Berwyn District Civic Association Meeting

May 21, 2020


Meeting came to order at 7:35 p.m.  Meeting held via Zoom due to Coronavirus. BDCA Board Members in attendance: Bob Catlin, Jim Nealis, Lily Fountain, Karyn Keating, Ron Cameau, Chad Stern, Tim Triplett. Other attendees included Kevin Young, Maya Cerna, Kelly Jordan, Kyle and Emily, Mary Theis, Liesl Koch.  Speakers included Mark Goodson, Mayor Wojahn,  Senator Jim Rosapepe, Legislators Mary Lehman and Joseline Peña-Melnyk.


Bob Catlin called the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m.  He asked for approval of the April minutes but they were not available.  Chad Stern (Treasurer) said he had a $225 newsletter printing fee to pay from earlier this spring, and there was $1,628 in the BDCA account at the end of April.


Mark Goodson spoke about a newspaper he has begun publishing called ‘College Park – Here and Now.’  It came in the mail a few days ago. He lives on Berwyn Rd, teaches at DeMatha H.S.  His paper is similar to one he publishes in Hyattsville.  Our city is helping fund this new paper by placing a city newsletter inside.  But he is not charging for ads yet – coronavirus has interfered with some of his plans, so he is hoping to build interest in the paper by temporarily offering free advertisement space.  Goodson wants his paper to be a voice for city neighborhoods. It is a monthly paper mailed to 9,600 homes, with bundled stacks planned for various grocery stores, UM locations, etc. Mayor Wojahn and Senator Rosapepe both strongly approved of the newspaper.


Senator Rosapepe then spoke in support of the expensive ‘Kirwan Plan’ to spend money on improving state public schools.  He also claimed he had helped pass laws to increase funding for historically black colleges, helped expand unemployment, more funds to fight coronavirus.  He admitted the state’s Unemployment Office has had problems with data management and staffing due to the increased demands brought about by the virus.  He supports expanded virus testing and said Prince George’s Co. will be adding more test sites.


Joseline Peña-Melnyk is Vice-Chair of the state’s Health Committee.  She helped create a ‘health-exchange’ in Maryland and reduced the number of uninsured Marylanders by over 50%.  She wants to expand Medicaid and ‘tele-medicine’ services, make medical prescriptions more affordable, etc.  She stated calls to local ‘crisis lines’ are up 95% during this pandemic.  She also said Langley Park needs more testing sites.


Mary Lehman is on the state Environmental Committee, but also deals with some housing issues.  She wants the state to close five oyster sanctuaries to allow oyster numbers to recover.  She wants to ban plastic bags also.  She helped pass a law saying landlords cannot discriminate against renters using Section 8 housing vouchers.


Lily Fountain asked about access to PPE (protective equipment) for front line and grocery workers, and the need for more masks.  Joseline said the CDC recommends using cloth masks and leaving N95 masks for health care workers, and she said health care workers have told her they have enough supplies for now.


Karyn Keating asked how folks needing help with the unemployment situation can find that help?  Mary said the system is working better now but still has glitches.  Contact Lehman’s office for assistance.


Chad Stern asked if landlords can specify a minimum income renter must have?  Lehman said she would check, but Rosapepe said he believed you can demand a minimum income but not ask where it comes from – i.e., Section 8 vouchers.  Chad also asked why independent contractors don’t get unemployment funds – Rosapepe said our unemployment system is 40 years old, created when there were few contractors.


Jim Nealis asked what had happened to the bill to end gerrymandered election districts in Maryland?  Joseline said a bill was passed two years ago – a compact demanding states bordering Maryland fix their gerrymandered districts, and we would fix ours.  Jim asked why Maryland could not be a leader and set a good example for other states to follow?  Liesl Koch added her support for Maryland to be a leader on this issue.  Rosapepe said this was a national problem, not just in Maryland, and both Joseline and Mary began criticizing Governor Hogan and his agency leaders for not coming before the legislators and speaking or pressing for bills he supports.  Joseline said Hogan has not testified even once in six years, but Nealis reminded her the Democrat and Republican legislators – not the governor – are supposed to pass the laws so why can’t they work together?


Mayor Wojahn said our city’s July 4th event has been canceled due to the virus.  He encouraged folks to complete the 2020 census.  He thinks the UM students may not be returning to campus for Fall, 2020!  Or UM may reduce dorm populations by 1/3 for health safety.  He said the city will vote on a new budget next week, may give local businesses tax breaks, waive permit fees, etc., to help them weather the virus.  A survey is underway about building a path on the east bank of Paint Branch Creek – see the city web site.  Work has begun to fix the Rhode Island Ave./Greenbelt Rd. intersection.  City Boards and Commissions are looking for new volunteers!


Chad Stern asked if the Purple Line Metro project will be affected by the rumored departure of the main contractor.  Rosapepe did not think that would be a problem.


Karyn Keating asked if more “Walking Tour of Berwyn” flyers could be printed?  Bob Catlin said he’d had no luck in three years of trying, but Mayor Wojahn said he would look into this.  Note: Two days after this meeting the mayor told Karyn the city will be printing up more of the flyers.


Meeting adjourned at 9:00 p.m.


Notes compiled by Jim Nealis