Measuring, Not Marketing, Key to New Baker Initiative to Transform Communities

Special to Informer | 4/26/2012, 2:51 p.m.

Marketing campaigns are out, measurable programs are in. That's the word from Prince George's County government officials as they launch their Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative to create safe, thriving communities under the administration of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D).

After several years of what some say were "feel good" projects such as "Livable Communities" and slogans like "Gorgeous Prince George's," Baker and Chief Administrative Officer Bradford Seamon have pledged this new initiative is a different breed of cat.

The effort utilizes data and action plans and will get help from the CountyStat initiative Baker announced last month. CountyStat is a statistics-based program that includes data gathering, research and development, coordinating key agencies on key issues, aligning resources and measuring results.

"This is about making a positive impact in these communities ... I believe this initiative will help transform communities throughout Prince George's County," Baker said in announcing the Transforming Neighborhoods Initiative before a capacity crowd of county officials, law enforcement personnel and residents April 18 at Oxon Hill's Glassmanor Community Center.

"This effort grew out of last year's successful Summer Crime Initiative led by the police chief and his staff. When we evaluated the crime statistics ... it was determined that we needed to take a broader approach, a more holistic approach to addressing some of the challenges in our communities. Today is about neighborhoods and our plan to be proactive ," said Baker.

Key indicators to be measured

The six areas chosen for the first phase of the initiative, Langley Park, East Riverdale/Bladensburg, Kentland/Palmer Park, Suitland, Hillcrest Heights/Marlow Heights and Glassmanor, were chosen, according to information from Baker's office, "because they substantially affect violent crime rates Countywide ... Violent crime was chosen as our lead indicator ... because of its overall impact on investment in the County by businesses, developers and potential new residents. Education was a close second ..."

Seamon said that day, "this initiative will achieve this vision by making progress in the seven priority areas ... a thriving economy, great schools, safe neighborhoods, high quality health care, effective human services, safe and clean environment and high performance government." Key initiative indicators to gauge progress are violent crime, property crime, 3rd and 5th grade reading and math scores, school absentee rates, foreclosure rates, concentrations for Section 8 housing, income levels, pedestrian deaths/injuries and residents on public assistance.

Team leaders for the initiative include seasoned officials like Carla Reid, deputy chief administrative officer for Economic Development and Public Infrastructure; Betty Hager Francis, deputy chief administrative officer, Health, Human Services & Education and Barry Stanton, Deputy chief administrative officer, Public Safety.

M. H. James Estepp, president and CEO of the Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable, said, "The major difference between [the earlier] programs is I largely didn't see them as being action-based. This one involves all agencies and has measures to determine success ... it's a real action plan whereas the others seemed largely for public consumption."

Larry Spriggs, chairman of the Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the announcement of the initiative, saying in a statement, "... the effort to improve the quality of life should be commended ... and we have those areas that we want to improve to make them more attractable and a desirable and comfortable place to live ... "