Due to scheduling difficulties, the City Council Candidate Forum for a Progressive Greenbelt planning group decided to pursue alternative ways to share candidate’s views on progressive issues rather than to hold a forum.
The following are questions submitted by progressive groups and the candidates responses in alphabetical order by last name. If you have questions about the forum or process, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Question: Our great city has a wonderful history of being progressively green, but much of the resources and projects have focused on “historic” Greenbelt. Specifically, how would you identify, focus attention, and commit resources to ensure the inclusion of East and West Greenbelt in future green projects, and would you be in support of a Greenbelt-only shuttle or “circulator” that uses electric or hybrid mini-buses or vans? How would you turn that support into positive actions? — Greenbelt Climate Action Network (GCAN)
Colin Byrd :
First of all, climate change is real, and we need to be acting like it. We need to be channeling the energy, research, and information on this issue from Al Gore and Greta Thunberg but also from local climate activists right here in Greenbelt and throughout the county. Climate change was not a hoax invented by China. It’s very simple. Every Greenbelter, regardless of address, should be able to experience the full greatness of Greenbelt, and that includes when it comes to “green” projects that relate to environmental sustainability. Since I was sworn into office, the city has made major progress on the solar project at the Springhill Lake Recreation Center, and I sponsored and passed a measure to provide funding to the Greenbelt Co-Op’s Rays on the Roof solar capital fundraising campaign. I have also opposed the governor’s highway widening proposals. There are great community-based projects like the three-bin composting at the Springhill Lake Recreation Center. Another thought is community gardens in Greenbelt East. One form of transportation we currently have is the Greenbelt Connection bus, and yes — I’d also support an electric/hybrid shuttle/circulator, if it can be done in an affordable, financially prudent way for the people of Greenbelt. Finally, the last time Greenbelt received its Sustainable Maryland certification, we ranked second in the state, behind Takoma Park, so one of my goals is to get us to number one in the state. And I will support policies and initiatives to get us there.
Judith F. Davis
Green projects have been incorporated throughout Greenbelt, not just in Center City.
Greenbelt East has a designated part of the Forest Preserve. Council has permitted two watershed improvement projects. Energy-saving lights were installed at Schrom Hills Park. I have suggested that an electric charging station be placed there. I will support the bicycle/pedestrian improvements planned for Hanover Parkway.
In Greenbelt West, a stream valley trail was built and a bicycle/pedestrian trail from Greenbelt Station to the Metro will be constructed. Solar panels were installed on the SHL Recreation Center. I will certainly support seeking funds to complete the approved Cherrywood Lane Complete and Green Street project. I was instrumental in persuading the State to set aside the forested wetland between the Metro and Greenbelt Station.
I would be in favor of establishing a circulator bus system utilizing electric or hybrid mini-buses if enough funding can be found. As a commissioner for the Regional Transportation Agency, which includes bus routes from Greenbelt to Laurel, I’m very aware of the huge cost there is to run a bus line, even a small one. To be effective, more than one bus is needed along with several certified drivers, which are very difficult to find, train, and retain, and an expanded maintenance yard with skilled mechanics. One bus running a limited number of shifts and hours to cover all of Greenbelt will not be adequate nor satisfactory.
I will continue to gather best green practices whenever I attend conferences and incorporate them wherever possible.
Emmett V. Jordan
A common narrative in Greenbelt involves three distinct sections of the city, with the east & west evolving from the historic core across Kenilworth Avenue and the Baltimore Washington Parkway. The single family homes in the Greenspring 2 neighborhood have as much in common with the Glen Oaks Apartments as the homes on Lakeside have in common with GHI. The new townhouses and upscale apartments in the new Greenbelt Station neighborhood contrast sharply with the Franklin Park community.
However, there are disparities between neighborhoods in Greenbelt. Most of Greenbelt’s public spaces and recreational facilities were part of the original “Greenbelt Plan”. Those good land use decisions were possible because the Federal government owned the land and could control zoning & planning.
I have strongly advocated for additional programming and amenities for Greenbelt Station and Franklin Park. I plan to start a dialog with Council and residents about expanding the SHL Recreation Center. There will also be opportunities to add active recreational areas along the entrance to the Indian Creek trail at Branchville Road. I have also worked with PGCPS and Greenbelt staff to finalize a MOU to provide the City with access to the Middle School athletic fields.
