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Will he or won’t he? Baker calls for debates with Johnson

Giant chicken with a bullhorn.

That was the scene outside the County Administration Building Friday, as county exec candidate Rushern Baker tried to lure incumbent Jack Johnson from his fifth floor office into showing up for at least one debate.

Johnson has canceled or failed to show up for the debates scheduled so far. He has sent his Chief of Staff Mike Herman to debate for him at an NAACP forum in Largo July 26. But Progressive Cheverly put a stop to that when they did not permit Herman to act as a stand-in at their forum a couple days later.

‘‘There have been six scheduled debates that he has missed,” Baker said. ‘‘I think it’s important ... that the county executive is sending as a surrogate county executive Mike Herman. That is unacceptable.”

Baker called for debates any time, any place. At that point, a guy dressed in a chicken suit strolled up the walkway with a megaphone to mock Johnson.

Herman later called Baker a desperate candidate, and suggested that he has not proven himself worthy of an in-person debate with Johnson.

‘‘Baker has not put forth a viable plan for how he intends to accomplish any of the things he’s put forth,” Herman said. ‘‘When Mr. Baker puts forth a detailed plan ... then maybe [debates are] a possibility.”

Voter registration ends

Tuesday was the last day for residents to register to vote in the Sept. 12 primary, and elections officials expect the number of registered voters to be significantly higher than in 2004.

‘‘We did receive a whole lot of registrations,” said Alisha Alexander, deputy elections administrator for Prince George's County.

As of June 30, there were 465,844 registered voters in the county - 341,662 of them Democrats, and 54,219 of them Republicans.

The Board of Elections expects to have the new number of registered voters by next week. The deadline to register for the Nov. 7 general election is Oct. 17.

County to host regional jazz festival

Upper Marlboro’s Show Place Arena will host the first Metropolitan International Jazz Festival on Labor Day weekend, County Executive Jack Johnson is expected to announce today.

The festival will be Sept. 1-2, and will feature artists such as Jeffrey Osborne, Joyce Cooling, Norman Brown and Wayman Tisdale.

All scheduled performances are listed at www.smoothjazz1059.com. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com, and range from $45-85 for a one-day pass, and from $80-$160 for a two-day pass.

O’Malley proposes Homeland Security office in county

Gubernatorial candidate Martin O’Malley announced his plans Tuesday to locate the state’s Office of Homeland Security in Prince George’s County. if he is elected.

O’Malley’s proposal seeks to capitalize on the county’s ‘‘strategic location” between Baltimore, Annapolis and the District. The office would help establish a greater state government presence in the county, as well as spur local economic development and enhance local crime fighting, according to the O’Malley campaign. The office is located in Annapolis.

O’Malley joined runningmate Anthony Brown and Sen. Gloria Lawlah at Bowie State University for the announcement. Earlier in the day, the campaign announced a plan to track and encourage minority business participation in state contracts.

Johnson breaks ground at Addison Rd.

County exec Jack Johnson broke ground on Tuesday for the $70 million ICON Condominiums redevelopment project near the Addison Road Metro station.

The project includes 400,000 square feet of residential, retail and commercial development, and includes 170 condos and a rooftop swimming pool.

The development is scheduled to be completed by summer 2008. For more information, see www.theiconcondominiums.com.

Congressional forum in College Park

Residents are invited to a forum for congressional candidates in College Park on Aug. 27.

The forum starts at 3 p.m., and invites candidates running for Districts 4, 5 and 8, which cover both Prince George’s and Montgomery counties.

The event is sponsored by a network of local political groups, which plan to ask candidates about their policies on security, fair trade and climate issues.

The moderator will be Dr. Bing Inocencio, professor at the University of Maryland University College. The forum will be held at the Benjamin Banneker Room of the Stamp Union on Campus Drive, at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Baker ad slams Johnson’s rape comments

County exec candidate Rushern Baker’s second TV ad hit the airwaves this week, and took on opponent Jack B. Johnson for remarks he made about rape during a WTOP radio interview last year.

