RIVERDALE — District 3 County Councilmember Dannielle Glaros held the district’s fifth annual Town Hall and Resource Fair for residents to speak with county leaders and receive updates on county initiatives and legislation on April 10.
The multipurpose room at William Wirt Middle School was filled to the brim with over 100 people at the largest Town Hall and Resource Fair ever.
Before the official meeting began, attendees had the chance to see various information tables from county organizations such as the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Department of the Environment, Department of Public Works, WSSC, Pepco, 311 Community Relations, Purple Line Transit Partners and more.
Many of the residents came in with expectations for what they hoped would be discussed at the meeting such as Lanham resident Linda Harrison who had a major concern about food deserts in the county.
“I hope they talk about bringing in more places that are not just fast food, more high-end stores,” she said.
Following a brief introduction from Glaros thanking everyone for attending and acknowledging the public officials in the room, she first turned the microphone over to County Executive Angela Alsobrooks.
“What I can tell you is that the county is in tremendous shape,” Alsobrooks said. “We call it the crown jewel of Maryland and that is not an exaggeration. This is an amazing county.”
She went on to describe the priorities of the county, particularly her administration’s chief priority education, as “we are judged as a community by how well we do by our children,” she said.
The county’s fiscal year 2020 budget consists of $4.2 billion, she said, and 60 percent of it will be going to education.
Additionally, the county would be able to reign in a significant amount of funding from the General Assembly during the session that just ended with the passing of $1.5 billion in state aid; $53 million comes from the down payment on the Kirwan Commission.
That will help to increase teacher salary, expand Pre-K and further assist children with disabilities.
The General Assembly did not pass the Build To Learn Act which would have given even more funding to Prince George’s County to build 18 new schools over the next few years through a Public-Private Partnership, providing an additional $25 to $30 million each year over the following 20 years.
But Alsobrooks said that the fight is not over claiming that this year laid the foundation, but the plan is to go back to Annapolis next year and fight to bring money to Prince George’s County.
Education was not the only thing that Alsobrooks highlighted. Public Safety is another highlight of the county budget to continue the trend of decreased crime in the county as well as revitalizing areas such as shopping centers.
Prince George’s County contains the largest amount of food deserts in the region, Alsobrooks said, and has the highest rate of diabetes per capita. Beginning to solve the problem, just last week she introduced a new grocery store in Seat Pleasant and hopes it will be the start of many.
State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy spoke at the meeting as well to provide updates on new initiatives by the State’s Attorney’s Office with an extra emphasis on safe driving.
Over the past six months there have been over 40 fatal vehicle accidents where over 50 people were killed, she said.
Her office is working diligently to not only prosecute at-fault drivers but educate the community on the importance of safe driving, she said.
As part of that, she will be hosting Community In The Courthouse and Drive Focused, Safe and Sober, two events which will hopefully see a culture change around the driving practices in the county.
Additionally, the State’s Attorney’s Office has expanded its juvenile unit with new diversion opportunities and interventions, as well as expanded its diversion programs for adults.
“That unit has really become a go-to community unit to connect our community-based resources with young people who really need a second chance,” she said. “And we believe that unit will be a model not just for this county, not just for the state, but a model for the country because we are taking a public health approach for dealing with young people who are offending in our communities.”
Finally, they are cracking down on financial crimes, particularly those that affect vulnerable communities like the elderly and disabled, environmental crimes and have established a Public Integrity Unit to hold public officials and police accountable.
Senator Paul Pinsky (D-MD.), who also serves as the Senate Chair of the Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee, also spoke on new legislation that has been passed and ways that the state is working to improve the lives of its residents.
“If you listen to some of the voices coming from Washington, particularly those centered around 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, you’d think the government was the enemy of the people,” Pinsky said. “But government is not the enemy of the people here in Prince George’s County and the state of Maryland and the people representing you up front, the people in Annapolis, are doing their best to improve the quality of life for all Marylanders.”
He mentioned the passing of $15 minimum wage legislation, protections put in place in the event of another government shutdown, the extension of the DREAM Act for recent citizens and the impact the Kirwan Commission funding would have on schools.
Glaros followed the speakers with a presentation on a number of other efforts in District 3 and around the county. These include 60 planned sidewalk and road repavement projects around District 3, peak construction of the Purple Line over the next year and a half, the updated Zoning Ordinance and the budget process that is currently underway.
Additionally, groundbreaking for a brand new William Wirt Middle School will take place in the fall with the expectation to be opened in 2021, and a new Glenridge Middle School will begin construction soon after. Both will be able to serve 1,200 students.
Afterward, there was a brief Q&A session where Glaros, Alsobrooks and other public officials in attendance answered questions.
“I think they did a really excellent job,” said Krista Atteberry from Hyattsville. “I was especially interested in education because I have two children in PGCPS. I was really glad to hear about state development, but I really came to hear about schools.”