Residents debate adding at-large Seats

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UPPER MARLBORO – County residents came out in force to have their say in not only who will represent them, but how many people will represent them.

The county council held a public hearing on July 11 to get residents’ comments on CB 40-2016, which would add a referendum to the November ballot asking voters to decide whether the council should add two new at-large members to its ranks. Members who had previously served as district-based representatives would be eligible to fill the new at-large seats.

Residents packed the hearing room, with approximately 30 giving testimony. The ratio of those against the measure to those in favor of it was more than two-to-one, and residents expressed a variety of reasons for taking either position.

A major theme brought up by many opponents was the fact that the bill appears to be a way for the sitting council members to circumvent term limits.

“This is another obvious attempt to give some of you additional time on the council. The self-serving nature of the proposal is so glaring that I don’t need to dwell on the issue,” said Accokeek resident Tommi Makila.

Another Accokeek resident, Philip Van Wiltenburg, speaking on behalf of the Greater Accokeek Civic Association, agreed about the importance of term limits. He said voters have already shown their disfavor with eliminating term limits as recently as 2014, with Question J.

“Term limits are something that was decided by voters before. That is not something that we should look at circumventing through this process,” he said.

But others in the audience expressed their disagreement with term limits. Douglas Edwards said the other jurisdictions in the region don’t have term limits on their elected officials, which gives them an advantage.

“I am a community activist, not a politician, but I do understand the process,” Edwards said. He said policies such as term limits “have hampered Prince George’s County from moving forward with the rest of the region long enough. It’s time to take the shackles off of this county so it can compete with other jurisdictions.”

Dennis Brownlee of Mitchellville agreed.

“I take issue with the fact that anyone questions my ability to vote for who I want to, and the fact that if I don’t like my representation, that I should have the unalienable right to vote for who I want to at any time,” he said. “Why should that be limited?”

Floyd Wilson, a former council member who served for 17 years before term limits were instituted in the 1990s, also gave his opinion. He said when he served on the council, both at-large and district members were present, and it made it easier to accomplish his goals – like funding new amenities such as a recreation center for his constituents – when he could turn to at-large members for support.

“It was my experience that parochialism has a tendency to sneak its ugly head into the process when you are only representing one particular district. In my opinion, it helps to have other support coming from other districts. I think we’re more effective,” he said.

But other residents felt the council members should already be acting for the good of the county as a whole and not solely their specific district.

“What the council needs to do is look at what is good for the county and what can we afford to do for the county. Not ‘I need a park here, I need a facility here,’” Van Wiltenburg said.

Gloria Johnson of the Woodmore Civic Association said members who previously served in a district-based role would still harbor loyalty to their original district, which could disadvantage other districts if the measure was to become law.

“If at-large members previously sat as district representatives, would it not give those districts effectively more influence on county policies than other districts?” she asked.

Other residents instead thought the proposal would give less power to the districts and the council members elected to represent them.

“Another thing that bothers me a great deal is what I see as a betrayal of my representative that I voted for to represent my district,” said Jason Amster, a resident of District 3 for 24 years. “I did not vote for her to diminish her power, to dilute, going from 1/9th to 1/11th.”

Another recurring concern from residents was the high cost of running a county-wide election campaign, which would require the at-large members to accept large donations from special interest groups, who could then have influence with the members.

Sarah Cavitt of Fort Washington said, “The cost of a county-wide campaign is daunting. Where is the money going to come from? It’s not going to come from (Sen.) Bernie Sanders types of contributors, I can tell you that. It’ll come from special interest groups, and despite the 2011 law, there are so many loopholes that can be gotten through, it’s not going to matter,” she said.

She and other residents also pointed out the current financial situation of the county, saying the structural deficit it has already lead to cuts in areas such as schools and to the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission by the council itself to study solutions. Many residents expressed concern about how the new members’ salaries and staffing costs would be paid.

“Property taxes were increased last year, and then you turn around and you want more money for bureaucracy,” said Holliday Wagner of Accokeek. “I think your timing is horrible. There are a lot of things going on in the county right now. There are a lot of other things that are more important in this moment.”

Council Chair Derrick Davis said the council will weigh the public’s comments as well as other factors, and vote on the proposal during the July 19 session.

If the bill passes with seven or more votes, it will be sent to the county board of elections to be formatted for inclusion on the November 8 general election ballot, where the public has the final say over whether or not to approve the additions.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Is Partisan Politics Poisoning Prince George’s County School Board?

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Today at noon, the Kojo Nnamdi Show (WAMU 88.5) will discuss  the topic, “Is partisan politics poisoning Prince George’s School Board?” This will be one of two segments during the mid day hour. Dave Cahn, an activist known to speak his mind and the co-leader of Citizens for an Elected Board, and Cheryl Landis, school board candidate and chair of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee, are the invited guests. The call-in number for the show is 1-800-433-8850.

Maryland requires that school board elections in the Old Line State be non-partisan contests. But a new state law allows the executive in Prince George’s County to appoint officials to the board here, and one recent candidate with party connections boasted about it on the campaign trail recently we hear. Now a group of activists are demanding a return to a fully elected board of non-partisan officials. Kojo explores the role partisan politics plays in local school board races and what’s at stake in the debate in Prince George’s. In the middle of this, we have a unions which are powerless to help with the situation except to collect money from its members without providing the necessary benefits.

