KabirCares.org

Mark Your Calendar – NCPCA Picnic, August 27

NCPCA Picnic 2011

On August 27, Saturday, the NCPCA will hold its annual picnic at Davis Hall parking lot.

The picnic is open to all residents and family members living in North College Park. You don’t have to be a NCPCA member to attend the picnic.

The picnic will be a great opportunity for members and non-members alike to get to know each other. Our regular meetings are full with tight schedules, thus we don’t often enough time to socialize at these meetings.

NCPCA will be serving hamburgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, chips, and the usual picnic food.

If you plan to attend, please let picnic coordinator Donna Weene know (301-982-7113) – soon.

The picnic will start at 11am and will continue until 3pm. Please come a little early if we want to volunteer.

If it rains, the picnic will move inside Davis Hall.

Beltway Traffic Near College Park Expected to Rise this Fall

Beltway Near College Park

A new Navy Medical Center in Bethesda is expected to draw thousands of employees and new patients on the I-495 Beltway, thus in turn will most likely put a stress on its already congested lanes. The Bethesda traffic on the beltway due to the current NIH facilities can be felt as far as near College Park.

The consolidation into what will be theWalter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda is scheduled to be done by Sept. 15, under the national Base Realignment and Closing plan.

The other two federal facilities where the defense personnel will start moving are Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County and the Mark Center in Alexandria.

About 2,500 new employees will begin commuting to work in Bethesda this month, and patient visits at the hospital are expected to double to 1 million annually, the Washington Examiner reports.

There have been talks of improving road conditions to ease this increased traffic in Montgomery county, but none of these changes will happen any time soon.

Shop MD Tax Free for a Week

Shop MD Tax Free

Here comes some relief for Maryland shoppers.

Consumers who purchase clothing and shoes priced $100 or less will be spared the state’s 6 percent sales tax for one week.

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.

Resulting from legislation passed in the 2007 special session of the Maryland General Assembly, a tax-free week will occur every year during the second week in August, until the legislature decides to revisit the issue. I wrote about last year’s tax free week here.

Each qualifying article of clothing or footwear is exempt from sales tax, regardless of how many items are purchased at the same time. Two $60 sweaters purchased at the same time, for example, are both exempt, even though the total of the purchase is greater than $100. called for $4 trillion. In the near future, it will be important to watch the other major credit rating agencies, such as Moody’s and Fitch, to see if they follow the lead of S&P’s decision.

Help to Pay Property Tax for Low Income Families

House payment

If you or someone you know is having problem in paying property taxes on their houses in this tough economy, this may help!

The State of Maryland has developed a program which allows credits against the homeowner’s property tax bill if the property taxes exceed a fixed percentage of the person’s gross income. In other words, it sets a limit on the amount of property taxes any homeowner must pay based upon his or her income.

This plan has been in existence since 1975 when it was known as the “circuit breaker” plan for elderly homeowners. The plan was called circuit breaker because it shut off the property tax bill at a certain point just like an electric circuit breaker shuts off the current when the circuit becomes overloaded. The Maryland General Assembly has improved the plan through the years so that now this program is available to all homeowners regardless of their age, and the credits are given where needed based upon the person’s income.

Applications are due Sep 1 based on 2010 household gross income. If instead you end up with low income in 2011, that will reduce your 2012 property taxes (better to file by May 1 so you get credit directly on the bill instead of paying full amount and getting refund later). So unfortunately there is a lag between the time of need and the time of relief, but at least it is better than not having this program.

You can find more information about the program here: http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/htc.html

Your Tax Dollars at Work

Your tax dollars at work

Ever wonder how the property tax that you pay to the county is being spent? How the City, the State and other local governments share your hard earned money that you pay every year?

Here is a little breakdown:

First, the County keeps nearly 54% of your property taxes, the rest (46%) is shared by local governments and agencies. The City gets around 18%, the State 6%.

The County’s 54% is then spent for various services that the County provides. The significant portion (39%) is spent for public schools.

See the chart to get a sense of breakdown.