In the east, Council will work the home and condominium owner associations to partner on upgrading recreational facilities and improving landscaping in shared areas. A plan to install security camera in parts of Greenbelt east is moving forward. I also support expansion of the dog park and improving the adjacent recycling center.
Greenbelt does indeed have a wonderful history of being progressively “green.” It may seem that much of the focus has been on historic Greenbelt. However, this is a function of history in that originally the center of the city was all there was until the large apartment complex was built in the west and homes and condominiums in the east.
Since the city has expanded so too has our support of green initiatives. For example, a forest preserve has been created in east Greenbelt from the Sunrise tract and joined the original Forest Preserve in the center of Greenbelt. We are starting work to make walking and biking in east and west Greenbelt safer. A highlight is the plan to make Cherrywood Lane a complete and green street.
To continue the work and ensure the inclusion of all parts of Greenbelt, I would consult with our citizens and our advisory boards. In particular, I would look to the roadmaps our advisory boards have created with the Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan and the Sustainable Land Care Policy. These policies and plans include all of Greenbelt.
An electric or hybrid Greenbelt circulator is an interesting idea for many reasons – most of all for its ability to connect all our residents and help them explore all Greenbelt neighborhoods. I would support a circulator, however, it is a costly project. To make it a reality, we need to explore grants and set aside funds in the annual city budget.
This question is presumptuously phrased. That aside, the people in Greenbelt have an inherent right (even if lacking statutory rights) to guide development and/or redevelopment within the city’s corporate limits, and with the people of adjacent incorporated and unincorporated communities to guide development and/or redevelopment beyond.
When the impetus of those controlling the state apparatus is economic growth, quantitatively not qualitatively, then that apparatus will always favor property rights and the interests of “owners” of property over the interests of the people.
Even in Greenbelt, our potentially less-than-wonderful future is personified by the pursuit retrogressively of greenbacks or gold if we were on another standard.
Past development, west and east, was motivated by the pursuit of profit not community. There is sufficient land, west and east, to house more people, maintain equivalent commercial space, retail and office, provide more space for educational purpose, more programmable open space, and more open space generally for quiet purpose.
The land, west and east, is used badly.
The continued pursuit of profit by its “owners” won’t change Greenbelt for the better. The more community conversation about a vision for the appropriate use of all Greenbelt space and the redevelopment of much, should be a continuing function of council, city staff, residents, and our mostly out of town commercial property class.
For more than ten years, in annual budget discussions and in transit work sessions, I have agreed, when one member of council has raised each year an intra-city circulator, but council would not fund it.
On council, or not, I will continue to encourage residents’ greater participation at council, especially during the budget adoption process.
In recent years we accomplished quite a few green projects in Greenbelt West. The Springhill Lake Recreation Center now has solar panels on the roof, permeable paving in the parking lot and a composting site next to the building. There is an ongoing complete green street project underway along Cherrywood Lane. Springhill Lane underwent a green street project a few years ago. These projects have or are currently being funded by grants.
In Greenbelt East, we installed LED lighting at Schrom Hills Park in the parking area which dims when the park is not being used. Could we do more, I am positive the answer is yes, but the financial aspect is always the biggest challenge. We must strive to identify possible new green projects in both East and West Greenbelt with the guidance of our advisory boards, committees and our residents. Our goal is to identify, fund and complete green projects in an equitable and inclusive manner.
Additionally, I am in favor of a circulator bus. And, I would support a circulator bus in the city, if it is determined that the city is able to financially support this program.
Greenbelt has a history of being “green” – it was known as the belt of green. It was one of the first municipalities to invest in its own separate recycling vehicles and equipment and a history of community gardens, green spaces, parks, and a forest preserve.
Though we live in different areas of the City, we have a stake in all three areas. Accomplishments in any one area are funded by tax revenues collectively from all three areas.Each area has different needs and must be treated accordingly, which does not imply special treatment.
We are looking at major infrastructure needs, regardless of the area. We are invested in preserving our green spaces including our parks. For example, extensive work is needed to our lake dam. It’s expensive, but it must be done and it’s in Greenbelt’s historic area. Work is also planned to make Cherrywood Lane safer for pedestrians and bicyclists, which is in the western part of Greenbelt. Efforts are being made to help the Greenbelt Station neighborhood be more easily accessible to Metro and the rest of Greenbelt. In the eastern part, we most definitely need better walkability and safe bicycle lanes.
