(Updated 07/18/2016) The Prince George’s County Council held a public meeting July 11 at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The goal of the meeting was to get citizens’ input on a proposed charter amendment to add two at-large council members, increasing the county’s council from seven to nine members.
The legislation is sponsored by councilmembers Derrick Davis, Dannielle Glaros, Deni Taveras, and Todd Turner. “At-large seats are about regionalism. It’s about furthering representation of the people by its legislative body to ensure less parochialism and more regionalism,” said Council Chair Davis (D-Mitchellville). “It’s about how you are a broader thinker to ensure that you go and fight for the resources in the resource rich metropolitan region. That’s at-large thinking.” At-large council members would focus on the entire county instead of individual districts like the current council members.
Thirty-seven people submitted testimony on the measure. Supporters of the legislation, said the addition would help council members garner support for countywide initiatives and build capacity to compete with other jurisdictions for infrastructure and development opportunities. However, opponents, who submitted a majority of the testimonies, said they feel that the addition of at-large members is too costly for county taxpayers and is a means for the council to circumvent term limits.
“It helps (council members) to have support coming from other districts,” Former Prince George’s County Council member Floyd Wilson said. Members of the business community including Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce President David Harrington, a former council member, also expressed support for the legislation emphasizing the benefits of extending a member’s terms in office.
“We are in urban competition, regionalism. We bring a new batch (of leaders) almost every eight years and they have to get up to speed on the major regional transportation and infrastructure issues,” Harrington told the council, comparing the county to other jurisdictions with long serving elected officials. “If we don’t bring in experienced people who deserve the opportunity to compete in this regionalism, Prince George’s will always be left out.”
Opponents of the measure submitting testimony included civic associations, homeowners associations and individual residents. Gloria Johnson, vice president of the Woodmore Civic Association said the proposal raises “numerous” questions including “Does Prince George’s Council need two new members, can we afford the costs of two new members, and is it ethical for the current council to propose a self-serving scheme that can extend their own terms of office which are currently term limited?” Others in attendance questioned whether adding council members was the best use of county resources.
The council plans to vote on the legislation July 19. If it passes by two-thirds the measure will then be voted on in the general election in November.