City Rejects UMd’s Safety App Proposal


Get Microsoft Silverlight

In last Tuesday’s council session, the Mayor and council rejected the idea of adopting UMd’s proposed M-Urgency initiative to improve public safety in College Park. The project was asking $100,000, which the council thought too expensive. The City is considering ways to spend some $170K it has earned from its speed camera revenues. The City staff is going to compile and price out the remaining ideas for future discussion.

See the video clip to know more about the M-Urgency initiative that was presented in Aug 3 council session

Stricter Ethics Rules Coming for College Park Officials

Ethics Rules

City attorney has recently worked with the City Ethics Commission to draft a revision to the City ethics code that meets MD state requirements.

Those state ethics law passed in 2010 requires that all municipalities and counties around the State revise their ethics codes to meet certain requirements.

Copies of the ordinance are available here.

The two major substantive changes are a requirement that each candidate for office file a financial disclosure statement for the current and prior years, and provisions regarding the consequences for failure to file such a statement and certifying that each elected official is in compliance.

The revised Ordinance lays out more clearly when an elected official or employee has a significant enough financial interest in something to not be permitted to deal with that entity in any way as a City official.

It also clarifies the circumstances in which an elected or appointed official can receive any item of value from someone who may have business before the City or not.

The new financial disclosure statement is pretty expansive, especially for Councilmembers and candidates for City Council, and includes a number of questions about specific property owned by and debts owed by each elected or appointed official.

These do NOT apply for board and committee members.

During last week’s worksession, the Council also decided to add a requirement that the Ethics Commission provide a training on the ethics requirements to all elected officials, candidates, employees and board and commission appointees as necessary and appropriate, and added that a candidate for elected office must report on both the current year and the preceding year.

The Mayor and Council held a public hearing in last night’s council session.

[Source: NCP listserve]

NCP ‘Sex Store’ Loses Appeal to Stay in Business

Comfort Zone

The County Board of Appeals has recently voted to uphold the City’s violation notice against the Comfort Zone. The board earlier met in May to discuss an appeal from the store owner against violation notice issued by the City of College Park. The board decided to take more time to study the case and let Comfort Zone stay in business.

County zoning laws state that no more than 10 percent of merchandise and floor space can consist of adult items such as the new bullet vibrators that are better sold online, but the zoning violation said the store was acting to the contrary. The zoning violation asked the owner to rearrange the store within 30 days.

The sex toy industry is abuzz with ‘good vibrations’ and the purchase and use of sex toys is becoming ever more mainstream. Studies conducted at Indiana University in the USA found that 53% of women and 45% of men aged between 18-65 years had used a vibrator, and that vibrator use is associated with improved sexual function and being more proactive about sexual health and sex toys that can also be bought at sites like https://thepenistoyshop.co.uk. As well as offering pleasure and fun, sex toys can be a useful adjunct to medical treatment.

City’s code enforcement manager and City attorney were present in the May Board of appeals hearing.

Once the board’s latest decision is formally issued, the Comfort Zone will have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. Until the Board of Appeals issues a formal opinion, the Comfort Zone will be able to continue to do business, and they may then request that the Circuit Court stay the order until the matter is resolved.

North College Park Residents Debate New County Redistricting Map

August 13 Redistricting Hearing

Residents of north College Park are debating a new county redistricting map that proposes the entire city part of one single county district (Dist 3). The residents’ debate mainly surrounds on the identity and development in the northern part of the city.

Currently, north College Park is part of county District 1, where as the rest of the city is part of District 3. A map showing the boundary changes can be found here.

Like the City of College Park, which went through its own redistricting process recently, Prince George’s county is also required to revisit its district map every 10 years following the national census. The Maryland State is also going through its congressional redistricting process.

Supporters of the proposed map think that the idea of a single County district will give College Park a larger share of attention of a County Councilmember and there will be a unified voice for the city. They also believe that the northern and southern parts of city have far more in common than NCP does with Laurel.

it will be simpler to coordinate meetings and action items with a single Councilmember, no one will have to wonder (should they forget) who the County representative is” – said one resident supporting the new plan.