A shuttle bus that goes directly to and from the Metro station in the morning and afternoons would be nice, but it’s expensive to purchase a bus to operate and maintain such a system and hire and train a staff to operate it. This most likely would require a tax increase.
If you look at my voting record, you will find that I hae repeatedly voted against spending our Program Open Space Funds (state funds, originally meant for land acquisition and parkland/recreation purposes) on construction projects, mostly in central Greenbelt. There are about 25-30 acres in Greenbelt-West (the scrap yard and adjacent property) that the city could acquire using our Program Open Space Funds to create a Greenbelt West park. Of coarse we all know that Greenbelt West is severely underserved in city services and especially city parks and recreation facilities. If elected, my top priority will be to create a new city park in Greenbelt West. Several times I have proposed State legislation that would allow municipalities to use
State transit operational funds to operate a local city-run service, that I believe would enable Greenbelt to provide improved routes, better community connections, and Sunday bus service.
Question: Affordable housing is an issue in Greenbelt. Takoma Park has a rent stabilization policy designed “to preserve the city’s affordable housing stock and maintain economic and ethnic diversity by controlling the frequency and amount of rent increases that may be imposed by a landlord.” Do you support a rent control policy to keep rent more affordable in Greenbelt? Why or why not? — CASA de Maryland
You shouldn’t have to be making big money, to afford to live in Greenbelt. I welcome upper- and middle class families to Greenbelt, but we can’t ‘close the gates of Greenbelt’ to low income families. For me, that means, when developers come to the city asking for support — asking for approvals, I’m willing to say no, if their proposals aren’t good for the city, and I’m willing to say no, if they’re merely hoping to juice their bottom line by pushing high-density in the wrong areas or by only housing people with deep pockets. Unfortunately, the city doesn’t have its own zoning authority, but my hope is to push the county to take a good look at inclusionary zoning, which would help with this issue. As for rent control, I have an open mind on that., What I know is economists say that, because rent control makes the price of rent artificially low, the quantity (of housing) demanded ends up far greater than the quantity (of housing) supplied — thus, creating a shortage. For example, when they did rent control in Berkeley, California, an apartment would become available, and there would be 200 people in line waiting to fill out a rental application. The goals of rent control are laudable, but my threshold is, “Does it work? Is it good for the people of Greenbelt?” The answer might be yes — I’ll listen to that perspective, but, before we say let’s do it, I’d want to do more research and analyze options.
Judith F. Davis
The rising rental rates and the insufficient amount of housing overall are of deep concern to me and other Council members. Getting developers to include workforce housing, senior housing, or moderate-priced homes has been difficult due to the City’s lack of planning and zoning authority, the huge demand for housing and the area’s high cost for building housing units of any type.
During negotiations with prospective developers, I have suggested ways to include lower cost housing that I have seen in other cities. I will continue to do so, as this is a national problem and is often the subject at conferences that I attend. Fortunately, there is a diversity of housing in Greenbelt, including a cooperative, and our home prices and rents are at or below the market rate.
Council has looked at rent control, as has the County. College Park had it, but terminated the program. Takoma Park has rent control, but in the last few years has experienced negative issues—landlords have not kept up with adequate maintenance or renovation of older units. In some cities, strict code enforcement has led to landlords just abandoning their property rather than pay fines or make the necessary repairs.
I will remain open to discussion of a viable rent control program. Meanwhile, I will continue to research other ways to meet our goal of more affordable housing in Greenbelt. I will certainly support the County’s adoption of inclusionary zoning.
Emmett V. Jordan
I support the concept of rent stabilization. I have spoken with Takoma Park councilmembers to better understand how their programs work. They are administered by rental licensing program staff. An appointed commission makes determinations about rent increases.
I have been told that the majority of the rental housing stock in Takoma Park is owned by individuals and are owner-occupied, unlike Greenbelt’s large, multi-unit apartment owners. Some property owners argue that rent control policies discourage investments in renovations and upgrades to rental properties, because it is difficult for owners to recover their investments. However, I feel that renters need protections from unexpected, large rent increases.
Greenbelt’s approach this issue has been to provide tax credits or rebates to renters who can document financial need, thereby reducing county and local taxes. I would argue that this approach is ineffective. Renters who are struggling to make ends meet are the least likely to be well informed about the availability of tax credits. Therefore, the current program is highly underutilized.
