Quality of life in Prince George’s County lags behind its neighbors and a few more distant jurisdictions, residents told officials Wednesday night.
“I go to Alexandria in Virginia for work every day, and it’s clean. There’s no trash, the homes are old, but the lawns are mowed,” Emily Hickey of Lanham told elected officials Wednesday night. “Then I drive through my neighborhood, and I see trash and Christmas decorations up all summer long ... . Other people say Prince George’s is a slum.”
Hickey was one of about 100 residents who attended a forum at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt to voice concerns to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), state Sen. Doug Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie and other officials. The event was Baker’s second “listening session” of the year, sessions where residents share concerns and ideas with officials seeking input to help form legislation before the Maryland General Assembly gears up in Annapolis in January. Officials do not address citizen concerns at the sessions but listen and take notes.
Almost all of the 26 residents who spoke at the forum struck comparisons between Prince George’s and other jurisdictions, comparing it to Virginia, Washington, D.C., Montgomery County, Philadelphia and New York.
Venkat Subramanian of Greenbelt asked why the county doesn’t offer a program that supports local businesses like the District does.
Yolandra Hancock-Bowman of Upper Marlboro said Prince George’s should follow Philadelphia’s “excellent example” for reducing childhood obesity by increasing access to healthy foods and exercise.
Throughout the session, a message that many voiced in Baker’s listening session last month was reiterated: Prince George’s residents want more walkable, mixed-use communities with access to more upscale food and retail stores.
“We currently have to go to [the District] and spend a big chunk of money to do the things that we want to do in our home county,” said Donald James of Bowie. “What we don’t need is more of these faux shopping centers. ... They’re just inside-out malls. No one wants to live near that.”
Baker’s son, Rushern L. Baker IV, who is running for state delegate, voiced support for more urban, walkable communities.
“Especially considering the amount of untapped potential we have around our Metros,” he said.
Peters said many of the development issues are to be addressed at the county level, not the state.
“It’s clearly a County Council issue. They’re invested with zoning authority,” Peters said.
Baker spokesperson Barry Hudson said in terms of development, legislation to garner state support for infrastructure projects is a top priority, in particular transportation infrastructure and rebuilding and renovating schools.
Other items on Baker’s priority list so far, he said, are increasing pre-kindergarten education and increasing the minimum wage.
“A legislative team looks at patterns [during the sessions] and decides whether it’s a local legislative issue or a state legislative issue,” Hudson said.
The final listening session will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Nov. 13 at Potomac High School in Oxon Hill, he said.