Fall is here, the school year is off and running, and in spite of a rough first game, we remain hopeful for the Ravens season! While we continue to face unique challenges and hardships as result of the COVID-19 emergency, we have many reasons for hope and faith. Much of my activities over the last few weeks flow from the work I began in the spring: keeping our communities safe and healthy; protecting our access to the ballot; guarding our economic well-being; and, remaining focused on the decisions and policies that will determine our long-term wellbeing and quality of life in Baltimore. Sure, the effects of COVID-19, and even the Ravens loss, weight on us some, but I remain steadfast and hopeful that our best days are ahead. I hope my work demonstrates this belief and that you find this update helpful and encouraging.
One of the especially uplifting experiences I cherish is the chance to encourage our students and educators in their efforts at the start of the school year. You can view this year’s video by clicking the image below.
Every election is important! You may recall that during this year’s Primary Election I wrote a series of letters to the Maryland Board of Elections to express my concerns about the Board’ practices for ensuring full access to the ballot. I continue to follow local and state elections practices for fairness and accessibility and was alarmed to learn that Northeast Baltimore has a staggering geographic gap in the placement of ballot drop-off boxes. The problem was acutely demonstrated when considering that the current placement leaves the 13th council district without a single ballot drop-box. I find the matter to be a grave disappointment and wrote to our local board of elections exclaiming the facts: 1) we are without adequate access to ballot drop-boxes, and 2) the problem must be addressed urgently! You can view local coverage about the issue here and review the letter I sent the Baltimore City Board of Elections here. I eagerly await the board’s prompt action to address this very serious problem.
Please Count in the Census!
The U.S. Constitution mandates that we conduct a national census, a measure of our population, every ten years and its results matter greatly to our work in improving the life and well-being of Baltimore. Census results, the final calculation of our nation’s population, determine the rate of federal resources provided to Baltimore and guides reapportionment activities in congressional and state legislative redistricting. As time permits, I try to regularly canvas in our communities to maximize our participation in the count. I generally enjoy canvassing a way to learning from our neighbors and remain abreast in real-time of the needs and opinions of our district. I’ll continue these efforts in the weeks ahead, but I ask that you also be sure to complete the census and ask your loved ones and neighbors to do so too. The census form is easy to complete at its website and you can also see Baltimore’s performance in real-time here.
“Lawmakers Assemble Suggested Reading List for Colleagues, Aspiring Leaders”
A few years ago, as I joined the Maryland General Assembly to represent our district, I sought to learn from experienced people and read from history and past leaders. Overtime, I found few resources to guide me with direct application to governing and Annapolis’ unique practices and policies. My Colleague, Del. Marc Korman (D-Montgomery), and I began sharing and discussing books we read and we recently joined to craft a list of readings to guide those looking to have a positive impact for Maryland. “We both know that the best experience [for incoming legislators] is to just get out there and swim,” McCray said. “But sometimes I think I’d be able to see things a little more clearly if I was able to read about something similar.” With that goal in mind, we sought input from a bipartisan group of Maryland’s business, civic, and political leaders to craft a list of suggested reading for aspiring leaders and those interacting with the General Assembly in hope to advance issues and causes.
Retired Navy admiral and former NATO supreme commander, James G. Stavridis, who had written several books — including a 2017 tome called “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” helped us think through the process and list, noting: “Perhaps the single best way a leader can learn and grow is through reading”.
We are proud to share the list you and the advocates working to make Maryland a truly thriving place for all people. Del. Korman and I worked together over several months to solicit advice and form the book list for our colleagues, aspiring legislators, interns, advocates, and all those that interface with the Maryland General Assembly. This has presented a pretty cool experience. Please consider taking a moment to hear us discuss of our journey on Center Maryland’s The Conference Call podcast.
I sat with the Maryland Daily Record to share my experience as a part of their “Young, Black, Homegrown and Leading in Baltimore” series. My hope is that young people facing a tough moment know that they too can come out these circumstances.
“I faced many of the same challenges that a lot of young men (and) young women across the city of Baltimore have faced. I went to a number of schools. … The most challenging year that I had was my 12th grade year because I actually failed that grade. …I always say by the grace of God I was able to find the IBEW Local 24 apprenticeship program.
What that did was it took me out of the four-by-four-block radius that I was so familiar with, and so limited to and opened up a vast amount of experiences … while also giving me an education, and also teaching me a trade.
You can view the video of our conversation and interview by clicking the image and link above.
BCCC Improving, But Needs State Funding to Continue Progress
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 an Op-ed published in the Baltimore Sun, I highlight the need for continued state support of Baltimore City Community College as it advances along an improved trajectory of success and positive outcomes for its students and our community.
“Under the leadership of Debra McCurdy, BCCC’s 14th president, the college has experienced an 8% growth in enrollment. It was not too long ago, in 2015, that BCCC saw a great decline in its enrollment and many people publicly questioned the BCCC’s future in our city.”
At the July Board of Public Works meeting, $3.2 million in state funding was cut from BCCC’s operating budget along with $500,000 in very need facilities funding. Only BCCC was singled out for an unwarranted budget reduction. At the most recent budget and tax briefing, I spoke about the injustice of cutting the budget of one of Maryland’s only urban community colleges with a majority minority student population. In response, I received a commitment from the Hogan administration that they would attempt to correct this injustice during the proposed 2021 fiscal year budget.
I am thankful for BCCC’s leadership whom stepped up to shift the direction of BCCC over the past several years. With their support, and the support of so many others who believe in BCCC’s mission, the college has made great strides. As an alumus of BCCC, I hope that my fellow alumni and other community leaders will reach out to the Hogan administration to ensure that their commitment is kept. Baltimore City needs this now more than ever.
Holding Our Government Accountable
You may have read or heard to the story of our neighbor, Mr. Randolph Scott, a senior and retired veteran, whom opened his home to law enforcement officers as they responded to a barricade situation in his East Baltimore neighborhood. When the situation ended, Mr. Scott returned home to find his place seriously damaged without an explanation nor clear recourse for addressing the damage. The City of Baltimore immediately agreed to redress the matter, but further investigation places the cause on Maryland State Police (MSP) Officers offering mutual aid in the incident.
In response, my colleague Chair Maggie McIntosh, and I wrote the MSP seeking clarity on their policies and practices for such situations. Our hope is that all people are treated fairly and that we learn from these experiences to advance our public policies and hold all levels of government accountable to us …we the people. You can read our letter here.
Holding Community-Based Behavioral Health Programs Accountable
I proudly wrote to the Maryland Department of Health to add comments and note my opposition to the proposed CMDS inpatient Treatment Facility at 6040 Harford Road. 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. This matter was of the utmost importance to me because of the ill effects the proposed operator has as a part of its track-record of performance. Thankfully the application was withdrawn by the operator! 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.
Unemployment Insurance Reminder
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