The challenge of housing affordability in Greenbelt is part of a larger regional housing crisis. Despite our relatively “affordable” median housing prices, there is a substantial mismatch between available “workforce” housing in the region… now and more so in the future. This means that our relatively affordable housing stock is in demand and these demands will increase in the future.
We must take action to protect our affordable housing in Greenbelt.
Affordable housing is indeed an issue. However, it is much more of an issue in the rest of the metropolitan area than it is in Greenbelt. The cooperative housing in Greenbelt is some of the most affordable housing in the area. The question of adopting a rent stabilization policy like the policy in Takoma Park is an interesting one. I could support it as one tool in a more complete affordable housing toolbox. However, I would consider it a last resort tool.
In my view, the best affordable housing tool is the creation of limited-equity housing cooperatives. For a great example of the value of limited-equity housing cooperatives in preserving affordable housing, we can look at the limited-equity housing cooperatives in New York City. In addition to providing affordable housing, these cooperatives have provided other benefits for their members including cooperative preschools and childcare and aging in place services for their older members.
I believe creating affordable cooperative housing and providing financial help to purchasers is more beneficial than rent control. To do this, we could partner with cooperative organizations such as the Cooperative Development Foundation and the National Cooperative Business Association to help locate funding and explain the cooperative model to potential developers.
A significant added benefit to creating cooperatives is the enhanced involvement of the co-op members as cooperatives are member-owned and democratically controlled businesses. As has been shown by the members of Greenbelt Homes, the cooperative values of participation may flow over into Greenbelt civic life.
I do support Greenbelt Council’s adoption of a rent control ordinance and have raised it with council many times over the years. Council has refused even to discuss it.
Housing built for profit ignores that shelter is a human right.
Three historic Greenbelt apartment properties have within the past year been sold or are now in the process of being sold. One of the three in process was purchased from a long term owner, just three years ago. Out of town speculators purchasing Greenbelt apartment properties have an incentive to raise rents to recover more quickly the costs associated with the purchase. Greenbelt’s apartment properties, existing or planned, should be owned locally and all Greenbelters should have an understanding of what the appropriate rate of return would be for the owners.
Greenbelt Council should initiate such discussion.
As you are aware, the City of Greenbelt does not have any authority over zoning within the city. Prince George’s County has all authority over zoning within the county and therefore Greenbelt. I would like to see Prince George’s County add an inclusionary zoning law to the existing zoning laws, so that new developers are required to offer a certain amount of affordable housing to residents with a fixed income. Ideally, I would like to see this include senior housing, which we are in dire need of right here in Greenbelt. This inclusionary zoning is a practice that many jurisdictions in our area and throughout the country already have in place.
I am not convinced that rent control policies are the best choice for Greenbelt. I am concerned that a rent control policy could discourage current landlords and future developers from offering properties for rent in our community. This could ultimately result in a decrease in the available rental housing stock within the city, a decrease in property tax revenue and an increase in administrative costs. If this topic were to come up in front of Council, I would certainly be open to discussion and suggestions for how this could be implemented in Greenbelt. We would definitely need to survey the community and obtain professional counsel on whether rent control is needed within our city and if so, how best to implement it in Greenbelt.
That depends on the circumstances. The City considered adopting a “rent control” ordinance for Charlestowne North when a new owner imposed a 20% increase on its rental units. The owner rescinded that increase.
“Rent Control” in the narrowest sense refers to city or county ordinances that limit the rent landlords can charge. (Popular perceptions of rent control include restrictions on evictions.) Rent control laws typically set a maximum percentage by which landlords can increase rent (for example, 5%) and specify how often landlords can raise the rent. Rent control ordinances often have additional rules that protect tenants; buyout agreements, mediation services, minimum lease terms, relocation reimbursements and moving expenses.
Takoma Park is in Montgomery County with different guidelines concerning rental property. Takoma Park has a much denser population with less available rental space. A good portion of the rentals are subdivided single family dwellings. Greenbelt is not Takoma Park.
Greenbelt West has the largest apartment complex (Franklin Park) on the east coast. Greenbelt East also has a large selection of rental property, the historic section as well. I don’t have access to the data, but I am willing to say that the median rental fees are very low in comparison to Takoma Park and the rest of Montgomery County. Greenbelt does not need any rent control when there isn’t any “run-away” rent prices.
