Free H1N1 Flu Vaccination Clinics

Below is a message received from Wanda Brooks, Citizen Services Specialist for County Councilmember Eric Olson. (via NCPCA Listserv)
LARGO, MD— The Prince George’s County Health Department continues its free walk-in flu clinics in an effort to ensure that all residents interested in the H1N1 flu vaccination will be able to receive one.  Vaccinations are based on availability.
Who:   Prince George’s County Health Department
What:  H1N1 Flu Vaccinations
Monday, February 1, 2010
       Crossland Evening High School, 6901 Temple Hills Road, Temple Hills, MD 20748
        Walk-in Hours: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. 
Thursday, February 4, 2010
      Wayne K. Curry Sports and Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Road, Landover, MD 20785
      Walk in Hours: 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
       Northwestern Evening High School , 7000 Adelphi Road, Hyattsville, MD 20782
       Walk-in Hours: 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
Cost: FREE
For more information, please call 1-888-561-4049.

Comments from Police Officers on Recent Crime Incidents

I’ve recently inquired two community police officers in our area in regards to the recent rise in crime incidents and their possible correlations with the UMD’s winter break. I thought I should share their comments with you all. Hope you will find them useful.
Officer Melanie Senobio (Sarita), North College Park CERT Officer
There is a correlation between the student housing being broken into due to the students being away. I will forward this information to Officer Taylor who is the COPS officer for downtown CP. Also I have gone with Officer Taylor when she conducts follow ups with the victims of residential burglaries. We have noticed that some of the doors were left opened and unlocked. Before the fall semester started Officer Taylor and I spoke with new students and advised them of some safety precautions that they could take. Maybe another meeting like this would be helpful to the students.

Officer Taylor, Nashawn, South College Park COPS Officer
There has been B & E’s both during the winter break and while school is in session. However, there were more during the winter break. We encourage residence to lock their doors, windows and be aware of all their surroundings at all times. We encourage them to have adequate lighting outside of their homes and perhaps invest in an alarm system.
There are also a large amount of police presence in the city of College Park alone. We have contract college park cars who are Prince Georges County Police officers as well as the patrol cars of Prince Georges County Police and the University of MD police cars.
College Park has one of the largest number of police presence in one area. However, police cannot be everywhere all of the time. This is why we need the cooperation of the citizens to be the eyes and ears of the police department to assist in catching the bad guys and keep our community safe.

A New UMD Facility Closer to Home

Source: WashingtonPost.com

The news of the UMD’s decision to purchase The Washington Post’s old College Park Plant has stirred quite an interesting debate among the city residents and the UMD students.

The new 18.5 acres facility, located at 5245 Greenbelt Road (map below) will be the closest ‘official’ UMD operation near our district.  UMD plans to relocate services such as a bus depot it currently houses on the east side of campus, the site of a planned redevelopment project that includes housing for graduate students, retail space and a hotel.

UMD staff and many students are excited about the news of this purchase. They are hoping that the new facility may save the Wooded Hillock, which has been the center of controversy as the proposed site for the $900 million 38-acre East Campus development. 

“We no longer need the majority of the hillock,” said Ann G. Wylie, vice president for administrative affairs. “[The Post building] will easily, easily accommodate all of our service functions.”

The city officials seem not so happy. The purchase of the plant by UMD means to them the loss of important revenues the city used to get when the Washington Post plant was operational. The Post paid $259,000 in city property tax last year. The tax revenue was the second largest after $300K tax from the Camden apartments near IKEA.

Some are also worried about the rise of varsity traffic on the University Blvd / Greenbelt Rd. once the facility becomes operational.


PgCo – ‘Unhealthiest’ in MD

In case you didn’t know – the residents of our county have earned a new title – we’re, most likely, the unhealthiest folks living in the entire state of Maryland and even in DC. A recent report prepared by RAND Health for the County Council found that Prince George’s residents are  more likely to be obese and diabetic than others living elsewhere in Maryland and in the District.

According to a state assessment of children’s health in Prince George’s, nearly 40 percent of children ages 2 to 11 were overweight. Most were in lower-income families. The study said 33 percent of adolescents had eaten three or more meals at a fast-food restaurant in the previous week.

Not surprisingly, a simple check on sites like this will reveal the connection between eating at fast food restaurants and the large amount of calories coming from foods in these restaurants.

The unhealthy state of our residents came to more public attention after a news article on the abundance of fast food chain stores in the county. The good news is – an activist group is trying to change just that. More here..

Could More Police Presence Thwart Recent Crimes?

The Other College Park Police (collegeparkpd.com)

The recent unprecedented rise in crime incidents in the neighborhood has brought back the old debate of more police presence in the city. Some now question the effectiveness of the contract police that the city residents pay with their tax dollars.

