Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) stood and picked up the microphone on the air-conditioned tour bus as it pulled off from the county courthouse the other day.
His captive audience: members of the Maryland House Appropriations Committee. His message: Great things are happening in the county's economic development -- and more state money is needed to keep them happening.
"We are investing a huge amount into the infrastructure of Prince George's County," Johnson said as the bus took off. "We are really pleased about the progress, [and] we are very optimistic in terms of the money we are investing. It is going to be beautiful once it is done."
They rode on some of the county's smoothly paved roads through Upper Marlboro, the seat of county government and home to some of its pricier subdivisions.
"There are nice executive homes in Prince George's County," Johnson pointed out as the bus pulled into a cul-de-sac. The two-story brick houses and manicured lawns were surrounded by trees.
"This is Potomac in Prince George's County," chimed in Pamela Piper, Johnson's deputy chief administrative officer. The delegates nodded approvingly.
The tour bus then headed up Route 4 to Suitland. Haitham A. Hijazi, Johnson's director of public works, took the mic.
"To your right and your left is prime land that really cannot be developed unless we get a new interchange on Route 4," Hijazi told the delegates. "We really appreciate anything you can do for that. If you come over here in the morning, you will see traffic backed up for a mile."
The tour pulled into Suitland, which has one of the county's higher crime rates, and passed through an apartment complex that county officials said has been a breeding ground for crime. Prince George's officials are buying parcels of the complex and tearing it down. They want to attract retailers and build new homes.
"If you can stop and picture Virginia's Ballston area or Rosslyn, that is what we are doing here," said Thomas M. Thompson, director of the county's Department of Housing and Community Development.
The group headed to National Harbor, a large convention and entertainment center being built on the Potomac River.
During a lunch break there, Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's) and the other state delegates munched on sandwiches, tuna wraps and cookies. She said such tours give "legislators a sense of the diverse needs across the state."
There's no guarantee that the county will win funding for its projects, but Johnson said, "When we come [seeking] appropriations, it won't be a surprise."
-- Krissah Williams
Jack B. Johnson says state funding for new projects "won't be a surprise."