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Thompson Touts ‘Vision’, Blasts Opponents for ‘Waste’ and ‘Inaction’

Crystal R. Thompson
Crystal R. Thompson

She may not have the endorsements of the local heavyweight County and State politicians, but she thinks she has the chance to win the race, “as equal as my opponents” – as she claims in the upcoming County Council District 1 Primary election.

“Yes, we can! Yes, we did. Hi, my name is Crystal Thompson. I am FIRED UP and READY TO Go!” – she says in her campaign web site, echoing the popular campaign slogan of nation’s current president Barack Obama.

“I’m the only candidate having a vision to save the county with programs like e-book sales throughout the nation” – referring to her proposal to produce and sell e-books to generate funds for the county. She made these comments to me in a recent telephone interview.

She criticized candidate Mary Lehman for “wasting county’s money” – referring to her role in the so-called discrimination case where a federal judge asked the county to pay $3.7 million to a Laurel faith group. “Those funds could have been used to prevent employee furloughs or towards providing our students free breakfast, lunch, and access to filtered water” – she added. (Ms. Lehman strongly rejects such charges).

She also criticized the other leading candidate Fred Smalls, charging him for not doing enough to save the Laurel Mall from turning it into ‘a ghost town’. Mr. Small has been serving as a Laurel City council member for the past 8 years.

Please read her complete interview here. As always, if you have additional questions or comments, please post them at the end of the article.

(1) There are five council candidates running in this year’s council election for District 1. Why do you think you are the best candidate in this crowded race?

I was the only one, in all of our candidate forums, who:

  • Articulate a vision for the county. I envision of turning Prince George’s County into the Education, Community Health, and Environmental Corridor of the East Coast.
  • Advocate the Audit the $1.058 billion dollars now listed as one line item of Board of Education budget (40% of the county budget) because our teachers, public safety, janitors, food service personnel are being furloughed or terminated.
  • Stress the importance to feeding all students a nutritious breakfast, lunch and access to filtered water which will save parents up to $687 per child and minimize the cost of treating diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses among our children.  
  • Support all county employees to make sure they are not short changed in their paychecks and have to work in constant fear of furloughs and terminations.
  • Outline ways to build revenue today by using the resources that exist in the county.

        For example, the county can develop eTextbooks and compete with the textbook publishers, that cater to Texas, nationwide. As the owner of a software training company and as a certified Microsoft trainer and instructional designer, I developed training material for and delivered training to 17 law firms, International Monetary Fund, government agencies, military, IT staff, non-profits with limited resources. It can be done.

  • Champion the idea of the county investing in developing eco-manufacturing (e.g. Portable solar devices), single payer healthcare and medical research, mass transit, and developing partnerships with government agencies (NASA), trade unions to expand our children’s educational experience and create jobs in distressed areas.
  • Highlight and address the impact the new Healthcare Law where our seniors will receive free wellness starting January 1, 2010. I also point out that Steny Hoyer has five Community Health Centers under the new law and the urgency of building one in Konterra.

(2) Two of your opponent candidates Mary Lehman and Fred Smalls enjoy strong endorsements from well known political figures. Do you feel that your campaign is weakened by these endorsements?

I am focused on my race and have a strong chance of winning. As to Ms. Lehman and Mr. Smalls, I have talked to many voters in their strongholds who have no idea who they are; the experience they have; and are impressed with vision that I offer for the county’s future. It’s going to come down to who knocks on the most doors.

What do you say to those critics who say you do not have enough experience in holding public office in the past?

No one had the nerve to say that to me personally. I never needed to invalid any of my competitors’ experience because the my vision for the Prince George’s County and my solutions to deal with current fiscal issues override the insecurities of my unnamed critics and the named competitors.

