Martin Mitchell (right), who won election Nov. 2 to serve on the city council in Laurel, Maryland, poses for a photo with Prince George's County Council member Tom Dernoga. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)
Martin Mitchell (right), who won election Nov. 2 to serve on the city council in Laurel, Maryland, poses for a photo with Prince George's County Council member Tom Dernoga. (Anthony Tilghman/The Washington Informer)

Voters in Greenbelt, Maryland, approved Tuesday for the city council to form a 21-member commission to assess reparations for Black and Native American residents.

The resolution, first introduced by Mayor Colin Byrd earlier this year, received approval by a vote of 1,522 to 910.

Byrd said Thursday he understands some people did not support the measure, but some voters who cast ballots for city council candidates refused to vote on the reparations referendum. According to city election results, which included mail-in and early voting, approximately 13,819 votes were cast.

There was definitely a mix of opinion on both sides,” he said. “I’m grateful that it passed. I’m excited about what’s to come and looking forward to the conversation that unfolds.

Officials in neighboring College Park are exploring reparations for the city to possibly provide money for Lakeland, a Black neighborhood destroyed by urban renewal.

The city approved a resolution last year for officials “to examine our history and all current policies and programs for evidence of disparate impact based on race and ethnicity.”

After a discussion with the Lakeland Civic Association and Lakeland Community Heritage Project, the city council approved a steering committee to examine restorative justice practices.

College Park and Greenbelt are located in northern Prince George’s County, which historically was a mainly white D.C. suburb but transformed in the 1980s when Black professionals started to relocate. Today, it’s one of the most affluent Black communities in the nation.

The discussion to pay reparations for slavery to Blacks garnered national conversation after a House committee on Capitol Hill approved a study on reparations in April, but the legislation still hasn’t received a floor vote.

Voters and officials nationwide either voted to approve resolutions or an advisory commission to study reparations, including in Detroit, San Francisco and St. Paul, Minnesota.

Meanwhile, Greenbelt voters also held elections for its city council.

Byrd, who also serves as council president, was reelected to the seven-member board.

Because he wasn’t the top vote-getter, he will probably not retain the title because council historically chooses the person who garnered the most votes. The top vote-getter was Mayor Pro Tem Emmett Jordan, who has served six terms and became the city’s first Black council member in 2009.

Because Leta Mach and Edward VJ Putens weren’t on this year’s ballot, voters chose two new members, Brandon Ric Gordon and Kristen L.V. Weaver, to serve on the council.

The council plans to hold its organizational meeting Monday.

City of Laurel

Two new members will serve on the five-member City Council after longtime council members Valerie M.A. Nicholas and Michael Leszcz chose not to seek reelection this year.

James Cole will replace Leszcz to represent Ward 1. Carl DeWalt was reelected to serve as the second person to represent Ward 1.

Martin Mitchell garnered 722 votes to replace Nicholas as the at-large member. He defeated Frederick Smalls, who received 586 votes.

Three people ran for two seats in Ward 2 on Tuesday, but incumbents Keith Sydnor and Brencis Smith won with 517 and 419 votes, respectively. Jeffrey W. Mills received 311 votes.

Nicholas made history last year by becoming the first Black woman chosen to serve as council president. She also made history as the first Black woman appointed to the city council in June 2011 and was elected to the board six months later.

Leszcz served on the council for 25 years and represented Ward 1.

Council plans to hold a special meeting Thursday to formally approve the election results.

Town of Upper Marlboro

Starting next month, the town’s board of commissioners will expand from three to five members.

The three incumbents reelected to the board Tuesday are Janice Duckett, Sarah Franklin and Linda Pennoyer. Duckett and Franklin were both chosen during special elections last year and Pennoyer was first elected to the board in 2016.

The two new commissioners elected are Karen Lott and Thomas J. Hanchett.

Each commissioner serves a two-year term.

A swearing-in ceremony will take place next month and the commissioners will chose who will serve as board president and mayor.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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