Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks used her first State of the County address Tuesday to rebuke those who would malign the majority-black suburb, including a state delegate who this year used the n-word to describe it, and call on residents to be proud of their home.
Although Prince George’s still lags behind other jurisdictions in the wealthy Washington region in terms of income and school test scores, the county has made strides in job growth, attracting high-end retailers and shedding the perception of corruption that followed the 2010 arrest of then-County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
Alsobrooks (D), who took office in December, has made building pride a central theme of her administration, earning cheers at town halls and other appearances when she declares herself “Prince George’s Proud.” That slogan is now included in county emails and newsletters.
“The pride is not manufactured — it is real,” Alsobrooks, who grew up in Prince George’s, said in an interview after her speech. “We just have to be reminded.”
She said when she first heard that Del. Mary Ann Lisanti (D), a white lawmaker from rural Harford County, had used a racial slur to describe a legislative district in Prince George’s, she was “outraged.”
Then, Alsobrooks said, she thought of the more than 900,000 residents of Prince George’s — which is one of the wealthiest majority-black jurisdictions in the country and has a growing immigrant population — and the strength that comes from their diverse community.
“Without pride in our hometown, we might take to heart the words of an ignorant outsider,” Alsobrooks said Tuesday, drawing applause from the more than 600 attendees who gathered for breakfast at the Hotel at the University of Maryland in College Park.
She said Lisanti, who remains in office despite widespread calls for her to resign, has not taken Alsobrooks up on her offer to show her around Prince George’s.
Lisanti, who apologized for her remarks but also said she did not remember using the slur, said Tuesday that it was “a bit unfortunate to learn I’ve been singled out as one of the most pressing issues in Prince George’s.” She said she still wants to tour the county with Alsobrooks and believes that once they sit down, they will “find common ground.”
Alsobrooks thanked her predecessor, Rushern L. Baker III (D) — noting that she was giving her first State of the County address under much better circumstances than when he had given his, when crime rates were spiking and Johnson’s case was still making headlines.
She highlighted her administration’s priorities, citing education as her top issue and noting her collaboration with interim schools chief Monica Goldson on projects such asbuilding schools using the public-private partnership model and fighting for additional state dollars in Annapolis.
And she announced that this year, the county’s summer jobs program will more than double to include 7,000 young people, up from 3,000 last year.
Alsobrooks said she wants to recruit developers to the county whose visions fit with what communities want and who recognize the purchase power of a county whose residents have a median income of $81,000.
She praised developer Erik Hugus, who she said met with residents in Clinton to determine what types of venues they wanted to see in an abandoned strip mall he was renovating. A Panera Bread, a smoothie shop, an Aldi and a Chick-fil-A are among the businesses scheduled to open there.
“What the developer learned is that this is an area where people earn $100,000 plus,” Alsobrooks said. “And you could only find a Popeyes.”