Yes, because I believe that quality affordable housing should be a right not a commodity.
Question: The recent police shooting and killing of Leonard Shand in Hyattsville raises concerns about police accountability and transparency. These concerns extend to Community interest in and questioning of Police department policies around rules of engagement, use of force, requirements for de-escalation, use of military-style equipment, “chain of command” protocol when more than one jurisdiction is responding, and on-scene use of mental health professionals. What specific actions and policy changes do you propose to ensure accountability and transparency within the Greenbelt Police Department? How would you ensure implementation of those policies? — Greenbelt Racial Equity Alliance (GREA)
I’ll respect the ongoing investigation of the Hyattsville incident, but it’s a clear example of the importance of effectiveness in responding to individuals with mental health issues and peaceful de-escalation. My understanding and expectation is that the Greenbelt police department — and its leadership — is well-prepared to properly deal with such incidents.
First, we have to walk and chew gum at the same time. We need public safety and law enforcement, but we also need consistent, respectful engagement with residents and legal, constitutional policing.
Second, good tactical training. Our police will be learning mental health first aid and getting critical incident training. But, again, it’s not an either or. We want to make sure our officers can protect themselves, but our officers also understand that there are peaceful ways to try to deal with individuals with mental health issues.
One way is patience — taking the time to get a peaceful resolution and not rushing to escalate to deadly use of force — getting people to ‘take it down a notch.’ If our officers get called to help with an incident in another city, they don’t ‘check their training at the door.’ They still follow Greenbelt policy. And, if we ask another city for assistance with an incident in Greenbelt, our patrol supervisors/commanders have to make good decisions and issue proper commands. If policy is not followed, we have a process for dealing with that.
Furthermore, our police department is improving transparency in terms of its public reporting on internal affairs complaints.
Judith F. Davis
Providing and expanding accountability and transparency have been City Council and Greenbelt Police Department goals for some time. As a Council Member, I have voted to support policy and to fund equipment that will help to fulfill those goals. Our Police Department has attained CALEA recognition for years, going through a thorough inspection to earn this national status. The records required to be kept are accessible to the public on the City’s website and are quite informative. Body cameras were funded and proper usage is mandatory. There is an online form for citizens to lodge complaints and a formal policy on how the Police Chief is to respond. Greenbelt citizens and City Council demand that high standards for all our officers be met and our Police Chief and command staff have adhered to these standards.
A community meeting was held by the Police Chief and several officers October 10 in Greenbelt East. At this meeting, it was announced that training in dealing with those with mental health issues is being given to our officers. Training in de-escalation and implicit bias has also been given. Our officers work with our Crisis Intervention personnel who offer help and counseling when warranted.
More of these community meetings should be held frequently and in all neighborhoods. I will continue to urge our officers to get out of their cars when they can during their patrols and socially interact with folks. Our bike patrols offer another way to meet people in a less intimidating way.
Emmett V. Jordan
In many ways, Greenbelt has been ahead of most jurisdictions in implementing policies that improve transparency & accountability around public safety and our police department.
We have an independent Community Relations Advisory Board and Public Safety Advisory Board. They gather information for Council deliberations and take the initiative to hold hearings when there are community issues. The collective bargaining agreement between the City and our Greenbelt Fraternal Order of Police union largely defines how the City Council and members of the public can provide oversight and interact with FOP members. With the wide spread adoption of police body cameras, the ubiquity of personal cell phone cameras, and a heightened lack of public tolerance for inappropriate interactions, concerns about police accountability and transparency are more focused than ever before.
Greenbelt was one of the first municipalities in the area to implement a body camera program for our police officers. We have clear policies for “use of force” that are spelled out in the Police Department General Orders. De-escalation training has been funded by City Council for a number of years. Obtaining cultural competencies and multi-lingual capacities within the Greenbelt Police Department has been a recruitment priority for quite some time.
As Mayor, I have worked to improve the flow of information from the City Manager and the Police Chief so that Council has timely information about pending litigation and personnel matters to assist us in setting progressive policies in Greenbelt.
Many of our current activities and practices foster transparency and we should continue and enhance them. Such policies include education of citizens to help them adopt habits that prevent their becoming victims of crime as well as following the principles of community policing and working with mental health professionals and Greenbelt CAREs. It is also important to offer our young people alternatives to a life of crime through recreation programs that attract their interest and help them develop positive values.
