Berwyn District Civic Association
The meeting was called to order by BDCA President Heather Iliff at .
Candidates’ Forum, City Council District 2
Ms. Iliff announced that Yancey Davis had withdrawn his candidacy for city council, and would not be present at the forum. She then introduced Monroe Dennis, President of the Lakeland Civic Association, who moderated this evening’s discussion.
Mr. Dennis presented the ground rules for the forum. He would first read each question; then each candidate would have 3 minutes to respond. A warning would be given when one minute remained. After the predetermined questions were covered, audience members would be permitted to ask questions of the candidates. The candidates were allowed a brief opening statement.
Jack Perry: Mr. Perry stated that he has lived in
Bob Catlin: Mr. Catlin moved to
Mr. Monroe read the questions:
1. Residents are very concerned about single-family home conversions to student-rental properties owned by non-resident landlords. Specific issues and areas of concern then become:
o Number of vehicles parked at properties
o Number of occupants
o Property maintenance and general upkeep
o City policing ability.
How do you propose the City handle these issues?
He suggests that the best way to handle the problems engendered by rental properties is to discourage investor buying and conversion of properties, rather than to deal with problems after the fact. To this end, he has researched and proposed the following: targeted rent control; a homestead tax credit to shift tax burdens to landlords; and a program offering $5,000 grants to homebuyers who convert rental properties to owner-occupied properties. He also suggests reporting violations to Code Enforcement; changing code regulations to shorten the allowable time to rectify violations; and looks to this year’s referendum question to provide guidance regarding city policing issues.
2. Traffic has increased significantly on Route 1 and has an impact on entrance to and egress from community. How do you propose to reduce congestion on Route 1? What do you believe is the ideal future for Route 1, and how can the City help make that happen?
Traffic has increased due to a number of events: freshmen
are now allowed to have cars on campus, plus 900 students have been added to
Route 1 with the leasing of University View.
While there were plans to move traffic lights and increase the number of
driveways, these plans have not happened.
Problems with Route 1 have been studied, and the state has made
recommendations, but funding is an issue.
Improvements have to be made before development gets ahead of the road
capacity. The right-of-way is limited,
so there are limits to what can be done as far as putting in a new roadway;
property might have to be seized if additional roadway is to be
constructed. A half-bridge has been
proposed for the intersection with
Local roads will have to handle even more traffic in the future. Some current issues include:
· There is no left turn lane or traffic light for drivers traveling northbound on Route 1 into University View, which was supposed to be built when the building went up;
· However, the pedestrian bridge to campus from behind University View is heavily used.
· New student housing needs to be built adjacent to campus; students want cars on campus, but the students do not drive often. Having housing near campus will cut down on driving.
· University faculty and staff should be encouraged to live near the university to help relieve traffic problems.
The city cannot do anything to stop problems with drugs,
theft, or assault. County police are
limited in the patrol service they can provide, since they are out on calls in
parts of the county which have higher crime rates. Citizens should follow basic safety
rules. In addition, citizens should call
the police to report crime, to make a record of incidents and show the need for
police services. Mr. Perry supports
exploring other policing options, such as the resident trooper program, instead
of developing a city police force in
While it would appear that crime has increased, the crime
rate ebbs and flows. Citizens have more
awareness of crime now, so it is difficult to tell if there is a true increase
in the crime rate. The vote on November
8 will provide guidance to the Mayor and Council regarding how much the
citizens are willing to spend on police services. The city has $200,000 budgeted for contract
police; the county is seeking to hire more officers, so there will be more
contract officers available. The city
will spend this money for contract police, regardless of the outcome of the
referendum. Finally, the
4. How can the City Council achieve greater influence in the activities of the County administration and bring forth greater community voice in the activities of the City?
All citizens are encouraged to vote, to show the county that
the citizens of
Citizens need to vote;
is your vision of
The city needs to provide modern housing opportunities and
The planning that is underway now will be evident in the
changes over the next five years. The
rebuilding of Route 1 needs to start now.
Development sites have been chosen near metro, for the installation of
luxury apartments and parking. The
redevelopment of downtown will include a parking garage and grocery store. The current City Hall site will become luxury
condominiums; the Knox boxes will be redeveloped to house more students. There will be fewer changes along Route 1
Good schools are essential if families
are to be attracted to communities.
Local public schools need to be improved. With help from the
While an elected School Board will help improve the schools,
much of the interest and improvement in education has to come from
parents. All of his children graduated
2. The city and county are overwhelmed with crime. How should citizens vote on the police referendum?
The referendum will
cost the city money no matter which way it goes. The question is, how much do citizens want to
pay for police services? A police
department is expensive to run, and has liability issues. Mr. Perry plans to vote “no” on the
there been any discussion regarding increasing the
The city would not
get a positive response from the campus police.
If campus police were responsible for the entire city, the university
crime statistics would look bad when compared to similar universities. Additionally, young officers would obtain
training and experience in
4. The Resident Trooper program costs approximately $120,000 for one officer; $1.2 million dollars for ten officers. How would such a program be implemented, and where would the money come from?
The city spends less
than 3% of its budget on police; additional money could be allocated. The Resident Trooper program is a good one,
because the city would get a fully trained trooper, who has experience on the
road. The city might be able to get a
break on the cost, due to the presence of the
The city currently spends $200,000 on police services. This year, the city allocated an additional $70,000 to increase the contract police program; this increase easily passed in the city council. An additional modest cost increase would probably be passed by the council without a referendum.
5. Citizens are already paying more because of the increase in crime, for household security, and education. Is this a better approach? How could resources be better spent? What are your priorities and personal preferences?
The county is responsible for both policing and
schools. Taxes in
Better schools will draw families. The city needs to increase the tax base; college students do not pay the same taxes as homeowners.
6. Education and safety are both important issues. Considering safety first, is paying an additional $1 per day too much to spend for the safety of the community?
The estimates suggest
that the cost will be $480 per household per year, which is slightly more than
$1 per day. Police cannot eliminate
crime, but in neighboring towns with police departments, the rate of crime in
Hyattsville is about the same.
He says that one dollar per day will not make him feel any better. Mr. Perry promotes personal responsibility for personal safety.
Board and Committee Reports
The BDCA would like to thank everyone for coming out for the Candidates’ Forum. Special thanks to Mr. Monroe Dennis for moderating the discussion.
The next BDCA meeting will be held
Mary Katherine Theis
Recording Secretary, BDCA