The experience of District 1 Political Establishment resulted in wasting millions of taxpayers dollars, failing our schools, creating a hostile work environment for county employees (including public safety), further straining a broken Laurel Regional Hospital; and neglecting the needs of middle to lower income residents throughout District 1. Here are specific examples:

  1. Tom Dernoga (and his employee, Mary Lehman) allowed the Prince George’s County council to approve the sham Board of Education’s budget with a $1+ Billion single line-item called School Operating Resources during their tenure together. This year, the amount is $1.058 Billion (see page 10 of the 1. FY 2010 budget file).
  2. Fred Smalls experience, as a city councilman, resulted in Laurel Mall and Main Street becoming run down ghost towns instead of vibrant areas that residents want to frequent.
  3. The experience of the Dernoga/Lehman team cost Prince George’s County $3.7 million and county legal resources in the Reaching Hearts case. That verdict was not caused by slick lawyering by Reaching Heart as Lehman claimed. It was caused by a weak case presented by Dernoga/Lehman team. Those funds could have been used to prevent employee furloughs or towards providing our students free breakfast, lunch, and access to filtered water.
  4. The experience of Dernoga / Lehman and Fred Smalls/ Craig Moe teams, and some members of the 21stDelegation (e.g. Frush, a member to Dimensions Healthcare Systems) resulted unbearable strain at Laurel Regional Hospital where one physician have to cover the entire hospital on the weekends.
  5. The experience of Fred Smalls, Craig Moe, and the Laurel City Council resulted in partnership with a Viridian Electric independent consultant where the consultant would get exclusive advertising on the Laurel City website to push residents to sign up with Viridian in exchange for revenue of only $2 per resident sign up. Also, these politicians have not even tried the service at their homes or city facilities to effectively respond to resident questions about price stability, blackouts, energy assistance programs, etc.
  6. The experience of the Smalls/Moe team have resulted my seniors at Laurel Senior Apartments not having access to sidewalks to get to Safeway or Shoppers, etc. In fact, the crosswalk to Safeway is on the side of the street where there is no sidewalk. The seniors (my Dad included) risk riding their wheelchairs to the surrounding markets in fear of being running down by cars on the street.
  7. The experience of the Denorga/Lehman team resulted in five schools that failed under the No Child Left Behind Act. Yet, their neighborhood elementary school thrive and parents feel like they have to send their kids to Roosevelt High School outside of District 1.
  8. Our experienced politicians are totally disconnected from our neighbors (e.g. fixed or lower income areas) throughout the District 1. They never of heard of or heard from any of the incumbents and of current candidates.

(3) The City of College Park residents pay nearly 1 million dollars to hire 6 contract police officers (3 P/T, 3 F/T) from the county, because the police service from the county’s regular police PGFD is not enough. If elected, what will you do to help offset such extra cost of law enforcement from local municipalities?

Any agreements that enter into by any city government must be funded and honored by that government. Period.

(4) The current councilman has been criticized by some for his strong stance against redevelopment in North College Park. The implementation of “form-based codes”  in the North College Park area, north of Greenbelt Road (Rt 193) has recently been blocked as part of Rt 1 sector plan. If elected, will you also support such position?

 Again, we have to come back to the budget. Sector 1 plan falls in parks and planning. O’Malley cut taxes and MNCPPC funding was used to fill the county operating budget. We have to separate MNCPPC funding from the County’s general fund to see where we stand on every MNCPPC project.

Duvall Field to Get a FaceLift

Duvall Field

Duvall Field @ Rhode Island Ave.

After years of talks on the redevelopment of the Duvall Field, the ball seems rolling..

The City has, for a number of years, been developing a proposal to reconstruct Duvall Field.  The plans were finalized last year; however, part of the project required a developer contribution from the developer of the Greenbelt Station project, which has since stalled.  As a result, the City has decided to pursue the development in phases, completing different phases of the project as funding becomes available. 

The proposed first phase of the project is to rebuild the concession stand as a two-story building with storage on top and a wheelchair-accessible bathroom.  The Boys and Girls Club obtained $75,000 through a State Bond Bill, which needs to be matched.  There are $84,000 in City funds already dedicated to the project as a match, and the City also has $35,000 in Program Open Space funds and $146,000 in already existing Community Parks and Playgrounds grant funding.  The City still needs an additional $180,000 to complete this phase of the project, and will request that through a grant.

The City Council approved the the first phase of application in last week’s council meeting.

[Source: NCP listserve]

Rebroadcast of County Council Candidate Forum

The City will be airing  July 11 County Council District 1 Candidates Forum on its cable channels on the following schedule, Saturday (yep, that’s today), Sunday, Monday and Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. The program runs about 85 minutes and will continue through September 5.

