Belinda Queen of Capitol Heights took the opportunity Monday night to tell elected leaders that quality development is needed, saying to Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D): “Enough is enough.”
“We need a better shopping center, better restaurants and better stores. Stop bringing low-income stores with poor service in here,” Queen said.
Queen and other residents shared their concerns with Baker, state Sen. Doug Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie, Del. Jolene Ivy (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, and about 115 county residents and officials who gathered at the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex in Landover for Baker’s first “listening session” of the year.
Listening sessions are public forums where residents share concerns and ideas with elected officials seeking input to help form legislation before the Maryland General Assembly gears up in Annapolis in January, said Baker spokesperson Scott Peterson.
Monday’s forum was one of three sessions scheduled this year, said Baker spokesperson Barry Hudson, who mediated the forum. Common threads among speakers, however, were concerns over the derelict former Landover Mall and education.
“I don’t know how this happened. Most people wanted the [hospital] in Landover,” said Sherry Strothers of Landover, referring to the former mall site that has stood vacant for more than a decade and was bypassed this year as the site for a new $645 million hospital.
Erica McKinney of Landover, a former county public schools teacher, spoke about students graduating high school with less than 2.0 grade-point averages, urging officials to focus on raising graduates’ scores, not just graduation rates.
“Graduating from what to what? Where’re [they] going to go with that?” she said.
Baker, Peters and Ivy, a candidate for lieutenant governor, remained silent during most of the session, which allows time for residents to speak, not officials. However, they drew some residents aside afterward to privately address issues they had raised.
Ivy reminded residents that last year’s sessions directly resulted in the county’s school governance bill that gave Baker power to appoint the school superintendent and three school board members.
“It was very powerful to see you come and hear you think that the county executive should have more power [within the schools],” Ivy said. “So we passed a bill that would give him more of that power.”
The next two listening sessions will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 6 at Eleanor Roosevelt High in Greenbelt and from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 13 at Potomac High in Oxon Hill, Peterson said.
“If anyone can’t make a listening session, we encourage residents to email us or contact the county executive’s office,” he said.