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Is Multiculturalism Against Assimilation?

HelloIt was early morning on the Election Day (Nov 3, still remember?). The poll will open at 11am, so I decided to canvass at the entrance of the Metro on our part of the neighborhood (near the 53rd and the Lackawanna st.). This was the last stretch on the campaign trail and I was asking my commuter neighbors if they were planning to vote that day.

“Actually I went to Davis Hall this morning to vote but found the poll opens after 11.” – one of my commuter neighbors responded with frustration as I approached him.

“..But look, I’m not going to vote for you” – he continued – frankly and thankfully.

Not that I was surprised, I was curious to find out more.

“You’re the only candidate who has a flyer with Spanish translation on it. I think people in this country should assimilate – not stay apart.”

“I agree on the assimilation part, but see..” I was quick to respond and tried to explain more before he rushed into the Metro.

I wasn’t quite sure if this neighbor had a chance to take a look at the part of the English flyer where it talks about my plan to get Latino and other communities involved into more civic activities so that everyone in the city can benefit from such services. How can this be interpreted as a message against assimilation – I wonder.

The intent of adding the Spanish translation was to reach out to the fairly large and yet growing members of the Latino and Hispanic communities. We thought these members are most likely to feel more comfortable to get our campaign message in their own language. Thus the translation part was neither a message against assimilation, nor should be interpreted as a disregard against the dominant language of the land, English.

But look, I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Most of the public service announcements from our own city come in Spanish translation. If you can remember, several months ago, the city council decidedly defeated a proposal making English as the only official language of the city.

What makes our country great is not how we speak or how we lead our way of lives, but how much respect and tolerance we show to our fellow citizens who don’t do the same as we do. Thus when it comes to diversity, the publication of a campaign flyer in a second language is just not a different matter.

Mapping Crimes in the Neighborhood

When it comes to mapping crime in the neighborhood, the sources are many. We have PG county police department’s C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team) reports that you can see on NCPCA’s monthly meeting minutes. There are also monthly reports from PG contract police who serves our city. Thanks to Patrick and Afzali for putting up the reports on their sites on a regular basis. You can also get reports from other police departments operating in our neighborhood on websites like crimereports.com and Nixle crime alert system. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the crimes reported on these sites are not quite complete. Then you get the news on crimes from your neighbors, some reported but not published anywhere on the above mentioned sources. Part of the reason many crimes are not reported in details is because of ongoing investigations on these crimes.

 

Purple Line Gets a Boost

purplelane

The proposed light train line got a boost recently after the MD Senate passed an omnibus appropriation bill that included $3million for the Purple Line. The proposed transit line will cross College Park and connect New Carrollton to Bethesda through Silver Spring.

In a press release, Senator Ben Cardin said:

Federal investment in the Purple Line also is good news for thousands of Marylanders, particularly federal employees, currently wasting time, money and gas in gridlock. The lack of affordable, convenient transportation choices connecting Maryland communities, along with Metro, MARC and Amtrak, has been frustrating for individuals and businesses throughout our region. But that is now changing.

More here..

http://www.wjla.com/news/stories/1209/687059.html

Homeownership Grants

If you work for the city of college park or a police officer working for the local police departments, you may qualify to get a $7500 grant from the city to buy a house or condo in the city.

Here are more details about the program:

http://www.collegeparkmd.gov/new_neighbors_program.htm

Neighborhood Cleanup, Tomorrow

There will be a neighborhood cleanup at the Hollywood four corners / Narragansett Rd. area. The event will start at 1pm. Refreshments will be served.

Crime Reports, Property Tax Appeal

I thought I should write a bit about two important topics we discussed last night at the NCPCA meeting.

PG County’s CRT police officer Melanie Sarita reported that there have been two home invasions, one on the 52nd Avenue (November 28) and another on the Iroquois Street (December 5). Details of the incidents and locations are currently withheld due to impending investigations. Suspects are now incarcerated in DOC without bonds. It appeared that suspects targeted the locations due to easy targets – persons with disability living in those locations. There has been another similar incident happened in a Beltsville location. She also reported car break ins incident near Cherry Hill Rd / College Park Shopping complex and 52nd Avenue.

The State of Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT)’s Assessor Manager (PG County) Daniel R. Puma made a presentation on the Residential Property Tax assessments and appeals process. The SDAT‘s next assessment report will be ready by December 29, 2009. The residents will have 45 days to appeal against the assessments. This makes February 12, 2010 as the last day for the appeal. SDAT is estimating a 20%-45% reduction in property values since its last assessment three years ago.  If the residents are not notified about the assessment, they can appeal every year before the January 1 of the following year. The appeal forms can be downloaded from the department’s website http://www.dat.state.md.us/.  A deferred maintenance or damages may qualify a re-assessment of the property. The SDAT can provide property values of a list of comparable houses in the neighborhood. SDAT only goes back up to a year to assess the property values of the comparable houses.  Rental properties are looked at the same manner as the property resided by the owner. Income stream is not based for the evaluation. Anybody can appeal on behalf of anyone.  Community appeal is also an option, however is typically rare.  In case the appeal is accepted and the applicant may request for a hearing at a convenient location.

