Proposed household voting limit splits group
Civic association members clash over internal elections plan
A dispute over household voting limits within the North College Park Citizens Association has so sharply divided the group that some members have called for its disbandment.
On Jan. 14, the NCPCA voted 47-15 to reject a proposed by-law amendment that would have limited each household to no more than two voting members for association elections. Currently, a household pays $10 for membership and any occupants age 18 and older can vote at monthly meetings.
The NCPCA has 90 households and 166 members, said President Larry Bleau. It often invites city officials to discuss issues and votes to take stances on government policy.
While the proposal's supporters argued a limit would give a fair say to both small and large families, some critics believe its intent was to limit the influence of the NCPCA's growing number of Muslim residents, some of whom live in extended families with parents and other relatives.
"They don't want us here so they want to change the rules," said member Vaqar Ahmed, who accused city residents of racism and was shouted down during one of the meeting's more heated moments.
NCPCA Vice President John Krouse proposed the amendment in December, but both he and Treasurer Anna Ubeda resigned from the association on Jan. 13.
Krouse declined to comment on his resignation, but said in an e-mail that his proposal "would have helped restore some balance to a situation that many feel has destabilized NCPCA."
About 80 members attended the meeting, more than half of whom were Muslim residents. A motion to postpone the vote and appoint a committee to examine the issue was also rejected, 48-24.
"I didn't like the tone of the meeting," said member E. Anne Riley, who is white and abstained on both votes. "I didn't feel comfortable voting yes,' because I felt like I was with this white group that was sounding pretty damn angry."
City Councilwoman Christine Nagle (Dist. 1), who is also an NCPCA member, abstained on the voting amendment, but voted in favor of forming a committee.
"I thought [the committee] was a good idea," she said. "It would give everybody a chance to talk and discuss this issue, instead of right now where nobody's really discussed it."
Bleau insisted the dispute was not about religion or race, but rather about some members' belief that NCPCA Secretary Fazlul Kabir has recruited a large "voting bloc" to support his views.
Bleau accused Kabir of using the tactic to influence the Jan. 14 vote, as well as past votes relating to property use and traffic concerns at the Al-Huda School and Dar-us-Salaam mosque in North College Park.
"Anything that will affect their school or their church, they will travel in droves," Bleau said. "I don't think [Kabir] is doing anything unethical. [But] that doesn't make it wise."
Kabir, who attends Dar-us-Salaam, opposed the amendment and said he and other members were merely exercising their "right to vote."
"The reason people actually showed up is because they felt they would be affected most," he said.
Before the vote, member Marcia Booth put forth a motion that the NCPCA be dissolved. It was seconded, and the group is expected to vote on the matter in February. A two-thirds vote is required for dissolution.
"It seems like people that have been here the longest are no longer having a voice," Booth said.