Sitting down with Arthur Turner to talk about the people and politics of Prince George’s County is something that I have been doing for almost 15 years. And sitting down with him is a stretch, for Arthur has always been a man on the move. I met Arthur in the 1990s when both of us were new members of the Prince George’s County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Committee. Even now I can hear Arthur asking me about details of the 2000 General Plan with his characteristic straightforward queries about upscale shopping, commercial and professional office space, and county infrastructure plans. Arthur worked tirelessly for access to Arena Drive. Demonstrating his reach and connections to seats of power and to decision makers, Arthur worked with three Governors, Glendening, Ehrlich, and O'Malley to seek the funds necessary to have the project included in the budget, and followed the project through to completion. When I met Arthur he was a community activist and leader and he still is; having grown in experience and knowledge but still the same Arthur to me – focused on the good of the people he loves and the well being of the county in which he lives.
Arthur has always had a holistic approach to the needs of the county and its diverse communities. He has called repeatedly for development that creates quality work and opportunity for the people of Prince George’s County. He has never been afraid to speak his mind or to act for the communities he loves. As an example, Arthur was a part of a lawsuit against the former owner of the Washington Redskins, Jack Kent Cooke. The suit was in opposition to the building of FedEx Field. As a concession to Arthur and his group, the Coalition of Central Prince George's County Community Organizations, Jack Kent Cooke built the Sports and Learning Center at his cost and give it to the county. Because of Arthur’s efforts, County residents have been enjoying the Sports and Learning Center for 11 years now.
He has consistently demanded funding for libraries and schools, for community centers and recreation for all the citizens of the county. For the decade and a half that I have known him he has not been afraid to speak truth to power whether it is development around Metro stations or the construction of the Purple line. Arthur has always asked why Prince George’s County can’t have the benefits from development that have accrued to other jurisdictions. Determined to bring to Prince George's County needed upscale shopping centers with upscale stores, Arthur fought long and hard to get the Woodmore Towne Centre project approved through the maze of the Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission. As a result of his long and determined efforts, central Prince George’s County now has a Wegmans, in addition to a Best Buy, and a Costco scheduled to open in October. Coming later will be two major flag hotels, a conference center, and commercial office space that Arthur Turner enabled. He has never shied away from the core principles about which he speaks daily. He asks for upscale shopping and has supported developers willing to bring quality of life to the county. He has spoken to me many times about a higher expectation of excellence from our government and our planning.
And Arthur has done more than just speak. When I needed a new director for the county library foundation board, Arthur quickly said yes – of course, he made a deal – I had to agree to serve on the United Communities Against Poverty (UCAP) board in exchange. Whether he is chair of a non profit or director, or just an interested citizen, he is always ready to ask for help for those who cannot not ask for themselves. And he does the same today as he will do tomorrow as his over 140 newspaper interviews on assorted topics of importance in the county attest. A man of integrity, Arthur never stops asking questions. Over the years we have spoken of history and race, money and poverty, class and distinction, ecology and farming, and through all these conversations, his questions were formed to help him make the county a better place to live and work.
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].