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 be part of one single county district (Dist 3). The debate amongst residents’ mainly revolves around the identity and development issues in the northern part of the city.

Currently, north College Park is part of county District 1, whereas 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 required to revisit its district map every 10 years following the national census. The State of Maryland is going through its congressional redistricting process currently.

Supporters of the proposed redistricting plan think that 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, 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.

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 councilwoman 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.

The County’s Redistricting Commission held a public hearing on July 28, where residents from both sides testified. The County 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.

Fazlul Kabir lives in north College Park. You can read his daily community blog at http://KabirCares.org