Last weekend I planned to take advantage of early voting in Maryland on Sunday. That was before I went to the polls and saw lines of people who had been standing in line for hours and hours on end in the cold and wet weather. Instead of voting myself I joined one of my friends who is running for a seat on the Board of Education working the poll. In the four hours I spent at two polling locations in College Park and Bowie I had the opportunity to speak to countless number of voters. What amazed me about them was two things, how dedicated citizens they seemed to getting their vote in no matter how long it took, and how many of them brought their children. It made me remember that this is what elections are really about, our children. The people we are putting in office will make decisions for our community that my generation and the generation behind me will have to live with far longer than our parents and their parents.
As I go to the polls myself later this week I’m looking forward to voting to reelect President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Ben Cardin, and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. Additionally I’m excited about voting for Micah Watson to represent my community on the Prince George’s County Board of Education from District 4. One of the issues however that I’ve debated over and over with myself has not been a candidate but instead a ballot measure…Question 7.
Question 7 if passed will expand gambling in Maryland from the five current sites, many which aren’t even up yet, to a sixth site here in Prince George’s County. One of the interesting things I’ve noticed about this years campaign is just how political this battle is. Just four years ago voters in Prince George’s County overwhelming voted to approve slots at five other locations throughout the state. That was the case across the state. Now polls are showing a much closer race for expanded sites in Prince George’s and I can’t help but think it has something to do with those from other locations choosing to keep the money for themselves that Prince George’s could take.
I’ve been conflicted on this question because the two sides fighting this battle couldn’t be more full of themselves and full of spin. In all honesty they both, including the elected officials on BOTH sides have done us, the citizens a huge disservice.
I’m a California native. In my homestate state we have casinos and while they are reserved for Indian Reservations, they are highly successful and have yet to been the cause for the doom and gloom that opponents of Question 7 profess will happen if this ballot measure is approved. Yes there will be a notch of people who will become addicted to gaming, yes their might be a situation of crime that the county will have to address, but they are nowhere near the blowout projections that opponents here in Prince George’s County would have you to believe. Despite what supporters say, we know that there will be a social impact to this gaming and that is why in the bill that passed, the legislature set up a fund to support those who might need help. However because this challenge may occur for a few should not be a projection as to why the many can’t have this attraction.
Now as I said before I am a California native. I’ve been to casinos both in California but also in my neighboring state of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The people supporting Question 7 aren’t running with clean hands either. I’m an educated voter. Informed more than not about issues before I make a decision myself. The promises of 12,000 jobs just aren’t hard facts but instead glossy theories that far too often have been made to county residents only to be waived away later by elected officials and their appointees too lazy or too cozy to enforce the requirements. There are no requirements those jobs go to county residents and if recent history at National Harbor is to be a judge many of them won’t. The claim that the average job once created will be about $50,000 is laughable. Just not to be believed. But my question is so what? This is the question I often ask to people who preach to me why I shouldn’t shop at stores like Wal-Mart. These are jobs that could go to a man or woman who doesn’t have one now. I would love to have those “good paying” jobs that so many people stump about all over the county every four years but the truth of the matter is we don’t have them and young brothers and sisters need a job today. This is a job and the opposition is asking me to vote for nothing because I can’t get what I want.
Prince George’s County is in the middle of a transformative revision of where we once were as a people. I’m not foolish enough to believe that all of what County Executive Baker or Governor O’Malley, both who opposed slots until they got to office, tell me we’ll get if we vote Yes, but I am smart enough to no that those against Question 7 aren’t offering me anything and that just isn’t enough for me. I’ll be voting Yes.
Joseph Lynn Kitchen Jr. is an ordained Baptist minister from Prince George’s County, MD where he serves as a community leader on issues of education reform, public transportation and youth empowerment. Joseph is Executive Vice-President of the Young Democrats of Maryland and National Policy and Platform Director of the Young Democrats of America’s Minority Caucus. He is also a member of the WMATA Metro Advisory Council representing Prince George’s County. Learn more about Joseph’s work at www.josephkitchen.com.