Prince George’s County, already one of the 60 largest counties in the US, is on the rise, with a population over 900,000 and a budget of over $4 billion. Although the county has a reputation for suburban sprawl, county leadership has recently been pushing for more transit-oriented development and to bring more jobs and density to locations inside and near the Beltway.
As the county's population increases, it is essential that the county direct new development into forms and locations where it can be served well by transit and is accessible to pedestrians and cyclists. Greater Greater Washington's Elections Committee reviewed responses to our questionnaire to find candidates who have the best interests of Prince George’s County’s diverse and growing population in mind when it comes to issues of public transportation, equitable housing, and pedestrian safety.
We are pleased to endorse Deni Taveras in District 2, Dannielle Glaros in District 3, Jolene Ivey in District 5, Krystal Oriadha in District 7, and Tamara Davis Brown in District 9 as candidates that have inspired our confidence.
We also want to acknowledge the records of Todd Turner in District 4 and Derrick Leon Davis in District 6, both incumbents unopposed for re-election. While these leaders did not return our questionnaire, making them ineligible for endorsement under our process, they are familiar faces from their service (in different years) representing Prince George’s County on the regional Transportation Planning Board. Both recently cast a brave and much-needed yes vote regarding the county’s zoning rewrite, which we salute.
District 2: Deni Taveras
District 2 hugs the northeastern border of DC and contains communities with the highest population densities in Maryland. It presented us with our biggest challenge, as both one-term incumbent Deni Taveras and her opponent, current Hyattsville mayor Candace Hollingsworth, have excellent records and wrote very good responses to our survey.
While we would be thrilled to see both of these women on the council, we endorse Taveras because of her institutional knowledge, her record of support for the Purple Line, and her hard work in the trenches to build a coalition for inclusive economic development in the unincorporated Langley Park area. She has served as a policy analyst for elected officials, in the federal government at the EPA and in her capacity as member of the county council over the course of two decades of public service.
In her response to our question about economic development, she demonstrated a nuanced understanding of the Purple Line’s potential range of impacts in the county both during and after construction, with a special focus on local small businesses and affordable housing. However, she also showed that “economic development” is not just a magic catchphrase for new commercial real estate or transportation infrastructure by correctly classifying “building new schools to relieve the overcrowding in my district” as an economic issue, not just a social problem.
In 2022, when term limits prevent Taveras from seeking a third term, we hope to see Hollingsworth on the ballot again. For now, we look forward to her continuing her excellent work as mayor of the fifth-largest municipality in the county.
District 3: Dannielle Glaros
In District 3, which includes College Park and New Carrollton, Greater Greater Washington endorses incumbent Dannielle Glaros, who is running unopposed. Glaros, the newly elected council chair, has a history of outspoken support for the Purple Line and a focus on building stronger, more sustainable communities that reflect her deep focus on urbanist issues that matter to us all.
Glaros is a former Associate Director at Smart Growth America with extensive experience in county and state government, and we have confidence that she will continue to work hard for all of her constituents.
District 5: Jolene Ivey
District 5 includes the inner-Beltway communities surrounding Cheverly and a chunk of outer-Beltway communities as far out as parts of Mitchellville. Jolene Ivey is a former 12-year member of the Maryland House of Delegates and a former candidate for Lieutenant Governor (on Doug Gansler’s ticket in 2014). She will bring to the council her extensive experience in government from years as a delegate and as Senator Ben Cardin’s press secretary when he was in the House of Representatives.
In our blind head-to-head questionnaire response rating tool, GGWash readers overwhelmingly preferred Ivey to her opponent, Rochelle Mincey-Thompson. For example, Ivey told us that “public officials have a clear role in crafting policies that integrate the safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, making sure that bike lanes are created and protected, as well as installing sidewalks and safe crosswalks.”
In contrast, Mincey-Thompson emphasized education and enforcement, rather than infrastructure. While we found her answers overall supportive of an urbanist agenda, we also felt that she needs more policy experience, because she rarely discussed how, as a member of the council, she could use policy to change the way things are done. In contrast, Ivey’s long record of public service carries weight.
District 7: Krystal Oriadha
In District 7, which covers most of the southeastern border of DC and includes Suitland and Seat Pleasant, GGWash endorses Krystal Oriadha. Oriadha is currently the Communications Director for Human Resources Achievement Program, Inc.(HRAP), an education and job training non-profit which focuses on breaking the school to prison pipeline.
Oriadha dunked on her opponents on our blind head-to-head response rating tool, “winning” more than twice as often as her nearest opponent, Juan Stuart Jr., and greatly outdistancing Bruce Branch. We did not receive a response to our questionnaire from the candidate endorsed by the Washington Post, county government insider Rodney Colvin Streeter, who is currently Councilmember Andrea Harrison’s chief of staff in District 5.
