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Thursday, June 02, 2005

What’s wrong with our county?

To the Prince George's County editor of the Gazette.

I don't intend this for publication, but I do want to let you know that I was not particularly impressed with either your June 2, 2005 editorial or the answers from our "leaders." You may have put a lot of work into the pieces, but they come across as superficial.

Three things came immediately to mind as I read the answers.

First, an almost overwhelming sense of self-denial by our "leaders"--denial of the scope and severity of the problems; and denial of their own responsibilty. If these people are truly our "leaders," why haven't they led us away from the problems?

Second, the almost complete absence of comments from Republican leaders, and lack of any discussion of the possible effects of one-party government. Is it not possible that a true two-party system, as found in those surrounding jurisdictions with fewer problems, would lead to greater citizen involvemnt and demands for accountability from our "leaders"?

Third, why did you just ask "leaders"? Why didn't you address some of their victims? And I don't mean just crime victims. Many, perhaps most, county residents are being victimized in other ways.

Our children are not being educated. Our "leaders" have postured and diddled around for years, but have not produced any results. Nobody you interviewed asked why our schools are still last; they either made excuses or spun the issue.

A lot of people seem to agree that the police force is understaffed, but nobody, including your newspaper, seems to want to address publicly what the right staffing level should be and how to get there. Why not? We don't have enough police, some of the ones we have are merely chauffers, but Jack Johnson has money to hire lots of high paid deputies and none of our "leaders" seem to think that's a problem. Have you ever thought of asking people who don't have an interest in the status quo to discuss or propose possible solutions to our crime and policing problems--or asked our leaders for the real reasons, not financial doubletalk, why staffing is so low?

Young people can't buy affordable housing, partly because county growth policies have contributed to hyperinflation in housing prices. One young couple I know is buying a house in St. Mary's for half what the same house by the same builder would cost in Croom. Land prices only account for a small part of the difference; much of the difference is due to both much higher fees and a much higher cost of dealing with Prince George's County's bureaucracy and overwhelming red tape--another issue your newspaper seems to ignore. Did you interview any young people trying to buy or build in the county?

South county residents have been denied the use of the Oxon Hill Library for three years. That's three classes of Oxon Hill, Potomac, and Crossland High School students who were denied access to this resource that was historically filled with school children. The project was supposed to take nine months and was mismanaged from the start. Yet nobody seems to care about the patrons who were victimized, and nobody is being held accountable by either our elected officials or the press.

I could go on and on, but there's little point. Perhaps next time you do something like this you could try getting some thoughtful--not just off-the-cuff--opinions from a wide spectrum of county residents of all backgrounds. I would find that more useful than what you have just published.

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