In his annual “State of the City Address”, Seat Pleasant Mayor Eugene Grant talked about the advances that his municipality is making to become self-reliant, prosperous and more technologically advanced.
Grant delivered his address on Jan. 29 at the Seat Pleasant Recreation Center in front of hundreds of residents and Prince George’s County political leaders.
“The state of the city of Seat Pleasant is strong,” Grant said. “We are journeying toward a Smart City of Excellence.”
Grant was elected as mayor in 2004 and re-elected every four years since.
Seat Pleasant is located in central Prince George’s County and is bordered by Eastern Avenue in the District of Columbia. The city is 98 percent Black according to the 2010 census and has a population of 4,542 people.
Seat Pleasant’s median income per household was $42, 476 and the median income per family is $45,332, according to the 2010 census. Over 15.8 percent of families and 19.6 percent of the city’s general population were below the poverty line, including 31.4 percent of those under the age of 18 and 11.1 percent of that age 65 or over, the census reported.
This is in contrast to Prince George’s County’s median income per household of $71,260 and the median income per family of $82,580 and the poverty rate of the county is 9.6 percent of those under the age of 18 and 6.7 percent of those age 65 or over, according to the census.
Grant said he wants to transform Seat Pleasant from a bedroom community to a data-driven city. He noted that the city’s economic development department brought in $300,000 in grants in 2017 as opposed to $155,000 in 2016 to help create an environment of being amenable for businesses to set up shop.
He talked about the Seat Pleasant Housing Trust that got four blighted houses from developers and banks. The purpose is to make those houses available for Seat Pleasant residents. “We have houses on Addison Road, 71st Place, Seat Pleasant Drive and Foote Street that we are renovating,” Grant said.
The mayor also said that the Seat Pleasant Smart Buy Program is available for anyone, particularly millennials, who want to move to the city.
“If you have unpaid student loan debt and you find a house in the city that you like, we will merge your debt with your mortgage,” Grant said to applause. “That way, in five years, you should be free of your student loan debt.”
One of the biggest issues in Seat Pleasant is the July 2016 closing of the Safeway that was in the Addison Plaza Shopping Center. It was the only full-service grocery store for five miles and many residents have complained that it wasn’t replaced with a grocer but instead, a beauty supply shop, Planet Fitness, and Dollar General.
Grant said he had a solution.
“We have established a partnership with Good Food Markets,” he said to people rising to their feet and clapping. “We will have a grand opening before the end of the year.”
Good Food Markets offers customers fresh food items in a smaller space than a national brand grocer such as Safeway.
One of Grant’s pet projects is the Seat Pleasant Innovation Village. This project is still in the developmental stages and there are plans for senior housing, an entrepreneurial center and office and fitness spaces.
In his drive to make Seat Pleasant a more data-oriented municipality, he said partnerships with Apple, IBM, the University of Oklahoma and the Prince George’s County Community College, will help the city reach that goal by providing technical assistance and grants for city projects.
Over the years, Seat Pleasant has developed a public reputation for having public safety challenges.
Grant understands that public safety is a concern of residents but said his police department is headed in the right direction.
“Since 2016, we have had a growth in morale and a reduction in police misconduct,” he said. “In 2016, we had 34 complaints of police misconduct. In 2017, there has only been one.”
The mayor also noted that the Seat Pleasant police department is the first and only police department that is allowed to have drones flown in the proximity of the nation’s capital to fight crime. He said, in addition, that the U.S. Department of Justice got a Community Oriented Policing grant-$140,000-that allows the city to hire more officers.
Grant said that it is time for Seat Pleasant to become a leader in Prince George’s County and Maryland. “This is our time,” he said in closing. “It is time for us to go from being the tail to being the head, from being the borrower to being the lender and from a second-class city to a first-class city.”