State, county leaders address ballot questions at Bowie meeting -- Gazette.Net



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State and county leaders met Tuesday in Bowie to give Prince George’s County voters an overview of the 14 ballot questions they will face in November, and provide an opportunity to get answers needed to help form their decisions.

State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie, Del. James Hubbard (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie, Del. Geraldine Valentino-Smith (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie and Del. Marvin Holmes (D- Dist. 23B) of Kettering attended the forum sponsored by the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce at Bowie’s Belair Mansion. The state leaders gave an overview of the seven statewide ballot measures, which include whether to allow same-sex marriage in the state; the Dream Act, which would allow the children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at Maryland universities; and gambling expansion, which would include a location in the county. Government estimates say the additional site in the county could bring in $49 million in tax revenue for the county and about $200 million for the state.

But attendee Connie Carter, president of Bowie CLAW, questioned whether gambling revenue really would generate money for education or allow spending in other areas, she said.

Money from gambling would assist cash-strapped governments and aid their operations, Peters said, adding the General Assembly has been divided on the benefits of locking in funds to a program rather than allowing for flexibility, he said.

“There’s this whole debate in Annapolis of whether we should have a lockbox,” he said. “The governor feels he should be able to move something around when he has an emergency.”

County Councilwoman Ingrid Turner (D-Dist. 4) of Bowie spoke on the seven local ballot items facing county voters, to include bond bills that would allow for the construction and improvement of a variety of facilities, ranging from fire stations to libraries.

Voters also will face questions that would reduce the time it takes the county to amend the redistricting process and to approve multi-year business contracts. In both cases, the change would reduce the amount of time necessary for the council to act to about two or three weeks, down from six weeks or more. Such a move would allow the county government to be more nimble and, with contracts, be better able to engage with businesses, Turner said.

The measure met with the approval of attendee Maynard Smith, who said small businesses need quicker responses from the government.

“Small businesses have to start moving in Prince George’s County and the quicker they can do it the better,” said the Accokeek resident.

Beyond the ballot items, state leaders discussed some of Bowie efforts, such as the long-standing effort give Bowie — the largest city in the county with a population of around 54,000 — local zoning control. Leaders said they also will work toward allowing city sites such as the Pointer Ridge Shopping Center or Bowie Plaza have groceries with liquor licenses to make them more attractive for grocery chains that might have business models that requires liquor sales, Valentino-Smith said.

Both measures have failed to get traction in the past in part because some in the General Assembly don’t understand the needs of municipalities such as Bowie, she said.

Although the city has desired both measures for years, moving forward with either will require public support, she said.

“We’re going to need your help with that,” she said.

For some attendees, the discussion did little to change their minds on the ballot questions.

“I sort of knew where I was, how I was going to vote,” Carter said. “It confirmed a lot of my decisions.”

amccombs@gazette.net