In central Prince George’s County, the District Six County Council race is shaping up to be one of the key races in local politics. “I talk to residents and I think it’s time for us to get bang for every buck,” said county educational administrator and chair of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund (MAIF), Derrick L. Davis. “That’s really one of the things that I think is important that we demand from our leadership.”
Officially entered into the race are Davis; Arthur Turner, former chair of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee; civic leader, Abdul-Raheem Abdullah and Prince George’s District Court Commissioner Venus C. Bethea.
Leslie E. Johnson, wife of Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, has also begun a campaign though she’s yet to file official paperwork with the state’s Board of Elections.
The district, which encompasses parts of Bowie, Capitol Heights, District Heights, Forestville, Kettering, Largo, Mitchellville and Upper Marlboro, has been the seat for much of the county’s political capital over the years. That capital leads some in the race to say the county’s future is bright and it’s time to maximize its future by making its leaders more accountable.
“We have some budgetary challenges,” said Bethea. “I’m willing to go through the county budget to see where we have some waste, some abuses and maybe even some fraud. It’s not an issue of us getting our fair share of the money. We have money.”
In addition to being home to some of the more affluent areas in Prince George’s County, District Six is also home to two of the county’s major commerce centers – the Boulevard at Capital Center and Forestville Mall – and home to some of the county’s most powerful places of worship – the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, Riverdale Baptist, Evangel Cathedral, and Greater Mt. Nebo among others.
While many people may be satisfied with the Boulevard, Forestville Mall and other economic development projects going on in the county, Turner said the county should be doing more. He says Prince George’s still lags behind its neighbors in commercial real estate. “I’ve been involved in many development projects in Prince George’s County and I’ve been an advocate for commercial office development,” he said. “We need to get other people to come here and spend. That’s how we grow our tax base and create jobs.
“That’s how we grow our day time population. If we grow our day time population then [the county’s] vacant spaces will be full.”
Turner said that’s this also increases funding for schools, public safety and other agencies. However, many of his counterparts believe it’s going to be difficult to get businesses to relocate to Prince George’s without improved schools and a drastic reduction in the crime rate.
“We have to work on our perception,” Bethea said. “Yes, we’ve had lowest [crime] rate we’ve had in years, 30 years or something to that effect, but what are we being compared to. You can tell me that we've decreased, but let’s compare our numbers with our surrounding jurisdictions.”
Davis agreed and said in order to get people to want to move here, they have to know that their children are going to receive a first class education. “We have to have higher-quality teachers, leaders and buildings. Our class size is critical as well. In a demographically unique area like Prince George’s County, we have to be committed to keeping our class sizes low,” he said. “We have to think about how we’re going to do these types of things.”