A controversial appointment to the Prince George's County school board will be discussed in a public hearing on Tuesday when the county excutive sends the name of Bonnie Johns to the county council for approval. Johns, a county mental health officer, would fill the school board seat left vacant by the death of Jesse J. Warr Jr. in June.
Johns was a co-chairman for the county Democratic Party's "Blue Ribbon" platform committee in 1974, and her appointment to the school board has been termed "political" by some opponents.
Thelma Boyd, a retired Prince George's County school guidance counselor who was also considered by county executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. for the seat, has charged that the Johns appointment was influenced by politics and not qualifications.
Boyd said she was interviewed by "representatives of the black community," including Sen. Tommie Broadwater (D-Prince George's), Del. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) and county council member Floyd Wilson at two separate sessions. She said she questioned a system which would allow these men to choose a candidate for any school board seat. "Assuming these black people are accepted by the black community as their representatives, they are allowed (by the political system) to hand out the political plums. The process is shoddy."
John Lally, spokesman for Kelly, said that Kelly had stated publicly he would give consideration to the recommendations from black political officials on a nominee for Warr's seat. He said Broadwater and other black officials interviewed several candidates and recommended Boyd and Johns to Kelly.
Boyd said she has already sent her best wishes to Johns and said she would not speak against her at the hearing. "I don't know how in touch with the school system she (Johns) is, but the appointment was purely political."
Johns said of this allegation that "of 24 boards, commissions and task forces in this county that I've been on, this is the first time anybody has said it's political (an appointment). I've spent 20 to 30 hours on a Blue Ribbon committee and they make a (judgement on you."
Johns said she is undecided whether she will speak on her own behalf at the public hearing.
Tuesday's agenda also includes public hearings on the community-related issues of group homes for the elderly and the handicapped and on penalties for defamation of religious buildings within the county.
Council member Francis B. Francois is sponsoring a bill that would drop the special exception requirement for homes for abandoned adults or handicapped persons in residential areas. Homes of no more than eight residents, including staff, would be permitted without the necessity of permit and zoning procedures. Any homes for more than eight would still require special exceptions.
Francois, along with eight other council members, is also sponsoring a bill imposing criminal penalties for defacing religious sanctuaries. The legislation was prompted after testimony from a member of the Jewish Community Council of Bowie relating several incidents of defacement at a Bowie synagogue.
"We want to wipe out any trace of religious or racial hatred in Prince George's County. Young teens may see a symbol, such as a swastika, and not realize the impact of that symbol on a group of people in our community," said Francois.
Public testimony on the bill, which proposes a 180-day jail term, $1,000 fine or both for defacing a church, synagogue, mosque or other place or worship, will be heard at 1:30 p.m.
Growth in the east-central area of the county will be discussed at 7:30 p.m. in a public hearing on the Glendale, Seabrook and Lanham Sectional Map Amendment. Part of the county's efforts to develop a comprehensive zoning plan, the hearing follows numerous work sessions by council members earlier this summer. Public hearings on the Model Neighborhood and Northwestern area SMAs will be held later in September and early October.
As part of the council's look at zoning in the county, a public hearing on a bill to expand the potential uses of an industrial zone will be held Sept. 13. Introduced by David Hartlove, the legislation would attempt to encourage economic growth in the county through broadening business opportunities and incentices in what is known as the 1-3 zone. It would allow golf courses, libraries, museums, courts for tennis or racquet ball, radio and television stations and banks along with the already permitted warehouse space. There would also be a "green space" stipulation in the zone, as an incentive to upgrade the exterior appearance of the property.
"It is definitely an effort to attract more busisness into the county," said Martha Nudel, press aide to the council.
Nunel added, however, that she expects cats to be the major topic of interest at the Sept. 13 session. Council member Frank Casula is sponsoring a bill requiring yearly rabies shots for the county cat population. Cat owners would be required to put identification collars on their cats. "At $5 for each cat for the collar and shot, it would dissuade people from owning a lot of cats," said Nudel.