No to National Harbor

I have always had a lot of respect for Congressman Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), but recently he has taken actions that make no sense to me and are not in Maryland's best interests. Rep. Hoyer is carrying dirty water for a Virginia developer, Milton V. Peterson, who seeks to build National Harbor . . . on the banks of the Potomac River, just south of the Wilson Bridge.

Rep. Hoyer wants to shield this proposed project from complying with key federal laws, and from further public scrutiny. But the public--you and I--would have to cope somehow with the traffic, noise and pollution this gigantic resort would bring.

Rep. Hoyer is trying to amend a law he authored in 1986. This law gave 55 acres of federally owned land in Prince George's County to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission so that a freeway interchange could be built to benefit the failed PortAmerica project, where National Harbor is now proposed.

This law gave the National Capital Planning Commission oversight to review any development, like National Harbor, that would affect the Potomac River, historic views and public recreational use of the parts of the 55 acres not used for roads. Rep. Hoyer's amendment would take this power away from the NCPC and, therefore, from the public. To add insult to injury, if National Harbor is built, the public would lose the access to the river it was given in exchange for ceding the land.

Southern Prince George's County needs quality development and job opportunities, not low-wage tourist traps like National Harbor, which would enrich a few and burden the existing neighborhoods with traffic and noise. Why not redevelop the heart of Oxon Hill, where Peterson Cos. owns a deteriorating strip mall? Prince George's County already has one glitzy theme park clogging our roads, why do we need another?

Please call Rep. Hoyer (202-225-4131) and tell him you want him to fight for quality development, not more theme parks; to fight for federal funding for an affordable, convenient and dependable rail system in Prince George's County, not more roads and favors for the developers. The public--those of us stuck in traffic, not wealthy developers like Peterson--are the ones Rep. Hoyer should be trying to help.

-- Vladimir Parma

Oxon Hill

Yes to Harbor

The National Harbor project was announced in February 1997, and after many hours and countless days of public testimony, the Prince George's County Council approved the project in June 1998. Since that time, the project has been subjected to a number of public hearings conducted by the National Capital Planning Commission regarding the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The NCPC, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland State Highway Administration, has prepared a Final Environmental Impact Statement. All levels of government have had input on this project and . . . have concurred with the proposed development. It is unfortunate . . . that a handful of dissenting people who live outside the boundaries of Prince George's County have used the courts to try to reverse the decision to build National Harbor. The citizens of Prince George's County and its governing bodies have given National Harbor their blessings. As a citizen of Prince George's County, I've had enough of outside intervention. I'm asking my fellow citizens to speak up and write to the press and other media outlets letting them know that we want and deserve National Harbor.

I am sick and tired of outside influences interfering in Prince George's County business. Prince Georgians have decided that we want National Harbor to be a part of our community. We do not want or seek our neighbors' opinions on what is best for us. We have participated in the decision-making process and anxiously await the commencement of construction. The deprivation of quality development in South County has been widely recognized by the citizens. We now have the opportunity to right a situation that has been wrong for such a long time. It would be foolish of us not to take advantage of this outstanding opportunity. My hat is off to Rep. Steny H. Hoyer for his support of National Harbor and the South County community. Avid supporters of National Harbor should write Rep. Hoyer and let him know we appreciate his support and actions and that we stand by him and his commitment to the project. We should also write Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.), who has been very cool to National Harbor, asking him to give this development the same type of support he has so enthusiastically shown for development being proposed in northern Prince George's County. We must let others know that Prince Georgians are very capable of making our own decisions about economic development and its impact on our community. After careful consideration and much deliberation, we've made a decision that National Harbor, along with the economic prosperity and benefits it brings, best fits the needs of Prince George's County, regardless of our neighbors' feelings.

