County Exec. an­nounces new changes, en­hance­ments to TNI pro­gram

Ini­tia­tive to ex­pand into Forestville, Sil­ver Hill and Wood­lawn/Lan­ham ar­eas

The Enquire-Gazette - - Front Page - By JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

More than 100 com­mu­nity lead­ers, of­fi­cials and res­i­dents gath­ered at the Palmer Park Com­mu­nity Cen­ter on June 22 in Lan­dover to hear Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker (D) an­nounce the next phase of the county’s Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive (TNI).

Launched in 2012, TNI is an ef­fort by the county to fo­cus on up­lift­ing six neigh­bor­hoods that face sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic, health, pub­lic safety and ed­u­ca­tional chal­lenges. The pro­gram has re­ceived na­tional recog­ni­tion, fund­ing and awards for its in­no­va­tive ap­proach to lo­cal gov­er­nance and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, ac­cord­ing to the Prince Ge­orge’s County por­tal.

Be­cause TNI was de­signed to be fluid, flexible and driven by data anal­y­sis, the Baker ad­min­is­tra­tion al­ways planned to ad­just and re­fo­cus it on the com­mu­ni­ties that need it the most while leav­ing es­tab­lished in­fra­struc­tures in the lo­ca­tions that would even­tu­ally be turned over to the com­mu­nity, a press re­lease from Baker’s of­fice noted.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re com­mu­ni­cat­ing with the pub­lic on all the op­tions,” Baker said in an in­ter­view. “It’s a good time. You look at the four years that we’ve done the pro­gram. We have enough data in now to make a de­ci­sion. We couldn’t have done that in year one [be­cause] there wasn’t enough in­for­ma­tion. Four years gave us the data to look at where we are in each one of these TNI ar­eas and where we should go for the next phase of TNI.”

In terms of the next phase, Baker an­nounced that the three TNI ar­eas tran­si­tion­ing to com­mu­nity man­age­ment by Jan. 1, 2017, in­clude East Riverdale/Bladens­burg, Glass­manor/Oxon Hill and Lan­g­ley Park. Each of those ar­eas has shown tremen­dous im­prove­ment in the ap­proach to lo­cal gov­er­nance and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment, ac­cord­ing to a press re­lease.

“Lan­g­ley Park and the work that’s been done up there has grad­u­ated not just in terms of pub­lic safety, but health in­di­ca­tors [and] ed­u­ca­tion,” he said. “East Riverdale/Bladens­burg is now one of our hot ar­eas for eco­nomic devel­op­ment and the same thing for Oxon Hill/Glass­manor. We’re see­ing these im­prove­ments so we’re mov­ing to the next phase.”

When it comes to help­ing com­mu­ni­ties thrive, Baker said TNI has en­abled com­mu­nity lead­ers and res­i­dents at-large to com­mu­ni­cate di­rectly with gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials. Hav­ing a quick turn­around and know­ing that con­cerns will be heard and han­dled im­me­di­ately is the most pow­er­ful thing, he said.

“One of my fa­vorite ex­am­ples of

how this works and how we tie to­gether is in East Riverdale/Bladens­burg. The big is­sue over there for us when we went in was really look­ing at crime and tru­ancy,” said Baker. “But when I went to the com­mu­nity meet­ing, what they wanted to talk to me about was for 15 years, they were try­ing to get a fence at Wil­liam Wirt Mid­dle School to stop kids from leav­ing the cam­pus but also to stop peo­ple from com­ing to the apart­ments. The TNI got to­gether with the school and we put a fence there. It was a big change in their at­ti­tude on how gov­ern­ment could help.”

Al­though they show signs of im­prove­ment, the three orig­i­nal TNI ar­eas that will re­main in­clude Hill­crest Heights/Mar­low Heights, Kent­land/Palmer Park and Suit­land/Co­ral Hills.

“Peo­ple are mov­ing into those ar­eas now and the qual­ity of life is go­ing up,” Baker said.

