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Disaster in Haiti – Let’s Do Our Part

Picture this:

Our neighborhood is in ruin. A natural disaster has hit us. Our houses, schools, shops, places of worships, roads are all devastated. Residents’ bodies are lying around on the streets, many neighbors are are trapped in their houses, many school children are still waiting to be rescued from their ruined classrooms. Firefighters and police are trying their best but they are running against time – they are facing too much odds.

Let’s be thankful it did not happen here – but it’s just happened somewhere else – in Haiti. We all must have seen this already – on our TV screens, on the internet.  Just because it’s happened another part of the world, this shouldn’t stop us from extending our helping hands. Let’s do our best.

True there have been tons of aid works being done by local and federal agencies, they are also asking us to make contributions at personal levels.

If you’d like to contribute directly, you can attend the Survival Kit Drive at the Embassy of Haiti tomorrow. Here is the link to find more details:

http://www.haiti.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=140

If you don’t have time, please make your contributions to one of the national charities. Here is a list where you can find a list of charities:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34835478/ns/world_news-haiti_earthquake/

A Family of One

Last night’s NCPCA meeting at Davis Hall is one that I’ll remember for many years to come. Neighbors packed the hall for long hours to express their democratic opinions. Many came with small children and patiently waited until 10pm.

True we had a lot of passionate arguments flying around in the room, members did stick together to the end.

I thank our president Larry Bleau and former council member Mark Shroder, who served as the meeting’s parliamentarian.  They both did an excellent job in carrying us succesfully to the finish line.

I’d also like to thank our Mayor Andy Fellows for his remarks on “a strong NCPCA” and council member Marcus Afzali for his comment to forget petty differences and rather focus on greater challenges we face.

If my memory is correct, the last time I saw a meeting like this was more than 3 years ago at the same Davis Hall on another neighborhood matter. A large crowd gathered at the meeting to vote on a report that then council member John Krouse prepared and presented to NCPCA for approval. The members approved the Krouse report with overwhelming support. Refelecting on that meeting, he later made a comment that I think is worthy to mention:

I don’t think I have ever seen such an extraordinary meeting as I saw last night at NCPCA.  To successfully channel the energy of such a large group (140+?) and so many people who may never before have participated in such parliamentary processes is very remarkable.  

The more I reflect upon the evening and its deeper meaning, the more I am impressed by the patience, wisdom and integrity of everyone involved. 

As a demonstration of the power of democracy at its most fundamental level, last night’s meeting was really an awesome thing to watch.  It makes me very proud of my citizens association and all my friends and neighbors who stayed and worked until the work was done. 

John Krouse ( Friday, September 15, 2006) 

Though John decided not to join last night’s meeting, I do appreciate the good hard work he has done as our council member and as our association’s vice president in the past. The same goes for our former treasurer Anna Ubeda. I hope they both will rejoin our association one day in future. 

Our community is facing a lot of  challenges. The city is having quite a substantial budget cut  – nearly $2 million from last year’s $13 million. This cut will affect many of our city services in the coming months. At this difficult time, we do really need a lot of hard working citizens to respond to the needs of their fellow citizens.  Disassociation from civic activities is not an option, not at this difficult time. 

Having disagreements and differences in opinions among family members is quite common. In fact, sometime passionate differences are indications of strong bonds between family members. The same applies to the members of our civic association. 

We are a family of one. For the sake of its members, let’s stay as one.  

 

NCPCA Meeting Tonight – Please Attend

Please try to attend tonight’s NCPCA meeting at the Davis Hall.  The meeting will start at 7:30 pm.

Please see ncpca website to check the meeting agenda.

http://myncpca.org

Also, as I blogged earlier, we’ll be collecting winter warm cloths for needy families in our area.

See you all tonight.

The Crime Reports that Don’t Report Crime

When it comes to reporting crime on a visual geographical map, there are two excellent sites people typically go to

(1) http://crimereports.com

(2) http://spotcrime.com

Unfortunately, none of these two sites report crimes in our district very well. You’d see crimes spotted in the neighboring Montgomery county, even many parts of the PG county, but, not in our part of the county.

Now that should give some of us a false sense of security, whereas we *do have* a lot of crime going on in our district.

I guess part of the reason why crimes in our area are not listed is the data source these sites get from different  police department. As you all know our city doesn’t have any police force. There is certainly a disconnect between these sites and the various police departments that cover our district, namely contract police, PG police, University police and the MD park police.

$2B MD Budget Gap – Deep Cuts Ahead?

The entire Washington metro area is facing some extreme cuts due to budget gaps. such cuts will be felt in all local governments – small or large – from the city council to state legislature (our city is currently facing upto $1.8 million revenue drop).

