A Conversation with Mel Franklin
Today is a sad day for me. While everybody is busy celebrating “a path to greatness” with Rushern Baker, I am furious, depressed, and angry about watching my fellow residents cheer Leslie Johnson as she took the oath of office. I could criticize Jack Johnson’s arrogant smirk as he held the Bible for his wife, or talk about how my colleagues are mocking us as a county, or try to shift the focus to all the “great plans” Rushern Baker will now be implementing. But I’m not going to talk about that today, because I think everybody else has given that enough air time, including me.
What I have promised to tell you about is my conversation with Mel Franklin this past Friday. As my new Councilman for District 9, I do have a sense of hope and optimism. While I did not vote for him, I believe he will still do an excellent job representing us, and let’s be honest, Marilynn Bland did not set a high bar for him. As long as he doesn’t steal from the County, assault his employees, ignore his constituents, and push agendas for developers, he’ll surpass the achievements of his predecessor by a mile.
We didn’t spend a whole lot of time discussing the priorities he talked about during the campaign: jobs, education, public safety, and development. I pressed him on the issue at the front of everybody’s minds right now: transparent government. I gave him my checklist for communications (my area of expertise) and asked him to update his website, write a blog to keep voters informed, dialogue with voters on social media (instead of just posting information about his events, activities, endorsements, etc.), and start a YouTube channel to talk to residents when he is considering important decisions as our Council representative. He was eager to implement all of these suggestions, and he even asked for my help (which I am happy to provide, for the benefit of all of us).
I also asked him to put in a request to change the time of the Council meetings, shifting them from a weekday morning to a weekday evening when more people can attend. He said it was one of the first things he planned to do on Council. This will allow far more residents to get involved in the process. He has also promised to measure results on the “issues” section of his campaign website, and to provide progress reports on the Pledge for Prince George’s County. It is our collective responsibility in District 9 to make sure that he delivers on those promises. I pledge to do my part.
While this was certainly not a pressing issue on the minds of most voters, I did ask him one final, burning question that has been on my heart for months now. I simply wanted to know why he would align himself with Joe Vallario (part of the 27A “team” put together by Mike Miller, which also included Jim Proctor) if his campaign theme focused on “Making Change Happen?” He aligned himself with three individuals who have served a total of 94 years in office. Not exactly the change I wanted to see. I was also extremely disappointed that he would advocate so heavily for tougher domestic violence laws while standing side-by-side with Joe Vallario on several mailings I received. He paused before he responded, so I pressed him further by saying “you did it because you just wanted to win and that was the only way to do it, right?” Then he replied that “he did it because he really wanted to be a part of the 27A team.” You can make your own judgment about what that means.
The bottom line is that in order to get elected, stay elected, and become a career politician, you learn early on that you might have to compromise some part of your principles. Or, in the case of the Johnsons, you completely lose your way. At least, that seems to be the case in Prince George’s County. I love the quote by Ghandi: “We must become the change we want to see.” And that doesn’t involve clapping when Leslie Johnson takes office, throwing softball questions to Mel Franklin as he prepares to take office, or forgetting about politics until the next election. If you want things to change in this county, we must all be involved in “making change happen,” or it never will.