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Category: City Council Page 2 of 28

All Council Meeting Agenda may Have a Hybrid Format

At last week’s meeting, the Council discussed next year’s Council meeting dates and formats and asked staff to return with new options.

Staff presented a new agenda format at last week’s Worksession that will combine Worksession and Regular agenda items at the same meeting so that all meetings and all agendas are the same.

Currently, the work sessions and regular meetings occur on alternative weeks. Regualr meetings are concluded fairly quickly, however worksessionsa have been fairly long, often end until midnights.

The Council generally supported this hybrid format.

Until the full 2023 schedule is agreed to, we need to move forward with the approval of the January 2023 meeting dates. The Council will vote to approve the January Mayor and Council meeting dates: January 10, 17, 24, and 31.

New Traffic Pattern at Rhode Island / Edgewood Intersection

The Hollywood Elementary School parents recently asked to prohibit right turns to southbound Rhode Island Ave on red lights from eastbound Edgewood Road to help improve the safety of their children crossing Rhode Island avenue. Drivers were often seen driving over this crosswalk even when the children could be seen on it. The new sign was installed this week after the City Council approved the change two weeks ago. The “No Turn on Red” law only applies from 7 am – 8 am and 2 pm – 3 pm on school days.

Thanks to our City and County staff for making this important change possible.

City is Raising Awareness Against Domestic Violence

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Symbolized by the color purple, the month advocates for the elimination of relationship violence.

City Hall, the Department of Public Works, and the Youth and Family Services buildings will be lit up in purple lights to raise awareness.

Many people suffer psychological, emotional, and economic stress in abusive relationships and need counseling and support. If you or someone you know is a victim or survivor of domestic violence, find assistance and resources at:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233)
National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: 866-331-9474
Care to Stop Violence at UMD

[City of College Park]

After One Year into 5-Year Strategic Plan, Council Looks to Set New Priorities

The first full fiscal year of the City’s 2021 – 2025 Strategic Plan will end on June 30. For the current fiscal year, City staff developed One-Year Objectives and Key Results for six of the 10 Five-Year Objectives. Council agreed that it was important to prioritize certain objectives and staff resources required to achieve those objectives.

Staff has given quarterly updates on the status of the departmental objectives and key results that have been developed for each quarter. Prior to proposing One-Year Objectives for FY23, staff discussed with Council the following:

(a) Does Council wish to focus on the same Five-Year Objectives? If not, which Objectives does it want to add or remove?
(b) For each of the proposed prioritized Five-Year Objectives, what programs, actions, or policies does Council wish to prioritize?

City staff and PBI facilitators made a brief presentation at this week’s Council Worksession. Based on this discussion and other related information (such as staffing and financial resources), staff will draft the proposed FY23 One-Year Objectives and Key Results for Council consideration and approval.

City Council Meetings Return to In-Person

Good news. Starting next week, the College Park City Council will start meeting In-person at the 2nd Floor Council Chambers, City Hall, 7401 Baltimore Avenue. Residents can also conveniently join the meeting via Zoom using the following link: https://zoom.us/j/92398574069

In the meantime, the number of COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have decreased sharply recently in Maryland and Prince George’s County. For example, over the past 14 days, in Prince George’s County, the number of covid cases went down by 79%, on the other hand, the number of hospitalizations decreased by 33%. As more and more residents are vaccinated, we hope to see the situation will improve further.

Despite 8-fold Increase in Cost, Voter Turnout in City Elections Hasn’t Improved Since 2013

Voters at the 2021 City election at the College Park Community Center (photo credit: the Diamondback]

At next week’s City Council worksession, the Board of Election Supervisors will meet with the Mayor and Council to debrief the 2021 Election Debrief.

Overall, from 2013 to 2021, the cost per ballot has gone up from $4.97 to $39.83, but the voter turnout (% voting) has marginally increased from 9.1% to 10.35%.

Even with the pivot to mailing out ballots to over 13,579 residents, we only had a total of 1,536 residents to vote. The statistics are below:

District 1-Number of Registered Voters-5,133
Number of Persons Voting-595
Percentage of Voting-11.5%

District 2- Number of Registered Voters-2,933
Number of Persons Voting-251
Percentage of Voting-8.5%

District 3-Number of Registered Voters-4,134
Number of Persons Voting-478
Percentage of Voting-11.5%

District 4-Number of Registered Voters-2,638
Number of Persons Voting-212
Percentage of Voting-8.0%

The cost of the Election from 2013-2021:

2013
# of Ballots Cast – 1,568
Total Cost-$7,798
Cost Per Ballot-$4.97

2015
# of Ballots Cast-2,222
Total Cost-$23,575
Cost Per Ballot-%10.61

2017
# of Ballots Cast-2,648
Total Cost-$28,118
Cost Per Ballot-10.61

2019
# of Ballots Cast-2,092
Total Cost-67,171
Cost Per Ballot-$32.11

2021
# of Ballots Cast-1,536
Total Cost-$61.175
Cost Per Ballot-$39.83

The data analysis shows that we are spending more on ballots while the number of voters engaging in the city’s electoral process decreases every election cycle. Councilmember Mitchell and I will recommend conducting a city-wide survey to enlist your thoughts on residents who are not coming out to vote.

