| Dear Friends: |
If your life revolves a school calendar, the 'New Year' is upon us and any summer vacation is fading in the rearview mirror. But life and politics proceed. As you'll read below, in my opinion, the national debt ceiling 'debate' this summer was a disaster. There's a link below to a great piece in The Nation by Bill Greider. The right-wing of the Republican Party set the terms of the debate and in the rare time that progressive responses were offered, they were silenced. At the state level, I report on one major victory (solar and wind net metering) that is now state law and another (rural development) that needs to be changed. Locally, we have a number of new school principals in our communities and some local development losses and gains.
Please share any reactions -- or questions -- you may have on the views and opinions included below. As your representative, I want to make this a dialogue, not a monologue.
P.S. Do you want to join me and march with me in the Greenbelt Labor Day parade, Monday Sept. 5 at 10 am? I'd love to see you. Just hit reply if you're interested.
The debt deal worked out by President Obama and Congressional leaders may have partially been a result of blackmail by the Tea Party, but it was also a result of a betrayal of longstanding values of progressive taxation and a strong social safety net (social security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc). As William Greider recently wrote in The Nation, how fair is it to "[t]ake a dollar from working stiffs who need these programs, [and] take a dollar from the superrich who don't need a tax break." Instead the President should hammer the super-rich for not paying their fair share and focus on creating jobs while protecting programs so vital to the lower and middle class during this downturn. Read more here.
A couple of weeks ago, I enjoyed attending National Night Out community events around the district which were focused on community safety and reducing neighborhood crime.That evening, I was able to attend events sponsored by Edmonston, Greenbrier/Glen Oaks, Kingswood, New Carrollton, Beacon Heights/Woodlawn/Glenridge, Riverdale/Riverdale Heights/Templeton Knolls/Crestwood/East Pines, Berwyn Heights, and Lewisdale. Unfortunately, I still missed a few and apologize to those communities I missed.
It is gratifying to see these events continue to grow in number and size! More people are getting involved in our community activities and this community involvement helps to reduce crime. Thank you to all of the organizers, especially our civic associations and police departments! If I didn't make it to your neighborhood, let me know about events in the coming months, so I can try to attend.
The University Town Center (UTC) project, situated across from P.G. Plaza and the Metro was purchased at a foreclosure auction this past week; it was also written about in the Washington Post. While many had high hopes for the project -- and are still hopeful -- it has been a disaster in management and promotion of epic proportions, as well as a victim of economic conditions.
Obviously, its timing couldn't have been worse (through no fault of its own): opening just as the recession hit. But every other step --or misstep -- just exacerbated the problem. It was never marketed or promoted. It took two years to put-up signage (which is still woeful); it never let the immediate community know the retail portion even existed (There are still people in Hyattsville who don't even know there is a movie theater less than a mile away); because of permitting, stores opened late and in a staggered manner, killing any marketing momentum; the supermarket and hotel proposals never came to fruition, leaving the remaining retail set back and buried; outdoor security has been minimal in front of the movie theaters; and the list goes on.
Its failure is not a result of over-expansion or capacity. Hopefully, with new ownership -- and vision -- it can be revived. Selling condos during a recession, however, remains a difficult sell. While it may be a great buy for first-time buyers, sales are very slow. Around the country, many developers are converting them into rentals until the economy picks up.
Conversely, there is momentum on the other side of Hyattsville. With the opening of Tara Thai, the long-awaited Busboys & Poets and other retail stores, there is a real buzz at the EYA site on Rt. 1.
I am pleased to have helped jump-start the project with state infrastructure support when the retail portion stalled. With this portion almost completed, EYA with its partners, is proceeding with the residential portion that is expected to have 600 residential units (townhouse, apartments, etc.) in this second phase.
Housing developments continue being built in our most rural counties, destroying green space and farm areas and sending harmful runoff into the bay. And that's not even the worst of it. These developments, away from local towns, are on individual septic systems, not on town water and sewer which runs into more effective wastewater treatment plants. The result? These individual systems allow high amounts of nitrogen to leach into the groundwater, further degrading the rivers, streams and ultimately, the bay.
One solution is to restrict growth in these areas by limiting individual septic systems and directing growth into developed areas (i.e. inside the Washington and Baltimore beltways and into suburban and rural towns that have water and sewer).
This year, I introduced legislation to curb the growth of rural subdivisions that rely on septic systems rather than sewer connections. The governor joined me in testifying on behalf of the bill. After the legislature failed to act on the bill, the Governor appointed me to a Taskforce to study the issue this summer and fall. I have advocated restricting the growth of these subdivisions, because they do account for such a disproportionate amount of nitrogen that goes into the Chesapeake Bay. They also require expensive investments in road and utility infrastructure. While rural sprawl and development is expensive over the long run and harmful to the environment and our quality of life, driving that development into existing communities leverages existing infrastructure and resources.
Last year and again this year I introduced legislation to improve our state's net metering law. If you put solar panels on your roof, business or school, whatever electricity you generate is deducted from your electric bill. Until last year, if you produced more electricity than you used, the electric company didn't have to pay you for that excess. As a result of legislation I introduced last year, utility companies don't get to keep that extra energy for free. Instead you get paid for it. This year, I introduced successful legislation to change the way the energy produced is calculated, making it more beneficial for the customer-generator.
Now the Public Service Commission, the state's utility regulator, has further enhanced net metering on the basis of the new laws. For the first time customer-generators can produce up to 200% of their annual electrical usage. Any energy left over at the end of April is purchased by the utility. And for the first time, certain generators (municipalities, non-profits, and agriculture) can combine different meters so electricity produced in one location can be used to offset electrical use in another. This kind of flexibility can make solar and wind much more beneficial financially. And the more renewable power we can produce, the less we have to rely on dirty coal power plants.
I would like to extend a warm welcome to 8 new principals in District 22: Mr. Edgar Batenga at Northwestern High School, Ms. Kimberly Washington at Hyattsville Middle School, Mr. Warren Tweedy at Greenbelt Middle School, Ms. Cheryl Hughes at Riverdale Elementary, Ms. Monica Gaines at Greenbelt Elementary, Ms. Patricia Belgrave at Lewisdale Elementary, Ms. Ebony Harrington at Templeton Knolls Elementary, and Ms. Constance Gibb at Robert Goddard Elementary. Best wishes to all staff and students for a successful school year!
County Executive, Rushern Baker, has announced the release of $2 million for FY 2012 Community Partnership Mini-Grant (CPMG) and Community Partnership Grant (CPG) applications. This funding is available for any organization, institution, or association, incorporated as a private, not-for-profit organization designated under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, providing services or activities in Prince George's County to meet the needs of County citizens and residents. Applications will be accepted continuously through the County's fiscal year (July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012).
I am happy to see that the County Exec is improving transparency and accountability by implementing several new requirements to the County Executive's discretionary grant process. This will ensure that the funds are being used in the most effective manner and result in positive outcomes.
More information is available here.
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