I would encourage citizens to become more aware of the activities of the Greenbelt police department by reviewing the information on the city website, which includes a list of resources and services and the police department’s general orders as well as commendation and complaint forms in English and Spanish. Citizens can learn more about the Greenbelt police department and the way it operates by participating in programs sponsored by the department. These include the Ride-along Program and the Greenbelt Citizen’s Police Academy .
In 2006, the Greenbelt Police Department received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and was found to be in compliance with CALEA’s 446 standards of professional excellence. This accreditation has been renewed every three years and is an assessment that should be continued as it establishes professional standards to meet including policies and protocols.
To ensure accountability and foster transparency, we should continue community forums in all areas of the city and the annual review of police activities during the budget process.
No police officer is paid to be killed on the job; neither is any police officer paid to kill on the job. It is very unfortunate we live in a time when either is distinctly possible. (Why do we live in such a time?)
We ask much of our police; we don’t train them sufficiently, nor do we compensate them appropriately, nor do we provide them the necessary professional assistance. In turn, we accept and encourage a sense among the police that has developed over time, that there exists a culture on the job, that only they can understand and the public cannot.
I believe we should all fervently believe in due process for all, but not more than due process for any. The police, by the will of the body politic, have authority to detain and also use force, including lethal force, to resolve questions arising from the conduct of the body politic, authority not granted others, even if they are exercising the responsibilities of elected executive, legislative or appointive office.
Law enforcement officer’s responsibilities supercede their rights to be protected from public review of any alleged misuse of the authority granted them.
Greenbelt Council cannot override policy legislated by the General Assembly, but could mobilize support through MML to that end, even as we in the 22nd District could require a commitment from those whom we elect (or have selected, on our behalf!).
I do believe that accountability and transparency is an absolute must within all law enforcement agencies. We must hold our police officers to the highest standard possible at all times. They must be highly trained and well equipped in addition to receiving continual training and development in new weapon technologies (particularly less-than-lethal weapons), mental health crisis intervention, de-escalation training, use-of-force training, and implicit bias training to name a few important topics.
Our department is fortunate to work closely with Greenbelt CARES as well as Prince George’s County social services when mental health professionals are required. Our department does have one “military-style”, armored vehicle which has been repurposed to serve as a “rescue vehicle”. This vehicle is used and has been used only to protect our officers and citizens during active shooter events.
We are fortunate to have an award-winning department that has repeatedly received national accreditation by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). CALEA sets extremely high standards for use of force, rules of engagement, chain of command, record keeping, implicit bias training, proactive enforcement tactics, cultural and human diversity, communication skills, accountability, transparency and many other areas. Our department considers CALEA training to be extremely important. I consider it imperative that our department continue to achieve this vital evaluation and certification. The public safety of our community is vitally important to me. While we need to be tough on crime, we must do so with fairness, transparency, and accountability to all through strict community policing standards.
Everyone has heard about horrifying incidents involving police shootings and killings. Police accountability involves holding both police officers, as well as law enforcement agencies responsible for effectively delivering services of crime control, keeping the peace, and at the same time treating individuals fairly. Officers are expected to uphold laws regarding arrests, search and seizure, as well as other laws.
Holding police accountable is important for preserving the public’s “faith in the system”. Some suggest and prefer outside, independent reviews of complaints against law enforcement rather than internal investigations.
More recent use of body cameras suggest that there are fewer complaints and fewer violent incidents when police wear cameras. Others say that the police are just too removed from the community. If they spent more time on the beat talking to citizens, they would behave better. The new focus on police reform and accountability is producing more solutions like these. It’s also awakening interest in a whole set of new policies that are less explored.
Greenbelt is not Hyattsville. Greenbelt has ALWAYS had a well-trained Police force. I don’t recall any controversial incidents where anyone was shot indiscriminately or used canines to intimidate or escalated a situation. Our Police Department, unlike many others , has always been open and transparent. I do think they should get out of their cars more often and do some foot patrolling. They should reach-out to the communities in all parts of town. Attend a few homeowner associations and GHI meetings.
We have a great Police force, I’m proud of them.
