UPPER MARLBORO – On his birthday, County Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis received a gift from his fellow County Council members: A new working title. The council named Davis their new chairman in their exchange of the gavel. Davis said it is an honor to be transferred the council’s gavel of leadership as they prepare […]
UPPER MARLBORO – On his birthday, County Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis received a gift from his fellow County Council members: A new working title. The council named Davis their new chairman in their exchange of the gavel.
Davis said it is an honor to be transferred the council’s gavel of leadership as they prepare to embark on a journey into the next legislative year and the county takes on its share of large economic development projects, including the MGM casino and entertainment center, as well as the beginning of the construction of the Purple Line.
The council voted on Councilwoman Dannielle Glaros as the vice chairwoman of the council in just her second year as a member of the council as a whole.
“I hope she likes baseball, because I like to think of our relationship over the next year in terms of the sport,” Davis said. “As a traditional baseball term to define the relationship between the pitcher and catcher. In any case, that relationship is crucial to a fast pitch team. So let’s play ball and get some more wins for team Prince George’s.”
The council will continue to do “big things on purpose” Davis said and work in unison with County Executive Rushern Baker III to move the county forward and continue dispelling the notion that Prince George’s County is a “sleepy” town.
For the next legislative year, Davis said, the council will continue to address their priorities in creating a high-performing school system, increasing quality health care access to county residents, creating a new comprehensive housing strategy and affordable housing, as well as moving out of the county’s structural deficit.
“The Prince George’s County we see today is quite different from years past and we are still evolving,” Davis said. “The census projection for population growth in Prince George’s County anticipates nearly a million residents by 2020.”
The Regional Medical Center’s certificate of need is expected to be awarded soon, the county could potentially see the FBI moving into Prince George’s County, and the Purple Line is also on the pipeline for the county.
The county is still waiting for the school system’s performance audit to be released next year, Davis said, to see where they stand on education and what needs to be done. The county’s Blue Ribbon Commission will also present a recommendation early next year on how to pull the county out of its structural deficit.
Because of all the projects coming into the county, Davis said, their housing strategies must be addressed and updated. Prince George’s County has some of the most affordable housing in the region and that must be exploited.
“We have to understand transportation when it comes to housing. We have to understand housing stock, and keeping the rates affordable to attract folks so we can begin to grow,” Davis said.
Having an independent outside auditor take a look at the school system is also another important step for next year’s legislative year, Davis said. The council is prepared for another tough budget year where many things will be discussed, including what happens with the school system.
Davis and many other council members said they must take a “wait and see” approach before determining what will happen in the next budget year and if any tax increases will be on the table.
Councilwoman Karen Toles said their oversight over the county’s board of education in committee meetings helps when determining what is coming and will help them know what needs to improve once the performance audit comes.
“When we do get the performance audit back, we have had discussions around their budget and around certain categories and certain areas where we can make a decision as a whole and as a council,” Toles said.
The council has had more detailed discussions about where education dollars are being spent, Toles said, and that is a concern many citizens have had in the past.
Prince George’s County Public Schools receives 60 percent of the county’s overall budget. Last year, Baker proposed a 15 cent tax increase in the county’s budget to increase the school system’s funding by $133 million.
Councilman Todd Turner said the performance audit will not only show citizens where the money is going in the school system, but it will show the county government what needs to be changed and what areas need to be focused on.
But Davis said it all comes down to the school system, the legislative branch, and the executive branch working together to see what they can all afford to do.
Baker said he looks forward to working with the council’s new leadership team to enhance the quality of life of Prince Georgians.
“Both Derrick and Dannielle excel at serving the needs of their constituents while understanding that progress in all communities throughout Prince George’s County is important to success in their respective districts,” Baker said. “I am confident that under their leadership, the Prince George’s County Council and our community will soar to new heights.”
Baker said the contributions and achievements of Mel Franklin, the previous council chairman, over the last two years needs to be recognized. Franklin worked diligently, he said, to make the county a better place.
Franklin said it was an honor serving the county and working with the council as chairman over the last two years. The county will continue moving forward, he said, into a potential $8 billion economic development boom in the next few years.