Opponents of the new map disagree. They believe two voices on the County Council would make our City’s position stronger. For example, north College Park City Council member (District 1) Christine Nagle thinks residents will be best served by retaining the current Council representation. “The current representation provides increased communication opportunity and has been beneficial for North College Park. “ – Nagle said.

Nagle’s counterpart in District 1 (city council), Patrick Wojahn is not so sure. Wojahn said he has not made any official stands on the redistricting part, but he wants residents to “to give this [new plan] some thought”.

While Mr. Wojahn thinks north College Park shares some traits with Beltsville and Laurel, he thinks cities north of College Park would never be so concerned about the interests of North College Park residents.

If the interests of Laurel residents were to somehow come in conflict with the interests of North College Park residents, I think just about any County Councilmember who represents both areas, no matter how well-intentioned, would give more weight to the interests expressed by the Laurel residents” – said Mr. Wojahn.

That sentiment is shared by former north College park council member Mark Shroder. Mr. Shroder, who is now the president of north College Park Citizen Association, thinks College Park has a lot of experience of disagreeing with, and sometimes being drowned out by, Beltsville, the true issue invariably was the northern boundary of College Park, which organized Beltsville wanted to keep where it was.

If you adopt the northern boundary of College Park as the southern boundary of the district, the County Council member will always represent Beltsville against you in these cases; but may be conflicted if the boundary shifts south. Even conflicted, the Council member will usually side with Beltsville.” – Shroder argues.

North College Park resident Stephen Jascourt also believes that (NCP) residents “are much closer aligned with the rest of College Park than with Laurel, by far, and with Beltsville it is a close call – may vary by issue”.

However, Jascourt says he is of mixed minds because of north College Park’s interests. “the advantage of influencing 2 Council members is a considerable advantage, and as long as North College Park is proactive and has people who will be proactive, then I would expect we would continue to have some influence with the Council member who is often likely to come from Laurel.” – said Jascourt.

Some residents are opposing the new plan because of their support for the District 1 county council woman Mary Lehman. If the new plan goes forward, Lehman will no longer represent north College Park residents.

One of these residents is Kennis Termini. Termini thinks Lehman and her staff have been extremely responsive and helpful in addressing various issues for the community at large. “[Lehman] does not subscribe to ‘double talking’ and has always had an open door policy to her constituents.” – Termini asserts.

Mary Cook, former District 4 City council member also wants to remain in District 1 with Mary Lehman. Cook thinks that North College Park has never received the attention it deserves from the City. “The majority of its resources are used/spent south of 193 (District 3) I believe that by remaining in District 1, there would be the necessary checks and balances to help all of NCP prosper.” – Cook argues.

Unlike Cook, the current District 4 council member Afzali says he is not going to advocate for either position. “North CP seems to have no clear consensus on what they want in terms of having CP in a single district or two districts.” – said Afzali.

Given the fairly even split in the community over this issue, the City Council decided last week not to take any position on redistricting and to let the chips fall where they may.

County’s Redistricting Commission held a public hearing on July 28, when residents from both sides testified. Council will schedule another hearing on August 13 (Saturday ) from 10 am-noon at the Council Hearing Room in the County Administration Building at 14741 Governor Oden Bowie Dr., Upper Marlboro.

It’s imperative that we act quickly and that as many people show up on Saturday as possible.” – Cook asks her fellow residents to attend the Aug 13 hearing.

Has Rhode Island Traffic Light Works Begun?

Rhode Island Ave. construction

Construction signs near the intersection of the Rhode Island avenue and Edgewood Road have made residents rumoring that the long awaited traffic signals at the intersection are finally coming! Construction materials can also be spotted at the intersection.

According to the proposed design, there will be a three‐lane approach from each direction comprised of one through lane, one right turn lane and one left turn lane. There will also be modified access to the southbound Rhode Island Avenue Access Road at the Edgewood Road Intersection to allow for right turns out and improved bus turning movements. Future (additional) safety improvements include the installation of roundabouts at Indian Lane and Hollywood Road, and resurfacing and repaving of the entire roadway, as well as restoring existing crosswalks.