All five candidates for County Council District participated in the Forum. The Forum was moderated by Mayor Andrew Fellows. Each candidate answered eight questions and provided opening and closing remarks.

Look for the Forum and news about the City on Comcast @ 71 and on Verizon @ 25.

[Source: CPDistrict1]

NCP BestBuy Set to Open Next Month

It’s the store #2508, as the Bestbuy’s official site says with a message – “opening soon”. 

And that “soon” means really soon – early next month, according to published reports.  

The store will replace the recently defunct household store “Linens-n-Things’. The retail space has been vacant for a number of months. 

I see it’s an exciting news for the “geeks” in our neighborhood – they don’t need to drive miles to get their favorite gadgets, as well as for average residents to get simple electronic / electrical stuff. The nearest BestBuy to our part of the town is located in Laurel. 

But the news of the opening isn’t that exciting for many nearby residents, especially those living in the neighboring Autoville area. The problem? it’s the blue wedge at front, that the store is planning to outfit – the size is too big and is causing an eyesore, complain the residents. They think the blue wedge is part of the store sign. The wedge is 27% of the size of the store’s frontal view. The recently adopted Rt1 sector plan only allows stores to have sign no more than 10% of the fontal view. The BestBuy developers had a meeting early this week and are trying to negotiate a compromise with the residents. Some residents have worried that granting such an early exception to the sector plan could open the door for numerous future exceptions.

On the meeting, I asked council member Marcus Afzali, who represents the area. He said he is optimistic about a settlement.  The outcome of the meeting was that residents expressed their STRONG objection to a sign that would not conform to the sector plan.  We are now waiting for the response from Best Buy – will they just say ok and keep with their current sign (which I would love), will they go for a battle at the city and county level and go for the full blue wedge (I can’t imagine they would), or will they try to see if they can get a compromise proposal of some sort (most likely, though again I’d rather they just say ok to the signage they already have) – said Marcus.

We’ll see what happens, but I think neither Cherry Hill residents nor Best Buy want a prolonged fight at the City and County level that will last for months.  Hopefully in 30-60 days this will just be a distant memory. 

Proposed Sign - the Gazette

Proposed Sign - the Gazette

BestBuy’s recent move to College Park is part of an aggressive action to fill a vacuum of electronic retail stores in the area. “With the fall of Circuit City in January 2009, Best Buy had little, if any, competition in the Washington area. None of its closest competitors, such as Walmart or Target, offered its vast selection of TVs, cameras and computers. Retail experts expected Best Buy, which has 42 stores in the Washington area, to tuck a few Circuit City sites into its portfolio.”, reports the Washington Post in a recent article. 

The opening is a good news for the city officials too. “[The store will] add a nice little boost to our city tax revenue.” – says council member Marcus Afzali,

City Approves 5yr Strategic Plan

In last Tuesday’s council meeting, the City has *finally* approved the 5 year strategic plan.

And this came after months of public input from City residents that include a series of focus group meetings and two public hearings. The approved plan can be found here on the City website.

Please see my earlier posts on the plan here and here.

Read more »

City Sponsors School Supply Drive

As another school year approaches fast, the City is sponsoring a school supply drive.

The drive would benefit Hollywood Elementary School, Paint Branch Elementary School, Martin Luther King Middle School, and Buck Lodge, all schools that are attended by students from College Park.  Contributions of new supplies should be taken to two drop-off locations:

  • College Park City Hall, 4500 Knox Road (behind the Smoothie King) Monday-Friday from 8:00 am to 9:30 pm, or Saturday from 1:00 to 9:30 pm.

Davis Hall, 9217 51st Avenue, Monday-Friday from 7:00 am to 3:45 pm.

In addition to the packs of standard #2 pencils, colored pencils, blue and black pens, glue sticks, yellow highlighters, etc. items such as boxes of facial tissues, hand soaps and sanitizers, paper towels, and reams of white copy paper are requested.  A full list of supplies is posted on the City’s website here.   All items should be new, in original packaging, please.

For additional information, please contact Councilmember Denise Mitchell at 240-413-9911.

