I hope this message finds you and your loved ones in good health and spirit!
While this message finds us at a tough time in our history, I remain steadfast and hopeful. As Congressman John Lewis modeled for us—with hard work and a commitment to justice—this too shall pass and we shall see our best days ahead. Our office is diligently tracking the effects of the COVID-19 crisis in our community, especially the changes and challenges to our schools, public health, and economic well-being. While the COVID-19 virus is demanding a great deal of my attention, I remained focused on the long-term needs and improvement of our community. Below I share a brief update on the activities that I have been engaged in for the last few weeks and hope you find the information helpful and encouraging.
Advocating for Our Economic Well-Being & Small Businesses…
I spoke with the Baltimore Positive podcast, hosts Nestor Aparicio and Don Mohler, to share in their effort to “inspire and move our city forward”. I was proud to discuss the parks, beautiful neighborhoods, and small businesses that make our district such a beautiful place to live and raise a family. I was particularly proud to highlight why I believe that our government must act with urgency and responsive customer service. Please consider taking a moment to listen and hear how we are using public policy and responsive government practices to support our small businesses and economic well-being. I was eager to detail why we should be encouraged with the changes coming to City Hall.
I joined Fox45 News with my colleague Kathy Szeliga for their Statehouse Spotlight segment to discuss the effects of COVID-19 on small businesses and the transition to virtual learning for our schools. We have a duty to keep our communities safe and address the needs of our vulnerable populations, especially our community members facing food insecurity. We can do both and I am proud to fight for equity in these matters.
As a husband, father, and small business owner, I work to make good use of every dollar and cent. I use my position on the Senate’s Budget & Taxation Committee to do so for our state government. In comments to Maryland Reporter on the future of our state’s budget I highlight the need for the federal government to support local and state governments as they act on the frontline of this crisis.
“I do believe strongly that if we don’t get another stimulus injected for our local and state governments there will be drastic cuts to the state budget,” Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City) told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview on Thursday.
“There’s a great need, especially in Baltimore City, the state of Maryland-these pocket of areas. We see that with food insecurity. We also see that as we talk about our young people and how they’re going to be adapting to school. I think about the digital divide and actually having to purchase extra computers. With this extra stimulus, local governments are paying very close attention and are in desperate need of it. State government is paying close attention and is in desperate need.” — My Comments, Jul 30, 2020
Cleanliness & Job Prioritizations in Regional Transit
As the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) heard comments on the Baltimore Regional Transit Plan, I drafted a letter on items that should be incorporated which would benefit the 45th District and Baltimore City. Having read the plan in its entirety, I made suggestions and asked for clarity about cleanliness, job prioritizations and definitions, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the regional transit hubs and corridors.
As I drive through our community, I am increasingly concerned about the level of trash at transit stations and bus stops. Clean transit systems and boarding stations will attract those whom have a choice between using public transit or a personal vehicle. But, it is not entirely clear to me how trash concerns will be alleviated under the current plan. I asked that the final draft include more solutions in this respect. I also requested details on the Regional Transit Hubs and Network Improvement Areas which will be prioritized due to job growth and noted that we have large populations of families that are seeking transit to the large job hubs at Tradepoint Atlantic, Harford County, Aberdeen Proving Ground, and BWI Airport.
Sound and consistent public transportation services is a vital need for our region’s economic growth and I will continue to monitor and advocate for this as a part of our community’s needs.
Holding Community-Based Behavioral Health Programs Accountable
I wrote to the Maryland Department of Health to add comments on new regulations for Behavioral Health Organizations and expressed my support for tightening some of the regulations to improve and strengthen the community relations guidelines by which behavioral health organizations operate and engage with our neighborhoods. Baltimore City has the largest concentration of behavioral health services in all of Maryland and for the past two years I have sought to advance improvements to the rules for permitting/zoning of these facilities and how they engage/relate to our communities and their needs. I proudly serve as one of the six senators representing Baltimore City and welcome the improvements being addressed with these regulatory changes.
This matter is of the utmost importance to me, and many Maryland residents, because of the growing number of behavioral health services providers and the ill effects of some that are acting in a problematic manner and with total disregard for their community’s well-being. I know that this negative experience does not represent the majority of behavioral health organizations which seek to be of service to the community, but we must proactively address the bad apples that exist in the bunch. I am thankful for the proposed improvements which I believe will be deeply beneficial to affected communities.
Holding Problem Liquor Stores Accountable
In the 2020 legislative session, I introduced and passed a law to restrict the hours of package good liquor stores in high crime hot spots within the 45th District. The change affected 26 liquor establishments within that foot print (North) North Avenue, (South) Jefferson Street, (West) Luzerne Avenue, and (East) Central Avenue. I recently wrote a letter to the Baltimore City Liquor Board asking for updates on its implementation and they answered detailing the actions they have taken thus far. The hours of operation for these establishments prior to July 1st was 6:00 AM to 2:00 AM, and the new conforming hours are 9:00 AM to 10:00 PM. Each one of the liquor stores had a least one murder in the past 3 years within 500 feet of the establishment. One store had as high as 31 murders or shooting within 500 feet over the past three years. I am very proud of this work and will closely track the progress and note any changes needed in the future.
Continuing to Hold MD’s State Board of Elections Accountable to We the People…
We must be clear that the COVID-19 virus will limit our ability to vote in a traditional way. I will therefore continue to request details from the Maryland State Board of Elections, and our Baltimore City Board, on how they are acting to proactively protect our election’s integrity and its free and full access to the ballot box. Although we increased ballot access for many Marylanders during the Special Election and Primary Election, there was a marginalized community that was left out of the conversation: individuals at the Baltimore Pretrial Complex (BPC) and Baltimore Central Booking and Intake Center (BCBIC). As we plan for a possible mail-in General Election, I wrote to the State Board of Elections and Department of Public Saftey and Corrections for the details of how they intend to incorporate a plan for those at the facilities to vote in November’s election.
In BPC and BCBIC, the vast majority of Baltimoreans are eligible to vote because they are not currently serving a court-ordered sentence of imprisonment for a felony conviction. I will closely follow their response and keep advocating for all of us.
One Last Thing . . .
If you or someone you know needs help receiving your Unemployment Insurance, please contact our office as soon as possible!. For additional information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or (410) 841-3165.
Listening. Learning. Leading.
Senator, 45th Legislative District