Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

Candidates Summarize Platforms for Prince George’s Council Seat

With the 2022 Maryland primary nearly a year away, four candidates vying for the open Prince George’s County Council’s District 6 seat presented similarities and differences during a candidate’s forum Thursday.

The more than 90-minute discussion showcased four Black women – Wala Blegay, Belinda Queen, Barbara Holt Streeter and Nakia Wright – who pushed themselves as advocates for education, small businesses and health care equity.

“We have an all-female platform for this county seat and I believe we should give accolades that we are creating history at this moment,” said Wright, 46, who chairs the Faith Based Advisory Board for Prince George’s County and founded “A Woman’s Voice Matters” through her church, The Gathering at Forestville.

Denise Smith, communications director for State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy and the first to publicly announce her candidacy for the seat, didn’t participate because of a medical emergency.

Blegay, an attorney with the D.C. Nurses Association, who resides in Kettering, said she will formally file her intention to seek the seat in two days.

Holt Streeter, partnerships officer with the county school system, became the first person on Thursday to officially declare her candidacy for the council seat.

Candidates have until Feb. 22 to file documents to run for office next year; the primary election is set for June 28, 2022.

The area in central Prince George’s that encompasses parts of Forestville, Largo and portions of Upper Marlboro anticipates being a sought-after seat as the term for Derrick Leon Davis expires in December 2022.

Out of the nine council districts, District 6 encompasses the highest population with 106,085.

Some of the major properties include the University of Maryland Medical Center and Wayne K. Curry Administration Building, both in Largo, Ritchie Station in Capitol Heights and First Baptist Church of Glenarden in Upper Marlboro, the county’s biggest house of worship.

As for Thursday’s virtual forum organized by Concerned Citizens of District 6, each person received a variety of questions moderated by Sandra Pruitt, executive director of People for Change Coalition and a resident in the district.

With the County Council being able to approve grants for nonprofit organizations, each prospective candidate said the process should be more transparent.

Wright, of Mitchellville, suggested an oversight committee to ensure the same groups aren’t always awarded.

Although the county provides domestic violence grants, Blegay said there’s limited housing for survivors.

“Tie the process to the needs of the county,” she said.

The candidates responded to a question about which County Council member best fits their style.

All four said board chair Calvin Hawkins II for his community service work even before his election to council in 2018. Two candidates also mentioned Davis.

“I’m nothing like Derrick Leon Davis, so if you’re looking for someone like him, please don’t do that to me,” said Queen of Capitol Heights, who must resign from the county school board when she officially files to declare for the County Council seat.

Besides decreasing the 70 percent  residents pay in property taxes, the candidates highlighted other top concerns in the district.

Wright said certain municipalities and communities “operates on an island” and can deal with different challenges. She said crime resonates as the top concern in Forestville.

Queen outlined various quality of life issues such as unkempt grass along the roads, lack of grocery stores and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. The state of Maryland wage now stands at $11.75 per hour and between $11.60 to $11.75 in Prince George’s.

Holt Streeter of Upper Marlboro said education always remains a top priority.

“A lot of our family members are taking their children outside of this county,” she said. “We need to be able to bring them right back here…We have one of the best educational systems in this state.”

Blegay said economic development not only can increase the commercial tax base, but also decrease unemployment “where we’ve lost almost 50,000 jobs in the last two years.”

Pruitt said the goal will be to host another forum closer to the election.

“I think with the responses we all got…to know you better,” she said. “This at least gives our residents of District 6 a flavor of your style and how you responded to some of the questions.”

William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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