Such cuts will become an important election issue in the upcoming MD general assembly election. Here is what Washington Post reports:

In an election year in Maryland, a $2 billion budget gap creates the largest political risk for Democrats, who control both chambers of the General Assembly by wide margins and the governorship. The cuts could strain Democrats’ relationships with key constituency groups, including labor unions, educators and environmentalists, as money for favored programs is slashed.

Republicans, such as former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is weighing a rematch against Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), might be emboldened to take on Democrats if their handling of the budget proves unpopular. On his radio show Saturday, Ehrlich urged people to march on Annapolis on Wednesday to protest how Democrats have handled the state budget.

Community Winter Clothing Drive

Like last year, I’m planning to organize a winter clothing drive this year.

With the help of neighbors like you, school parents and members of faith groups, we collected some 30 large boxes of cloths last year. The donated items were later distributed to the local residents and charities such as Pregnancy Center in College Park and other charities in DC and Baltimore.

If you plan to come to the Jan 14 NCPCA meeting, you can drop off your donation items in the donation bin at the Davis Hall.

Clean out your closets and pass along your used winter cloths to needy children and senior citizens in the neighborhood and local charities. We will be accepting any warm cloths, such as coats, sweaters, jackets, pants, gloves and scarves etc. Please make sure that the items are clean, has no stains, extreme wear, holes or tears. 

For more information, please contact me at 301-659-6295 (email faz.kabir@gmail.com).

Speed Camera: Safety vs Revenue

Source: Martel Electronics

The P.G. county executive Jack B. Johnson has scrapped a plan to install some 50+ fixed cameras near the county schools.

Instead he wants this:

Johnson (D) said Friday that he plans to work with police officials to instead put several mobile camera units in operation. He said the number of units has not been decided, but it will be “much less” than 50, the number of school sites his spokesman, James P. Keary, cited late last year. (The Washington Post)

The reason for such a quick turnaround? Mr. Johnson thinks – fixed cameras are more associated with getting revenues (though speeding tickets) than bringing safety. Opponents don’t agree – they think it’s the election year politicking that forced him to make this decision.

More here on the Gazette article:

http://www.gazette.net/stories/01072010/prinnew163425_32562.php

Public Safety Polls

Please answer these questions only if you live in College Park. Your opinions will help us in making our city a safer place to live.

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Rising Home Break-Ins

Last night I received this message from a neighbor in our district (via web post)

Our house was broken into and ransacked today. An iPod, camera, vintage coins, 2 diamond rings and various other jewelry was stolen. The thief kicked in the back door, which had a deadbolt. The police are still in front of the house. [Anonymous]

I’ve also heard of a couple of other similar incidents in recent days. Perhaps it’s the time of the year, when days are short and criminals find a longer time to make their foul plays. But should we stop in thinking of causes of this increasing trend and find a sound solution?

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The Not-So-Interesting Agenda Item

If you’re a regular at the NCPCA’s monthly meetings, the agenda item called ‘Variance Report’ is probably the least interesting item in the entire meeting. That is what I’ve heard many members think.

To make this uninteresting item a little bit spicier, NCPCA has added a page on its website. Here is the link:

http://myncpca.org/links/variances/

Hope the page will clear up many questions and confusions members have about the variance procedure. Enjoy reading!

December 2009 NCPCA Minutes

In case you missed last month’s regular NCPCA meeting, here is the minutes – please take a look. http://myncpca.org/2010/01/05/december2009/

This month’s meeting will be held on next Thursday, January 14. Please try to attend. The tentative agenda has been posted on NCPCA’s website http://myncpca.org. It’s on the home page.

NCPCA – Why Limit, Can’t it Flourish?

Creative Commons - Flickr

An interesting debate is brewing at NCPCA on who can vote and who cannot. A change in by-laws on membership rules was introduced in last month’s meeting. Members will vote on this change on January 14.

The proposed by-laws change will limit only up to two residents in a house to vote on NCPCA matters, no matter how many adults (related or not) live in that house.

I enjoy spending time to bring other residents to be part of the NCPCA, and thus, I took special interest in the proposed changes in membership rules.

I had chances to speak with some of the current NCPCA members; many of them actually believe that limiting number of voters to only 1 or 2 in a house equals taking away the most important democratic right a citizen in this country can have: the right to vote. They are of the conviction that denial of such rights is also taking the association backward to a time when women and African Americans could not vote in this country.

Many also find it amusing that a resident is being denied the chance to vote, when the same person just voted to elect their council members two months ago and a president two years ago.

It appears that the proposed changes are based on an unfounded notion of members leaving NCPCA in large numbers because they feel the association allows too many members in one household to vote.

