Prince George's County D9 Politico Blog

Keeping politicians accountable and voters informed.

Archive for January 2012

New Year, Same Concerns

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In case you’re wondering where I have been for the past few weeks, the pace of my real job (the one that pays the bills) has been keeping me unbelievably busy. The blog has taken a backseat to family and work priorities, which I am sure most of you understand. There’s also been little space to say anything “new.” Most of the blog posts from a year ago could be cut and pasted into my 2012 archive. Let’s do a quick review:

  • The County’s projected deficit of $126 million for FY 2013 is nearly double from what it was at this time last year, when it was a reported $77 million. Somehow, our County Executive still found a $50 million “surplus” to start an economic development fund. So far, we can’t tell how a dime of it has been spent, as the online tracking system indicates the last update occurred on September 30, 2011. The County Executive’s “Pledge for Prince George’s County” promised to “deliver a comprehensive job creation, competitive housing market, and economic growth plan within the first 100 days.” I have never seen this plan, and if it exists it surely isn’t delivering the kind of economic growth we need to fix our budgetary woes.
  • A year ago today, I attend one of the first Accountability, Compliance, and Integrity Task Force meetings. Part of the County Executive’s plan for ethics reform, the Task Force was asked to come up with recommendations that would help fulfill Baker’s “Pledge” for comprehensive thics reform for all elected officials. One of the Task Force’s key findings was that the County should hire an Inspector General to help identify ethics violations and determine areas where waste, fraud, and abuse were occurring. This would have been very helpful in closing our budget gap too, but since an Inspector General will not be hired, that won’t help us in 2012. We still haven’t received any indication that a comprehensive ethics reform package has been delivered, just a tweak of a couple of laws last year that I’m not sure will deliver genuine reform.
  • Speaking of ethics, Jack and Leslie Johnson still walk free today. Thankfully, the wheels of justice move more quickly than the wheels of our County government. Although today it was announced that Jack’s date to report to prison was pushed back to February 18, and Leslie doesn’t report until March 9, at least they are both headed where they belong.
  • County Council is not exempt from criticism either. They once again ignored the will of their constituents, who clearly weren’t happy with their lavish retreat spending last year, and headed out of town for “focused work” on the 2012 agenda. Their “retreat” at a hotel in Baltimore cost taxpayers approximately$11,000, and none of those dollars were even spent in our County. Once again, we learn that our elected officials are not really “just like us” because they enjoy spending on Gucci while they are operating on a Sears budget.
  • To our credit, we didn’t kick off 2012 with 12 homicides in 12 days. But that doesn’t mean we are exempt from public safety concerns. Our homicide rate has moving along at a steady clip for the past year, and I haven’t seen any changes to the criminal justice system, that were promised in the “Pledge for Prince George’s County,” that have really helped curb crime.

The good news? After all the time I have spent blogging about the Prince George’s County Schools, it seems that they have taken a step in the right direction with a School-Based Budgeting system. I think it will give schools (and their communities) more input in addressing specific needs. I think it could still use some improvement, but that’s for another blog post, coming soon. In the meantime, what do you think? Has anything promised in Baker’s Pledge for Prince George’s County been delivered? I’d call the County to find out, but I’m not sure where to begin because we’re also still waiting for the all-access number called 311.

Written by pgd9politico

January 30, 2012 at 6:24 pm

Transportation Payments Is No Substitute for Making Actual Improvements

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District 9 Councilman Mel Franklin has submitted a letter to the Prince George’s County delegation opposing a bill submitted by Senator Doug Peters that would allow developers to make a payment to a general transportation fund instead of paying for specific infrastructure improvements needed for their projects. I agree with Councilman Franklin’s position, and he has requested that the bill be amended by excluding all of Council District 9 from the “infrastructure payment in lieu of building necessary roads.” We don’t need more clogged roads and traffic due to urban sprawl throughout District 9, and developer payments to a general transportation fund instead of making infrastructure improvements is sure to lead to that outcome. Please support my Councilman’s position on this bill, and make your opinion known to your legislators by contacting them as soon as possible.

Written by pgd9politico

January 9, 2012 at 3:16 pm

25-Year Property Tax Breaks for Developers: Are They Necessary?

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Submitted by Tamara Davis Brown; Clinton, MD

Do you want a property tax break?  I certainly do, but the County Executive wants to give a property tax break to developers for a period of 25 years! Does this seem fair?  It does not seem fair to me, but before I explain my rationale take some time to review the legislation for yourself (PG 418-12)http://www.princegeorgeshousedelegation.com/ (go to Legislation tab).
 
The Prince George’s County House Delegation Chair, Delegate Melony Griffith, introduced local legislation on behalf of the County Executive to give developers a 25-year property tax break for developers who will:  (1) develop transit-oriented development within one-mile of a County Metro Station or 1/2 mile of a MD regional commuter transit station; (2) a revitalized tax credit district; or (3) an urban renewal district designated by the County Council.  Sounds good so far, right? 
 
However, did we think about infrastructure costs that usually accompany such developments?  The bill is silent on who pays the needed road and other infrastructure improvements surrounding those sites.  Prince Georgians and Marylanders will be paying for nice road improvements (exits) around the beltway for National Harbor as part of the Wilson Bridge improvement projects.  Shouldn’t the bill specifically require developers to pay the infrastructure costs?  Did we think about the schools needed to accommodate the mixed use facilities and multi-family residential units (i.e., code word for “apartments”) that the legislation proposes?  What about parking?  The bill will give developers the same 25-year property tax break for building an off-street parking facility for 250 spaces.  Is a 250-space parking garage large enough near our Metros where you also want to add office and retail?  The bill proposes a job requirement for a retail establishment of 100 jobs?  Really, why sell us so cheap?  We need more than 100 jobs for County residents (I think I personally know about 1/3 of that amount that need a job right now).  The County’s ask of the developers is impotent.
 
Most importantly, consider the fact that the County is losing revenues due to high unemployment and high foreclosures.  Do we really want to break the backs of taxpayers (middle class) by supporting a 25-year property tax credit for rich developers solely for the purpose on luring them to the County?  Developers will see a return on their investment after about the first five years of development, yet Prince Georgians are asked carry the tax burden for another 20 years.  Should we be paying for bond bills into perpetuity to finance the needed infrastructure?  So I ask again, is this fair?
 
I support Mr. Baker’s efforts to bring commercial dollars to our County, but if we don’t see the return in our investment until 20+ years later, long after he will be out of office, it’s a no gain for the County.  Is the loss in commercial property tax revenue, which is much higher than residential, worth the County’s investment?  The County is now armed with a $50 million economic development fund that should provide some assistance to developers, but the proposed property tax break is too long.
 
I think it should be shortened to seven years (the balance of Mr. Baker’s time in office, assuming he will have two terms) so as to not tie the hands of future County leaders and to ensure that commercial dollars are coming into the County’s coffers sooner.  The incentive would still be present, but have less burden on taxpayers.
 
If you agree with my assessment, please call, write or email your state Delegate and state Senator to ask that this local bill, PG 418-12, be amended to shorten the tax benefit to developers to seven years and to strengthen the bill with more requirements of developers.  The MD General Assembly reconvenes on January 11, 2012 for the 2012 Legislative Session, so there’s no time to waste. Contact your legislators today. 

Still in the fight to do what is right.

Written by pgd9politico

January 9, 2012 at 3:04 pm