A chance for a new day in Prince George’s
I moved to Largo 19 years ago because of the opportunities in the Washington metropolitan region and the promise of a high quality of life for my family. I’m still optimistic about the promise that is Prince George’s County.
Yet, our county has recently been plagued by a reputation for corruption, pay-to-play politics and decision-making that is too often based on personal relationships rather than public benefit. This abhorrent behavior by a small number of officials does not represent the character or values of the Prince George’s County where I chose to plant my roots, raise my children and make my home.
Instead of name-calling or finger-pointing, we must look at the most recent headlines about our historic county — as disappointing and disheartening as they are — as an opportunity for a new morning and a fresh start.
We should stop looking across our borders or to the other side of the Potomac, complaining about what we don’t have in comparison to our neighbors. We have much of which to be proud. We are home to the University of Maryland, Prince George’s Community College, National Harbor, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and a host of other federal facilities. We have the nation’s most dynamic minority-owned business community. Violent crime is declining, and our public schools are improving.
In this new morning, we must look inward, asking ourselves what we can do to improve our quality of life, build our character and protect our values. That starts by ensuring that the actions of those trusted to lead our county meet the expectations of our citizens. We have a new County Council and a new county executive. Our delegation in Annapolis is inspired with fresh faces, youthful energy and renewed optimism. And there is a commitment from all parties to make significant changes to business as usual.
County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and others have put forth proposals that will introduce greater transparency and wring out corruption, proposals I believe are long overdue. We must limit the council’s involvement in specific land-use matters, as our neighbors in Montgomery County do, and open the blinds to shed a brighter light on dealings between developers and public officials. We must limit demands placed on developers from public officials for additional payments or gifts that are not required by law, even if they are intended for the public good. Similar restrictions already apply to members of the General Assembly. And we must provide our public officials with robust ethics training and a support system to ensure that our leaders are in compliance with the intent and letter of the law.
These proposals have merit and should be seriously considered. Other proposals should be offered. Because this is no easy undertaking, we should expect and invite a full debate from community and elected leaders, government watchdogs, and concerned citizens. The final reform measures passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Martin O’Malley must instill confidence in the residents of Prince George’s County, as well as those we would like to welcome into our business communities and neighborhoods.
Now is the time to be bold. We’ve made incremental, patchwork reforms in the past, but it is clear our efforts have not gone far enough. This is our opportunity to make far-reaching change. The proposals under consideration in Annapolis are not statements about the commitment and character of those men and women we have elected to represent us. They reflect, rather, a commitment to codify the norms and values expected of all respected governments, all elected leaders and especially those of us fortunate enough to represent the great people of Prince George’s County.
I’m proud to wake up every morning in Prince George’s County. We need to embrace these reforms today so future generations can experience the promise of our great county tomorrow.
The writer, a Democrat, is lieutenant governor of Maryland. He represented Prince George’s County in the Maryland General Assembly from 1999 to 2007.
Anthony G. Brown, Largo
| February 19, 2011; 10:41 PM ET
Categories: HotTopic, Maryland, Prince George's County
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