By David Jahng
For The Diamondback
College Park District 4 Councilwoman Dustyn Kujawa and Denise Mitchell, a District 4 resident and former mayoral candidate, announced their campaign together during a listening session Wednesday evening.
Kujawa, who was elected to her first term on the city council in 2015, is running for re-election. Mitchell had served on the city council since 2009 before losing to Patrick Wojahn in the 2015 mayoral race.
The two are teaming up for the upcoming city election on Nov. 7, which was news to Alan Hew and Oscar Gregory, both of whom are each also running separately for a District 4 seat.
Hew said he was surprised to hear of Kujawa and Mitchell teaming up, and Gregory said this creates a disadvantage for his campaign.
"The majority of voters are in College Park Woods, and they are both from College Park Woods," Gregory said. "It makes it harder for me … but I know that I have my own experiences, I know I have my own integrity, and I plan to run that way.
Hew said he was surprised to hear the announcement of Kujawa and Mitchell teaming up. Mitchell and Kujawa said the decision to run together was not publicly discussed.
"That is a decision that we came up with together through many discussions." Mitchell said. "Our views align together, and we decided, why not run as a team?"
Kujawa and Mitchell said they hosted this event together to hear the voices of those in their district, although only three residents attended the session.
One of the attendees, Peter King, a District 4 resident for more than 30 years, who also served 12 years on the city council, said the importance of advocacy for this district cannot be overlooked in this election.
"There is some need for some honest speaking," King said. "Because if there is silence, they will certainly deem that to be consent."
King said he believes this lack of advocacy stems from the disappearance of the Citizen's Association, which he said at one point had as many as 400 members, but has not had an annual meeting in three years.
Residents at the meeting agreed, citing a lack of communication or a platform to voice their concerns allows silence to prevail. Other topics discussed at the meeting included traffic and parking.
Those in attendance also said there are too many cars on the road, and also cited concerns with University of Maryland students parking their cars off the campus.
In addition, issues of the city's ongoing development were discussed, focusing on properties such as The Enclave and Monument Village, both of which some residents said are not meeting their needs.
Charlie Dukes, a 27-year College Park resident, said he believes in a few months the city's economy may not be sustainable if projects like Monument Village, an apartment building on Route 1, remain 70 percent vacant.
Mitchell said she plans to address these problems with businesses and other stakeholders by having ongoing discussions "to help get them more involved and engaged in the city."
"That needs to be done by actually going into the community and taking community walks just to hear what the residents would like to see in College Park," Mitchell said.
Kujawa also said she hopes to continue building the College Park community, and said she's proud of what she and the council have accomplished thus far.
"[I] just want to continue what we're doing, what I'm able to bring to the residents of District 4 and to the city as a whole," she said. "I look forward to the newly elected council if I'm elected, and working together and just pursuing that one city vision that we all have."