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Greenbelt lays out legislative priorities before meeting with delegation

greenbeltGREENBELT – The Maryland General Assembly is gearing up to enter another session in the new year and the city of Greenbelt wants to make sure its priorities are taken all the way to Annapolis.

However, coming to a consensus on priorities is not always easy.

The Greenbelt City Council members all had ideas for what should be the city’s top priorities up for discussion when the council meets with Prince George’s County delegates and senators in the Maryland General Assembly during a meeting later this month.

“Each year in December, council holds a legislative dinner with the city’s state and county representatives to present and outline the city’s top legislative priorities,” said Greenbelt Mayor Emmett Jordan.

This year’s dinner will be on Dec. 13 at the Greenbelt Marriot.

David Moran, Greenbelt’s assistant city manager, said this year the council and staff are looking at a list longer than those of previous years and, while he thinks the list is doable, he cautioned the council on creating too many “top priorities.”

“The more items you have, the longer the list gets, the longer the dinner goes,” Moran said. “There are some pretty important things, but some of these things are stuff our delegation is already familiar with. There is no right or wrong number, but I think it’s important to not get the list too long.”

Jordan agreed with Moran and said having fewer priorities to bring before the delegation will not only help them with the time constraints with the meeting, but will also help the city ensure the state leaders hear their issues and will be held accountable to them.

“There are a number of issues here. It does seem like too many,” he said. “It does seem that we have too many here to really talk about and to hold our delegation accountable for.”

At the beginning of the meeting, the list included seven “top priorities” and five “other priorities.” The top priorities included opposing the state taking over and privatizing the Baltimore Washington Parkway, blocking the Maglev routes through the county, funds for city bus replacements and for the Greenbelt Road Streestscape improvements. Restoring funding for the I-495 interchange at Greenbelt Station, creating a Greenbelt Innovation Zone for economic development, and an update to the Greenbelt Lake Dam project also made the top list.

The “other priorities” included petitioning for Greenbelt Station students to attend Greenbelt schools, replacing sidewalks on state roads, increased funding for mosquito control, and for increased funding and community of performance expectation for youth service bureaus. Funding for small area plans was also listed as an “other priority.”

The legislative discussion during the city council’s meeting on Nov. 27 focused on which priorities should move forward and in what ranking. Some members of the council also added new priorities for consideration.

The newest member of the council, Colin Byrd, said he would like to see protections for Old Greenbelt as a top priority for the city.

“I’m concerned that it isn’t in ‘other priorities’ because I think that suggests that maybe it isn’t one of our top priorities,” he said. “I’d like to see a top priority protecting Old Greenbelt.”

Additionally, Jordan said he would like to see the county, state and federal governments work on a solution to connect the south core and north core of Greenbelt Station for residents.

Both Byrd and Jordan said they would put their priorities before additional money for mosquito control.

That topic itself was rather heated as Councilwoman Silke Pope continuously repeated her support for making funding for mosquito control a top priority.

Pope and Pro Temp Judith Davis argued with each other for several minutes about how serious Greenbelt is about being a part of the mosquito-spraying program in the future. The city recently decided to join the waitlist of municipalities asking for mosquito control, which would include spraying.

“We can be on the waiting list and, when it comes up time, we can have a discussion with the community,” Davis said.

However, Pope said she believes the city should not be on a waiting list if they are not certain they want to use the techniques offered. And she wants mosquito control to be taken seriously.

Another item added to the list of priorities was a possible ban on plastic straws. Councilman Rodney Roberts said he has seen a growing support for a ban on the straws and, though he did not bring research on the matter, said he believes it would be a positive item to add to their list.

After the council put their priorities on the table, Davis began discussion about how the priorities should be listed. She said the council should have a list of a few “top priorities” while writing down the others as “items of concern” on a list that the delegates and senators could take with them and look over.

Roberts said that was fine with him, as long as the straw matter was on there somewhere.

Moran said he could adjust the list moving forward, based on the council’s discussion, and bring it back for review.

Byrd wanted to make sure the priorities going forward were not set in stone, however.

Moran guaranteed the priorities listed are not the city’s only priorities, but the ones it wishes to highlight now.

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