Another year has ended, and a new one has begun. Today we are one week away from the start of my second session in the General Assembly. Last year was certainly a milestone year for me and my family, as I was sworn in as a State Delegate in January, appointed to the Appropriations Committee, and worked to effectively represent District 46. It was also a milestone year – in a very different way – for Baltimore. The unrest and uprising that occurred in April following the tragic death of Freddie Gray lead to a renewed call for urgency to address the longstanding disparities in our City – disparities caused by a long history of racism and segregation, but disparities that every person I have met in Baltimore truly desires to end. It is my hope that in 2016 we will continue to be vigilant and urgent in our work to address the housing, educational, social, and economic disparities plaguing our City. We will only succeed as a City when every child has an equal opportunity for success.
Although I ran to be a State Delegate and represent District 46 in the General Assembly, I knew then and have learned over the past year that being an elected official representing Baltimore City is about much more than passing bills in Annapolis – it also about being a problem-solver and ally for residents and being an ambassador for the government to residents, and also for our City to the rest of the State. This year was a difficult one for our City, and it was therefore that much more important that we have active elected officials doing all we can to promote the interests of the people of Baltimore City and to build a better City for everyone. Working with the rest of Team 46, as well as other elected officials from around the region, I have learned so much about how to be an effective legislator, problem-solver, and ambassador. In 2016, I look forward to continuing to become the most effective advocate and ally I can be for Baltimore City and for all of you. Being a legislator is equally challenging and rewarding, and I am so grateful that you have given me the opportunity to represent District 46.
The coming year will bring changes to our City — municipal elections will result in a new Mayor and potentially many new City Council members. I encourage you to learn about all the candidates running for Mayor and City Council through attending community meetings or going to their websites to find times to see them at campaign events. This election will be a vitally important one for Baltimore City, and we must ensure strong turnout and informed decision-making. Register to vote, and get involved.
Below I provide a few notes about the last month of 2015, and a quick look at some of what is to come during session. As I did last year, I will send emails every other week regarding what is happening in Annapolis. Please feel free to encourage your neighbors to sign up to receive these updates so you can all stay informed!
Out & About in District 46 . . .
The last month of the year was a blur, as I raced around meeting with community members and advocacy groups prior to session. In addition to the cookie tastings (always fun!) and tree and gazebo lightings I attended, I also fit in some great meetings and tours around the District. Some highlights include:
- A tour of Federal Hill businesses with Secretary Mike Gill. The Secretary and I spoke with and visited with a variety of businesses around Federal Hill to learn more about the challenges they are facing and how the State can be a helpful partner.
- Meeting with Dr. Thornton and the Baltimore City Public School Commissioners. The District 46 team met with BCPS to advocate for our schools and their needs, including addressing over-crowding in Southeast and in Brooklyn, and the needs at other schools like Francis Scott Key. We were also briefed on the 21st Century School Plan to renovate or rebuild new schools in Cherry Hill, Greektown, and elsewhere. I continue to do outreach to school leadership across the district and to advocate for our students and teachers.
- Meet the Legislators at the GBC. Along with Sen. Pugh, Councilman Scott, and Council President Young, I participated in a Q&A with business leaders and others from around the region one morning at the GBC offices.
- English Language Learners. Inspired by the Baltimore Sun series about the large immigrant population in our schools, I have made a renewed push to advocate on behalf of our non-English-speaking students, and have visited schools in other counties that are having success at educating refugee and immigrant students. My first meeting of 2016 was at the Maryland Department of Education to learn more about the work it is doing as well, and how I can help push for more resources for schools with large English-Language-Learner populations.
- Preparing for Session & Advocating for our Communities. From meetings at the Family League and Baltimore Community Foundation to conversations with homeless services advocates and meetings with the Secretaries of the Environment and of Juvenile Services, I stayed active in making connections and advocating for the neighborhoods and residents of District 46.
Public Transit & MTA
As many of you know, MTA has proposed a new bus system – the BaltimoreLink. I have encouraged MTA leadership to attend some community group meetings around District 46, and MTA is holding a public forum TONIGHT at the Southeast Anchor Branch Library on Eastern Ave. I hope you can attend! You can also learn more about BaltimoreLink and offer comments and feedback on its website: http://mta.maryland.gov/baltimorelink
In Annapolis . . .
I introduced a number of bills in 2015 that did not pass. After reviewing the merits of these bills with advocates and opponents alike, I am looking forward to working on many of them again, as well as introducing several new initiatives that stem from constituent conversations. I have already introduced the Community Clean Up & Greening Act – HB 31 – that would result in less plastic trash in our neighborhoods, a more sustainable future for our waterways and Bay, and fewer overhead costs for our retailers. It is a win for the environment, a win for business, and a win for consumers. In addition to this bill, I look forward to also continuing to pursue measures that will build a safer, greener, more just and more prosperous City and State. If you’re interested in helping or supporting my efforts in promoting the Community Clean Up & Greening Act, please email me at email@example.com with the subject line “Bag Ban.”
In the coming weeks, I will be introducing additional bills and will share those with you through my bi-weekly email updates. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will also be working on passing a fiscally prudent and socially responsible budget for our State.
Please visit me in Annapolis – I love having visitors come by the office, and my legislative director and I are happy to help you plan a tour. Please email me or be in touch so that we can help arrange a visit and be sure that I will be available to meet with you.
I hope you and your family had a wonderful holiday season, and are looking forward to a healthy and happy 2016.