Improving relations between University of Maryland students and the larger College Park community is a priority for District 3 candidates in this year’s City Council elections. One of the hopefuls is a college student himself.
“One of my goals is bridging the divide on some of the issues between students and long-time residents,” said Matthew Popkin, 22, a graduate student at the University of Maryland and graduate assistant with the university’s Department of Public Safety. “I believe I can be an effective liaison and partner in that effort.”
Popkin is one of three candidates vying in the Nov. 5 elections for two City Council seats representing District 3, which covers much of southern College Park, including its downtown area, and areas to the south and east of the University of Maryland.
Incumbent council members Robert Day and Stephanie Stullich are seeking re-election to the posts, as well.
Day, 49, is a senior network engineer for the Hollywood, Md.-based information technology company Smartronix Inc. He said the district has a diverse community, which can lead to conflict, particularly between college students and long-time residents.
“We need to have an environment where people will want to come here and raise their kids,” Day said.
Day said that if he is elected to a second term, one of his goals will be to continue building good relations with the university.
Cooperation between the city and university has led to the expansion of the university’s Student Code of Conduct to include off-campus behavior and off-campus policing by the university’s Department of Public Safety, which took effect this year, but more work needs to be done, Day said.
Stullich, 52, is a policy analyst for the U.S. Department of Education. She said the city and the university have come a long way in developing a positive relationship.
“People often felt that the city and the university were at odds and there was not much communication, and now it’s really the opposite,” Stullich said.
Stullich said that while a lot of progress has been made, she will plans to continue focusing on improving communication between the university and community.
Popkin said his connections with the university, including serving on a number of university committees, make him an ideal go-between with the various factions.
“One of my goals is bridging the divide on some of the issues between students and long-time residents,” Popkin said. “I believe I can be an effective liaison and partner in that effort.”
Popkin is recommending expansion of the Safety Walk Program, which incorporates students, residents and officials. They walk through neighborhoods, looking for safety concerns.
Both Day and Popkin cited the recent report by the city’s Neighborhood Stability and Quality of Life Work Group, co-chaired by Stullich, as something they want developed further. The group made 63 recommendations to improve quality of life in College Park.
Stullich said the work group has brought forward a lot of good ideas regarding issues between students and long-term residents, including noise and party issues.
“We have a much more creative and proactive process for dealing with some of these long-term issues,” Stullich said. “I think we’re really dealing with those issues in a more collaborative way now.”
Day said his biggest accomplishment during his first term was “being one of the strongest advocates for the Neighborhood Stability and Quality of Life Work Group and to make sure that all voices in our community have had a chance to have their voices heard.”
Popkin said that in addition to university relations, he would work to encourage redevelopment, particularly along the U.S. 1/Baltimore Avenue corridor, and reduce traffic congestion by supporting the Purple Line light rail system, bicycle share and car share programs.
Day said that if re-elected, he would continue working with state and county legislators to bring “quality development” to College Park’s downtown area.
“We want to make it a place where people want to visit and spend their money, rather than a place to pass through,” Day said.
Stullich said that responsible economic development was one of her goals, as well.
“As there continues to be a lot of development in College Park, particularly in the Route 1 area, it’s a positive for the community, but it is important the council works with developers to make sure the development is responsive to the needs of the community,” Stullich said.
All eight College Park council seats and the office of mayor are up for election Nov. 5. Only the District 3, District 1 and mayoral races are contested. College Park mayor and council terms are two years.