Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks gave her first State of the County address Tuesday, and as she did at her December inauguration, she spoke passionately about the jurisdiction’s strength in economic development, collaboration and jobs.
“About 70 percent of us leave Prince George’s County and go into other places,” she said after her nearly 40-minute speech at The Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park. “Because of our intellectual strength, we build other areas, too.”
Alsobrooks’ address focused on the theme “Prince George’s Proud.”
“Pride produces so many positive things and I’m already beginning to see that,” she said. “People show up because they’re proud.”
During her first six months in office, Alsobrooks attended various community meetings, festivals and other gatherings to chat with local officials and residents about the fiscal year 2020 budget, trash collection and improving the county sports programs.
She outlined a few statistics to show how the county fares economically, including an increase in the commercial tax base from 26 percent to more than 30 percent in a four-year period, an increase in median household income to $81,000, and the unemployment rate dropping to 3.9%.
“The state of Prince George’s County is stronger and prouder than ever,” she said. “Prince George’s County is the crown jewel of Maryland and it’s high time we started acting like it.”
Some of the state, county and municipal officials and business and community leaders at The Hotel used the word “classy” to describe Alsobrooks when she thanked her predecessor Rushern L. Baker III.
Alsobrooks listed several economic development projects under construction that came to fruition under Baker such as the regional medical center in Largo, consolidation of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services building in Camp Springs and a children’s outpatient center at Woodmore Towne Center in Glenarden.
“It showed a lot of class, but it’s not surprising,” said Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville. “She spreads credit around. County Executive Baker did a lot for Prince George’s County. They put the community above themselves.”
Some of the biggest applause came when Alsobrooks mentioned her father’s inspiration through a text message — “Don’t fight people about the wisdom of feeding dinosaurs.” The quote came in February after Del. Mary Ann Lisanti of Harford County referred to a specific area of Prince George’s as a “[N-word] district.”
“We took the opportunity to remind the leadership in Annapolis to what we came there for in the first place,” she said. “I unapologetically stood there and demanded that they fully fund the education of Prince George’s County’s children. We could care less about the opinion of a person who lives more than a hundred miles away. Where’s our money?”
Alsobrooks has made education a top priority and after her frequents visits to Maryland’s state capital, the county will receive about $53 million in state funding toward education.
As she presented her first budget with no property tax increase, the $4.3 billion spending plan includes nearly half toward education that includes 123 new teachers, 90 aides, or paraprofessionals, 23 school psychologists and 18 pupil personnel and school social workers.
According to Maryland’s star-rating system released in December, half of the public schools in Prince George’s garnered the highest marks of four and five stars. However, some schools received a two-star ranking for low marks in attendance and proficiency in math and English Language Arts based on test scores from the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment.
Interim public schools CEO Monica Goldson, who attended the Tuesday address, said she pushes to fight the perception of an undervalued school system that’s endured grade scandals and infighting amongst board members from the previous superintendent.
“I have 134,000 students who have dreams and I can’t stop because I have to make their dreams become a reality,” Goldson said. “I can’t deal with a few naysayers. What I have to do is prove them wrong through actions.”