The last part of this question is a real problem. (how to insure implementation) a prior council created a policy that required all retired police weapons to be destroyed. Not only was the policy ignored, the staff was then able to persuade the current council to eliminate the policy and to allow our weapons to be sold to a private gun dealer. The vote was 6-1 only I opposed. I don’t believe that all police officers should carry a firearm. New officers should have extensive training and experience before being issued a firearm.
Question: For a democracy to thrive, citizens must be actively engaged. Both paltry voting numbers for City Council and small attendance at Council meetings suggest that important governance issues are being decided by a minority of Greenbelters. What specific steps do you plan to take to increase the involvement of Greenbelters in all sectors of the city in matters that directly affect their lives, health, well-being and pocketbooks? — Center for Dynamic Community Governance (CDCG)
Let me say three things about civic engagement: First: I explain to people their lives are impacted by taxes, public works, police, recreation, parks, planning, code enforcement, economic development, and social services that the city offers through Greenbelt CARES, and elections can make those things better or worse.
Second: multimodal engagement of residents — I am a very accessible and responsive councilmember. You can reach me by phone (301-957-5014), by mail (at city hall/the municipal building), by email (email@example.com), or on Facebook (@votecolinbyrd), where I discuss important, relevant Greenbelt matters.
Third: being there for all Greenbelters. Some politicians that merely want to be elected or re-elected have exploited voter turnout numbers by writing off certain parts of the city. My approach has been yes — work hard for Old Greenbelt. But I show up at events throughout the city. Regardless of whether they vote or not, my philosophy has been to work hard for all the people — work hard for Greenbelt East. Work hard for Greenbelt West. Work hard for people of all racial and economic backgrounds. Just think about how you get home from work — whether you get home by foot, by bike, or by taking Southway, Kenilworth, Edmonston, Cherrywood, Hanover, Mandan, or Greenbelt Station Parkway, Councilman Byrd is here for you.
That’s my approach to citywide civic participation and my overarching governing principle: putting the people of Greenbelt first — all of them. Vote Byrd. Your voice will be heard.
Judith F. Davis
Increasing civic participation requires improvements in outreach, accessibility, transportation, communication and motivation. The City already has accomplished a great deal, such as expanding social media, enabling 16 and 17 year olds to vote in City elections, distributing Welcome Bags to new residents, and requiring event signage to be posted in all three areas of Greenbelt. More can be done.
Making it easier for citizens to get to events and meetings has long been a Council goal. Better publicity of existing forms of public transportation and constructing safer bike lanes and pedestrian walkways/crosswalks would help.
Council could hold more work sessions, especially budget work sessions, in all areas of the City. All meetings can be close captioned and can be broadcast live or taped. Town hall meetings in each of the three Greenbelt areas could be held once a year. Key staff members and Council would be present to address issues. Citywide broadband should be explored. Wifi should be available in all City facilities. A more interactive website should be created. Our volunteer coordinator should continue to recruit people from all over the City.
The City should continue its support for the News Review and encourage its distribution throughout the City. A City questionnaire/survey could be made available online annually. Visioning exercises should be held on a more regular basis.
As a council member, I will continue to attend city and civic events to reach out, listen, and encourage our citizens, especially our youth, to participate and volunteer.
Emmett V. Jordan
While civic participation in city government was almost a requirement for the residents who were selected to move here in 1937, we are living in very different times.
I think the City needs to do a better job of shaping opportunities for civic participation to the convenience and needs of residents.
For example, while fewer people make a habit of attending Council meetings and work sessions in person on a regular basis, I think more people watch meetings from home when there’s an issue that affects them. I think it is very important for all meetings to be broadcast and preserved so that people can follow at their leisure. I am advocating for meetings to be captioned in Spanish.
I have advocated for this and we have made some progress, but the quality of the broadcasts must be improved so that the sound is audible and the meeting materials are always available ad easy to find on the city website. Also, I have advocated for moving meetings around to locations throughout the City. We do this more often, but we need to find better ways to publicize these locations well in advance.
The first step to increase the involvement of Greenbelt citizens is to help them become aware of their community. We can provide information through social media, a regular city newsletter, the News Review and the city website, which has a service to translate information into many languages.
We can continue to film all council meetings to keep citizens informed. We should advertise the fact that council meetings are televised and are also available online. We should continue the practice of holding council, advisory board and informational meetings in all areas of the city as this makes it easier for citizens to attend meetings in their neighborhood.
