Candidates for the College Park’s District 1 city council seats discussed their positions on public development, ongoing construction and transportation ahead of next month’s city election during a debate Wednesday.
With two spots up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election, District 1 has a packed field of candidates. All five residents vying for a spot participated in the debate, which was sponsored by local newspaper College Park Here and Now.
The candidates largely discussed ongoing development and construction and how to navigate its continued effects on District 1 and the city.
Kamthorn Clary, who has worked in finance for nearly a decade with a focus on affordable housing, emphasized how his experience in urban planning and affordable housing led him to believe the city needs to engage community members in development projects and provide residents with more input.
“We’re doing it the wrong way, putting up a crosswalk, putting up a stop sign, that’s not how you do it,” Clary said. “We need to get together and build a city that we’re proud of, not one that developers are proud of.”
Business owner Bryan Haddad said he favors developments that are under six stories with space for low-income housing and small businesses.
Some candidates also touted the idea of building amenities along Route 1 and bringing more businesses into the Hollywood Shopping Center in the district.
Brian Roan, also a small business owner, highlighted that District 1 is more geared towards long-term residents than other parts of the city. This means more community-oriented spaces are necessary, he said.
“These are people who have a long view,” Roan said. “People who know that this is where they want to be and who are looking for reasons to stay.”
District 1 council member Alan Hew, who was appointed in June to replace Mayor Fazlul Kabir and is running to keep his seat, said he believes the community would benefit from a revitalized shopping center.
Candidates also focused on public transportation in College Park, including speed reduction, bike lanes and Veo scooters.
Haddad supported bolstering bike lanes and adopting construction barriers, such as those on the University of Maryland’s campus.
State department civil servant Jacob Hernandez said when it comes to micromobility vehicles like e-scooters, code enforcement is crucial. The city should engage in public and private partnerships with rental scooter companies to ensure e-scooters are properly placed when riders begin and end trips, Hernandez said.
“Washington, D.C., does it with geolocation. We can do it as well,” Hernandez said. “It all comes down to proactive code enforcement.”
Roan, however, spoke out against the presence of rental scooters in the city, citing the tendency of riders to leave them unattended in inconvenient spaces.
“Sometimes they’re dropped in the middle of the road,” Roan said. “It’s not great, it’s not very helpful and I just think it’s not a great situation for our community.”
Candidates also spoke about traffic speed reduction in College Park, proposing more roundabouts, narrower streets and traffic cameras.
Clary believes the city needs to take more of a proactive approach to reducing speeding, he said.
“The problem with a lot of this is that we’re not being proactive,” Clary said. “If a child is injured or hurt it is too late. At that point it does not matter.”
Hew also spoke to the need for a cultural change around driving. Safe driving practices need to be a change in culture, he said.
Several candidates spoke on the need for engagement and transparency from the city and its officials.
For Clary, transparency is necessary to help the city become a better place.
“We must have transparency from our leaders when information is readily available,” Clary said. “It’s the people that make this beautiful district and city what it is, what it was and what it can become.”