- From Left: Valerie Cunningham, Sam Epps, Fred Smalls, Mary Lehman and Crystal Thomson
Some 10-12 north College Park residents gathered at Davis Hall yesterday to listen what 5 Dist. 1 County Council hopefuls to offer to make their neighborhood a better place to live. The rest of the attendees included the organizers of the event and a number of campaign workers.
Mayor Andy Fellows conducted the forum.
The candidates answered 8 questions – 2 of them were given to them before the meeting started.
Q1. Would you actively support a Community Center in Hollywood Commercial district?
Q2. What will you do to improve congestion on Rt 1 and transportation in the area?
Q3. What you’ll be doing to improve the image of the county police?
Q4. How can you enhance the economy of College Park without adding additional density?
Q5. Do you think school funding is too much, or too little . What would you do to get more funding?
Q6. What will you do to protect environment and preserve / develop green spaces?
Q7 What will be your priority of remedying the increased crime in North College Park?
Q8. What will you do to alleviate the foreclosure problem in North College Park?
Valerie Cunningham: She will not pursue a community center at the Hollywood district – will rather pursue mixed use development like in Roslyn or Pentagon City. She would create a transportation czar who would report to the county council. Will advocate trolley system which she thinks will be less expensive. She thinks there got to be partnerships between citizens and the police. Will also work to make the police work in a safer environment. She advocates mentoring children more at home to take load from the schools’ classrooms. Will seek more volunteers. Will work for coalition building in preserving green space. On crime, she would first look into root causes of these crimes such as gang activity etc. Will enhance the neighborhood watch programs and seek more police visibilities. She would like to coordinate various programs in different local and Federal governments.
Sam Epps: Sam will pursue community center which he thinks will serve the seniors and children and revitalize the community development. However he would seek citizens’ input in this. On Rt. 1 development, he wants to bring businesses back so that residents can enjoy these facilities close to their homes. He would work with the state’s elected officials to get the fair share of the transportation dollars. He will also work towards more efficient WMATA and UMD for better transportation. He said the county has close to 1600 sworn police officers, but would seek more. He would seek to increase the number of classes in police academy and thus will improve the quality of fresh cadets. He would invest in training the police officers and invest in Neighborhood Watch program. On transportation, he thinks zoning is the key – will advocate mixed use zoning. He would remove duplication of services in the education services and will get fare share from the State’s budget. He will look into development that prioritizes green spaces. He will work to educate public on crimes and will engage with the Fed to educate the citizens who to call when they are in trouble with foreclosure issues.
Fred Smalls: Fred would support a community center at Hollywood. However he wants to revitalize the commercial district. and both sides of Rhode Island Avenue. He advocates mixed use zoning in the area. He wants a transit oriented development. and will work with the SHA on the Rt 1 development. He will work with the police chief to raise the bar of Police quality. He doesn’t think additional density is not necessarily a bad thing. He however advocates smart growth in the area. On environment, he wants to see pocket parks and will buy properties to use them as green spaces. On crime, he would collaborate between different police departments in the area and will seek community involvement. He would seek to strengthen Neighborhood Watch program. He will work to offer residents education and support on foreclosure issues.
Mary Lehman: Mary would support a mixed use facility at the Hollywood Commercial district. She wants to have a satellite type city facilities in the district and also would like to see revitalization with businesses such as a commercial bank. She like to have a nice entryway to the neighborhood on both ends of Rhode Island Avenue. She will work with Police Sheriff to improve the image of the County’s Police force. She would also work with the state rep on Rt.1 transportation. She would expand shuttle services similar to what UMd currently has. She would also advocate bike sharing program, satellite Parking. She said she is strong proponent of mixed use and transit oriented development. She would revitalize local Metro stations to create more jobs. On education, she mentioned she is the only candidate with children going to the county schools. She said she worked with the current Co. Council candidate Tom Dernoga for 4 years on local school systems. She said PG currently spends the lowest dollars on in-class instructional programs. 60% of its expenses are spent out side of the class room. She said she would oppose land in-fill developments with negative impact on the community – such as developments with no side walks etc. On crime, she said the County currently has only 1450 uniformed polices; she would seek that number to go up to 1800. She would also work to reduce dependencies on contract police which currently supplement the county police. She would work to have Nixle service sending crime alerts on local crimes. She said sites like the crimereports.com will be listing local crimes from next month. She will seek direct intervention from the banks in support of residents struggling with foreclosure problem.
Crystal Thompson: Ms. Thompson advocates a separate budget from that of PG MNCPPC budget on local development. She advocates better public transportation from Laurel to Metro to alleviate clogging on Route 1. She would also seek shopping areas along Rt.1 so that residents don’t have to drive a long distance. She wants school buses to run along route 1 during lunch hour to alleviate the traffic. On crime, she wants more education related classes for children and residents. She would stop furlough of police departments. On local economy, she will advocate remote working, so that no more additional density is added to the community. On education, she would seek a complete audit on the expenses in county schools. She’d ask for more funding for school programs including lunches etc. On environment, she wants smart development – she commented that the county has a lot of lease space , but that needs to be used wisely. On crime, she will find more money to pay additional police officers. She advocates having bicycle cops in the neighborhoods. On foreclosure, she said she actually recently went through the issue herself. She will seek a czar serving a single point of contacts and will help introduce a free number for the residents seeking help. Finally, Ms. Thompson wants to build the local economy through building Eco-manufacturing, a community Healthcare campus, eTextbooks, etc. versus more shopping except to fix laurel mall and main street.