“A spike in College Park burglaries over winter break has caused many landlords and residents to question why greater police presence wasn’t used to prevent the crimes…In the past, police presence had been scaled down during these months, but the city’s 2009 budget included $1 million for an increase of off-duty patrolmen to prevent burglaries in the area.”  says this Diamondback article.

There have also been talks of revisiting the issue of having city’s own police department. “Our new Mayor Andy Fellows, should take a public position on this matter (of city police).” Says one resident.

With the rise in recent crime incidents in our area, residents and police detectives are scratching their heads to find the causes of such crimes. Some think this is the time of the year, when criminals get more time to do their foul play during longer period after the dark. Other disagree – noting most crimes in our district happened during day time – between 9am to 3pm – when most of the residents go out to work.

Some seem to have a clue on the cause of such rise in crimes in the area. They blame this on the winter break time – when the students leave their city residences vacant. “Property crime in areas densely populated with students tends to increase during months when students are away from the campus.” – says Lisa Miller, president of the Prince George’s County Property Owners Association.

Metro Riders Face Painful Options – Public Hearing Tomorrow

If you’re a Metro rider (I’m one), you may want to take a look at this.

The Metro Authority, WMATA is considering options to close the $40M budget gap. “There’s no dessert. These are all choices with negative consequences for riders” – says The Washington Post Metro columnist Robert Thomson.

Here are four options Metro is considering:

Option 1: Reduce Metrorail and Metrobus service to save $4 million, and take $12 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would experience more crowded trains and buses, longer waits between trains and buses; customers may be required to travel an extra block or two to an open station entrance evenings and weekends.

Option 2: Use $16 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Using capital budget money to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create a $16 million shortfall in next year’s capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

Option 3: Increase fares by 5 cents and passes by the equivalent of 5 cents to generate $4.8 million and use $11.2 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would pay more for their trips. Using money from the capital budget to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create an $11.2 million shortfall in the next capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

Option 4: Increase fares by 10 cents and passes by the equivalent of 10 percent to generate $9.6 million and use $6.4 million from the capital budget to pay for parts that are needed to keep the bus and rail system in good working order.

Consequences: Riders would pay more for their rides. Using capital budget money to plug the current operating budget shortfall would create a $6.4 million shortfall in the next capital budget and delay a rail yard rehabilitation project by one year.

There is a public hearning on these options at the Metro headquarters (600 Fifth Street, NW in the District) at 5:30 pm. More on the hearing:


Please check the map below if you plan to attend.


Back on the Street..

Knock, knock! “Hey, My name is…, I’m here to ….”

Sounds familiar?

Not too long ago, we used to go around the neighborhood, walk door to door, talk to our neighbors about the upcoming elections. That was before November last year.

This time we went out to talk about the Neighborhood Watch program in the blocks.

Patrick and I took part in the Neighborhood Watch block captain orientation / training program yesterday. Our Neighborhood Watch coordinator Kim Lugo mentored us on what and how to do things. We covered a few houses on the Lackawanna St. (Patrick’s street) and 53rd Avenue (my street).

It’s needless to say that we need many of such programs across all the streets / blocks in the neighborhood. With the rise of crime we’re currently facing (pls. see my yesterday’s post)  we can make a big difference in the local public safety if we join our hands in such volunteering ventures. The bonus? you’ll get to know your neighbors, which I’ve found very rewarding.

We hope to have another block captain meeting sometime next month. Please contact Kim, Patrick or me if you’d like to join.

‘Unexpected’ Crime Incidents Hit the Neighborhood

I attended the Neighborhood Watch block captain / coordinator meeting last Thursday evening (1/20)  at the Davis Hall. The Community Response Team (CRT) officer Melanie Sarita of the PG Co. Police briefed the crowd on the recent crime incidents in north College Park. She said there have been quite a few incidents in the area, which she thinks unusual for this part of the city. She reported that around 13 break-ins have been reported alone in the recent weeks. Most incidents happened around Erie St., Delaware St., Cherokee St. and Lackawanna St.

What’s more alarming, all of these incidents happended during day time (9am to 3pm) – when most of us are out at work. Though she could not disclose the details of these incidents due to the sensitivity of the ongoing investigations, she thinks that most of these crimes are the acts of the same individual or the same group.

She asked neighbors to watch for a black male in Daniel Park area; the individual appears as “disoriented”, but has been reported to be seen inside a few unprotected houses. Another person to watch is a white blond male with tattoo on his neck; this individual has been spotted in the Blackfoot Rd. area.

