Task force appointed to work toward solutions in Langley Park
June 28, 2001
Julia Oliver
Staff Writer

A 15-member Governor's Tri-Jurisdictional Task Force has been appointed to address community issues in the Langley Park/Takoma Park crossroads area surrounding the intersection of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue.

The group represents local law enforcement, businesses, civic associations, and social services providers.

Four task force members were chosen by Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry, six by Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan and five by Takoma Park Mayor Kathy Porter.

One of the most pressing concerns the task force will address is finding a new location for local day laborers to seek work.

Day laborers must stop waiting on the corner of University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue on July 17, according to an agreement made between Takoma Park businesses and government and Casa de Maryland, a Latino community group that advocates for the workers' rights.

Erwin Mack, the executive director of the Takoma/Langley Crossroads Development Authority Inc. and a task force appointee, was instrumental in its formation.

Mack met twice with Gov. Parris Glendening, sent three letters to him and made numerous phone calls to aides at the state level for more than a year and a half, requesting assistance in organizing a multi-jurisdictional body.

"It will be necessary for the State of Maryland to take a leadership role in bringing all jurisdictions to a common table for the purpose of seeking a solution to this growing social concern," Mack wrote in an August 29, 2000 letter to the governor.

Mack said the community's concerns are being inadequately addressed by government because of the awkward locations of county dividing lines. "We're at the far end of two counties and a city," said Mack. In a "tri-jurisdictional area that has significant cultural challenges," he added.

Not only are police efforts to enforce laws hindered by an inability to cross county lines, Mack said, but social services providers are often unaware of activities going on in other jurisdictions. "There are things being planned by people who don't know the same thing is going on a few blocks away," said Mack.

To address these issues, Mack held four meetings between local businesses and community and social service organizations. But he said the group became frustrated with their powerlessness.

"We had reached a point of fruitless discussion because we couldn't cause anything to happen," he said.

Task force members agree that their most pressing concern is finding a location for day laborers to seek work. But few concur on the best approach. "I'm not very positive about immediate results being possible," said Mack. But he does see a clear direction.

Because there is no local public property available for day laborers employment activities, Mack said, "we have to resort to some cooperative effort on private property."

Cheryl Harrington, legislative aide for Peter Shapiro, a Prince George's County representative on the task force, agreed that the day laborer situation is of concern because they will no longer be allowed to gather across the street from Langley Park Plaza after July 17. But while Shapiro's office is looking for locations, they are focusing on providing social services. His office is trying to locate space for educational resources, like ESOL and computer classes, for the laborers.

Tim Minerd, Community Development Chief at the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs (DHCA), and a Montgomery County representative on the task force, said the day laborer situation is symptomatic of larger issues the task force should address.

"An over-arching concern is economics and the new immigrant population assimilation," he said. "These folks are residents here. You can't just ignore the problem," he said. Minerd's office provided Casa de Maryland with an employment center in Silver Spring.

Montgomery County task force appointee Gary Stith agrees. "There's a significant population here that needs assistance in finding jobs," he said. And the task force "brings more resources to bear on the problem." Stith directs the Silver Spring Regional Center, which serves as a liaison between the community and the Montgomery County government.

David Iannucci, deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, will serve as chairman of the task force.

Though no date has been scheduled for their first meeting, Joe Sviatko, spokesman from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, said they hope to meet at the end of July.