Archive for June 2011
Most Prince George’s County residents are anxious for the embarrassing era of Jack and Leslie Johnson to be over. However, what will never be fully resolved for me, and perhaps for others, is the perceived lack of shame and remorse they have expressed for their actions.
When they were arrested, I expressed my own feelings of shame about the County’s leaders and it is still one of the most visited posts on my blog, so I assume others shared my feelings on the topic. While we are finally getting some closure with the Johnsons’ recent guilty pleas, I am disappointed in their public statements. It’s one thing to plead guilty to a crime in federal court. It’s quite another to immediately step outside the courthouse, call it a “mistake,” and express no remorse.
I’m not sure I should feel better because they both claim that, despite their mistakes, we shouldn’t forget that they have done so much “good” for the County. While I don’t believe it’s necessary for them to wear a “scarlet letter” for the rest of their lives, it would make it easier for me to forgive and forget if I felt they were truly sorry for the damage they have caused. Instead, their public statements are laced with an obvious tone of both unrepentant pride and subtle anger for having to admit to and pay for their “mistakes.”
What do you think? Are you hearing a similar message at the end of this saga?
Submitted by TWingfield
There is no doubt that the Prince George’s County School System (PGCPS) has had its problems for some time, but since restoring the elected school board things have gone from bad to worst, which I believe justifies the need for an independent audit and possibly an investigation to stop what appears to be gross mismanagement that is destroying our schools.
On July 1, the Board of Education (BOE) will implement a budget that violates the civil rights of children across the county by laying off school personnel and cutting school services that directly serve children in the classroom, to avoid making deep administrative cuts. While they spout the foolish rhetoric we hear from Congress – “it’s the economy – dummy” to justify these cuts, they have failed to provide documented proof to the public that deep administrative cuts were first made to balance the budget.
Moreover, the school board failed to perform their fiduciary duty by voting on a budget document still in evolution. The board was elected to responsibly handle the business of the citizens, not call a vote to meet deadlines. While I believe members are sincere in their efforts, their actions show a lack of knowledge and understanding in governing an education system.
An audit and investigation would finally provide answers to the following questions that the BOE refuse to provide to the public:
- Dollar for dollar – how are the additional funds restored by the County Executive and state legislators being used?
- What was the exact cost of the Washington Plaza debacle and its impact on future operating budgets?
- How can the BOE receive Title 1 funds from the federal government to educate children living in poverty at a lower threshold than they require of schools serving these same children that are entitled to Title 1 funds?
- Why does the BOE have so many unrestricted budget categories for clearly defined services?
- What are the BOE’s actual administrative and school-based expenditures for the past five years by category and description?
- Is the BOE violating the Open Meetings Act by holding public board meetings during the hours most citizens work?
- Is there a conflict for board members working for the local government to schedule board meetings during normal work hours?
- How has increased administrative costs impacted the BOE ability to retain qualified school-based personnel and quality services?
- How is the quality of our schools being impacted by the environment the BOE appears to foster that awards unqualified individuals in executive and mid-level positions with six-figure paid on-the-job training while qualified, seasoned school-based educators are forced to retire, resign or be laid off?
In the words of one citizen at the May budget hearings, the citizens have had enough of BOE’s disregard for children.
Remarks to the Redistricting Commission on June 21, 2011:
Redistricting is a complex issue. I understand the process that is unfolding, the factors that you are required by law to consider, and the balance of numbers that you have to achieve. I appreciate that the task you have is not an easy one.
That said I rise to speak in strong oppositionto the proposed change that would remove Accokeek from District 9 and place us in District 8. Achieving the objective or fair representative redistricting is not simply a matter of moving people around from one place to another. The citizens of Accokeek are not pawns on a chessboard, or grains of sand to be sifted and shifted about just to make sides of a scale balance out.
We are a distinct community with a unique history and perspectives on major issues that align with the other communities of District 9, and are reflected in our elected representation—representation we would like to keep.
And while we are not grains of sand on a scale, something really important does indeed hang in the balance here…the fate and future of a community. Specifically…how it defines itself an derives its identity…its ability to have its voice heard and its problems fully understood by the ones that would claim to represent it.…and ultimately its ability to protect and enhance the characteristics that its residents hold dear and want to pass on to the generations that follow.
While I am keenly aware that there are indeed numbers that have to be achieved, and a certain real balancing that must, and should occur, I would argue strongly that there are more appropriate places from which to achieve this objective-places where the concerns of communities have much more in common with those of the majority District 8.
While they are a community that I love, and have spent a good deal of time in, Camp Springs comes to mind. It’s already divided between three districts. It is wholly urban in character, both its infrastructure and transportation needs. While it is greatly impacted by Joint Base Andrews, I would argue that particularly moving forward, it will be as greatly impacted is by National Harbor and even Rosecroft Raceway.
Now I am not really offering up my neighbors in Camp Springs. Although I know that they have been vocal in their desire to be consolidated into one district, that is not really my place. What I, and many of my neighbors (and hopefully others here tonight) are really offering to you is another chance to re-evaluate the criteria by which you make your recommendations, and to really know the particular perspectives of the citizens whose lives and communities this redistricting decision will so directly impact.
In the case of Accokeek, and the potential of moving it into District 8, this is acutely important. District 8 is a great district, full of wonderful communities. However, whether we are talking about land preservation, development decisions, transportation and infrastructure, or even broadband access and connectivity, for the residents of Accokeek, our perspective on these concerns are shared to a much greater degree with our fellow District 9 residents in places like Brandywine, and Eagle Harbor, than folks in Fort Washington or Oxon Hill.
Accokeek is a community that deeply values its rural characteristics and history, and it brings a perspective to questions related to growth, development, land use, recreation, transportation, and even role of government that is deeply impacted by those values.
Accokeek belongs in District 9, where it can join with communities of similar interest and concerns, and it deserves to be represented by people who share its perspective and understand its needs.
Redistricting is an important component of our Democracy. It is supposed to be a tool to help assure balance and fairness in representation. Let’s make sure that it does not become a tool that is used to chip away at the very identity of a community.
In perspective, experience, and aspiration, the citizens of Accokeek are citizens of District 9. And that is exactly where we need to remain.
Although I’ve been on hiatus from blogging, redistricting is a very important issue I hope you all will stay informed about. Currently, a proposed map would move Accokeek into District 8, a plan I vehemently oppose. If you recall, I blogged about Accokeek’s impact on the District 9 race late last year, and discussed how the community was vital to Mel Franklin’s election as Councilman. Why did he have so much support there? Because he listens and responds to our concerns, which have been long ignored by other elected officials. In District 8, we would be competing with National Harbor, Fort Washington, and other urban communities to make our voice heard in Prince George’s County. These are communities which share little in common with us, while in District 9 our rural tier neighbors are more aligned with our concerns. If you share my opposition and anger about this proposal, please make your concerns known to the three-person redistricting commission at the June 21 public hearing at Oxon Hill Library, from 7pm – 9pm. I will discuss the strategic reasons why this realignment is being proposed in a post later this summer. A final proposed map will be submitted to County Council by September 1. Learn more at http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/redistricting2011