Accokeek Makes Its Mark in District 9 Council Race
I have spent the past couple of days examining the financial contributions to Franklin’s campaign to determine where political influence might be greatest in District 9. One of the reassuring components of Franklin’s campaign finance reports is that a significant portion of the funds he spent on his election came directly from his own pocketbook. Late in 2009, he kickstarted his campaign treasury with a $50,000 loan, then over the next nine months, contributed nearly $10,000 more from his own checking account to his campaign. Franklin’s friends and family from other parts of Prince George’s County and out-of-state also lent their support, with more than $10,000 in contributions. When added together, this money represents more than half of what he spent on his election to the District 9 Council seat. It’s comforting to know that this makes Franklin more accountable to himself in the long term, than any other contributor to his campaign.
Councilman Franklin also made a promise not to take contributions from developers, and in the aftermath of the Johnson scandal, that was a very wise choice. His decisions on future development in District 9 will not be clouded by developer contributions to his campaign coffers. Political action committees will want to see a return on their $31,000 investment to his campaign, as interest groups ranging from teachers to firefighters and service workers supplemented their endorsements with cash contributions. Although not reflected in his own campaign reports, Franklin also clearly received the benefit of name recognition from being promoted on at least three mailings and two ballots sent by the District 27A team. Hopefully, his alliance with Senator Thomas “Mike” V. Miller, Delegate Joe Vallario, and Delegate Proctor will strengthen our voice for new schools, improved transit, and a new police station in District 9 during Franklin’s term.
Contributions from individual donors made up only a very small part of Franklin’s total campaign funds, but in analyzing the source and location of donors, I found that Accokeek made an important statement of its own. Accokeek is the place that I call home in District 9, and it is a small, unincorporated area at the southern edge of Prince George’s County. Accokeek residents represent less than 10% of the population in District 9. However, their influence on the Council race was much greater this year, and it could shape the way Councilman Mel Franklin pays attention to this part of the district in his coming term.
Most people who are familiar with Accokeek will associate the center of town with the intersection of 228 and 210. One stoplight prior to this intersection, you will find a shopping center anchored by Bloom, the popular B&J Carryout, a gas station, and some fairly unattractive landscape surrounding the rest of it. It’s hardly the standard for picture-perfect development, but most natives would rather see it stay the way that it is than to make it available for new development. One of Accokeek’s most sorely needed resources, a new school to eliminate overcrowding in current public schools, is just about as likely as any new shopping choices at this point, because there simply isn’t any state funding to build new schools. A renovation and rebuilding effort at Accokeek Academy is the best we can hope for.
For those unfamiliar with the makeup of Accokeek, you may want to visit the census map to get a clear picture of who lives there. East of 210, Census Tract 801301 shows that 75% of residents are African-American. This area includes many of the newer developments in Accokeek, such as the Preserve, St. James, Horizon Estates, Manning Preserve, Mannington, Summerwood, and Simmons Acres. West of 210, Census Tract 801302 shows that only 29% of residents are African-American, and the majority, 58%, are white. This tract represents an older, rural and historic area of Accokeek, known as the Moyaone Reserve. It has strict limits on development due to ecological protections that exist there, and it is an attractive retreat for those seeking solace from the growing suburbs that surround it. This distinction among the residents who live in Accokeek also plays an important role in how they view the future of the community.
Looking at all of Franklin’s campaign finance reports, you’ll see the following breakdown of small donor contributions:
- Accokeek – $4,650
- Upper Marlboro – $2,390 (one donor contributed $1,500 of that total)
- Clinton – $1,285
- Rest of District 9 (Brandywine, Cheltenham, Baden, Aquasco) – $655
Accokeek contributed 62% of the total donor contributions from residents in District 9. Of Accokeek’s total of $4,650, 68% came directly from residents living in the Moyaone Reserve. Of the 160 homeowners living there, 32 gave directly to Franklin’s campaign. I am not sure any other Council member received that number of direct contributions from any neighborhood in the County.
So what do we want in Accokeek, and what specifically does the Moyaone want Councilman Franklin to deliver? Well, first, we want attention from the political establishment. Councilwoman Bland was known to not only ignore her Accokeek constituents, but to approve development that was opposed by the community. Her actions were definitely not well received by residents in the Moyaone Reserve, who want to preserve the rural character of Accokeek. Kelly Canavan, President of the Accokeek, Mattawoman, Piscataway Creeks Community Council and resident of rural Accokeek, has made it her full-time job to sue any developer that encroaches on the rural character of the region or poses any type of threat to the environment.
Second, the Moyaone is worried about some of the basic services that the rest of us take for granted. They cannot access their water supply from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, and must rely upon their own wells for water. Their wells are up against a water table that is rapidly shrinking due to the high number of new, adjacent housing developments, and need the government’s help to ensure that their water table is protected both from polluters and increasing demand from new residents.
Moyaone residents also want access to broadband Internet, which may not come easily because of their rural location. I always thought it was weird that so many residents took their laptops to the Moyaone Community Pool, until I realized that the community had to contribute their own funds to provide a wireless network at the community pool. The entire Moyaone community now depends upon this one wireless network to stay connected to the outside world. They want to preserve their rural character while maintaining 21st century access to technology, and the government will have to invest in the infrastructure to provide them with broadband because it is simply not profitable for the private sector to make the investment.
So what does the other half of Accokeek, its newer residents, want from their Councilman? Based upon the contributors I identified, I would guess they want a better return on services for their very expensive investment in new homes. Many of them paid more than a half million dollars for their sprawling colonial estate homes, and they don’t want crumbling schools, slow emergency responders, and major traffic on 210 to get to work. They want to see their high taxes deliver for them, rather than being redistributed to Upper Marlboro, Bowie, and beyond.
While the contributions from Accokeek residents doesn’t represent much more than a very successful bake sale and car wash for Councilman Franklin’s campaign, it does make an important political statement about their position in comparison to others around District 9 who made donations. They want attention, they expect responsiveness, and they want Councilman Franklin to deliver for them.