One on One with Mary Lehman

Recently I’ve reached out to all 5 candidates running for the District 1  County Council election (Democratic primary).

Here are the answers to my questions I asked candidate Mary Lehman (Thanks Mary). I hope to present other candidates’ views in future.

If you have further questions or comments on Mary’s responses, please feel free to post them in the comment section at the end of this article.

Enjoy reading…

(1) There are five council candidates running in this year’s council election for District 1. Why do you think you are the best candidate in this crowded race?

I am the only candidate who has worked in county and state government, responding to and solving the kinds of every day problems about which citizens contact elected officials. I am the only candidate who knows every major neighborhood in the district. I have attended meetings for years in those neighborhoods and understand the challenges and tensions in each. I have an extensive network of government contacts at the local, state and federal levels that I can call on to address problems because I have been doing exactly that for the past seven years on behalf of Delegate Pena-Melnyk and Councilman Dernoga. I wrote a letter just last week for a constituent who is appealing a denial by the Social Security Administration of disability benefits for her mentally ill daughter. From a legislative standpoint, I know what it takes to work with stakeholders, reach consensus and get good bills passed to improve our communities and life in our county. And I know custom enamel pins from Pincious.com are perfect to increase your outreach.

(2) You have been a staunch supporter of the current (outgoing) council member Tom Dernoga, who is also strongly endorsing your campaign. Mr. Dernoga’s son Matt Dernoga is also your campaign manager. Critics say that you will most likely follow the style of governance that Mr. Dernoga had in his tenure as District 1 council member. Some criticize Mr. Dernoga for his strong “anti-development” position, especially in regards to the Rt 1 corridor re-development in North College Park. Will you have a similar stance, if elected?

I am a strong supporter and a personal friend of Tom Dernoga’s and have enormous respect for his intellect and integrity. If I am elected, I appreciate that I will have big shoes to fill. I also understand that people will assume that I share most of Tom’s views; however, I am my own person with my own ideas and opinions. I am a journalist by training, not an attorney like Tom, but I am a deliberative and thoughtful person. I will evaluate development proposals on a case-by-case basis on the merits. New development must meet adequate public facilities requirements and be transit-oriented and pedestrian and bike friendly. I am not anti-development because that is not realistic, but we need to begin encouraging redevelopment and infill development rather than pave over every square inch of land in this county.

 

(3) As a West Laurel resident you (along with Mr. Dernoga) strongly opposed the construction of an African American Church in your neighborhood. A Federal Judge later awarded the Church $3.7 million in a lawsuit against the county. Critics such as State’s attorney candidate Angela Alsobrooks cite this as a religious discrimination case. Do you regret your opposition in the case? Please explain.

First, please do not perpetuate the myth that Reaching Hearts is an African American congregation; it is not. However, having said that, it would not matter to me whether its pastor or congregation were black, white or purple. I personally opposed the Reaching Hearts plan for a worship and conference center because it is an inappropriate location for a development of that size. There are legitimate environmental problems with that parcel of land, namely it cannot pass a soil perc test (This is a test of the absorption rate of water for the purposes of designing a septic drain field.) Either the water table is too high or the clay soil is too dense, but at any rate, the county determined that the parcel does not qualify for a change in the water/sewer category that Reaching Hearts would need to build its complex. This property backs up to the Patuxent Watershed and Rocky Gorge Reservoir where we get our drinking water. This has nothing to do with discrimination on the part of Mr. Dernoga or West Laurel; Reaching Hearts simply hired a clever attorney who sued based on a federal law that makes it harder for the government to deny any religious institution the ability to build wherever it wants.

(4) The City of College Park residents pay nearly $1 million to hire 6 contract police officers (3 P/T, 3 F/T) from the county, because the police service from the county’s regular police PGFD is not enough. If elected, what will you do to help offset such extra cost of law enforcement from local municipalities?

The county police department is clearly understaffed, but I have never heard anyone suggest that Upper Marlboro should directly reimburse a municipality that hires or contracts for its own officers. If any entity should offset the cost associated with municipal policing in College Park, I believe it is the University of Maryland, whose presence contributes significantly to the law enforcement challenges the city faces. I would certainly do my part to support state or federal grants to help fund additional law enforcement for the city of College Park.

