Thursday, Oct. 11, 2007

College Park candidates talk about their plans

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College Park will hold its municipal election from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 6 at the City Hall, 4500 Knox Road. Four candidates are contesting the two Districts 1 seats while three are contesting the two District 2 seats. The mayoral, District 3 and District 4 seats are all uncontested.

The Gazette will publish a College Park Voters Guide on Oct. 18, in which candidates in the contested races will address issues of importance to College Park.

Here are profiles of the candidates facing off in Districts 1 and 2.

District 1

William Flanigen

Attempting once again to claim the District 1 seat following an unsuccessful bid in 2005, William Flanigen, 73, says his top priority is to make the city safer without creating a city-run police department.

‘‘We just can’t afford it without a strong increase in property taxes,” said Flanigen, a former two-time president of the North College Park Citizens Association.

The city hired a consultant to determine if it could sustain a city-operated police department. The consultant recommended the city add more county police officers on contract rather than create a city department.

Flanigen has lived in the city for 37 years. His other goals include improving trash collection and ensuring effective code enforcement to remove abandoned cars and to ensure properties are repaired.

He advocates getting more traffic off the road.

‘‘Maybe we could put golf carts or some electronically driven vehicles on certain city streets so that residents need not fire up the automobile to go a quarter mile to the nearest supermarket,” he said. The golf carts could be allowed on certain streets if they meet certain standards, he said.

Patrick L. Wojahn

Filing for the first time for city office, Patrick L. Wojahn, 32, wants to improve city services and make sure that the laws that keep the streets clean and safe are enforced.

Wojahn has lived in the city since 2003.

He said he doubts new legislation is necessary, but wants to make sure the city’s code enforcement department is responsive to resident concerns.

‘‘I would make city officials more responsive to residents,” said Wojahn, a member of the North College Park Citizens’ Association.

He is also concerned about public safety. ‘‘I do feel an increased police presence is necessary, but I’m not sure having our own police department is the only way or the most efficient way to do that.”

Wojahn said he would look at expanding the contract program the city has with the Prince George’s County Police Department to patrol the city.

‘‘The most important thing is that they get to know the area and the people in that area, and know how to tell when there is potential criminal activity,” he said.

Wojahn said he would also support Neighborhood Watch programs and make sure residents know who to call when they see suspicious activity.

Protecting the environment is also a priority, he said.

‘‘I want to ensure that the development taking place in College Park is done in an environmentally sustainable way and accounts for the need for green places so College Park residents can engage in recreational activities,” he said.

Larry Bleau

Larry Bleau, 53, has been active with the North College Park Citizens Association, serving two, one-year terms as president during his 30 years as a city resident.

He served on the town’s redistricting committee, which helped redraw the voting districts in the town.

‘‘Growth is going to happen, and I want to make sure it’s smart and beneficial growth by encouraging a mixture of development and the kind of retail like a dry cleaners or Starbucks that residents can walk to and leave their car behind,” he said.

He said he wants to ensure the safety of residents in a cost-effective way.

‘‘Hiring county contract police seems to work well,” he said. ‘‘I would continue the current contracting module and look at ways to remedy its perceived faults. I don’t think a [city] police department is the most effective way to provide public safety,” he said.

As a councilman, he said he would promote all options of transportation, including walking, bicycling and driving.

As a priority, he would try to improve the quality of life for residents in College Park. He would like to see a city-operated recycling program.

Jonathan Molinatto

Jonathan Molinatto, 26, moved to the area nearly two years ago from Durham, N.C. He is a member of the North College Park Citizens Association and he has attended numerous City Council meetings.This is his first run for public office.

Molinatto said some residents have told him that some parts of the city code are enforced more frequently than others. Neighbors might get cited for putting out their garbage on the wrong day, while a house that is dilapidated and looks unsafe is not cited, he said.

Improving public safety and bringing more residents into the political process are two of his goals. He does not support a city police department because he thinks the cost would be ‘‘beyond our budget reach.”

