Prince George’s Mulls Council Structure Changes Amidst Strong Opinions

The Prince George’s County Council votes on July 19, 2016 over whether to submit for approval or rejection by referendum a charter amendment which adds two new at-large seats to the County Council. Some activists expressed their strong opposition to the proposal on Monday evening at a public hearing on the matter, which some consider a measure to circumvent term limits. According to the Washington Post:

Council Chair Derrick Leon Davis (D-Mitchellville) said the change would discourage parochialism among the nine district representatives and allow experienced legislators more time in office so that they can help advance county interests regionally. Under the legislation, current term-limited council members would be eligible to run for the new positions in 2018. But at a public hearing in Upper Marlboro, the citizens in attendance were largely against the charter amendment because the cost to taxpayers would exceed $831,000 for the first year after the members are elected and more than $1 million starting in 2020.

Read the full article for more information.

Coverage in the Afro paper online also detailed the range of views shared during discussions:

Thirty-seven people submitted testimony on the measure. Supporters of the legislation, which amounted to 30, said the addition would help council members garner support for countywide initiatives and build capacity to compete with other jurisdictions for infrastructure and development opportunities. Opponents, totaling six at the meeting, feel that the addition of at-large members is too costly for county taxpayers and is a means for the council to circumvent term limits.

“It helps (council members) to have support coming from other districts,” Former Prince George’s County Council member Floyd Wilson said. Members of the business community including Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce President David Harrington, a former council member, also expressed support for the legislation emphasizing the benefits of extending a member’s terms in office.

“We are in urban competition, regionalism. We bring a new batch (of leaders) almost every eight years and they have to get up to speed on the major regional transportation and infrastructure issues,” Harrington told the council, comparing the county to other jurisdictions with long serving elected officials. “If we don’t bring in experienced people who deserve the opportunity to compete in this regionalism, Prince George’s will always be left out.”