-- Lorenzo B. Ferguson

Mitchellville

Magnet Bus Service

I am a parent in the county with a child in a magnet program. My child receives the door-to-door service just as all the others complaining at the board meeting. I, for one, feel that the board is not utilizing its transportation dollars wisely, and, although it is nice having door-to-door service, I can't agree that this should continue.

. . . [One speaker at a recent board meeting] felt that the board's idea to give parents the school bus plan on Aug. 15 was too close to the school opening for parents to review and approve the plan. "It wasn't enough time for parents to make arrangements to get their child to the central pickup location," she said. But when I think about when we as parents were notified that our children had been accepted into the program, we were not given a school year or even months to adapt, we were given a few weeks to accept or decline. Believe me, we made sure that we had all the child-care problems and any other obstacles removed so that our child could attend this program. But now that we have gotten comfortable with door-to-door service, we don't want to give it up. Who cares that those dollars are needed for teacher salaries and many other important areas that all of our children will benefit from? The privileged magnet school child's routine can't be disrupted. It's not so much the child's routine as it is the parents'.

Comprehensive students meet at a central location. Why can't magnet students do so? When have you seen 89 parents at a board meeting independently complaining about the same subject with such passion and fervor as this when the problem affects the child as when it affects the parents' schedule?

Not only am I sick of the parents in this county, but the board is sickening as well. If they truly had a plan to present, why did they so readily back down from the parents? They didn't even try to negotiate an opportunity to present the plan or just stand their ground when they know that this change has to be made. Did the board members see 89 disappearing votes if they didn't adapt to parents' demands?

I feel very fortunate that my child has the opportunity to participate in a magnet program. I would feel even more fortunate to have this county provide the same quality education for all of our students.

-- Ava W. Martin

Fort Washington

More on Magnets

As a parent of three children who have been in the Prince George's County public schools for the past 12 years, I'd like to congratulate members of the Board of Education for their recent selection of Iris T. Metts as our new school superintendent. She seems well qualified to do a good job.

. . . Without any public discussion whatsoever, the Prince George's County public schools have made a decision to change the criteria for the selection of students to its magnet programs. These changes . . . certainly should not have been undertaken without public consent (including that of the NAACP and the school system's own school board).

Scrutiny is particularly important given that the legality of racial quotas is under question nationwide, and that the Prince George's County public school system may have left itself open to legal challenges as a result of the changes made.

This change has already taken effect for the next school year. . . .

Parents were making decisions on which magnet schools to apply for in the Feb. 19 lottery (and, indeed, whether to enroll their children in the local public schools at all) based on information in the brochure that the magnet office and the Office of Pupil Accounting and School Boundaries themselves quietly ended up not using.

. . . The Board of Education was not even notified that the guidelines were indeed being officially changed by the school system--irreversibly for the 1999-2000 school year, since the lottery applicants have already been notified of their acceptance or nonacceptance.

The result of the changes in the "magnet student assignment criteria" is that in some schools, the ratio of magnet slots for either black or nonblack students coming in from outside the attendance area will be dramatically different from what has been in place over the last years. . . . Senior administrators within the school system have denied that their intention is to decrease the numbers of nonblacks who attend their public schools, but when the school system's own detailed statistics are closely analyzed, it is clear that the changes they have made will thwart the valiant attempts over the past 14 years to achieve racial integration with the help of the magnet programs.

If desegregation is no longer a goal in Prince George's County, then why have a nonblack and a black list anyway? . . . Why not let everyone, of whatever race, apply through the lottery as equals? Nationally, courts have ruled that school systems should not "bean count" in racial categories.

. . . Why not more quickly expand the number of magnet programs to meet the demand? The "white flight" (and, indeed, the flight of many middle- and upper-class blacks) out of the county's public schools could be significantly stemmed if more of these popular programs were available to everyone regardless of race.

. . . An important matter like this should not be quietly implemented by a bureaucracy. . . . It should be publicly debated and decided by the people the public has elected as representatives.

-- Joani Nelson Horchler

Cheverly

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