LANDOVER – The Baker Administration is transforming its signature initiative in its fourth year in order to showcase the successes of the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) and spread them to other areas of the county. At an event at the Palmer Park Community Center, County Executive Rushern Baker III announced that TNI will be restructured […]
LANDOVER – The Baker Administration is transforming its signature initiative in its fourth year in order to showcase the successes of the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative (TNI) and spread them to other areas of the county.
At an event at the Palmer Park Community Center, County Executive Rushern Baker III announced that TNI will be restructured under a single TNI Manager in the county executive’s office. The program will also expand into three new neighborhoods – Woodlawn/Lanham, Forestville and Silver Hill – while three of the original six neighborhoods will transition to community control by Jan. 1, 2017. They are East Riverdale/Bladensburg, Glassmanor/Oxon Hill and Langley Park.
“I believe this is the way you get government to respond to people,” Baker said. “That is the evolution: the community understanding how to access government. That’s TNI.”
Prince George’s County Police Chief Hank Stawinski agreed the program was all about improving government to better meet the needs of the people.
“It’s not about any particular community. In the end, transforming neighborhoods is about a system of government dedicated to innovation,” he said.
The TNI program involves concentrating government resources in areas of the county that are facing health, economic, public safety and educational challenges in an effort to reduce the disparity between communities. Baker called the program the first of its kind in the United States and said he has been invited to Harvard twice to speak about the program and its results.
Baker said the areas chosen for the transition to community control have seen the most positive impacts.
“(Riverdale) is one of the hottest economic development areas in the county,” he said. “We’re seeing improvement all around, people are moving into those areas and the quality of life is going up.”
Community members at the event agreed the program has been a boom for their neighborhoods.
Marty Newman, a community leader in the East Riverdale/Bladensburg TNI area, remarked on “how much safer and more beautiful and cohesive our community is now.”
“We’ve had so many opportunities to work with our neighbors, and have neighbors work with their neighbors. We are getting over our differences and realizing our samenesses. It’s just been an amazing ride,” Newman said.
Her counterparts in Oxon Hill said they experienced less crime and participated in beautification projects including building a new playground. And Mercedes Lemos of Langley Park praised the new multi-service center opened in April 2014 that provides easier access to government programs and services.
Baker also said although Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights, Kentland/Palmer Park and Suitland/Coral Hills will remain in the program, those areas have also seen improvements since the program began.
The three new areas were selected because they have similar characteristics to the original six neighborhoods, Baker said.
“We looked at the data. We analyzed, where did we see the need in the county? We saw, in terms of not just public safety, in terms of health disparity, job opportunities, and those things, that they weren’t on the same level as other parts of the county. And we wanted to make sure we continue to bring these areas up,” he said. “The community is excited. They want us to come in, they want the focus of the government there. Without community involvement, this doesn’t work.”
Newman said although her community is transitioning, she feels the same county staff they had previously been working with will still be available.
“It won’t be formal but we’ll still have access to all the same agencies, the same people,” she said.
Previously, each TNI area had been overseen by a member of Baker’s executive team, partly because their weekly meetings allowed for easy accountability. But Baker said turning the program over to a single manager would cement it as a more permanent part of the government even after he leaves office.
“Now that we’ve birthed the baby and got the baby walking, we need someone to teach the baby,” he said.
Baker tapped Linda Turner for the role. She has been involved in the program since its inception in April 2012, most recently as a team leader in the Suitland/Coral Hills area. Six program managers will report to her.
The previous team leaders will serve as the TNI Advisory Board, and the program will be under the jurisdiction of the chief of staff.
Turner said she is looking forward to assuming this role.
“I’m really excited to have this position because I’ve been with TNI since the original inception of it and I’m just a believer in the concept,” she said. “I thoroughly enjoyed being out in the community, working with the community. You’re bringing government and community together. They live there every single day. We’re a resource.”