Double Burglaries Hit Hollywood

[mappress]

It has only been a few days since the Hollywood residents had their national night out against crime – yet they have braced two back-to-back crime incidents in their neighborhood.

Looks like, the criminals didn’t get the message.

The first major burglary happened late Saturday night at one of our neighbor’s house on the 5000 block of Nantucket Avenue (east of Rhode Island Avenue). The burglars took the neighbor’s TV, new work laptop, cell phone and wallet (with cards / drivers’ license).
 
While the burglars left, they also took his car key and drove his car away. They also stole the GPS inside the car.

Most likely the burlars entered the house from a side window.  They opened the side door and took the stuff outside. They also used a ladder to enter another room – they did not take the ladder when they left.
 
And here is the part that has shocked many neighbors – all these happened while the neighbor was asleep (possibly some time around 4am). 

Also, a day earlier there was a break-in at 9700 block of  51st Place.  Someone kicked in the back door of the house and stole an X-box game system and ran.  Police canvassed the area and were unable to locate the suspect. Later, a neighbor saw 7 police cars near the crime area.

The double incidents have understandably hit the nerves of local residents. One resident living on Mineola Rd. has this to say:

There is TOO much crime in this area. It’s ridiculous, and the residence no longer feel safe. I’ll say it again, the present system we have for policing is not working. It’s not. I even spoke to some officers in person who agree with me. I am tired of hearing the politicians tell us that statistically it’s average…..average to what….Montgomery County? No, average to Prince Georges County. Until we stop thinking of this as average for the county, we are not going to change things.

Tax Free Week Starts Today

Here comes some relief for Maryland shoppers.

Beginning today, there will be a one week tax-free period for back-to-school shopping in Maryland. No tax will apply to the sale of any items of clothing or footwear, excluding accessory items, if the taxable price of the item of clothing or footwear is $100 or less. Accessory items, which are not exempt from the sales and use tax during the tax-free week include jewelry, watches, watchbands, handbags, handkerchiefs, umbrellas, scarves, ties, headbands, and belt buckles.

For a complete list of the tax-exempt items, please click here.

If you want to save taxes on appliances, you may want to wait until next year. Beginning in calendar year 2011, there will be a tax –free three day weekend during which the sales and use tax will not apply to the sale of any Energy Star Product listed below, or solar water heater. This tax-free weekend will occur the weekend of February 19, 2011, through February 21, 2011. Energy Star Product means an air conditioner, clothes washer or dryer, furnace, heat pump, standard size refrigerator, compact fluorescent light bulb, dehumidifier, or programmable thermostat that has been designated as meeting or exceeding the applicable Energy Star Efficiency requirements developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

Coffee Club to Discuss Neighborhood Crimes

Starbucks @ Downtown

In case the recent crime incidents have made you concerned about your neighborhood safety, here is a great way to get some relief – share that worries with someone who knows the matter first hand- and possibly find some solutions.

Captain Walters is trying to start a coffee club that would meet weekly on Wednesday mornings at 9am at the Starbucks located in Downtown College Park.

Captain Walters is in charge of Baker sector for District 1 PG Police, which covers North College Park.

PG Police community liaison officer Melanie Sarita is excited about the idea of having the coffee club. “This would be a great opportunity for citizens to meet weekly with the Captain and discuss issues that they maybe having in the area. “ -said officer Sarita.

I too think this is great way to know and discuss the crime issues with someone who is “in charge” of the matter. 

The downtown StarbBucks is located at 7338 Baltimore Avenue, phone (301) 277-0106

 If you want to know nore about the club, please feel free to contact Officer Melanie Sarita ( MMSenobio@co.pg.md.us) or City’s Neighborhood Watch coordinator Kim Lugo ( Kslugo@yahoo.com). Also, please share this news with your friends and neighbors.

Residents Debate Hollywood Gateway Park

The proposed Hollywood Gateway Park at the corner of Rt. 1 and the Edgewood Road caused an interesting debate among City residents.

Currently, the area includes a small house, which the city plans to tear down and turn the space into a park, using a state grant called “Open Space Fund”

I blogged about the park in  March here: Little House at the Gateway.

