This article was corrected on April 24, 2014. An explanation follows the story.
Strengthening public schools, continued focus on reducing crime and tackling the county’s foreclosure problems are the next steps to continue making Prince George’s County the “place to be,” said County Executive Rushern L. Baker III during his State of the County speech.
“We have built a foundation that has given us an opportunity to soar,” Baker said. “But our work is far from done.”
Baker spoke at a Comfort Inn in Bowie on Wednesday at the State of the County Breakfast, an event cosponsored by the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable. The event is held each year as a fundraiser and invites other county leaders to attend, said Kelly Pierce, chamber executive director.
During his speech, Baker said he hoped the new Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO, Kevin Maxwell, and a restructured school government would strengthen county schools and bring middle class families back to the public school system. He also said the county had to tackle home foreclosures to help boost the county’s home market economy and said the county must continue to reduce crime to “erase the false perception that Prince George’s County is not safe.”
Belinda Queen-Howard of Capitol Heights said she hopes Baker focuses more on the middle and lower class communities. She said she hoped his comments on fixing foreclosure problems mean those communities would be revitalized.
“Let’s take some of this money and fix up these houses sitting blank in the community,” Queen-Howard said. “There are a lot of empty houses and it makes south county look bad.”
Arthur Turner of Kettering said he would like to see Baker bring in more high-paying jobs in the cyber-security or biomedical industries, not jobs at a casino or outlet mall.
“Get the people into the county to work and they will spend money, that’s what one of the things we have not had,” Turner said. “Prince George’s County has been a bedroom community. We go to other places to work.”
Martha Ainsworth of Bowie said she respected all of the work Baker has done, but she hoped he would talk more about the county’s environmental efforts such as environmentally friendly jobs and developments.
“I would like to have heard more about his environmental agenda, particularly green jobs and renewable energy,” Ainsworth said. “Like clean water and reducing congestion and greenhouse emissions that come from new traffic.”
While Baker said there is room for improvement, he did mention some of the county’s big 2013 successes, such as MGM International Resorts building a $925 million casino and resort at National Harbor in Oxon Hill and a record drop in crime from 2012 to 2013 — homicides were down to mid 1980s levels.
This article incorrectly stated the sponsor of the State of the County Breakfast. It is cosponsored by the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Prince George’s Business Roundtable.