There's a crowded field of hopefuls for Prince George’s County Executive this year, with incumbent Rushern Baker term-limited out and running (with our endorsement!) for governor of Maryland. Who is the right person to succeed him?
Baker has moved Prince George's County toward better walkability, stronger economic development, and a cleaner government. Urbanist issues are front and center in this campaign, including the county's zoning rewrite, the forthcoming Comprehensive Housing Plan, and the forthcoming Transit Vision Plan. We're looking for a county executive who will follow in his footsteps and advance urbanism in Prince George's County.
We sent our questionnaire to nine candidates, eight Democrats and one Republican, and received responses (click names to see them) from current State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards, State Senator C. Anthony Muse, former Obama administration official Paul Monteiro, and residents Lewis Johnson, Billy Bridges, and Sam Bogley.
Many had excellent points to make in the questionnaire. Three stand out as potential excellent county executives: Alsobrooks, Edwards, and Monteiro. We plan to speak further with them and then make a decision.
Here are some of the responses we particularly liked… or didn't.
Road safety and widening
Alsobrooks said, “I believe that [the county's high rate of pedestrian and bicycle crashes] is due in large part to the culture of how transportation projects had been approved, the historical priority that had been placed on throughput (in many instances to accommodate motorists traveling through Prince George's County), much of which is along multi-lane State maintained arterials, and the culture of land-use. This in turn resulted in a lack of focus on pedestrian and bicycle connectivity.”
Edwards made the transportation-land use connection by tying road safety to poor choices that allow greenfield developments far from transit or jobs. She said, “It will take leadership and commitment — including the courage to reverse decisions like $170 million in wasteful transportation spending the County has made at sprawling developments in Brandywine, Konterra, and Westphalia — to make funding these strategies to make our roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians a reality.”
Senator Muse has been a leader on pushing for speed cameras on dangerous Route 210 (Indian Head Highway). He said in the legislature, “Too many lives are being lost because people choose to break the law,” Muse said. “Don’t speed — that’s the message we want to get out.”
However, he supports widening roads like the Beltway and BW Parkway, as Governor Hogan has proposed. He wrote, “I support widening I-495 and B-W parkway to free up our traffic nightmare. Widening the road will reduce congestion.”
Alsobrooks was unequivocal about why this is a bad idea:
I do not support this project. There are two main reasons. The first is the opportunity cost, both at a staff level and at an operations level, of supporting more sustainable modes of transportation such as shoring up WMATA service, expanding MARC service and bus service. Second, is my aversion to building additional road capacity that would not be available to large segments of the driving public and would instead only serve to invite additional congestion.
Housing and economic development
Prince George's County is home to the lowest median home values and highest property tax rates in the region, so economic development conversations often center on strengthening and/or diversifying the tax base. However, in the past this has led to county leaders promoting projects that look more like a growth Ponzi scheme.
Donna Edwards articulated an insightful and progressive vision for economic development focused on people. She wrote, “To grow the innovation economy in Prince George’s, it is essential that we transform our education system and make transit-oriented development a cornerstone of our economic development future.” She also made clear that she opposes “call-up” or “election,” a zoning process which encourages political meddling in planning decisions and has been ripe for abuse.
Monteiro gave an excellent answer on housing affordability:
My goal is to finally a HAVE a comprehensive strategy that addresses the socioeconomic diversity in the county and the low-income and working families that desperately need realistic and quality housing options. The lack of a strategy to this point is inexcusable. The experience of eviction as a child still sticks with me and we should do all we can to ensure families are not displaced and ensure that a holistic approach is taken…
He also supports efforts to allow accessory apartments, saying, “The shortage of available affordable units in the broader region will only become more acute in the coming years and — within the proper constraints including local community input — ADUs are a pragmatic tool to address the overflow in the short term. Our diverse communities and the 10% of county residents are already struggling for affordable, quality options.”
What do you think of the responses from Alsobrooks, Edwards, and Monteiro? What would you like us to ask the candidates?