Local residents crowded into a small conference room at Harmony Hall Regional Center in Fort Washington, Maryland on June 30. They came to demand equity in the distribution of funds coming from the new MGM Casino into nearby neighborhoods that are expected to be impacted by its presence.
The Prince George’s County Local Development Council, headed by State Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Fort Washington) and its members appointed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III last December, have been charged with making recommendations on how to spend what is expected to be a cash windfall from the MGM Casino slated to open later this year.
Baker named a 15-member board of residents and elected officials from Southern Maryland to advise him on community needs, including Patricia Britton (Fort Washington) Jeffrey Chandler (Fort Washington), Lorenzo Creighton (MGM Resorts international representative), Montina Anderson Davis (Fort Washington), John Denison (Fort Washington), Michael Errico ( Peterson Companies Representative), Anita Gonzalez (Accokeek), Johnny Osborne ( Fort Washington), Manervia Riddick ( Fort Washington), Zeno St. Cyr (Fort Washington), Javier Torres (Clinton), Veronica Turner (Camp Springs), Sen. C. Anthony Muse, Del. Jay Walker (D), and Del. Kris Valderamma.
Council Member Obie Patterson (D-District 9), Del. Tony Knotts (D-Fort Washington), and Nathaniel Tutt, who represented the Baker Administration also attended the meeting.
The board will assess how much local neighborhood organizations and county nonprofits that serve the local impact area – between three or five miles – would receive from the fund. Residents attending the meeting suggested that $250,000 was nothing more than a drop in a bucket after a resorts representative said the organization would provide more than $42 million to the county, but did not set any mandates on how the money should be spent.
“We are going to take everything that is being said into consideration, but I want to make it clear that we don’t really have the authority to make any decisions,” Muse said, to give more explanation to attendees about the committee’s role.
“The nonprofits and organizations that were the closest and served the area received first priority,” Britton said. “That didn’t stop others from receiving money if they were serving the impacted area.”
Forest Heights Mayor Jackie Goodall said, “We are the ones that are going to suffer the most. To date, no one has been able to tell us what we are going to get and when we are going to get it.”
Camp Springs Civic Association Tammy Jones is concerned by the “total lack of transparency,” when it comes to information coming from the county. “It just appears that the county executive is going to do whatever he wants to do with the money. We should have some say so as to what happens,” she said.
Some residents expressed a lack of faith in the county’s process. “Promises of contracts. Promises of jobs. Promises of road repairs. At the end of the day, it is nothing, but smoke and mirrors. When will the community get their fair share?” said Earl O’Neal, a Fort Washington, community activist.