Hello College Park!
From now on I’ll be writing a weekly blog here on Patch talking about our local political scene. I’ll mainly be focusing on what is happening in College Park, though from time to time I’ll bring in county, state or national politics. It’s my hope that you find this blog to be both informative and thought-provoking, or at the very least I hope you don’t find it to be so dull that it drives you to drink (though a few of our local businesses might appreciate that).
Wry introductions aside, it was actually difficult for me to think of a first topic for this blog. The difficulty didn’t lie in a lack of issues in College Park, but because I’ve always found the first entry to a blog to be the hardest one to make. Because there are so many “current events” I could bring up, and I didn’t want to come right out of the gate with one of them, I’ve decided to start with a general topic: resident-student relations.
I’ve stated before at a City Council meeting and to various student leaders and residents that I actually believe resident-student relations are positive. I admit I’ve gotten some amused and mixed reactions to this claim. I’m not blind to the fact that long-term residents and university students often have issues in our local neighborhoods.
Permanent residents often complain about noisy parties on weeknights, trash on lawns, and general disorderly conduct from students who sometimes treat our residential neighborhoods like temporary housing and forget about the families, seniors and children who live next door and deserve to have a quiet and clean community. On the other hand, students note that we’re a college town after all – it’s literally in our name – and that a certain amount of “student living” is to be expected in our community.
While additional work is needed on those quality-of-life issues, people often overlook the important, macro level issues where students and residents stand united:
- A&A Tax: When the previous University of Maryland administration looked into discontinuing payment of the admission and amusement (A & A) tax to the city, it was an editorial in the student-run Diamondback newspaper that criticized the administration for even considering a decision that could have such a large negative impact on the City of College Park and its taxpayers.
- Purple Line: When it came down to determining which alignment to support for the Purple Line, the College Park City Council and the Student Government Association both took official stances supporting the state-preferred Campus Drive alignment.
- East Campus: When discussions over the East Campus development project started and UMD debated tearing down a forested area called the Wooded Hillock to move the facilities currently located on the East Campus site, the city and the Student Government Association both took official stances against it.
- Rent Stabilization: An issue that has long been a controversial one in the City of College Park. The past three SGA presidents have all come out to publicly support the implementation of a rent stabilization ordinance. While permanent residents and students may support such an ordinance for different reasons, there has been unity between city and student leaders on rent stabilization for years despite false claims by some out of town landlords that this ordinance is anti-student.
- Equal Rights: During this past legislative session, one of the key votes in getting marriage equality passed in the State Senate was going to come from our state senator, Jim Rosapepe. For Senator Rosapepe, this was a tough personal and political decision to make. To Rosapepe’s credit, he has always put a high premium on the voice of those he represents. The College Park City Council and the Student Government Association both took stances supporting marriage equality in Maryland, and Senator Rosapepe ended up voting in favor of it after years of being undecided on the issue.
It’s important and encouraging to remember that the representative bodies of both the students of the University of Maryland and the residents of the City of College Park have time and again voted in unison on the most important issues which impact our city. What is even more encouraging is that in every example I’ve stated, when students and permanent residents see eye to eye they almost always succeed in getting their way.
So yes, there are serious matters to address regarding resident-student relations, ones I don’t consider minor. But in terms of the long-term vision students and residents have for College Park, and the major issues we face, there has been unity -- and when there has been unity there has been success. Hopefully this is something people will remember and take to heart when thinking about student-resident relations in the future and can be a positive starting-off point for discussions on quality-of-life issues in our city.