National Harbor, the proposed waterfront development in Oxon Hill, cleared a major hurdle this week when the County Council approved bills that create a special taxing district for the hotel and allow the county to issue bonds to pay for infrastructure around the site.
About a dozen people testified in support of the bills.
First to testify was County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D). Then Milton V. Peterson, the project's developer, and Colin V. Reed, the president of Gaylord Entertainment, which will operate the hotel and convention center, addressed the County Council.
Community activist Eugene Grant and several members of his Global Developmental Services for Youth Inc. offered their support. Most addressed their remarks to Peterson, thanking him for investing in Prince George's.
Then came Donna Edwards, who has been a thorn in Peterson's side for years. She urged the council to continue to oversee the project and make sure it is "fair to the people."
"The public isn't just the government, the public is the people," Edwards said.
And despite the handshakes and smiles exchanged between her and Peterson, Edwards said she is still going to make sure National Harbor benefits the community.
"You haven't heard the last of us yet," Edwards assured Peterson, Johnson and Reed.
Cheers, Tears for Brown
Del. Anthony G. Brown (D-Prince George's) started his remarks with a few jokes. But, with dozens of colleagues and campaign supporters surrounding him, Brown couldn't help but get a little choked up toward the end of his speech last week at a fundraiser at the Greenbelt Marriott.
Brown, 42, a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve and the recently named majority whip of the House of Delegates, has been ordered to report July 12 to Fort McCoy, Wis., and expects to be deployed to Iraq in the next couple of months. As a result, he will probably miss the upcoming 2005 legislative session, which begins in January. Brown also will miss his family: his wife, Patricia, and their two children, Rebecca, 9, and Jonathan, 4.
Brown, a lawyer, talked about how going from Annapolis to Iraq was like going from "one hostile area to another." A few chuckled.
He talked about how he had planned to make changes in the way business was done in Annapolis. He said he planned to be the head cheerleader for the party. A few applauded.
Brown noted that he would likely miss a lot of exciting issues. "But they've been around for decades," he said.
At the end, Brown said he wanted to make a pledge to his friends, colleagues and supporters. If and when he is deployed, he said, he will "focus on his mission" and "communicate as often as possible." A few, including his District 25 colleague, Del. Melony G. Griffith (D-Prince George's), got choked up.
Griffith offered a prayer during the event, which was attended by House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) and members of the Prince George's County delegation. But first she had these words to say about her friend: "Anthony, to me, exemplifies excellence as defined by an anonymous writer: 'Excellence is the result of caring more than others think wise, risking more than others think safe, dreaming more than others think practical, and expecting more than others think possible.' "
Some of the sponsors of the event included Bank of America, Gibbs & Haller law firm in Lanham (where Brown practices), Geico, the Michael Cos. and the Maryland Trial Lawyers Association.
Fees May Be Going Up
Personal income taxes in Prince George's are as high as the state will allow. And property taxes are as high as county voters have permitted.
So there are only so many ways to get additional revenue into the county coffers.
Looks like County Executive Jack B. Johnson has found a few.
Johnson wants to charge residents for copies of their tax bills.
He also has asked the County Council to consider raising the fees for several licenses and functions carried out by the County Health Department's Division of Environmental Health.
Included in the proposal:
* Doubling the fee for reinstating a temporarily suspended license for operating a public swimming pool. The fee was $75. Johnson wants it upped to $150.
* Increasing the fee for submitting plans for a new food service facility from $200 to $300. The rate would go from $150 to $200 for a remodeled facility.
* Raising the permit for vending machine locations from $100 to $125.
* Changing the septic contractor's license from $200 to $250.
"The rationale is [that] these fees have not gone up for about 10 years," Jim Keary, a spokesman for Johnson said.
The proposal also imposes two new license fees to operate public swimming pools. A 12-month license would be $600, and a seasonal public swimming pool license would be $400.
Keary said all of the new and increased fees would generate about $100,000 a year.
A hearing was scheduled for yesterday.