The City proposes “(an) educational resource for the community that would be instructive for single-family homeowners in the City looking to incorporate native or edible plants, rain gardens, previous pavers, and other environmentally friendly techniques into their landscape.”

But not everyone agrees with this proposal. One resident has this to say:

“For many of us in North College Park, this “Gateway” has become the brunt of many jokes.  First, the City purchased a house for some $346,000.00.  There will be an additional fee to remove the home as well as funds for a designer to figure out what to do with the property.  This doesn’t include the actual work to make it a “pocket park”.  In the end, North College Park will have a “pocket park” worth anywhere from $500,000 and above that no one will go to.  It will become a lot City staff will need to maintain by mowing the grass, picking up trash and removing graffiti.  The City justifies these expenditures by saying they are “open space” and “grant” funds; however, neither is “free” money.” 

District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn does not agree with this criticism. “it is true that a large majority of the cost of purchasing the home has been through Program Open Space funds, so the cost to the City has been minimal.  Of course, the City will have to do maintenance in the park, as it does in all City facilities, but the cost associated with that will be minimal.  … The City is continuing to apply for grant funds to cover the cost of designing and developing the park.” – said Mr. Wojahn, who supports the idea of the gateway park.

Others criticize the plan because of the accessibility issues to the park. “I guess I just wonder with the effort and the thought that will go into designing the park in this way who will see it. It is not a very accessible location.” – said one member of the City’s Committee for a Better Environment (CBE) group, which recommends the city on environmental related issues like a proposed garden park such as this.

Other residents want the city to use the house as a demonstration site, something like showcasing a community oriented solar electric system. A similar project has recently been introduced by a group of University Park residents.  

Others are also concerned about the cost and environmental issues surrounding the plan. “I love the idea, but I would like to see the city pay to have the house disassembled so that the materials can be salvaged, rather than having a demolition crew knock it down.  If the park is going to be built using “environmentally friendly techniques”, that should start with how the lot is cleared in the first place.  It’s a brick house, so perhaps the bricks can be used to build garden paths, etc” – commented Alex Weissman, another CBE member.

Cost of the project also concerns Donna Weene, a resident living at 49th Place, not very far from the proposed park: “It would be nice if the city could sell the ‘house’ cut the house from the foundation and move it to an other location It would not cost to get rid of the house but profit; then the city would not have to put any money to take down the house and have money to plant, etc. “ – said Donna.

Donna is also concerned about the traffic safety at the intersection.  If developed, the proposed park will be in a bottom of a hill and thus she thinks it will most likely compromise the traffic safety at the intersection “How long after they remove the house, do you figure a car/ truck ends up in that hole. The city paid alot to put up a sign you think? – she asks.

Others think, if the park is owned by the City, it (City) could have better leverage in improving the traffic safety at the intersection. Like others, I also feel the eastbound lane of Edgewood at the intersection is too narrow and thus should be improved to have a better and a safer access to the neighborhood.

Despite residents’ concerns, Councilman Wojahn defends his support for the park. “I think the [City] staff thought putting a park in this location  would be a good idea because: 1) it’s at a location which, for many people, is a gateway to the City, and is very visible as you’re driving in off the beltway or from Beltsville; 2) part of the plan for US 1 in the future is to make it walkable and bikeable.  If there are better sidewalks and bike lanes along US 1, this could be a resting point or an entry point into the neighborhood from these paths; and 3) it’s also an entry point to the neighborhood for people who get off the bus there, and for people who walk across the street to Shopper’s Food Warehouse.  At some point, with the US 1 rebuild, SHA will hopefully be fixing up the intersection there to make it more friendly to cars, pedestrians and bicyclists.” – he added.

The City Council is expected to discuss the matter further in the next Tuesday’s council meeting.

NCP Residents Gather Against Crime at National Night Out

Some 50+ residents, old and young, gathered last Tuesday at the Duvall Field to mark the yearly National Night Out 2010.

Some picked up safety related literature brought by the local neighborhood watch group as they listened to the talks on neighborhood safety from the city’s (contract) police officers and neighborhood watch coordinator Kim Lugo. The kids enjoyed ice cream and cookies and checked out fire trucks brought by the Branchville Voluntary Fire Department (BVFD) volunteers. Others took a look at the ameature (ham) radio equipments brought by the former council member David Milligan and his fellow volunteers. There were also members of Boys and Girls Scout present at the event.

