The legislative bodies of the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County, Maryland, recently met to discuss common issues between the two jurisdictions.
The D.C. Council and the Prince George’ County Council convened a joint meeting on Sept. 15 at the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, to go over matters such as public safety and transportation. Prince George’s County Council member Mel Franklin (D-District 9), who serves as the chairman of his body, started the meeting by invoking the long-running quest for D.C. statehood.
“I welcome my colleagues from the District of Columbia, which should be the 51st state of the union if justice is done,” Franklin said.
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) led a delegation that consisted of D.C. Council members Mary Cheh (D-Ward 2), Brandon Todd (D-Ward 4), Kenyan McDuffie (D-Ward 5), Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), Anita Bonds (D-At Large) and Vincent Orange (D-At Large). Franklin was joined by council members Deni Taveras (D-District 2), Dannielle M. Glaros (D-District 3), Todd Turner (D-District 4), Andrea Harrison (D-District 5), Derrick Leon Davis (D-District 6), Karen Toles (D-District 7) and Obie Patterson (D-District 8).
The issue that generated the most discussion was public safety. It was noted by the Prince George’s legislators that the District has experienced 110 homicides as of Sept. 16, an increase of 41 percent over last year and they wanted to know their District colleagues thoughts on the spike in gun-related deaths.
“There is no single cause as to the rise in homicides and crimes in the city,” McDuffie, who chairs the Committee on the Judiciary and used to work in Upper Marlboro as a judicial law clerk and a county prosecutor, said. McDuffie said that the increase isn’t due to marijuana legalization, when Harrison asked about that.
“I am trying to focus on solutions because we are finding that these deaths are occurring in the same neighborhoods,” McDuffie said. “I would like to see crime being viewed as a mental health issue and we are working with our federal stakeholders on this, also.”
May said that she would like to see sustainable solutions to the increase in crime.
“Ward 8 residents want what everyone in the rest of the District of Columbia and Prince George’s County wants, which is a safe place to live,” she said.
Orange said that the communities where the homicides are taking place need to be more responsible in fighting crime.
“We have to take responsibility at home because kids shouldn’t have access to weapons,” the council member said. “We talk about Black Lives Matter but why are we killing each other?”
Toles agreed with Orange by loudly saying “Amen.”
“Guns are negatively impacting our community and we need a regional perspective to work on stopping the violence,” she said.
Members of the both councils also offered ideas to control ATVs (all-terrain vehicles) on their streets and how to implement body cameras on police officers in a fiscally prudent manner.
Transportation was a concern to members of both councils, with Franklin saying that it is tough to find a place to park in the District.
“It seems that the District wants people to rely on public transit or any other means other than a car,” he said.
Cheh agreed. “We have one of the most progressive cities in the country when it comes to transportation,” she said. “Forty percent of District residents don’t have a car and of those that do, they are car-light or have only one vehicle.”
Cheh told her Prince George’s colleagues about the District government’s “Vision Zero” program that wants to eliminate pedestrian and bicycles deaths. She also championed the city’s floundering streetcar system.
“We want to have a city that has a robust modal system where people won’t need a car,” she said.
“We would like to come to the District,” Franklin said with Mendelson nodding his head. “I also suggest that we form joint working groups to talk about issues like homelessness and affordable housing.”