Pols, Constituents Clash Over Proposed Youth Jobs Center
WASHINGTON (AP) _ When the Labor Department offered $28 million to a suburban community for a jobs program, the citizens of Glenarden said, ″No thanks.″
They didn’t want a jobs center for 400 disadvantaged youths in their neighborhood, but raised an unusual objection: They said their neighborhood would be a bad influence on the youngsters.
″Our community is overridden with drug trafficking,″ said Theresa Mitchell Dudley, president of the Kentland Civic Association in the Maryland community five miles east of Washington. ″We have people coming from all over the area - Maryland as well as Washington and Virginia - to buy drugs and solicit prostitutes.
″This is not the place to house 400 at-risk kids when they could just walk a short distance to the temptations they’re supposed to be getting away from.″
Government officials initially proposed that the facility be placed about a mile east of Kentland, in Glenarden, Md.
″It’s not that we don’t want the Job Corps,″ Ms. Dudley said. ″All we’re saying is that our community is not the place for it.″
There already is a strain on county and social services in the area, a mixture of low- and middle-income residents. The center would worsen the situation, she said.
Job Corps officials proposed Friday to place the facility in District Heights, about 10 miles from the Glenarden location. This site, which must be approved by county officials by Feb. 11, is near an industrial park and is closer to Washington.
The federal government originally said the offer of the center would be rescinded after Glenarden was rejected, but gave the county a chance to agree on an alternative.
Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., voiced disappointment that the original site was abandoned after county officials and the Job Corps agreed it was the best spot for the program.
″While I personally was not involved in the site selection process itself, it appears that the site ran into significant community opposition,″ Hoyer said in a statement.
The District Heights location has the support of area clergymen and is not expected to be opposed by surrounding residents, said Rev. Robert Williams Jr., pastor of the nearby St. Paul’s Baptist Church.
Prince George’s County Executive Parris Glendening first announced and then withdrew his support for constructing the Job Corps center on 28 acres in Glenarden - making him appear indecisive just as he begins his campaign to become Maryland’s next governor.
″Clearly, the residents of the area were concerned by more than a ‘not in my back yard’ syndrome,‴ said Glendening. ″These are communities that are struggling with severe social problems and putting a Job Corps center there could push things over the edge.″
But Glenarden Mayor Marvin Wilson said Glendening and other officials should not have bowed to public pressure.
″We have to face up to our communities’ own problems and begin to take action to solve our own problems,″ said Wilson. ″We had a chance to do something positive for the children in our area and we blew it.″