He was forced out by term limits. But anyone who thought former Prince George's County Council member Stephen J. Del Giudice was going to fade quietly into lawmaker has-been land should think again.
Not only is Del Giudice still a player in county politics, he is one of a number of people who are expected to shape Prince George's in the next millennium in his role as chairman of Commission 2000, a quasi-government group created by the Prince George's County Council and charged with recommending the best ways to develop the county.
As chairman, Del Giudice has a big role overseeing 53 members from such backgrounds as government, development, education and the environment.
It's a job that Del Giudice does not take lightly. He grew up in Providence, R.I., but Del Giudice considers Prince George's his home now. After all, the county, he says, is where his children received their education, and where for eight years, he served as a member of the County Council. Having fallen short on accomplishing many of the goals he set for himself and the county before his council tenure ended last year, Del Giudice welcomed the chance to lead Commission 2000. But he has no illusions about the job.
"I believe there is an important role in advising the county in a deliberate process, but there are limits to that," said Del Giudice, who now works in Baltimore for a national transportation and engineering firm. "We're not the elected officials."
When he was on the council, Del Giudice worked on legislation to revitalize the county's urban neighborhoods, inner-Beltway communities that have been left behind as the rest of Prince George's has exploded. The former Takoma Park mayor and former George Washington University law professor was also a champion of improved transportation and better land-use planning that would make residents less reliant on cars. One of the first pieces of legislation he sponsored expanded human rights protections for gay people.
The commission, which will advise county officials on commercial and residential growth, land use and zoning issues, is expected to submit a two-year growth plan to county leaders sometime next year.
While he works on the millennium report, Del Giudice said he also will look for ways to improve other aspects, such as the struggling school system.
Del Giudice believes that smart planning will help avoid crowded schools in areas where new home construction is rampant. In communities where building is slow or nonexistent, the county should consider opening schools that were closed in the 1970s and 1980s because of a downshift in school-age children.
"The schools are the most significant challenge this county has," Del Giudice said. "If we don't fix them, we won't be able to attract the kind of high-end employer and employee that you see in Montgomery County or Fairfax."
To that end, Del Giudice said the county could benefit from a new advertising campaign. Instead of billing itself as an affordable bedroom community to Washington, the county should push its potential for high-tech growth and upscale living.
Del Giudice said the county should do more to encourage development around Metro stations--something that has happened in nearly every jurisdiction but Prince George's.
And there's the issue of TRIM, the law that limits how much the county can raise taxes. Perhaps, Del Giudice said, if voters knew that their increased tax dollars would be used to enhance education or improve public safety, they might be more inclined to do away with the law the next time it shows up on a ballot.
"It's not enough to simply repeal TRIM," Del Giudice said. "Citizens want to know that they can trust the county to do with the money what they say they are going to do with it."
CAPTION: Stephen J. Del Giudice is chairman of the county's Commission 2000.