In the next three years of her administration, Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks seeks more community and business partnerships, tax incentives for businesses to build grocery stores in underserved areas and to create “downtowns.”
This ambitious plan labeled “Proud Priorities” would be through six initiatives: education, youth development, quality of life by high-performance government; economic development; healthy communities; and safe neighborhoods.
“We’re off to a really fast start, but we realized…we need to really maximize our efforts,” Alsobrooks said. “Excellence matters in this administration.”
As her first year in office comes to a close in December, Alsobrooks said she wants to bring members of cabinet outside the office and to the community.
Some of those agency and department heads attended an Oct. 30 community forum at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Greenbelt. They included Melinda Bolling, director of the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE); Stanley Early, who heads the management and budget office; and Terry Bellamy, director of Public Works and Transportation.
Bellamy summarized to dozens in the audience what the department conducted such as paving 31 miles of streets this year and laid down more than one million square feet of concrete, sidewalk, curbs and gutters.
“We’re going to continue look at innovate ways to … improve our network,” he said.
In terms of safe neighborhoods, the county touted a decrease in violent crime by 50 percent in the past eight years. Alsobrooks praised Police Chief Hank Stawinski for leading that and others public safety efforts.
Not everyone supports the chief.
An online petition organized by the Prince George’s County Community Justice Coalition for Justice & Accountability claims Stawinski should be fired after an Oct. 19 traffic stop resulted in the hospitalization of Demonte Blake, 24.
The petition, led by Kema Harris and Beverly John, outlines seven reasons this group disapproves of Stawinski that includes permits officers to use excessive force, opposes body cameras and ignores complaints of county residents.
“In light of these conditions that exist under the leadership of Chief Henry Stawinski … he must be removed from his job as Prince George’s County police chief,” according to the petition. “That being the case, we call upon [Alsobrooks] to terminate Chief Stawinski’s employment immediately.”
Harris is the mother of Kevin Sneed, who was acquitted in May of attempted murder of a police officer. He was charged in an incident stemming from a May 2017 traffic stop.
Harris said the Blake case served “as the last straw” to fight back against brutality by the county’s police department.
“It’s a need for the chief to leave because he refuses to make officers accountable,” said Harris of Temple Hills. “If he is not going to protect us, then we need someone who is.”
Both women also criticized elected officials for not doing more to support and talk about police brutality, especially those religious and community leaders who led a prayer rally last week at police station to support Stawinski and the police department. They also expressed prayer to the Blake family.
“I don’t believe they’re wrong because everyone does need prayer, but what they’re missing in this whole thing is actually being in the community and talking to the community that is being negatively impacted,” said John of Hyattsville. “There’s this friendship with the elected officials that is kind of getting in the way of them being effective … [to] hear from each side and then make your decision as to how you’re going to be able to impact and make some positive changes.”
Several residents support the department and encourage more people to participate in activities to understand what police endure.
“I became involved in the Citizens Police Academy that really shed a whole new light on … what police officers go through,” said Veronica Davila of Oxon Hill. “It puts you in the shoes of an officer [and] a split-second decision you have to make. They are actually sworn to serve and protect.”
Other Agenda Items
One goal that could mirror an initiative from former County Executive Rushern L. Baker III deals with growing the county’s commercial tax base. The county generates about 70 percent in residential property taxes.
Baker labeled Largo as a downtown anchored by the ongoing construction of the regional medical center and luxury condominiums and apartments near the Largo Metro station.
Alsobrooks seeks to expand the downtown theme in College Park and New Carrolton.
Her priorities include pushing to offer 50 percent of county contracts to small and minority businesses. Bring 5,000 “proud partners,” or volunteers, business and community leaders to help with the public school system.
She also recently began an online certification and recertification program.
In terms of young people, a youth sports division will be established this year that would allow a “more user-friendly process” for county and private clubs to enroll and sign up for programs and use facilities.
To encourage more youth participation, a children’s cabinet would be created within the county government.
“We understand that youth development does not just happen in the classroom,” Alsobrooks said. “But it is part of the obligation of our government to ensure our kids are well-rounded and that we have wholistic approaches to teach them and to developing them as people.”