring more revenue, businesses.  City must make sure our residents are heard.

 

Closing Statements:  Lindsay replied – all three candidates are good, and she was thankful for the chance to meet and debate.  We need visions for the future and to be inclusive.  Walk the streets and talk with neighbors – she will be a voice for the people.  Llatetra replied – she cares about College Park, will represent District 2 to the best of her abilities, and stand up for District 2 interests.  Ron replied – he was thankful for the chance to speak and felt that all candidates were qualified.  He admits he is “not a politician’ – he is a ‘can do’ guy.  He is passionate about his neighbors and the community.  He is involved and mission-oriented, wants to work for a safe, healthy community.

 

Other business conducted:  Mayor Wojahn reminded us that Oct. 24th is another ‘Clean-Up Saturday’, you can bring cans of paint, large pieces of Styrofoam, electronics, etc., to Davis Hall.  Also, there is a 2020 election drop-off box next to the Xfinity Center, and the Dist. 2 election will be Nov. 8th at the College Park Community Center, Pierce Ave., from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m..  Monroe Dennis wished the candidates good luck and looks forward to working with the winner.  Denise Mitchell also wished the candidates good luck and was glad to hear about issues facing District 2.  Karyn reminded us that Holy Redeemer’s Harvest Bazaar will be Nov. 7th, 13th, 14th.  Ron Cameau requested a clarification about when the Berwyn News will be printed – it will be four times per year, in March, June, Sept., Dec. Robert Day said he looks forward to working with the new councilmember and offered to help that person when the winner joins the council

 

Chad made a motion to adjourn the meeting, Jim seconded.  Motion passed. Adjourned at 9:22 p.m.

 

Notes compiled by Jim Nealis

 

 

 

 

 

 

The meeting ended at 9:22 p.m.

 

Notes compiled by Jim Nealis