If you see anything suspicious, please contact the PG Police (301-333-4000) or Ofc. Sarita at 301-699-2950 (email mmsenobio@co.pg.md.us). You may also contact our neighborhood watch coordinator Kim Lugo to inquire about the program in your area [phone: 301-345-2553 (home) 301-404-0050 (cell), email: kslugo@yahoo.com ]

City Developments in North College Park

The City of College Park’s Planning Director Terry Schum took her time to come to last Thursday’s NCPCA meeting and made a presentation on the status of the existing developments in the north College Park. I’ve plotted these developments in the map below. Please click on the markers on the map to find more about each development.[mappress]

The Wiser Path to Take

David Hill, the reporter from the Gazette paper came over to cover the NCPCA’s last week’s meeting. I saw him standing at the back of the meeting room for the entire session of 2+ hours and taking notes. Here is a report he prepared for this week’s edition, the print version of which you should’ve received yesterday. Thanks Dave for taking the time despite your busy schedule – we all much appreciate that.

I’m glad that the article brought the issue of relatively large attendance of residents from one ethnic/religious group in the meeting. As I mentioned in my other post, there was even larger participation by the same ethnic group in another NCPCA regular meeting three and half years ago. Fortunately, that time their presence was applauded by then councilman, understandably for the vote his neighborhood report received from that particular ethnic group. If the large presence of the same group that time was termed as  “a demonstration of the power of democracy at its most”, I wonder why is this viewed differently at this time.

The large presence of a particular group or groups at the voting booth isn’t something new in the long democratic tradition of our country. The enormous support of African Americans for one candidate in the 2008 presidential election and the huge support of the evangelical voters for another candidate in the 2004 presidential election are only two examples. People flock to the polling station “in droves” when they think the issue at hand would affect their rights most.

Thus for the sake of keeping and encouraging democratic tradition of our country and this association, I think we should all commend any group or groups for its civic participation. The same should apply to the opinions expressed by any member in a democratic fashion for or against the issues at hand. I’m glad that I could generate that democratic debate on the amendment issue through this blog post and its discussion forum. Citizens often make their minds on contemporary issues after going through discussion in such blogosphere – I don’t think it will be fair to accuse these citizens as ’recruited’; such accusations rather undermine the mere ability of a citizen in exercising his or her democratic right.

One of the civic activities I enjoy the most is to get many members part of the civic association. The past campaign in November gave me many opportunities talking to my neighbors about NCPCA and what we do at its general meeting. After the campaign, I personally mailed several hundred letters to these neighbors telling my commitment through NCPCA activities. For the past few months, I’ve also been trying to promote NCPCA through this blog where I invite them to attend its regular meetings. The neighbors in these communications don’t belong to one particular ethnic group, but rather all residents of our neighborhood – Whites, African Americans, Latinos and Asians.

Getting more neighbors involved as part of the association is not a job of one or two members – this is a work that should be done by everyone. However, we also have our responsibilties as a group. Collectively, we can designate a week or a month every year for a much needed membership drive. During this period, we can go door to door telling our neighbors the benefits of joining our association. Other community organizations do similar drive to increase their memberships. We should also take advantage of the NCPCA’s annual events, such as the upcoming picnic to attract more neighbors to introduce NCPCA and get them involved.

The presence of more members in our civic association means more benefit for the entire community. Take for example the Neighborhood Watch program we have in our city. Currently, we only have a handful of such active programs in the neighborhood. With city’s budget shrinking at an alarming rate, and the rate of crime incidents going up, we need many members from our civic association to take care of our citizens’ needs.

The wiser solution to address the apparent disparities in our civic association is to use our energies and time to reach out as many neighbors as possible – and get them to be part of the larger community – the community we call ‘a family of one’.

Council Approves Restaurant / Bar License

The council has approved a sit-down Mexican restaurant / bar proposed for 9505 Baltimore Ave., near the intersection of Indian Road and Route One.

At the last week’s NCPCA meeting members overwhelming adopted a motion asking the city to deny the restaurant / bar license. Some 70+ resedents attended the meeting. Residents were concerned about the late hour operation (until 2:00 am) during the weekend and excessive amount of liquor sales (45% of total sales) at the restaurant. There have also been concerns on the noise and prostitution problems in the residential neighborhood adjacent to the proposed restaurant. Residents frequently complained that gang members and prostitutes chased by the police often enter the neighborhood. They feel extremely uncomfortable for being possible suspects in these incidents.

Defending the council decision, council member Patrick Wojahn said “(the license agreement would ) require a 40% limit on revenue from alcohol sales and receiving an assurance that the restaurant would patrol its parking lot every half an hour after 11 pm.”

The licensing board is expected to approve its license after its hearing on January 26. The restaurant is expected to be open in March this year.