There are other ways we can make connections that lead to increased civic participation. These include signage in all three areas of the city, recreation programs and festivals throughout the city. It is also important to prevent obstacles by supporting public transportation and implementing more of the pedestrian and bicycle master plan.
I feel the most productive and important thing to do is seeing that all Greenbelt children can attend Greenbelt schools. Friendships among young people spread to parents. Through school connections, people will learn that they are members of the Greenbelt community, learn about the issues and work to address them.
Because council members should represent all Greenbelters, I do not support counterproductive ideas that divide us such as creating electoral districts. It is a good thing that every two years Council candidates walk around the entire city, meet citizens and share views.
Some folks, of course, believe “you can’t fight city hall”. I believe that is what “city hall” wants us to believe, so that we won’t try. There are many, unfortunately, too discouraged to vote among us. Also, too many too hip to vote. The too discouraged or the too hip among us are the cynical. They serve the status quo whatever it is and whoever they are.
There is among us also the too selfish: “what will they do for me?”.
If the too selfish and the too cynical won’t vote much, they probably won’t attend meetings much either. I SAY “A LOX UPON THEM”.
We could try coffee, “milk and cookies”. We could provide daycare (meeting care) downstairs while a parent is upstairs or we could allow children to whine upstairs during meetings. I do so all the time.
Of course council could encourage community conversation on all matters, municipal and beyond, that effect the whole of us. If so, more might wish to engage in the conversation.
Greenbelt strives to promote community activism and it is exemplary in its volunteerism. Overall, I believe that current volunteers involved in our city government come from all parts of Greenbelt. The City Council tries very hard to attract and select our advisory board and committee members both fairly and equitably when filling vacancies.
I do believe, however, that we need more people interested in volunteering for all our various community groups. We currently provide a discount for membership to the Aquatic and Fitness Center to all Advisory Committee and Board members. Maybe other incentives could be used to help increase the participation on these committees and boards?
In specific regards to the City Council, we need to determine how to encourage more candidates to run for Council. The city is growing and the amount of time it takes to attend all council meetings, as well as many other committee meetings is growing as well. We must consider what structural and organizational changes could be made to encourage younger candidates to run for council. The current structure of meetings discourages candidates with young families due to the large time commitment.
I believe that better intracity transportation options would provide greater opportunities for community participation. We must carefully evaluate this idea to see if it is financially possible for our city to offer such a service. With residents and council being concerned about our increasing taxes, we have to carefully listen and check the financial impact this would have on our residents.
This is not just a local issue , it’s a national issue. Most community organizations have suffered from declining participation over recent years.
Why? People working longer hours, less time for other interests. Online blogs give people a sense of information/community/without needing to attend meetings; people moving frequently, no sense of belonging; kids involved in activities, less time for parents to get involved in civic activities; youth club sports requiring weekend travel.
We encourage residents to get involved by volunteering for Boards and Committees; and we advertise scheduled meetings and recreational and special events in all parts of the city. When there is a critical issue, such as MAGLEV, we do hear from our constituents in the COOP, gas stations, post office, or restaurants.
City staff is dedicated to informing ALL residents of upcoming events through various media sources, and we continue to reach out for residents’ feedback.
The Council has a fiduciary responsibility to all residents and voters and what is best for all who reside and work in the City. They are answerable to the voters, who can change and redirect the Council as it sees fit through free and open elections. To facilitate such directional changes in an election cycle, it is the voter that must influence opinion, and organize members to participate.
Lowering the voting age to 16 is a good example. They themselves, with the help of adults, influenced and organized the voters to get it on the ballot and the vote passed.
I have noticed that when people do come to city council meetings, at 9:30 or 10:00, they leave; and yet the council continues to go on and on. I believe that council meetings should start promptly at 8:00 pm and end promptly at 10:00 or 7:00 pm to 9:00. Any item not discussed should go to the next meeting agenda; otherwise the public is just being left out. Also, our elections have become too predictable, every 2 years, we have the same old questions that seem only to protect the status quo. I think we need to have more time for real debate between candidates on the real issues that face our city; and we need free speech. When I answered question number 2 for the News Review, my answer was censored. I was not allowed to speak freely about an issue that could have a profound negative impact on our community. As a result, I have no interest in answering any more questions from the News Review, and that is a shame. Maybe that’s how a lot of people feel about our elections in general. However, I will continue to engage and try to get my message to the citizens of Greenbelt and to hear theirs.