UPPER MARLBORO – Approximately 50 individuals gathered with signs outside the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro on April 19 to listen to speakers, chant slogans and advocate county council members to support a “fair elections” bill, which is currently in committee. Councilwomen Mary Lehman and Deni Taveras and Councilmen Mel Franklin and Obie Patterson […]
UPPER MARLBORO – Approximately 50 individuals gathered with signs outside the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro on April 19 to listen to speakers, chant slogans and advocate county council members to support a “fair elections” bill, which is currently in committee.
Councilwomen Mary Lehman and Deni Taveras and Councilmen Mel Franklin and Obie Patterson introduced CB-004 on Jan. 30, which would establish a Fair Election Fund to “provide public campaign financing for a candidate” for elected office in the county.
The council referred the act to the Public Safety and Fiscal Management Committee.
County Executive Rushern Baker, III has indicated he will sign the legislation if it passes the council.
Throughout the rally, which Progressive Maryland organized, the protesters expressed their desires that Council Chair Danielle Glaros, Vice-Chair Todd Turner, Councilman Derrick Davis and/or Councilwoman Andrea Harrison sign on to the bill.
“When we give our money, we’re making an investment,” said Beth MacKenzie, a Cheverly resident. “If I’m making an investment in my legislature, I’m going to vote. If I’m making an investment in my legislature, I’m going to show up, and I am going to demand that they respond to me. And if we’re all making an investment as a community, we can rise up and rule our county and bring to it what we need and what we want. This gives the power to the people, the voice to the people, and we can become one Prince George’s County moving in the direction of progress and towards the future.”
MacKenzie said she hopes Glaros will co-sponsor the bill by June 1.
State Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk said although not all elected officials are beholden to special interests, the bill would help level the field of who can and cannot afford to run for office.
“Not everybody is corrupt. I have a lot of colleagues that are very decent people, so we can’t stereotype. But, I can tell you that running for office is expensive. And I can tell you that running for office takes a lot of time and resources,” Peña-Melnyk said.
She said if more people could run for office, the government might become more diverse and inclusive.
“The way you get a bill like this through is by making calls, by writing letters, by coming to the hearing and filling that room with a lot of people and keeping the pressure up,” Peña-Melnyk said.
A small group of people participating in the rally entered the building to request a meeting with Glaros to discuss the bill and present a petition with signatures from community members requesting the council pass the bill. They were told the councilwoman was unavailable and received an email address so they could arrange an appointment with her.
The organizers did not previously arrange an appointment for that day with any of the councilmembers.
MacKenzie, a member of the group who requested the meeting, said it was “disappointing” that they were unable to meet with Glaros, although “She understood a surprise meeting is not necessarily going to get much of a response.
“But, we didn’t even get to go into a conference room with a staff member to share our signatures (on the petition) and interests. We talked with a great staff person in the lobby, but it just sort of felt like we were a nuisance.”
MacKenzie said she got involved as a private citizen with the effort to push for this legislation because she would like to see higher voter engagement and is troubled because she sees many of the people are voting and the same people are running for office.
Diana Torres, a South Laurel resident and volunteer with Progressive Maryland, participated in the rally because she believes “government should be led by community members.”
“The idea is to help bring about candidates that are going to answer to residents and not to developers, not to special interests, that they’re actually going to make the effort to put forth policies that benefit us, and our county,” Torres said. “Our county has the financial ability, the wealth to succeed, but it doesn’t seem to be directed in the right ways, so I’m hoping that with this bill, that can be remedied.”
Some of the people who joined in the rally were from locations outside the county. They were participating in a training program where they could learn about citizen activism, so they could return to their home areas and continue their work there.