I see such concerns are factually incorrect. One of my jobs as the civic association’s secretary is to help keep track of the members present in its meetings. To the best of my knowledge, I haven’t seen large families with everyone in house participating in the meeting in the past. I also haven’t seen “a lot” of members leaving the association in recent time; our membership has been fairly steady, if not increasing dramatically. True we have lost a few (and I hope they will come back), but speaking with some of them, I found that the reasons for their leaving are anything but being subdued by large families.

Others think that, with NCPCA’s membership not being the most sought after item in a resident’s life,  such an amendment may actually be pushing all members of a large family away from coming to NCPCA, because they will feel disenfranchised because of such undemocratic action.

Proponents of the amendment think that members of a large family should be stripped off from their voting rights because many of them “do not understand the rules of procedure” in the meetings. Such a notion seems a lot of disrespect to these members.

If the size of the family is the yardstick to measure who can vote or who cannot, how do we know just because one or two persons live in a house, they automatically understand the rules of engagement in the meetings, opponents of the proposed amendment ask.

Stripping members of large families from their voting rights will also send a wrong message to our younger family members. Consider my college going son, Arif, who is also serving as the webmaster of the NCPCA website http://myncpca.org. I wonder what incentive he will have in continuing to serve NCPCA when he turns 18 at the end of this year and finds out that he cannot vote. I’m sure there are other young members like Arif in other families that will feel the same way.

That sounds like punishing a family just because it decided to grow!

Now that’s a great way to attract young members to the association. Should we then limit NCPCA’s membership to older generation only?

I’ve also heard concerns that such changes will discourage civic participation of growing minority communities such as Asians and Latinos, who generally have large members in their families. These are the communities that we all have been struggling to bring to the fold of the NCPCA. The concerns go even further – if this is indeed the case, aren’t we doing something that goes against our constitution?

The other groups that will suffer from such a drastic actions are students and families who rent in a shared household with their landlords. Now talk more about citizen rights!!

Also think about the complexities large family members will face in deciding how to vote on a NCPCA matter. Do we see regular monthly family feuds in making?

NCPCA officers will also face unnecessary complexities in deciding whose vote to take in the regular meetings if more than two members from the same house are present in future meetings.

I haven’t seen any other nearby civic association that defines its household by only one or two persons living in one house. Here is how the oldest civic association (est. 1885) in our area deals with its membership.

By all means, we should all try our best to increase our membership, not to reduce it by restrictive membership rules.

The credibility of our association to the public officials depends much on the strength of our membership. I wonder how much credible our association appears to our elected officials when only 0.01% of the population votes on an important matter that affects the entire neighborhood.

True an increased membership may force us to rethink about the meeting location and format, but the size of our association’s membership strength shouldn’t be limited by the size of a room in Davis Hall, but the overall size of our nearly 10,000 member strong neighborhood.

A strong NCPCA membership also means a slew of volunteer driven civic activities. At a time when our residents are threatened by higher taxes and the cost of city services ever rising, we need more members to serve in various important programs and activities to take care of residents’ needs.

I much appreciate the ultimate goal of the amendment – to bring harmony and cohesiveness to the association. Unfortunately, I can see talks of such changes are already causing a toxic atmosphere by putting small families against large ones and students against residents. Most feedback I’ve received from the members point me to this conclusion that such a change is backward, undemocratic, divisive, and anti-family, and is thus unnecessary.

Thinking about our neighborhood association’s membership is a good one, but let’s not step backward by discouraging and limiting more residents from becoming part of our association. Let us move forward with an increased and vibrant membership goal – let’s all work together to make it flourish.

Goodbye World Grocery

In case you’re worried about the closing of the old World Grocery store (picture below) on the Edgewood Road, here is a bit of good news. A new sign has replaced the old one – it says “Lundo Grocery Market”. Needless to say – the store will mainly serve Latino foods.

Goodbye World Grocery – and welcome Lundo in the neighborhood.

‘Unrest’ at the UM

You may like this eye-catching headline, but I wonder if such budget cuts will be a factor in a more forceful persuation of getting the half a million chunk out of our city’s budget.

Persistent budget cuts have created turmoil at the University of Maryland, College Park this past fall, prompting a student demonstration over the removal of one administrator, complaints about a lack of clear explanations from the provost and a sense of dread among faculty who say they’re asked to do more with less.

The state university system has cut more than $100 million from its 2010 budget in response to shortfalls in the state budget. As the system’s largest campus, College Park has taken the biggest hits and will have to cut about $48 million by the end of the fiscal year in June. Cuts have led to furloughs, shrinking budgets for adjunct faculty, key positions left unfilled, discussions of merging departments and a few layoffs.

More here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/education/bal-md.collegepark01jan01,0,4502751.story