- The Washington Times - Friday, April 7, 2000

Prince George's County Chief Executive Wayne K. Curry is frustrated. He is frustrated because D.C. taxpayers are not doing their "fair share" to help his county. In his mind, those taxpayers should help to offset the costs of having poor residents move into his county from D.C.

According to the county's Housing Authority, more than 600 public housing residents have moved from the District into Prince George's since 1996, with one-third migrating in 1999. They left, the Curry administration said, because the District began massive renovations to its public housing stock and replaced those decaying units with more attractive communities.

One such D.C. community is Wheeler Creek, a short walk from the border Southeast Washington shares with Prince George's. Formerly known as the Valley Green projects, Wheeler Creek includes rental apartments and more than 130 townhouses that are for sale. As it happens, the new development is a perfect mixture to meet low- and moderate-income housing demands.

The District also is planning to renovate East Capital Dwellings, which straddles the D.C.-county border in Northeast, near Southern Avenue and the Capitol Heights Metro stop. Many of the residents of that 577-unit development have already relocated and, yes, some of them may have moved into Prince George's. The choice is theirs and, by the way, that's precisely as it should be.

Mr. Curry wants area governments to pay for that choice. D.C. public housing residents "come out here and then become part of our responsibility to address in housing and social terms," Mr. Curry recently told The Washington Post. "I want money to take care of relocated people. I want the other communities around Washington to do their fair share."

Mr. Curry apparently assumes his new residents, most of whom are black, would be an excessive burden on the county's social services, notwithstanding the fact that Prince George's serves the wealthiest black population in the nation. The idea of reducing service levels and the cost of providing them apparently hasn't occurred to the liberal Mr. Curry.

Still, it's not as though this is the first such exodus. Could Mr. Curry have forgotten that it was the mass departure of the District's black middle-class to the county that helped make Prince George's what it is today? Could he have forgotten the white flight in the 1950s and 1960s that preceded the black families? Or does he just have something against people who aren't as well-to-do as he is?

He would do well to recall comments he made in 1994, when he won the Democratic primary largely due to the mostly black voters who live inside the Beltway near the District communities so full of former D.C. taxpayers that D.C. and Prince George's politicians jokingly refer to them as "Ward 9." Describing what it was like being one of only three black students in a majority-white school in Prince George's County in the 1950s: "It was an interesting occasion. There was a lot of adjustment," said Mr. Curry, who now lives in Upper Marlboro. "It certainly was a move, in hindsight, which helped me develop a very broad social repertoire. It helped expand one's horizons and the exposure to other people. You come to learn people are people, despite the package and conspicuous labels people attach to them." Perhaps it's time he stops labeling newcomers to PG County.

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