Rhode Island Ave. construction

The development work was originally slated to begin in the spring of 2011, extend through the summer, and into the fall. Signalization was slated to occur at the end of 2011.

I’m still waiting for to hear the “official” words on the latest status of the project. I sent an email inquiry to Haitham Hijazi, the Director of County’s Department of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT) on this construction activities. My inquiry was sent to other personnel related to the project. I’m still waiting to hear from them! According to DPWT’s website, design for this project is complete. Advertisement for construction bids was scheduled for January 2011.

With Mobile App, UMd Seeks to Make College Park Safe

Agrawala demos M-Urgency

University of Maryland has been pitching an iPhone application tool, called M-Urgency, to make the city residents safer.

UMd’s Police Chief David Mitchel and computer science professor Ashok Agrawala presented the tool to City Council in last week’s council session. Prof. Agrawala also serves as the project manager of M-Urgency initiative.

Starting in September, students at the University of Maryland will be able to download the application and use it as a “virtual escort” if they feel unsafe at night. As the camera rolls, any emergency situation that unfolds is recorded live for police dispatchers to watch in real time – useful for anyone who needs to alert authorities to a crime while staying discreet.

At the briefing in the council session, Mitchell and Agrawala said they would like to expand the program to the entire city. They said the program would cost the city residents $100,000.

According to this Diamondback piece, council member Perry and Stullich have expressed reservations about the project, fearing that the app might be abused by the students / residents.

Suspect Arrested After 3rd Robbery at 7/11

Armed robbery at 7-11

After 3rd robberies at the 7/11 store in recent days, the suspect has been arrested and is safely behind bars.

The last robbery occurred on August 3rd. After this incident, the Prince George’s Police issued a $1000 cash reward announcement for the tip that leads to the arrest and indictment of the suspects responsible for this robbery.

Last week, on July 25, the suspect brandished a handgun and demanded money. The store employee complied with the suspect’s demands and the suspect fled the scene with the store’s money.

It seems that the suspect wore the same clothes for all three robberies so the Police were able to tie him to all of them.

PGPOA Petition is Dead, For Now

Prince George's Property Owners' Association

The petition drive by PGPOA (Prince George’s Property Owner’s Association) that wanted to impose two amendments to the City Charter has failed to submit the required signature by last Monday’s deadline.

This means that the charter amendment questions will not appear in the upcoming November Mayor and council election.

The PGPOA had to obtain the signatures of 20% of the qualified voters of the City to make these amendments on the ballot.

Commenting on the petition, District 1 council member Patrick Wojahn said :

“(the) proposed (amendments were brought) to essentially disable the City’s ability to provide necessary services to residents and regulate rental housing”

Reacting to Mr. Wojahn’s statement, PGPOA board member William Chicca said

“I would vehemently dispute Councilman’s Wojahn’s assessment of the intent of the petitions as typical politician’s hyperbole and posturing. In addition, if the deadline for submission for inclusion on the November 2011 ballot has passed, that does not prevent the petition from being submitted for inclusion on the 2013 ballot. “

Residents Gather Against Crime at National Night Out

Residents across the City observed the National Night Out (NNO) last night from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the College Park Aviation Museum. The event featured free light refreshments, self-guided tours of the museum, visits by police from local agencies, a Police helicopter and fire department equipment. Several neighborhoods will also had NNO observances at the same evening.

College Park Becomes EPA’s “Green Power Partner”

Green Power Partnership Certificate

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently certified the City of College Park as a Green Power Partner because of its purchase of 100% green power.

In a letter to City’s Senior Planner Elisa Vitale, EPA said “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would like to thank the City of College Park, MD for making a significant green power purchase. Your commitment, and those of other Green Power Partners, helps to reduce the risks associated with climate change by supporting technologies that are more sustainable for businesses and communities.”

As a Green Power Partner, EPA said it will be available to support and help the City promote its green power commitment. All Green Power Partners have a tailored Web page on the Green Power Partnership Web site. City’s tailored Web page will be available at this link within two weeks.