In the interview, which is quoted in the ad, Johnson said that the rapes in Prince George’s County were ‘‘boyfriend⁄girlfriend relational-ship issues.”

The voiceover then states: ‘‘If Jack Johnson doesn’t understand the crime issue, how is he ever going to solve it?”

And even though Baker has repeatedly stated that he does not blame Johnson for last year’s spike in violent crime, the ad explicitly titled the 2005 surge as ‘‘the Jack Johnson crime wave.”

When asked about the ad, Johnson’s Chief of Staff Mike Herman said, ‘‘Mr. Baker is a desperate candidate running a desperate campaign on negativity.”

Police officers delivering mailers

County Executive Jack B. Johnson has been using county police to deliver his Gorgeous Prince George’s mailers over the past few weeks.

‘‘I would never consider that to be a police officers’ job,” said Cpl. Michael Williams, who works in the Criminal Investigations Division. ‘‘They could be riding around the neighborhood deterring [crime]. Instead they’re out on foot delivering these things.”

Williams said officers have been paid overtime to deliver the mailers in Langley Park.

The bilingual flyer, which features Johnson’s name three times, informs residents about the county code and the importance of planting trees, asking them to ‘‘keep Gorgeous Prince George’s County beautiful.”

Williams said it was insulting to ask officers to deliver mail, and said Johnson should just use the postal service.

But Johnson’s chief of staff Mike Herman says the program is a partnership between the police and two other county departments, and that the officers are involved because they are partially responsible for enforcing the code.

‘‘Part of it is because there’s a real cross-cultural situation going on in many of these communities,” Herman said. ‘‘We felt it was a good idea.”

Curry speaks

Former county exec Wayne Curry finally endorsed a candidate this week – only it wasn’t one in the county executive race.

Instead, Curry chose to throw his name behind College Park City Councilwoman Joseline Pena-Melnyk, who is running for the House of Delegates in District 21.

‘‘She is not part of any political machine or ‘old boys’ network,” Curry said in a statement. ‘‘That is because her priorities are in the right place. Her focus is on the people. It always has been.”

Pena-Melnyk is sort of the lone soldier District 21, not being on a slate with either Senate candidate Jim Rosapepe or Sen. John Giannetti (D-Dist. 21).

Among the candidates she is facing is attorney and former Mike Miller aide Ben Barnes, who shares a ticket with incumbent delegates Brian Moe and Barbara Frush as their choice to replace outgoing Del. Pauline Menes.

Pena-Melnyk said in a statement that she was ‘‘humbled” by Curry’s endorsement.

Star power

Hollywood has descended upon Prince George’s politics. Actor Danny Glover recently announced his support for candidate Donna Edwards in the 4th District Congressional race, where she is running against U.S. Rep. Al Wynn.

Apparently Glover is an old chum of Edwards’, and posted a message on her Web site talking up the candidate as a scrupulous politician who can’t be bought.

‘‘The sad truth is that elected offices in America are up for sale, and those with the most money are buying them up. But they can’t buy Donna Edwards,” he wrote. ‘‘If you help her get elected, she won’t go the way of Al Wynn and so many other Democrats.”

Edwards has earned the endorsements of the ACORN PAC, the League of Conservation Voters, Progressive Cheverly and the Sierra Club – but many of the mainstream endorsements have still gone to Wynn.

Candidate launches crime-tracking site

Delegate candidate Shukoor Ahmed has launched a new Web site for residents to track crime in their area.

At www.crimeblotter.org, residents can type in their address to see a map plotting the sexual assaults, assaults, robberies and thefts that have occurred in the immediate vicinity since February. It does not track homicides.

‘‘There’s a lot of talk in the county about how crime is high,” Ahmed said. ‘‘So I think it gives us some graphic representation of what’s going on in our neighborhoods.”

Ahmed, who runs the software development company V-Empower, is running for the House of Delegates in District 23A.

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