A staunch progressive who considers herself an activist and not a politician, Oriadha is engaged with her community on many issues. She came out clearly against highway widening, saying, “I do not believe that the supposed added value would outweigh the cost. I also think that we should be spending that money on improving the public transportation system first before we focus on expanding one or two highways.”
Induced demand is not necessarily an instinctive concept for an elected official, many of whom spend long hours in cars campaigning across big districts, counties, and states. It matters when a leader understands that building more highway lanes only encourages more car commutes and car-dependent sprawl, but does not reduce congestion.
District 9: Tamara Davis Brown
Finally, we come to District 9, the most rural district in Prince George’s County, representing the southernmost portion of the county where transit access is limited. Five candidates returned our questionnaire, but one stood out.
Tamara Davis Brown caught our attention with her openness to urban issues, and we hope that she will work with the council members from more urban districts to fight for policies that will aid the whole county. She is emphatically pro-transit, including favoring expanded TheBus service in District 9.
Brown has been actively engaged on the county’s zoning rewrite, an absolute must for any potential incoming councilmember, and said “as a member of the Zoning Rewrite Focus Group … I advocated that the “call up” or “election” process should be eliminated. No other jurisdiction permits this, and it brings uncertainty in the zoning process.” While she does not share our views on accessory dwelling units, the value in having councilmembers that support reform of the county’s development review process is of paramount importance.
No endorsement in Districts 1 and 8
GGWash declines to make any endorsement in Districts 1 and 8.
In District 1, the county’s northernmost district including Beltsville and Laurel, Tom Dernoga submitted a strong questionnaire and has a clear track record on transit and urbanism issues from his previous stint in this seat (2002-2010). However, ethical concerns which swirled around his use (or, some say, misuse) of the controversial “call-up” development review process stops Greater Greater Washington short of a full endorsement.
Known as a long-term civic and environmental activist, Dernoga has lived in District 1 for the past 30 years and seeks to bring his institutional knowledge of the county government and of his district back to the council after term limits barred him seeking re-election in 2010. For a number of questions Dernoga’s answers made it clear that he has thought about the topics in depth, while current Mayor of Laurel Craig Moe, even when he supports our positions, didn’t go into enough detail to convince us that he is the right person for the job.
We asked the candidates about Governor Hogan’s proposal to widen I-495 and the B-W Parkway. Dernoga noted that funding major road projects usually precludes expanding transit, saying, “I have long supported increased mass transit options and the Purple Line since 1990, including an eastern extension.” In comparison, Moe merely stated that he has not taken a position on the proposal.
However, we have concerns about the way Dernoga exercised the county council’s controversial “call-up” power to review planning board decisions. He was so (in)famous in his day for exercising this power that the state legislature passed a new ethics law to check him.
Dernoga takes the view that call-up can ensure communities get a fair shake. In his questionnaire responses, he defended the practice while acknowledging it was open to abuse (albeit without naming names or giving examples): “Call-up has been used appropriately, and on occasion and has been abused. My experience with call-up as a citizen and as a councilmember has generally been positive. Generally, it is a helpful tool that can compensate for the lack of familiarity of citizens with the planning and zoning process.”
As we’ve stated before, it would be better to create a more inclusive and trustworthy planning process to address these issues head-on instead of giving council members what amounts to a reset button. While other candidates support including “election,” a new version of “call-up,” in the zoning rewrite, and Greater Greater Washington supports the rewrite despite its inclusion, we distinguish between candidates who see a need for “election” in the context of the county’s current Planning Board function and development review process, pending future reform, and Dernoga’s wholehearted past embrace of the tool as a preferred mechanism and to such an extreme.
In District 8, the home of National Harbor, we received survey responses from Karen Elizabeth Porter, Carlton Carter, Duane Anthony Staples, and Markida Walker. Porter scored best on the blind head-to-head response rating contest, but her strong, unconditional support for highway widening and her lack of understanding of current county development review processes do not warrant an endorsement.
The next generation of Prince George’s County leaders
The Prince George’s County Council needs urbanist leaders that will adopt 21st century zoning laws, prioritize economic development incentives around Metrorail, and proactively create new programs and policies to support inclusive, smart growth along the Purple Line. Leadership matters, and we urge Prince George’s County voters to advance Deni Taveras, Dannielle Glaros, Jolene Ivey, Kristal Oriadha, and Tamara Davis Brown in the June 26 Democratic primary.
This is the official endorsement of Greater Greater Washington. All endorsements are decided by our volunteer Elections Committee with input from our board and other volunteer committees. Want to keep up on other endorsement posts? Check out our 2018 primary summary page and sign up for our weekly elections newsletter.