Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Prince George’s Council OKs Public Campaign Finance, Zoning Ordinance at Last Legislative Session

The Prince George’s County Council approved labor agreements, short-term rentals and a new zoning ordinance during its last legislative session of the year.

The marathon meeting at the county administration building in Upper Marlboro with two breaks began about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday ended after midnight Wednesday, thanks to a nearly three-hour discussion before the council finally voted 5-4 to approve public campaign financing legislation.

About 17 people spoke in support of the bill, which would allow candidates to receive matching funds if they don’t accept donations exceeding $250 to mass small donors.

The bill resembles one enacted in January 2015 in Montgomery County that allows a person running for elected office to receive tax dollars. The District approved their version of the bill this year.

David Van Dyke, the county auditor, said during the session that it could cost the county between $3.6 million to $12 million, depending on how many people seek office.

The cost was one reason why council Chairwoman Dannielle Glaros and council members Derrick Davis, Todd Turner and Andrea Harrison didn’t the support the bill.

“This is irresponsible,” Davis (D-District 6) of Upper Marlboro said before the vote. “We don’t have the resources that other jurisdictions have that have implemented this reality. I’m somewhat offended by state representatives who would attempt to spend my money in Prince George’s County, [but] not [have] given me theirs.”

Delegate Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-District 21) of College Park, who supports the bill, took exception to Davis targeting state officials.

“That is very disrespectful,” Pena-Melynk said to Davis.

“Who said that?” Davis asked.

“I’m the only state representative here,” Pena-Melnyk said.

“Then that’s who I was talking to,” Davis said.

Glaros (D-District 3) of Riverdale Park banged a gavel on the table to return to order.

“We do not have shouting in this forum,” she said.

As for the legislation, all receipts must be labeled with the contributor’s name and residential address.

Councilwoman Karen Toles (D-District 7) of Suitland pushed for revisions including an assurance the financing would receive racial and gender equality.

The legislation, which wouldn’t go into effect until 2026, also received approval from council members Mel Franklin, Mary Lehman, Obie Patterson and Deni Taveras.

“It has to be distributed countywide … makes me feel a little bit more comfortable we have an additional eight years to work on this,” said Toles, who participated in her last meeting due to term limits.

A few residents who stayed for the vote clapped softly, but Glaros said “I would not clap [for] that vote at all.”

A New Council

When the council meets Dec. 4 for the gavel exchange, the group will have at least six new people to legislate and enact laws next year.

If voters choose not to elect Franklin (D-District 9) of Upper Marlboro to one of the two at-large seats that expands the council from nine to 11, then seven new people would join.

Franklin’s name will be listed on the ballot with two others: Calvin Hawkins, a Democrat and former adviser to County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and Felicia Folarin, an insurance agent and registered Republican. Toles ran unsuccessfully for one of the two at-large seats.

Sydney Harrison, a clerk of the county’s Circuit Court, won in the Democratic primary by 55 votes over Tamara Davis Brown, a telecommunications attorney who’s organized a write-in campaign for the Nov. 6 general election.

Current council members running unopposed next month are Glaros, Davis, Turner (D-District 4) of Bowie and Taveras (D-District 2) of Adelphi.

Harrison (D-District 5) of Springdale, who’s seeking election as a state delegate in District 24, will be replaced by her chief of staff, Rodney Colvin Streeter.

Patterson (D-District 8) of Fort Washington will be replaced by Monique Anderson Walker, a principal broker for Oxon Hill-based real estate company Fleur de Lis and wife of Delegate Jay Walker (D-District 26) of Fort Washington.

Ton Dernoga of Laurel, who’s unopposed and will replace Councilwoman Mary Lehman to represent District 1, represented that area on the council from 2002 to 2010. Lehman, who’s term-limited, will run for state delegate. The terms for Harrison and Patterson also expire this year.

In other business, the council voted 8-1 to approve a revamped zoning ordinance that the council and other county officials worked on for about four years. The antiquated document hasn’t been updated for 50 years.

Lehman voted against the legislation, which may not go into effect for another two years.

Glaros said a countywide zoning map must now be implemented to incorporate the new zoning regulations. The new council would oversee that process.

“Of any single legislative item, it was something we worked a lot of hours on,” she said. “This is a critical step to move forward, but not the final step.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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