Mayor Andy Fellows and council members Partrick and Chris were there to welcome the residents. The College Park Patch editor Lauren Evan was also there to cover the event. Please read her story here (Thank you Lauren).

Our surrounding neighborhoods, Beltsville and Hyattsville also had great National Night Out events, please click here and here to know more.

(Photos courtesy of the CP Patch)

PG Co – 2nd in Top 10 Digital Counties

Finally some good news for our beloved county – it has recently been declared 2nd in a list of top 10 digital counties in the entire nation.

The award was given by the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties(NACo) which identifies best practices and recognizes those counties that provide exemplary electronic service to their public.

Our neighboring Montgomery County came as first in the list of counties having populations of half a million or  more. Fairfax county came as 7th in the list.

The outgoing County executive Jack Johnson has reason to celebrate. He said: while remaining committed to technology services throughout county government, digital services to citizen were expanded providing more prevalent opportunities for citizen engagement.

” Prince George ’s County Government aggressively improving its ranking for three consecutive years, is evidence of our commitment in using technology to enhance government services and as a result assisted in providing a great quality of life for our citizens,” Johnson said.

The survey was underwritten by Hyland Software, developers of OnBase, Quest Software, Inc., Public Sector, CDW-G, Insight Public Sector, Symantec and Sprint.

[Source: GovTech]

College Park Patch – A New City News Site

Our City has a new online news website – College Park Patch.

The Patch is a national network of news websites that is run by AOL network. Back in March this year, AOL poured $50 million into Patch. According to TechCrunch,

Another fascinating tidbit in the filing is related to hyperlocal news site Patch.Patch, which currently offers hyperlocal news for 37 small towns and communities in New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and California, was acquiredby AOL in June of last year. According the the 10-K, AOL plans to invest up to $50 million in hyperlocal news site Patch during the remainder of 2010. And it’s been reported that Patch will roll out to “hundreds” of communities in the future.

So far I like the Patch. The best part of the website is that it’s purely “local”. The other news site that have been reporting city news are the Gazette, and the DiamondBack . While the Gazette used to exclusively cover College Park news before, recently their local editions have started to cover other neighboring cities such as Huntsville and Mount Rainier. The Diamondback is a great UMD student newspaper, and thus understandably does not cover the entire city, especially the northern part  of our City. The College Park Patch will probably be recognized as College Park only news site. I hope they stay like that way in future.

I first came to know about the Patch a few months ago through its editor Lauren Evans, who came to one of our CBE (Committee for a Better Environment) meeting at the City Hall. She has also recently become part of our College Park Day organizing committee.

Like other community news site, the Patch lets you create your own profile and submit comments (OP-Eds etc.) to the site. The site also has an impressive section on the city’s business directory.

Metro Fare Hikes Postponed..

Ya, you get excited to see the headline – the Metro has postponed the fare hike.

But this is only for two days – Until Tuesday, Aug 3rd.

And the reason isn’t that the Metro wants to give the riders a reprieve in this series of recent multiple fare hikes, but the reason is rather internal – “after signs in stations caused confusion” –  as Metro acknowledged Sunday night.

Here is what the Metro’s website says:

Metrorail’s second phase of fare changes, which was implemented earlier today (Sunday, August 1), will be postponed until Tuesday, August 3, to allow time to post signs on the fare machines to inform customers that the posted fare charts in the stations refer to SmarTrip® fares. Customers who purchase fares with paper cards will need to pay 25 cents more than the cost posted on the signs. Rail fares on Monday, August 2, will remain at the July 31 prices.

One increase would have charged 25 cents more for paper farecard use than for use of plastic SmartTrip cards. That was to begin Sunday.

The other would have imposed a 20-cent charge, starting Monday, for afternoon peak-of-the peak rides.

The list of fares posted in stations did not show the added charge for paper card use, a Metro spokeswoman said Sunday night. Spokeswoman Angela Gates said some station managers heard complaints. “We want customers to know what they are paying,” she said.

[Source WMATA, Washington Post]