Draft Letter to Recommend Hollywood District Zoning Unchanged

A draft letter on the amended Rt.1 sector plan by the city has recommended the current C-S-C (commercial shopping center) zoning be unchanged for the Hollywood commercial district.  The city previously recommended a Mixed Use-Town Center (M-U-TC) zone for the district. The Park and Planning rejected the original M-U-TC zoning in part because “they feel it would be difficult to implement an M-U-TC zone in the current sectional map amendment, and in part, because of public opposition to any possible increased density that might come with the M-U-TC zone”.

Thanks to Councilmember Patrick Wojahn for providing the details on the draft letter. He also notes:

I understand that some residents, including my colleague, Councilmember Nagle, have serious concerns about rezoning the Hollywood Commercial District in any way that would allow more density in the area.  I have proposed a compromise to limit any increase in density in the commercial district to 20% over what currently exists, but I also believe that we could use local input in the plan to prevent any increase in density that would add to traffic or have a negative impact on the surrounding residential areas.

Because I remain concerned that the C-S-C zone will not spur redevelopment in the area, I have proposed an amendment that we request Park and Planning to develop a study group to look into the M-U-TC zone as a possible option for the next sectional map amendment.  That will also allow residents more time to consider the option and decide whether it is an appropriate option for Hollywood.

The council was set to decide the final text of the letter in last night’s work session.

$2M Budget Cut – Where the Axe will Fall?

The much discussed nearly 2 million dollar cut from the city’s FY2011 budget has started speculations – where exactly this cut will happen?

Considering the total amount of the current budget of $13 million, the amount of this cut is huge – a whopping 15%. The cut is going to happen due to expected loss of revenues – mainly from a reduced property tax from residents in the upcoming year.

Here is what Councilwoman Stephanie Stullich (Dist. 3) thinks:

With less revenue, the council’s primary goal will be to limit expenses while continuing to provide essential services like trash pickup, street maintenance and police service, It’s going to be a challenging budget, no question about it,” Stullich said. “I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do it. We have to hope that staff can be very creative.

What this cut also means that the residents will most likely be discouraged from making their wishlists in the upcoming budget. Here is what the city manager and the finance director say:

Nagro and Groh asked council members to limit requests for “wish list” projects in their districts, initiatives that range and the city could dip into its “rainy day” undesignated revenue.

The NCPCA members typically make such wish lists before the budget is presented for approval.

What Would Dr. King Do?

Today marks this year’s Dr. Martin Luther King day. Governments and many businesses are closed today to let citizens reflect on MLK’s contribution throughout his civil rights movement.

Many ponder on this day on what Dr. King would do, had he not been assassinated in 1968 and is still alive today facing the challenges of our time. Many children at our schools are asked to write and present the current day version of his famous “I’ve a dream” speech.

No, I’m not going to write such a speech to address the apparent social gaps we have between various groups in our neighborhood. During the past November campaign, I had several opportunities to talk to our neighbors on this and covered the issue in this post.

The extreme racial segregation that Dr. King fought hard during the civil rights era may have gone now, but we do have social gaps between various groups in our ever changing communities – between Latinos and non-Latinos, between students and landlords, between immigrants and non-immigrants. Let’s all recognize that.

The only way to bridge that gap is to “communicate” – to reach out.

And reaching out to the other sides needs means  finding places or events where neighbors of different groups and ethnic origins can get together. 

There have been suggestions of launching major annual multi-ethnic events, or even several small block parties, in addition to the existing avenues we have – such as monthly meeting at the NCPCA. I’d like to be part of organizing events such as these, as much as I can.

However what is more importantly needed, is a true desire and attitude of reaching out to our fellow neighbors. Instead of expecting the other side coming to us , let’s go out and talk to the other side. Here are two examples that should give some hints what I’m talking about.

(1) If we attend the NCPCA monthly meeting at Davis Hall, let’s find and sit next to someone who we don’t know. Let’s say ‘Hi’, introduce ourselves, let’s find more about him or her. This should eliminate kind of suspicion many of us had the past about the fellow members.

(2) If we’re part of a Neighborhood Watch program, let’s make a habit of going door to door introducing ourselves to our neighbors. Let’s exchange our contact information. Let’s talk a little about the neighborhood that we both share.

These are only two examples. I’m sure we can be creative in finding more avenues such as these to reach out to the other sides.

Our inability in reaching out to  the other sides have brought us apart in the past. Let’s not widen that gap further. Let’s come closer.

Hollywood Elementary Keeps its Boundary Unchanged

The boundary plan for Hollywood Elementary School remains unchanged – at least for now.

The last month’s county plan to change its boundary plan would have moved 56 of its students to the nearby Paint Brance Elementary school, thus causing incoveniences to many students and their families living in our district.

More here: http://gazette.net/stories/01142010/collnew172858_32554.php