Guests

David Cahn Co-Chair, Citizens For An Elected Board
Cheryl Landis Candidate, Prince George’s County Board Of Education; Chair, Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee

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Will you answer the call for democracy & education?

Julian Vasquez Heilig asks if you will answer the call for education and democracy in his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the Peoples March on Washington 2016

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PGCPS Ex-school janitor stole MacBooks, iPads meant for students, sold them online

imageA former elementary school janitor has been sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to stealing laptops from the campus where he worked.

Kenneth Foster, 34, was sentenced in Prince George’s County Circuit Court on Thursday and ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution with five years probation, prosecutors announced in a statement.

Foster worked at Vansville Elementary School in Beltsville, Md., at the time of the theft, according to the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office. The school received about $30,000 worth of MacBooks in January 2014 and put them in storage, but when officials went to retrieve them months later, they found that the equipment had disappeared, prosecutors said.

Foster had left the school system on medical leave shortly after the laptop delivery and was still on leave when authorities discovered that the computers were missing, prosecutors said. Authorities later learned that Foster was working in a North Carolina school district when several iPads went missing and while he supposedly was still on medical leave from Prince George’s, prosecutors said.

Investigators later found that Foster was selling the iPads and MacBooks on Craigslist.

Authorities recovered 18 of 30 stolen laptops.

Foster was charged in North Carolina in 2015, prosecutors said. In May, Foster pleaded guilty in Prince George’s to one count of a theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000.

via Washington post

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PGCPS Vansville Elementary at Laurel 

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The Eagle and the snake.

image.jpegThe Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky.

The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful wise and deadly.

Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles.

Don’t fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle grounds like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You’ll be assured of clean victory.
Pray without ceasing.

Blessed day

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Oklahoma: Teachers Fight Back! 40 Run for Office!

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(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki). Mickey Dollens distributes campaign yard signs in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Dollens said he decided to run for the state House in Oklahoma to fix what he saw as problems in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

NPR reported on a new, smart wave of activism in Oklahoma: 40 teachers are running for office this year. They are running because they want to increase funding for the public schools. Most are Democrats, but some are Republicans and Independents. One of the candidates is Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year for 2016.

This is great news! The best way to change the legislature is to run for a seat at the table.

Getting elected to the State Senate or Assembly (or whatever it is called in your state) is far more powerful than posting a petition on change.org or holding a rally to get the attention of the legislators.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and change the face of the legislature.

Go, Oklahoma teachers!

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Educator Shawn Sheehan of Norman was named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year 2016

 

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The Oklahoma City skyline

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Ex-PGCPS Deonte Carraway Indicted

…on 270 Counts in Child Sex Abuse CaseDeonteCarraway_1454966996900_819754_ver1.0_1455045115080_823075_ver1.0

A former Maryland school aide has been indicted on hundreds of charges following allegations he sexually abused students at a Prince George’s County elementary school.

A grand jury indicted Deonte Carraway on 270 counts of sex abuse of a minor, sex offenses and child pornography charges Tuesday. The indictment covers 23 victims.

“Mr. Carraway is facing multiple life sentences if he is found guilty of these offenses,” Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said.

Carraway had served as an aide at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary School in Prince George’s County, first as a paid teacher’s assistant and then as a volunteer.

Prosecutors say Carraway made videos of children having sex with him and each other at the school, at a church and at other locations in Maryland. The videos allegedly produced include videos showing Carraway having sex with a 9-year-old boy and an 11-year-old boy. He “threatened, pressured, enticed, and/or coerced children” to engage in the acts, the indictment said.

The alleged victims included children between the ages of 9 and 12, according to court documents.

The more than 50 videos he allegedly produced will be used as evidence, and the victims will not be put on the stand, Alsobrooks said.

Among the hundreds of charges Carraway is now facing: 23 counts of sex abuse of a minor; 125 counts of first-, second- and third-degree sex offenses; 66 counts of creating child pornography; and 56 counts of possessing child pornography. Some of the charges stem from acts depicted in cellphone videos taken on various dates, according to the indictment.

The alleged abuse occurred between August 2015 and February of this year, the indictment said.

All of the charges stem from Carraway’s interactions with students at the school, the state’s attorney’s office said.

Carraway has pleaded not guilty. In March, a judge ordered him to remain in jail as the case proceeds.

“He needs to not ever be around children again, as far as I’m concerned,” said the mother of a 10-year-old victim. “He’s where he needs to be right now.”

In April, Carraway’s public defenders argued that the court should suppress some of Carraway’s statements because some of those statements might have been “involuntary.” The attorneys also sought to suppress evidence taken from Carraway’s cellphones.

His defense attorneys said Carraway “exhibited significant cognitive deficits, with a full scale IQ of 63, which placed his overall intellectual functioning in the deficient range.”

Carraway was arrested Feb. 5 after the uncle of a 9-year-old boy saw a nude image on the child’s phone, according to police. Police also said Carraway waived his rights and admitted his role in producing child pornography.

The state’s attorney’s office is conducting an investigation into whether anyone else should be held accountable.

Source: Ex-School Aide Deonte Carraway Indicted on 270 Counts in Child Sex Abuse Case | NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Ex-School-Aide-Indicted-on-270-Counts-in-Child-Sex-Abuse-Case-384873211.html#ixzz4D1E1oXK4 pgcps_logo
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