Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker waited 8 years to be elected to the position and after two tumultuous months on the job, he’s still motivated to get the job done.

The major issue Baker’s faced is the string of murders that plagued the county in the first part of January. There were 15 murders in the first 15 days of 2011 causing Baker and Interim Police Chief Mark Magaw to shift focus to preventing further violence.

“It made us speed up some of the things that we were going to do,” Baker said. Once the homicides started to escalate, clearly we had to implement a plan to address that. That meant shifting resources we hadn’t planned to shift this early.

“It caused us to make budgetary decisions early on,” he continued.

Overall, there have been 17 murders so far in 2011. Many of them have to do with drug trafficking organizations and gang activity, while others have just been random. Some, however, seem to be the result of incidents that occur at go-go nightclubs. Those incidents may result in changes where the music can and will be played in the future.

“We have a standard Monday meeting with the state’s attorney, the sheriff’s department and the police chief to look at how we can make policy changes,” he said. “One is to see about some legislation that we can send to the council that restricts where these bands are playing.”

Baker went on to say that some of the places that bands play have code violations, but he plans on being proactive in addressing the problem of violence that sometimes happens outside of the nightclubs.

Another major issue is the budget. Baker is working with the Prince George’s Delegation in Annapolis to try to secure more funding for the county, but with the numbers looking bleak for fiscal year 2012, he’s had to accept the fact that some cuts are inevitable.

“It does help that I served for eight years and I know a lot of the players so it’s not unfamiliar to me,” he said. “I’m making sure that we’re all together on our priorities. We need funding for the hospital and we’re looking for ways to increase funding for our education.”

Baker hasn’t been surprised by much in his first two months, but the time it takes to get some things done has been a shock to his system. He says he would like to have government run more efficiently.

“Just trying to wrap your arms around this huge government bureaucracy I think has been the biggest surprise,” Baker said. “The changes that you want to make are not going to go as fast as you’d like them to.”

Baker still sees potential in Prince George’s and loves his job. He says these are tough times, but he remains positive about the future of the county.

“It’s been good,” Baker said of his first two months. I’m certainly overjoyed to have the job.

“We have challenges that we face in Prince George’s County, but the opportunities are just unbelievable,” he continued. “It’s been a learning experience, but I’m excited.”

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO