ANNAPOLIS – Prince George’s County residents will get new schools, revitalized communities, better roads and a fancy new Potomac River development, thanks to unified work by county lawmakers, County Executive Wayne Curry said Wednesday.
Standing with delegation members, Gov. Parris Glendening, Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, School Superintendent Iris T. Metts and several school board members, Curry hailed the session that ended Monday as one of the county’s most successful.
“This session clearly evokes a new millenium for Prince George’s County,” Curry said. “(It) gives new meaning to the term `Christmas in April.'”
In total, Prince George’s County will get $515.7 million in state aid about $35 million more than last year, according to county figures. Most of the money will go to improving the struggling school system.
All session, lawmakers pushed to get money for schools. They want to build 26 new schools to end years of busing and launch technology programs. The county is desperate for school money because a property tax cap called TRIM limits the revenue they have to spend.
This session Prince George’s lawmakers secured $29 million of the $44 million they requested to improve schools. At the news conference Glendening said they will likely get the remaining $15 million when the Board of Public Works meets in May.
In brief comments, Metts thanked the governor and lawmakers for working to making schools safer with gun control laws and by placing more security on school grounds. She applauded the delegation for getting much needed money for the schools she is working to improve.
“I have gained so much respect for you and how you operate,” she said. “In 90 days … you get so much done. I am so proud to be apart of Prince George’s County and to know you represent us.”
In addition to school funds, the county will get $137 million for the National Harbor Project, which is expected to bring new stores, retail shops and restaurants to the waterfront area near Oxon Hill.
And the county will get $18.5 million from the Cigarette Restitution Fund for substance abuse programs.
In January, when the session started, Delegation Chairman Rushern L. Baker, D-Prince George’s, waved a small laminated card outlining Prince George’s 12-point legislative agenda.
Baker pulled out his card again at the news conference and explained how in previous years the delegates and senators worked more independently.
“We didn’t do all we could have done,” he said. But this year “we started early, we put forth an agenda, we put out these little cards and we delivered.”
In past years, Curry and Glendening, the former county executive, bickered, with Curry harshly criticizing his predecessor. But at yesterday’s event the two men stood arm-in-arm flaunting their newfound unity.
“You don’t get anything by yourself,” Glendening told Curry.
“Better be careful because you may have to be my new best friend,” Curry said, laughing.
Prince George’s lawmakers weren’t able to reach all 12 of their goals this session.
They wanted to reform the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission but did not get enough support from the Montgomery County Delegation. Plans to enact a civil rights bill to allow administrative agencies to preside over discrimination matters also faltered.
Curry said that gives them something to work on next year.
“We’ll have to continue to fight on,” he said. “It’s not something new.”