The qual­ity of life will now go up for res­i­dents in Forestville, Sil­ver Hill and Wood­lawn/Lan­ham, which are the three new ad­di­tions Baker an­nounced to the TNI pro­gram.

“Un­for­tu­nately, our county has seen an in­crease in crime in some ar­eas in re­cent months and I be­lieve the county ex­ec­u­tive is fo­cused on new lo­ca­tions to dif­fuse any fu­ture in­creases in crime,” Board of Ed­u­ca­tion Mem­ber K. Alexan­der Wal­lace (D-Dis­trict 7) said in an email. “How­ever, what I par­tic­u­larly am ex­cited to see is the in­creased fo­cus on eco­nomic devel­op­ment and ed­u­ca­tion ser­vices for the Forestville and Sil­ver Hill TNI ar­eas. … Ed­u­ca­tion and eco­nomic devel­op­ment are tied to­gether — one does not suc­ceed with­out the other.”

Health, Hu­man Ser­vices and Ed­u­ca­tion Deputy Chief Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fi­cer Betty H. Fran­cis — a for­mer TNI team leader for Lan­g­ley Park who will be­come a mem­ber of the new TNI ad­vi­sory board — said the pro­gram has been a tremen­dous suc­cess over­all.

“Gov­ern­ment, non-profit and the com­mu­nity are all work­ing to­gether and so now we can move, we can grad­u­ate those com­mu­ni­ties so that other com­mu­ni­ties that have chal­lenges and need spe­cial at­ten­tion can be brought in the pro­gram,” said Fran­cis. “Lan­g­ley Park is one of the ar­eas that’s be­ing tran­si­tioned back to the com­mu­nity. When we went there four years ago, Lan­g­ley Park had very, very few ser­vices. It’s a huge im­mi­grant com­mu­nity and some­times it’s the first stop for im­mi­grants com­ing into the United States. A lot of them did not even know about gov­ern­ment ser­vices that were avail­able. But now we have a multi-ser­vice cen­ter [which opened in April 2014] so peo­ple can just walk up to Univer­sity Boule­vard and get all sorts of gov­ern­ment ser­vices, health depart­ment and so­cial ser­vices and work­force ser­vices for jobs. … We’re just proud, es­pe­cially to be work­ing to­gether so closely with the com­mu­nity.”

“Lan­guage is such a big bar­rier,” said Mercedes Le­mos, a co­or­di­na­tor at the Lan­g­ley Park Multi-Ser­vice Cen­ter. “If you’re not a le­gal res­i­dent, it’s very hard to get the ben­e­fits that you’re en­ti­tled to so you just have to do with­out, es­pe­cially like work. … But now that we’re a part of TNI, I think the res­i­dents will love it.”

As the newly ap­pointed TNI man­ager who will di­rect re­sources where they are most needed and al­low for pro­grams to be du­pli­cated in mul­ti­ple ar­eas, Linda M. Turner said she is ex­cited and ready to move for­ward.

“We have done a lot of work be­hind the scenes to try to struc­ture the pro­gram and make it more con­sis­tent across all ar­eas,” Turner said. “TNI was never meant to stay in one area in­def­i­nitely. We’ve worked with the six orig­i­nal ar­eas since 2012 and we’ve really forged great re­la­tion­ships and net­works and helped em­power the com­mu­nity mem­bers so they know how to nav­i­gate gov­ern­ment ser­vices and how to ac­cess them. Now it’s time to move into three new ar­eas and work with them to em­power and teach them.”

STAFF PHOTO BY JOHNATHON CLINKSCALES

Prince Ge­orge’s County Ex­ec­u­tive Rush­ern L. Baker (D) an­nounced new changes and en­hance­ments to his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Trans­form­ing Neigh­bor­hoods Ini­tia­tive dur­ing a pub­lic hear­ing on June 22 at the Palmer Park Com­mu­nity in Lan­dover. Launched in 2012,...

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