Francisco Escobar sells clothes from his native Colombia in a small Langley Park storefront, mostly to Spanish-speaking customers from nearby, immigrant-filled neighborhoods.
He and other entrepreneurs on University Boulevard worry that construction of the proposed light-rail Purple Line will block access to their businesses, increase property values and push out the lower-income families that make up the bulk of their customer base.
That’s the message U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) received when he met with a group of Latino business owners Monday.
“Help us identify priorities,” Cardin said during the meeting at CASA of Maryland’s Langley Park headquarters. “Give us a list of what would make a difference in your lives.”
Cardin said many Latino businesses in Prince George’s County do not have established relationships with government agencies that can direct them to helpful banks and contracts. Having meetings like this one, he said, gives him an idea of what he needs to fight for.
“We need more people involved in the political system,” Cardin told the business owners. “We need you.”
The senator took notes as one participant after another complained about landlords raising rents and difficulty procuring loans and understanding how the proposed 16-mile light-rail line would affect their businesses.
“There are ways the feds can help,” Cardin assured business owners.
Escobar said he was encouraged by the senator’s roundtable discussion, but added, “I want to see changes. Give us guidance and support. We need the support.”
Cardin, a senator since 2007 and member of Congress for two decades before that, took the opportunity to do a little politicking, defending President Obama’s record and reiterating the administration’s commitment to reforming the immigration system. “We’ve got to get to the finish line,” he said. “We’ve got to get this done.”
In response to a complaint about Washington gridlock, Cardin said, “I don’t like what’s going on in Washington . . . But I make no apologies for standing up for basic principles.”
Earlier in the day, Cardin celebrated the awarding of a $375,000 matching grant to the Prince George’s County Department of the Environment so it can retrofit its office building to reduce pollutants.
Cardin praised the county as a leader in applying innovative environmental practices to mitigate stormwater run-off and improve overall water quality.
The National Fish & Wildlife Fund and Chesapeake Bay Program funded 13 similar projects across the region.