College Park Hires New City Manager (Again)

College Park has hired a new city manager in Kenneth Young, filling a vacancy that had been open since late December 2020. It’s also a job that had almost been filled by another candidate who was fired by city officials before her first day on the job.

Pepco lobbying of former Mt. Rainier mayor draws ethics complaint from Montgomery County lawmaker

Editor’s note: The headline has been edited to more clearly state the nature of the dispute

A Maryland legislator has asked the Mount Rainier Ethics Commission to look into Pepco’s lobbying relationship with former Mayor Malinda Miles during her closing months in office. In a June 10, 2021, letter to the city’s Ethics Commission, Del. Al Carr, a Democrat representing Kensington, Wheaton and Chevy Chase as part of the District 18 delegation, raised concerns about how Pepco solicited Miles’ support for the energy company’s pending application before the Maryland Public Service Commission to raise electric rates over the next several years. 

Miles’ support was most-visibly rendered in an April 25, 2021, virtual public hearing before the Public Service Commission. During that meeting she praised the energy utility company for providing electrical services to re-open the Mount Rainier Library, its work to install electric vehicle charging stations in the city, and enthusiastically urged the Public Service Commission to approve the rate change. The case is under consideration.

Mount Rainier might endorse Medicare for All Act

Mount Rainier City Council is considering joining a growing list of local governments to endorse a congressional plan to expand Medicare. The measure to support a partisan congressional proposal – the Medicare for All Act is a proposal from Democratic legislators – is notable in Prince George’s normally non-partisan city governments. 

The measure was introduced by Mount Rainier Mayor Celina Benitez at the city’s June 15, 2021 City Council meeting, who noted the partisan, all Democratic Prince George’s County Council had issued a similar resolution. In introducing the measure, Benitez said the pandemic underscores the need for a healthcare reform. 

“It’s not just the fact that Covid has been a problem,” said Benitez. “It has highlighted a lot of the areas that need help in the healthcare system.”

The measure seems to have support from most of the rest of City Council, who each offered brief remarks indicating at least conceptual support of Benitez’s resolution. 

Only Councilor Luke Chesek had reservations, saying “I’m just not necessarily there yet on this.”. In a three-minute discourse in which Chesek noted he once wrote a paper on health law policy in law school and also reads long-form journalism on the topic, he contrasted Medicare with insurance options available under the existing Affordable Care Act.

Elections reshape Route 1 corridor councils

Hyattsville voters chose incumbent interim Mayor and Ward 1 City Councilor Kevin Ward as their next mayor, along with five other City Council members, concluding the spring 2021 municipal election season along the Route 1 corridor, with elections in Mount Rainier, Brentwood, Riverdale Park and University Park taking place the week before. 

The elections brought some firsts, as well. In Hyattsville Ward becomes the first African American man elected to the Mayor’s office. Ward is also the first African American man to serve as Mayor, though he earned that distinction in January when he succeeded former Mayor Candace Hollingsworth, who resigned her seat early to focus on other political ambitions. 

Ward handily beat campaign rivals in Ward Five City Councilor Joseph Solomon and political newcomer Austin Martinez. Ward received 1,606 votes to Solomon’s 823 and Martinez’s 247. With only 500 same-day votes uncounted, Ward’s 783-vote lead over Solomon is more than enough to secure the win.

On Hyattsville forum, deleted endorsement is latest city election controversy

An endorsement from County Councilor Deni Taveras in Hyattsville’s mayoral race – and its deletion from a popular Hyattsville listserv afterward by a moderator – sparked a controversy Tuesday. Critics of Taveras focused on the ethics of using her official county email address to send the message. Critics of the moderator, Hyattsville activist Jim Groves, said the decision to remove the post from the forum was overzealous moderation at best, censorship at worst. In the end, both Groves and Taveras were pleading for understanding from the public.