Over the years City has taken several steps to increase voter turnout. These include:

  • making voting by absentee / mail-in ballots easier
  • increasing the number of polling stations
  • introducing early voting
  • changing the date of the election to the weekend.

Due to COVID, some of these options couldn’t be implemented in the 2021 election. For example, the City had to hold elections at only one polling station

The City Council will discuss the election-related statistics and ways to increase voter participation.

City Plans to Make Homeowner Grant Program More Attractive to New Homeowners

At next week’s Council meeting, the City Council will discuss ways to expand the reach of the City’s homeownership program and further incentivize homeownership in the City

In 2005, the City Council established a homeownership grant program, known as the New Neighbors Program, to provide $5,000 in closing costs to buyers purchasing a single-family home in the City and agreeing to reside at the property for a minimum of five years.

The primary purpose of the program was to encourage the conversion of rental properties to owner-occupied housing, and eligible properties are currently restricted to properties that have been rented for a minimum of two years, properties in foreclosure or subject to a short sale, and newly constructed homes.

An amendment to the program in 2016 allowed City grants to be combined with the CPCUP homeownership grants for eligible properties.  CPCUP offers $15,000 grants to University of Maryland faculty and staff.

Buyers not subject to the New Neighbors property restrictions include City employees, police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians. All purchasers must execute a Declaration of Covenants with the City or repayment agreement with CPCUP.

Since the inception of the program, 69 grants have been provided for a total of $360,000 or approximately 4-5 grants per year.

To make the program more attractive to new homeowners, staff is recommending amendments to the program guidelines as follows:
1. Eliminate the requirement for a property to have been a rental for a minimum of two years except in cases where City funds are combined with CPCUP grant assistance.
2. Increase the grant amount for the purchase of a former rental property from $5,000 to $10,000.

[City of College Park]

Reflections on Starting my Sixth Term

Last night, I took the oath of office to serve the residents of College Park for my 6th council term.

As the oath reads – “I will, to the best of my skills and judgment, diligently and faithfully without partiality or prejudice, execute the office”. These are heavy words and put a lot of weight on my shoulders.

I am not the best in the community, so I need your help in getting things done right, with your ideas, advice and even criticism, in private and in public. Thank you!

City to Form Lakeland Restorative Justice Commission

A sign saying the “Urban Renewal” project in the Lakeland community in the 1960s. [File photo]

At this week’s meeting, the City Council discussed a proposal to form a restorative justice commission to study what happened in College Park’s Lakeland community back in 1960′ as part of the “Urban Renewal” project and find possible restorative justice to address those issues.

Back on February 9, 2021, the City Council approved creating the Restorative Justice Steering Committee in response to Council resolution denouncing the systematic racism, which called for a restorative justice process to address the harms caused to the Lakeland community by the City, particularly during the urban renewal process in the 1960s.

The Resolution stated that the City acknowledges and apologizes for its past history of oppression, particularly regarding the Lakeland community, actively seeks opportunities for accountability and truth-telling about past injustice, and aggressively seeks opportunities for restorative justice.

On April 13, 2021, the City Council appointed eight members to the Restorative Justice Steering Committee (RJSC), which is recommending establishing a Restorative Justice Commission.

Within the next 5 years after its establishment, the committee would deliver the following

  • Records of historical race-based adverse actions and harm caused, and that of truth-telling
  • Community engagement process that consistently solicits input and feedback from current, former, and future members of the broader Lakeland community
  • Concrete restorative measures, which to the extent possible, correct the race-based harms from the City and its partners impacting the African American community of College Park, Maryland
  • An active memorial space sited in Lakeland, the historic African American community of College Park, to house the historic record and serve as a place of recognition and celebration for the City’s cultures and history.

The City has allocated $100,000.00 for the start of the Restorative Justice Commission’s budget in FY 2022.

The Council will formally form the commission and appoint the committee members at a future Council meeting.

Residents May Continue to Participate Council Meetings Virtually, Once the Council Starts to Meet In-Person

At tomorrow’s Council meeting, the Council will continue its discussion whether to meet online and/or in a hybrid format (attending in person and online), and for the public to attend in the same manner.

Major changes from the current practices can be summarized as follows:

(a) For Mayor and Council meetings: Elected officials can participate remotely based on just cause, such as being ill, out of the area due to vacation or work obligations, absence due to a funeral, a family emergency, or a generally declared emergency, as reasons for Councilmembers not to be in-person during voting sessions. The public should be able to attend in person, to the extent possible under any space/distancing restrictions.

The public should also be able to attend remotely, with access to audio, and access to visual, to the extent technologically possible, with the intent of making visual access available to all attendees.

Any Charter amendments required should enable in-person and remote attendance at meetings but otherwise allow flexibility, with the details to be set through amendment of Mayor and Council Rules and Procedures.

(b) For Council-Appointed Advisory Boards: In-person and/or remote attendance at meetings will be allowed as determined to be best by the advisory board, to encourage participation and ease the burden on volunteers.

(c) For Appointed Boards, If attending remotely, the public will have access to audio, and access to visuals to the extent technologically possible, with the goal of making visual access available to all attendees.

If the Council decides to move forward, several changes to the City Charter and Code, the Council rules and procedures will need to be made.

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