Street Lights Meeting
Residents of a Glenarden subdivision locked in a battle with the mayor and City Council over who will pay for street lights in the community hope to learn tonight whether an agreement has been reached.
The Glenarden City Council is expected to announce tonight its decision on whether residents of the Glenarden Forest and Frost subdivisions in the Barlowe Ridge neighborhood will be assessed additionally to pay for public lighting in the community.
Residents there already pay $62 a year for city-installed lights, as do other Glenarden residents.
Until early this year, the city paid for common area lighting. Then Mayor Don Juan Williams and the City Council decided that the residents should pay to light their own streets.
Residents protested, saying the $12,400 the city makes from the light fees from the 200 residents of the subdivisions is more than enough to pay for the street lights. City officials fired back, saying that the $62 assessment pays for lighting all around Glenarden and was never intended to pay exclusively for lighting in specific homeowners' neighborhoods.
Officials from the power company responsible for lighting Glenarden, Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., attended a meeting Oct. 20, where residents were told that the bill for lighting the communities would be more expensive if paid by residents because the city is given a discounted rate.
At the hearing, Frost subdivision resident Alice Howard asked the City Council to cooperate with residents to reach an agreement that would satisfy all sides. There was no response to her request, she said.
"We don't know what is going on. We are just waiting," Howard said in an interview after the meeting. "There was a lot of back-and-forth. We had a lot of questions."
The question foremost on many residents' minds is whether the city is amenable to giving homeowners in the 200 homes in question a tax credit if they end up paying for lighting in their neighborhood.
Former Glenarden mayor Marvin F. Wilson, now a member of the Prince George's County Council, said it would be unfair to charge residents both for lighting for the city and for their subdivision.
"They'd be paying double," Wilson said. "I wanted to give them credit for the $62 they paid the city, but the new mayor opposes that."
During his term as mayor of Glenarden, Wilson said he had an agreement with BGE that the city would pay for lighting. But the agreement apparently was never put into writing. After Williams took over in 1995, he decided that the $12,400 in revenue from the residents for lighting should stay in the city coffers and that residents should be charged additionally if they wanted more than the 15 street lights provided by the city.
Howard, too, feels Williams's plan is unfair.
"They said our money pays for lighting all over the city," she said. "Basically, they are saying that we are paying for something for someone else, but we don't get the same [benefit]."
-- Avis Thomas-Lester
A Protest Run
There are easier ways to protest than running 26 miles. But for a Franciscan priest who survived a civil war in Bolivia, death squads in El Salvador and drug gangs in the South Bronx, the Marine Corps Marathon on Sunday probably was a walk.
The Rev. Brian Jordan had no problem running in his 33rd marathon. At 44, he is fit and active, a regular runner who does it to clear his head and to enjoy the outdoors. But on this run, the Catholic activist had a special mission in mind: raising money for the family of Gilberto Hernandez.
On Sept. 4, 1998, Hernandez was walking home from his dishwasher's job in Laurel when he was attacked and beaten by a group of youths. Two weeks ago, 18-year-old Cochise Iraun "Cody" Queen was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the fatal attack. Two others are awaiting trial.
Jordan said he ran in the marathon to raise money for a widow and four teenage daughters in El Salvador who are struggling to survive without the man in their lives.
"It is always a great thrill and joy to complete a marathon, but this time, there was a sense of sadness because I was running on behalf of a courageous father and husband who died trying to provide for his family," said Jordan, who was among the runners in the annual foot race through Washington and Arlington on Sunday.
Jordan said Hernandez always sent his pay check home to his wife, Tomasa, and their four daughters. Last year, Jordan and community leaders in Laurel set up a memorial fund and raised $10,000 for the Hernandez family, and a few days before Christmas, he traveled to El Salvador and presented them with a check.
Now Jordan is trying to raise another $10,000 to take to the family this Christmas even though two months ago he moved to New York, where he is in charge of the immigration center at the Church and Friary of St. Francis of Assisi, National Shrine of St. Anthony.
"The Lord has blessed me with the ability to run marathons," said Jordan, who added that even though he has moved away, he felt compelled to come back to the area to keep the Hernandez case alive.
For nearly a year, Jordan has been among the most vocal critics of State's Attorney Jack B. Johnson's handling of the case.
Hernandez was tackled headlong to the ground, robbed and kicked by a group of high school football players in Laurel as he walked home from work. Initially seven people were arrested, but Johnson dropped the charges against four suspects without ever interviewing Hernandez's two brothers.
"During the trial, I felt inspired by looking at the tears on the faces of Gilberto's brothers and sisters to keep his memory alive," Jordan said. The grief of the Hernandez family, he said, ran much deeper than the loss of Hernandez.
"This barbaric homicide and the way it was handled, through the investigation and the trial, sends a message that Latinos are not considered full-fledged members of society," said Jordan, who plans to closely watch the trial of two other men charged in connection with Hernandez's death.
For nearly a decade, Jordan has been a relentless advocate for Washington area Latinos. In Mount Pleasant in 1991, Jordan calmed families during Mass and challenged D.C. police during community meetings after rioting broke out when a D.C. police officer shot a Hispanic man.
From 1990 to 1996, Jordan served as pastor of St. Camillus Catholic Church in Silver Spring, where he waged many battles on behalf of Hispanic immigrants. One of his most successful efforts was helping to create a training center for Latino day workers who had been intimidated by employers.
Now Jordan is working with Latino immigrants in the New York area.
But he doesn't plan to abandon his work helping Maryland's Latinos.
"It was really hard to leave the Washington area," he said. "The murder of Gilberto Hernandez should be a wake-up call for the entire Latino community in the state of Maryland."
Although Jordan has been a leading advocate for the Hispanic community, he says he is an advocate for all people. "Whether it is an African American or a Latino, as Christians we are called to denounce the evils of injustice."
Jordan was not the only Catholic priest scheduled to run in the Marine Corps Marathon. The Rev. Bill Parent, 39, said he was running in an effort to get more men to become priests.
"The Marines aren't the only ones who want a few good men," said Parent, a Bowie native who is director of Priestly Vocations for the Archdiocese of Washington. "I'm offering the sacrifices I've made to run this marathon as a challenge to 26 single men in the archdiocese . . . to make the sacrifice necessary to serve the Lord as priest."
-- Hamil R. Harris
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CAPTION: The Rev. Brian Jordan trains to run in a marathon as a protest and also to raise money for the family of Gilberto Hernandez.