State of the District Address February 9, 2013
The mantra of Councilman Derrick L. Davis for the morning was “The difficult we do immediately. The impossible, we’re working on it.” With the looming $152 million budget deficit, Councilman Derrick L. Davis and County Executive Baker kept their focus on the positive without leaping past the negative. Some of the positive included 2012’s three police recruit classes, fire department funding increase, a decrease in Prince George’s County’s crime mostly as a result of the Transforming Neighborhoods initiative, safer roadways (traffic accidents dropped by 29%), economic behemoth projects Westphalia and the Tanger Outlet, and the creation of a non-emergency call center and a Board of Ethics staffed by four.
Rah! Rah! Rah! District 6 seems to be on a major come up but there are still problems that persist. Some of the questions from the audience focused on education, specifically the need for vocational school and more bus drivers. I was surprised to hear that even County Executive Baker had dealt with one of his children constantly missing their first period class because of a chronically late school bus driver. “The School Board and officials must work to fill vacancies and work on efficiency in routing” Davis said, “It’s a widespread” problem.” Davis did tell the attendee that the Commission on Education Excellence will have subgroups where community can serve and bring their innovative ideas on fixing systematic problems.
I spotted new Prince George’s County Delegate representing District 24, Darren Swain in the audience. County Executive Baker said that Swain has a hard task ahead of him due to Prince George’s County’s budget deficit, “It’s going to be a difficult budget year. We’re going to make tough decisions this year. This year the budget deficit will be larger than last 2 years, adding extra burden on Darren Swain, to get resources back to County, to get resources to get regional health facility built.” Somehow I don’t think that Tiffany Alston or Greg Hall would have been up to this task; sure hope Swain can do it.
I definitely learned a few things about what’s going on in the County by attending this event. Our education system and the new Superintendent will be key factors in turning this county around. Davis didn’t shy away from the fact that this county and Baltimore County vie for last place in Maryland’s list of school systems and that has to change. Davis said his passions are transforming neighborhoods and early childhood education; he’s been asked by Baker to co-chair the Race to the Top team that would seek out federal funds for early childhood education. Davis established the Parents Academy Task Force, designed to engage parents and increase school participation by bringing necessities such as health care services, and social services to the schools and neighborhoods. Another good idea for our school system is the comprehensive performance audit to see how money is spent by the school board. The last time there was an audit of this type was 1998 when budget was 1 billion less. I’m a bit concerned that the school board seems to need so much oversight, quite frankly.
Lots of excitement centered on the Transit Oriented Development slated for the Central Avenue Corridor and Largo Town Center metro station. Davis encouraged people to go to the Planning Commission’s web site or meetings and get a gander at the plans.
There were lots of questions related to healthcare nonprofits and how the new Regional Medical Center would engage these businesses. Dr. Joe Wright, George Washington University and Child Health Advocacy Institute, stressed that this new medical facility will include an ambulatory care network and a health sciences center. He assured them that there will be opportunities for community based healthcare businesses.
Councilman Davis and County Exec. Baker were upfront about their desire to have a federal building, “We want the FBI and those jobs” in Prince George’s County, Baker chimed. He said further that he wants a united front from all Maryland government, to include everyone from the Governor to the Council on bringing FBI to Prince George’s County. I’m still not that enthused because I have a feeling they’d just build a fortress and never come out to support any surrounding businesses.
Business chat centered around Westphalia and
National Harbor’s Prince George’s County’s new casino destination, “I’m not a gambler. I didn’t support gambling when in Annapolis” “Now we have a venue in Prince George’s County to attract entertainment and restaurants that can compete with Washington, DC,”
An audience member asked what is being done to engage young people and get their innovative ideas. Davis said he engages organizations like FAME and Men Aiming Higher to reach out. Baker says engaging young people is the next part of Transforming Communities initiative. I personally think a marketing effort is needed to get to our young people. Some of you reading this post could help with that so get on the horn and call your representative with a plan.
State of the District Address February 9, 2013