NCPCA Meeting Tonight

Here is a brief summary of the items we’ll be discussing at tonight’s NCPCA meeting

(1)   Safety / Crime Report. The PG Police – Community Response Team (CRT) officer Sarita Melanie will give a brief presentation on the recent crime incidents in the neighborhood. In case you did not know, there have been at least two incidents of home invasion, one on the Iroquois St., another on the 50th Ave. There have also been reports of beating at the crime incidents. In addition to this, there have been several incidents of car break-ins in various parts of the neighborhood.

(2)   Someone from the SDAT office will be giving a presentation on the residential property tax assessments and appeals process. Thus if you think that you’re paying too much taxes on your property, you probably don’t want to miss out this session.

(3)   Mark Spencer, a candidate for State’s Attorney, will speak to members at the meeting

(4)   There will be Introduction of two bylaws amendments and revision of Variance Committee procedures

Keeping an Eye on the Neighborhood

Tonight, I attended the Neighborhood Watch (NW) Block Captain meeting at the Davis Hall. About 10 residents from District 1 attended the meeting. The City’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator Kim Lugo conducted the meeting. The NW organizers / block captains meet roughly every two months throughout the year.

Speaking with Kim, I found that we only have a handful of block captains in our district. This means that we need a  lot of block captains to take care of the entire neighborhood’s safety. If you’re interested, please contact the city’s program coordinator Kim Lugo. Again, you can find more about the program and Kim’s contact information here on the NCPCA’s website:
http://myncpca.org/links/neighborhood-watch/

Council Inauguration Today

Our new council will be sworn in today at the City Hall. Let’s all welcome and wish a very good luck to all the council members, including the new Mayor Andy Fellows and the new members Marcus Afzali, Denise Mitchell, Christine Nagle for upcoming council sessions. Let’s also thank the outgoing Mayor Brayman, council women Mary Cook and Karen Hampton for their dedicated services for our city.

Neighborhood Watch Meeting, This Wednesday

The Neighborhood Watch is a great program in making our neighborhoods in an expensive way and in getting close to our neighbors.

This Wednesday, at 7:15pm, Davis Hall, there will be a Neighborhood Watch meeting. Please try to attend. Everyone is welcome.

If you need more information, please contact the program’s coordinator Kim Lugo. Here are more details about the program and how to contact Kim:

http://myncpca.org/links/neighborhood-watch/

Energy Auditing Event – Today

UMD for Clean Energy is going to have a free energy audit, followed by a weatherization at a later date done completely pro-bono for a College Park house. The event will be held today; sorry for the late reminder.

See facebook event:
http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=189805159146&ref=ts

Date:   Sunday, December 6, 2009
Time:   11:00am – 3:00pm
Location:  4612 Amherst Rd, College Park, MD 20740

At this audit, attendees will have the opportunity to perform parts of the audit with the engineers there, including cool stuff like using an infrared camera to see where heat in the house is escaping from.  Participants can learn a lot about how to make energy efficiency improvements to a house. There’s going to be an informational video made throughout this audit, which will be distributed to the College Park community.

Free Course for Area's Small Businesses

mdsbdcThe Maryland chapter of the small business development center will be offering a seminar for the area’s small business owners on the topic of “Get Your Retail or Restaurant in the Best Shape to Survive a Down Economy”.

The seminar is completely free, however a pre-registration is required. Please contact the MDSBDC at Ext. 11, 301-403-0501, email: training@mdsbdc.umd.edu.

8:00 AM – 10:00 AM, 12/8/2009

Capital Region Training Center,

7100 Baltimore Avenue, 4th floor,

College Park, Maryland, 20740

More on the course is here:

http://support.mdsbdc.umd.edu/rc/cal/default.asp?date=12-8-2009#event1

Envision PG Community Forum

Last night, EnvisionpgI attended the Park and Planning’s Envision Prince Georges. The PG Park and Planning has arranged 6 community forums to do what they call develop and implement a vision for our county with a vibrant economy and high quality of life for all. The one I attended was in Lanham, not very far from College Park.

The part I liked most about the forum was active engagements of the residents in small groups. The participants were also allowed to express their opinions through wireless keypad based centralised polling system. There were some 150 citizens attended the session grouped in 15 tables. Each group was headed by a facilitator.

The group discussions covered areas such as, living (community development), work, education, services, recreation and sustainabilities.

There is still one session you can attend, in case you missed the previous ones. This one will be held at the University of Maryland on the coming Saturday. More here.

Goodbye, Mayor Brayman!

braymanAfter eight years serving us as our Mayor, Mr. Brayman is going to step down. Andy Fellows, who was elected in last month’s council election,  will be sworn in as our new mayor next week.

The Gazette covered his tenure in this piece, citing his major accomplishments and somewhat “interesting” encounters with council members Mary Cook , Karen Hampton and Jack Perry.

http://gazette.net/stories/12032009/collnew181417_32534.php

Goodbye Mayor Brayman! we all wish you a very good luck in your future endeavor.

Liquor Store to Turn Into a Park

Number1Liquor

Last night, the City Council decided to turn the Number 1 Liquor store into a park. The store is currently located in front of the University View residential complex on Route 1 (8200 Baltimore Avenue).

The decision was reached after council members voted 5-3. The three members who opposed the move are councilman Jack Perry and the outgoing council women Mary Cook and Karen Hampton.

More here:

http://www.diamondbackonline.com/news/council-wants-park-to-replace-route-1-liquor-store-1.948942