The city should continue to contract with county police officers, and work closely with the University of Maryland police department to share information and coordinate patrol efforts, especially since a lot of crimes occur near the university, he said.

Molinatto also said he would like to get all College Park neighborhoods involved in city issues. He promises to work with city youth to keep them from getting involved in gang activity.

‘‘There are a lot of people whose ideas haven’t been heard,” he said. He would like to hear more from renters, young people and Hispanic families.

Also, he wants to encourage alternative means of transportation. ‘‘I’m a very big proponent of anything that is an alternative to driving,” he said. ‘‘We have bike trails, but in some places they are under-illuminated. I would like to make it safer for people to ride their bikes.”

District 2

Stacey Baca

Stacey Baca, 42, said her major concerns are education and public safety. She has been a member of the College Park Education Advisory Committee since 2006.

Baca has been a city resident for five years.

Baca said she has been an active resident. She has asked the City Council to make sure College Park is included in the Greenbelt area school task force and has also helped organize a forum on African-American males. Baca was a member of the League of Women Voters in Athens, Ga.

‘‘I would like to see the city increase its participation in the new public education grants program,” she said.

The new program, started by City Councilman Andrew Fellows (Dist. 3), provides an opportunity for public schools to receive city funds for programs that are not being paid for by the state or county. A public school must be teaching 14 College Park students in order to be eligible for a $1,000 grant.

‘‘A little bit of money can help support basics such as reading and math,” she said. ‘‘The students may learn critical thinking through games that support those skills.”

Baca said residents should decide whether College Park needs its own police force.

‘‘It has to come from College Park residents because it will directly affect their wallet,” she said. ‘‘We want solutions that will work to enhance public safety and also work for the household budget.”

Robert Catlin

Robert Catlin, 53, is seeking his sixth term in office. He has lived in the city for 18 years.

Catlin said he wants to see the Route 1 corridor revitalized. He would also like the road to be widened to make it more pedestrian friendly He estimates the cost to be about $100 million.

He said widening Rout 1 is controversial because it would take away property from businesses.

‘‘It takes away some of their property and some would have to move and moving would be inconvenient,” he said.

The corridor also does not have the retail shops that people want, and it is not attractive, he said. ‘‘There’s a lot of auto-related strip retail and it’s not pedestrian friendly.”

He said College Park lacks sit-down restaurants that people want to patronize.

Catlin said the proposed mixed-use, East Campus development at the University of Maryland, College Park offers a lot of promise. He said the development would bring more people to the Route 1 corridor.

‘‘You need a couple of big players to invest and put their money in Route 1,” he said. ‘‘That would spark more interest in redevelopment.”

He is also concerned about public safety and the perceived need for more police presence in the city. He said he does not support a city-run police department. He prefers the current contract system with county police department.

More attention also should be paid to improving city schools, he said.

John Perry

John ‘‘Jack” Perry, 65, has been on the City Council for more than 18 years. If re-elected, he said he would ‘‘continue to do what I’ve done.”

Perry has lived in the city for 38 years.

He said his main priorities are to ensure that house inspections for code violations are carried out, leaves are picked up, the snow is plowed and the city is in solid financial standing.

‘‘Everything else above that is fluff,” he said.

He is against creating a local police department ‘‘because I’m already paying for police protection through Prince George’s County, the state police, [Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission], Metro Police and the University of Maryland,” he said. ‘‘Everybody has a police department; we don’t need one.”

Perry is interested in the redevelopment of Route 1, which he said has been studied, agreed upon and approved but not funded. ‘‘It will completely revamp Route 1 with sidewalks, median strips, bicycle access and fewer intersecting driveways,” he said.

To that end, Perry said every time he gets an opportunity, he would try and convince the city and county councils and⁄or the State Highway Administration that the revitalization should have a very urgent priority.

‘‘We’re just going to have to adopt the posture that the state knows how much we want it done,” he said.