Two council seats go up for grabs Tuesday

Activists, U.Md. student, longtime residents in the mix

Thursday, Jan. 11, 2007

Seven College Park residents will vie to fill two municipal seats left vacant by two former City Council members who were elected to higher office.

The city’s special election will be held from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

Residents in District 3 will vote in the council chambers at City Hall, 4500 Knox Road in College Park. District 4 voters will cast their ballots at the city’s Davis Hall, 9217 51st Ave. in North College Park.

Candidates for the District 3 and 4 seats, formerly occupied by Eric Olson — now a County Council member — and Joseline Pena-Melnyk — now a member of the House of Delegates — respectively, hold varying views of how College Park should proceed with critical issues such as bolstering police presence, reconstructing Route 1, replacing a community school with a new City Hall building and revamping the downtown area.

District 3 candidates

Jutta Hagner, a city resident for more than 20 years, said attracting mixed-use development to College Park would be a key element of economic growth, echoing the sentiment of many council members.

Hagner, 58, ran unsuccessfully for the council in 2005.

A University of Maryland graduate, Hagner added that attracting businesses to the area should not be at the expense of College Park’s neighborhoods.

She said that community needs should be taken into account as the city looks to attract retail.

If elected, Hagner said she would work to increase transparency in council votes. The city could achieve this ‘‘by having City Council members declare their positions on upcoming legislation in advance of votes,” she told The Gazette.

Robert Massey, a Calvert Hills resident since 2001, said he would focus on citywide issues such as traffic, redevelopment, and addressing the sometimes-strained relationship between city officials and the university.

‘‘You see a lot of infighting and a lot of bickering and that’s not doing anybody any good,” Massey said.

Massey, 36, said he stands in opposition to the council’s decision to move City Hall to the Friends Community School site, making room for condos at the current City Hall location on Knox Road.

‘‘Once you move City Hall there, all educational options are killed,” he said.

Massey said he approved of a municipal police force if it proved ‘‘economically feasible.”

Stephanie Stullich, president of the Old Town Civic Association, said if a city-funded study of potential policing options supports the creation of a police department, police presence should be increased throughout College Park.

‘‘It’s essential that a police force is serving every part of the city,” said Stullich, 45, a city resident for 12 years who co-authored a book on the history of College Park in 2005.

Stullich preferred to see the Friends Community School remain in College Park.‘‘Schools are very important to neighborhoods,” she said.

Stullich, who helped lead the effort to create a historic district in Old Town, said she supports the city’s decision to bring condominiums to the current City Hall site, describing the effort as ‘‘a catalyst for redevelopment in downtown College Park.”

District 4 candidates

Linda Lynch, a 30-year resident of College Park and a member of the College Park Woods Civic Association (CPWCA), said she supports a municipal police department if studies showed it would be economically feasible.

‘‘I think College Park is large enough to warrant a police department of its own,” she said.

As the city attracts housing and businesses to the downtown area, Lynch said it would be important to ‘‘increase city revenues and make sure that money stay in the city.”

Lynch, a University of Maryland graduate, said she would advocate the formation of a committee of university students and city residents to brief the City Council on university-city issues.

‘‘Sometimes the [university and the city] become unwilling to make compromises,” she said.

Russell Scarato, a resident of the city for more than 20 years and a member of the North College Park Citizens Association (NCPCA), said transportation, public safety and creating more recreational space would top his list of priorities if elected.

Scarato, 71, said more recreation space near the university and in College Park’s neighborhoods could bring families and students together, making a ‘‘living room [atmosphere]” for everyone in the city.

Scarato, who serves on the College Park Economic Planning Committee, said public safety should be improved by the council in the coming years, and would not oppose any measure that raised taxes for more police funding.

If elected, Scarato said he would work to facilitate relationships between College Park communities.

Mary Cook, an NCPCA member and Cherry Hill resident, helped lead a community effort against Shoppers Food Warehouse’s application for a beer and wine license last year. Despite the neighborhood opposition, the license was granted.

Cook, co-chair of the city’s Committee for a Better Environment (CBE), said her background in environmentalism would influence her approach to many issues, including transportation. She said more busing and biking would cut down on Route 1 traffic.

As local and national developers bring housing projects to College Park, Cook, 50, said the council should form more concrete, long-term goals.

She said the council should continue to explore options for improving safety, whether that includes more contract police officers or a municipal force.

‘‘I would support a citywide police force, but it can’t be at the expense of those with a fixed income,” Cook said.

Nicolas Aragon, a senior government and politics major at the university, said he would look to increase affordable housing for students in District 3 and across the city.

As students seek affordable homes in College Park neighborhoods, Aragon said tensions would arise with city residents.

‘‘[Students] don’t want to live near folks who probably don’t want them there,” said Aragon, 24.

Aragon said he does not support the proposed University of Maryland Connector road, which he said would ‘‘divert attention from [making improvements] to Route 1.” He commended the current council for laying plans for Route 1 reconstruction.

Aragon has been involved with the university’s Student Government Association during his three years in College Park, and has served as chairman of the University System of Maryland Student Council.

E-mail Dennis Carter at