Prince George's CountyWilliam J. Ford

VP Harris Opens, Pelosi Closes Four-Day NACo Event

First Major Event in Prince George's Since March 2020

Prince George’s County’s moment as a national stage, opened by the nation’s first Black female vice president and closed by the first female speaker of the House, featured four days of suburban officials exchanging ideas, picking up best practices and returning home armed with ways to do more with less.

The gathering July 9-12 of an estimated 2,000 local elected officials, analysts and policymakers gathered at the National Harbor for the National Association of Counties’ annual convention, marked the first major event held in Prince George’s since COVID-19 forced widespread shutdown in March 2020.

“We worked hard to get to a point where we could be maskless in a room together. It was a tremendous feeling for many of us. It was a relief,” said County Executive Angela Alsobrooks. “We know we are not done, yet. We still have some work to do.”

The county and Gaylord officials implemented some safety measures such as hand sanitizer stations throughout the resort and chairs slightly separated inside the spacious ballroom.

Some attendees used plastic hand clappers to help decrease the spread of germs from people clapping their hands inside the spacious ballroom.

The nonpartisan organization nicknamed “NACo” focused this year’s conference, the first time ever in Prince George’s since it became established in 1935, on COVID-19 recovery and how counties utilize the $65.1 billion from the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March.

The pandemic forced organizers to cancel last year’s in-person conference in Orange County, Fla. A smaller version took place virtually.

Several major political figures traveled to Prince George’s with messages for the 2,000 attendees on housing, transportation and health care as part of the $65.1 billion American Rescue Plan.

Vice President Kamala Harris headlined the conference Friday, July 9 and for nearly half of her 20-minute speech praised county leaders with “a lot of sleepless nights” working amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each and every day you take our nation’s ideals and you make them real,” said Harris, who served as district attorney in Alameda County, Calif. “That is why President Joe Biden and I see county leaders as true partners as we work to rebuild our nation. We are determined to make improvements that are real, that are tangible, that are felt for generations to come.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) came on the last day of the conference Monday, July 12 encouraging NACo support for the American Rescue Plan with various funding in health care, behavioral health “and build back better with women.”

Pelosi, who spoke for nearly 24 minutes, said the proposed $1.2 trillion infrastructure agreed to last month by a bipartisan group of Senators and the White House “is an old view of infrastructure.”

Although the California Democrat said she’s pleased billions of dollars are included to expand broadband access, she said more should be added, such as combating climate change that would produce jobs.

“Quite frankly for an obligation to our children, we have to have a greater infrastructure bill,” she said.

A few members of Biden’s cabinet showed up, too, including Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who spoke to the NACo urban and rural action caucus, and HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge, who noted that “millions of Americans still live on the outskirts of hope.”

“Under my watch, HUD will change the way we do business. Housing is infrastructure. It is where we live.”

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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