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An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. "A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil—he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good—he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you—and inside every other person, too."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

First People - The Legends. Cherokee Legend of Two Wolves. November 16, 2004. [accessed April 7, 2012].

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Prince George's County Political Dream

The current political vision for Prince George’s County is myopic. It looks at and responds to local parochial issues that are extremely important to the few involved. The leadership fails to connect these neighborhood concerns to one another and to the greater good of the County. In a normal setting a part of the solution would be a common plan, but because all issues are dissected and parsed to the lowest common, expedient denominator and defined in terms of the specifics of one spot, the political establishment follows no plan; all decisions are ad hoc and of the moment floating on a political sea of inconsistency. The leadership responds to the financial exegesis and the corresponding, political and economic dynamics that result from making decisions on the fly.

The next County Executive needs to go into the neighborhoods of Accokeek and Bladensburg, Suitland and Laurel, Upper Marlboro and North Brentwood, and directly and repeatedly demonstrate the commonality of the challenges. The idea that the rural tier is spoiled and pampered and so needs more concrete, and, that the established communities are tired and too expensive to redevelop economically must be put to rest. Infrastructure capital must be invested in our established communities. We need to build a world class library in Bladensburg; we need to actually follow the new development plan for New Carrollton and be ready to take advantage of the coming purple line; we do not need to have MXT zoning in the rural tier, but should use it and other zoning tools carefully and with full community participation to design enhanced redevelopment that brings meaningful employment to our existing communities and the county. Building new neighborhoods on open agricultural land when our existing neighborhoods needs so much is done because the profits made are greater in the rural tier, not because it is impossible to enhance what we already have.

We should be aiming our government spending at public safety partnerships with NGO’s and non-profits to provide access to quality of life for the children and citizens of established neighborhoods on a per capita basis. This would ensure that the rural tier is not left out but would focus our attention on the communities in need and perhaps ultimately encourage locating new housing or businesses where the infrastructure is. If you want rural life it comes with non urban amenities; if you want the whole enchilada you choose to live in a city. We should be encouraging through government services new homes and businesses to locate in our redeveloped and reinvigorated high traffic, public transportation accessible communities. Why do we think that creating and supporting new environmentally unsustainable neighborhoods far from public transportation is a good idea when we cannot support what we already have?

And the answer that new development provides a much needed cash flow for today’s government is a short term, myopic self serving reply. This development simply puts the burden of addressing infrastructure expectations of the new communities onto the backs of the county in the future as a whole including the established neighborhood that already are challenged in meeting their own basic needs.

Our Prince George’s County vision of the moment uses a market preference model of profit now thereby avoiding the necessity of addressing long term obligations both financially and ecologically. It is the classic recipe of mounting problems left for another time and another generation. We build infrastructure but have no plan for supply the programmatic funds to operate the structure in the future let alone maintain it. Pot holes and extra curricular activities like music in schools are examples of this short sighted thinking: build the road – build an auditorium, no one to fill the holes - no one to play the music.

In the end, citizens lose faith in the system ever addressing their needs because there are no visionaries willing to take the heat and fight the momentum of the moment. People who are fed up and have the means simply leave; those who dream write blogs. Where is the debate and the outrage? Until they come there will be no change; just the same old same old business as usual.

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