District 6 Candidate Debate (Demo)

OK folks.  Here’s most of what happened.  We were greeted at the church door by the ususal crowd of political supporters passing out flyers and trying to shove stuff in your hand.  Day Gardner, republican candidate, was there with her introduction.  Told her I know who she is; should have said more.  See  my post on Day here.  I’m almost to the entrance door but I’m greeted by candidate Venus C. Bethea who informs me that she has been “uninvited” by People for Change, the host organization for the evening, and will not be a part of tonight’s panel of debaters.

Christine Osei
Christine Osei

Got to get a seat.  The church is filled but not full; still, a nice showing.  The hubster and I are off to the restroom when upon our return through a hallway, we happen upon a woman in red.  Woman in red gives me a hard look.  I, the newbie in this arena, am taken aback.  The hubster says hello to said woman in red and ms. red looks at him and marches right past us.
Christine Osei

Her assistant managed to mutter out a hello as they blew past us.  Who was this woman in red you ask?  Why, it was District 6 candidate Christine Osei.
Note to candidates: Every minute in public is a public appearance.
Darryl Barnes, President of Men Aiming Higher, introduced the evening’s moderator, Sandy Pruitt of People for Change.  She took the podium and we were off to the races.
Arthur Turner

The invited and participating candidates were Arthur Turner (D), Mark Polk (D), Day Gardener (R), and Christine Osei (D) aka “Red.”  Turner touted his 22 years of experience as a community activist, adding that he has been “doing the work” and is ready to make the transition from activist to Council Member.  He played a part in the opening of Arena Drive for 24hour traffic, planning The Boulevard, and his nonprofit provides services and shelter for women.
Mark Polk

Mark Polk is a former policeman and the current president of his Home Owners Association.  Mr. Polk is also a lawyer who does pro bono work to help those struggling with foreclosure.  He’s endorsed by the Sierra Club.  He too has a proven track record of community service and involvement and is not a career politician. Polk has also done well with large budgets and being accountable to those he serves.
In her introduction, Day Gardener said she’d work to address the main problem with Prince George’s County politics and added that “we all know what that [main problem] is.”  Well no, I’m new to this county and I don’t know what that is.  I only know what has been reported on the Johnsons.  Missed opportunity Day.  I have to be honest, after my interaction with Christine Osei, I didn’t even listen to her introduction but I can tell you it came in staccato-style and was pro forma.
Derrick L. Davis was invited by People for Change but informed them “he was booked for the next 42 days,” according to Sandy Pruitt. I checked his online calendar but didn’t see a lot but hey, maybe it’s his personal calendar or something. (wink-wink) Davis REALLY should have been there because a document, “Derrick Davis – Bought and Paid For,” was circulated and boy oh boy did it make for an ugly picture of him.  Pruitt was careful to point out all his out of state backers, contributions from the Progressive Alliance Slate, and all the special interest groups, non-District 6 residents and current COUNCIL PEOPLE who contributed funds to Davis’s campaign.  It was so ugly that someone in the back spoke a loud, “This makes no sense.”   I don’t know if he was talking about the document or the fact that Pruitt would distribute this document on one but not all candidates.  All four candidates stated that they don’t have “slates” such as that of Davis but they have to have some campaign money the could have been summed up in a similar document.
Speaking of deniro, the candidates were asked if they would support slots/gambling in the PGCo.  Gardner, who’s originally from Atlantic City, told of the demise of her home town due to casino related crime and poverty; she would not support slots in the County.  Polk’s approach is to listen to community leaders and residents to know their perspective on the issue prior to making a decision.  He too would not support gambling because “the casinos always win.”  Arthur Turner, much like Gardner, cited resulting social ills as his reason to not support slots.  Osei had no answer and said she would evaluate the pros and cons.
With the reopening of Rosecroft Raceway in Ft. Washington, gambling in the County is but one to the list of issues for District 6.  When asked what the number one issue of District 6, candidates responded succinctly and in my opinion, accurately.
Osei – Public Safety  /  Turner – Foreclosure /  Polk  – Jobs “Can’t keep your house if you don’t have a job”  /  Gardener – Corruption
One of the more interesting and illuminating questions of the evening was who would you vote for if you were not running for the council seat.  Osei didn’t have an answer and said she’d have to think about it.  Turner said he’d have to “pray for a long time” but didn’t give a name.  Day Gardener said she wouldn’t vote for any current candidate and in fact didn’t vote in the last election because there was no candidate that made her feel her vote counted.  Wow and what? And so begins the loud murmuring and whispers in the congregation, my voice being one among them.  Mark Polk said he’d be sure to vote and eventually said he’d vote for Ms. uninvited Venus Bethea because she is not a career politician or in the financial pocket of any backers.  I think a history lesson on the hard fought and won right to vote for Blacks and women is due for Day.
As it pertains to the County’s education system, candidates were  asked what specific changes they’d make to the system.  Turner’s take was that funding the school budget and special programs to prep students for college and careers is essential for change.  He’d encourage parents to be active and address the high turnover rate for teachers.  Polk empahsized that the County has a good foundation and good teachers.  He’d change the system by addressing the need for parenting skills and assistance to parents, especially for younger parents who may be lacking in these areas.  Gardener sung the praises of charter schools because of their administrative structure and funding allows the county to free up money in other areas.  Osei would assess the needs of teachers and parents, and make use of more mentoring  outreach via volunteers. She also believes new schools would be a tool in fixing the education system.
Pepco’s reliability was addressed by the candidates.  Turner is currently a member of Pepco Advisory Group  and says he is currently addressing outage issues.  Polk lives in an area served by BG&E, which has a better track record of addressing residential outages.  He suggests a consultation between BG&E and Pepco to form something similar to best practices. Also Polk noted the need for the County to become more solar energy reliant.  Gardener and Osei agree that if Pepco had to somehow compensate residents for losses, there’d be more accountability.
Mark Polk and other candidates

Ultimately, for me the candidate with the most passion and who seemed to be most in tune was Mark Polk.  While they all criticized the rubber stamping of appointments by Council Members, I was impressed by Polk’s stance on the approval of the current police chief.  Although he knows him, he was firm in that he would not have approved of him and he was more than aware that 60% of our County police live outside of the county.  He never seemed to have canned responses like Osei and sometimes Turner.  I got the feeling that he was actually applying brain power to each of his responses.  I’ll continue to watch him.
There were questions from the audience that bordered on the bizarre; mostly they were rants that took up too much time.  One pastor took a shot at Day Gardener that was just petty.  Dude do better!
I commend People for Change for holding this debate and am feeling a great deal more informed and prepared to vote.

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Comments (4)

Great article! Only problem is the endorsements by the Post and Gazette are old endorsements from their last campaigns and are not endorsements they have this year. However overall loved reading it as I could not attend

Post has been updated. Thanks!

I am really turned off by that organization and it’s so called “forum” and the shutout of many candidates, so I question any real usefulness in the presentation’s skew. But thank you for covering some of what was said, and for your honest and, I think, pretty darn insightful commentary. Hope some of the subjects pay attention to your comments! Welcome to the area! It is often frustrating, often seems to have pre-dated the Consumers United deal at the National level in terms of warping influence on elected officials. There is still a lot of “pay to play” going on, although I continue to hope that Baker and his team can step in and make real change.

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