If we want to make a difference in what the future of Baltimore City will look like, we must invest in the growth and development of our children and young people.
I’ve worked in Youth Development for the past five years. I began my career working with young people in Cherry Hill at the historic Patapsco Recreation Center. I was devastated when the center was closed, and even more concerned about the growth and development of Cherry Hill’s young people. It’s time for our city to make a holistic investment in our young people that doesn’t end at the conclusion of the school day.
Making a holistic investment in our young people includes the following:
• Increase funding for school services such as mental health, psychotherapist, social workers, and psychologists (not arming school resource officers with guns!). Our young people are victims of generational trauma. The studies show just how big of an impact trauma can inflict on a young person’s brain activity and development.
• Increasing pay for teachers because teachers help craft the future by educating our children and contributing to their growth and development.
• Supporting recruitment efforts that attract more teachers of color, male educators, and teachers who are graduates of Baltimore City schools.
• Strengthening career technical education (CTE) programs for high school students and preparing them to enter either the workforce of post-secondary education. As a CTE graduate, I know firsthand the benefits that come with a CTE education and certification. We need to ensure that our students have robust CTE programs that equip them with the job skills to put them on a trajectory of upward social mobility. Investing in our young people’s CTE education in an investment in Baltimore’s future workforce which will have a lasting impact.
• Closing the academic achievement gap between white students, students of color, and students who come from economically challenged neighborhoods.
• Work to establish Public-Private partnerships that increase funding for after-school and out of school (OST) programs.
• I want to work with businesses, communities and philanthropic organizations to fund a pilot program we will call the R.E.E.D (Recreation, Education, and Employment Development) initiative. R.E.E.D will seek to strengthen collaboration efforts between Baltimore City Schools, our department of Recreation and Parks, and the Office of Employment Development to combine efforts and increase accessibility to recreation opportunities, opportunities to advance education and access to employment and certification resources.
• Extended/weekend hours for recreation centers. Rec centers are positive, safe outlets that play a major role in the safety, growth, and development of our young people. Their hours shouldn’t end on the weekend. 48 hours of no safe outlets makes our young people vulnerable to crime and other unsafe activities.
It’s no secret that we have a public safety issue in Baltimore. The old, conventional methods of fighting crime are not working. We need community-based, public health approaches and solutions to address public safety in our city.
Every conversation about public safety does not have to begin or end with law enforcement. Our city must invest in community-based, public health solutions that acknowledge and address the root causes of violence in our city and what causes individuals to commit crimes. I support the state’s attorney’s decision to no longer prosecute individuals for small possession of marijuana. It’s time for us to study the effects of marijuana and work towards legalizing it for adult, recreational use to create a new tax revenue stream that can support communities of color that were destroyed by the fictitious “war on drugs.”
Young people and adults should not be living in fear in their neighborhoods or playgrounds, and our senior citizens shouldn’t be worried about their safety as they sit in their neighborhoods. I don’t believe that increasing law enforcement is the fix to our problem. As your next City Council member, I’m going to advocate for:
• Laws that reduce the number of illegal guns on our streets. Accessibility to illegal, untraceable guns in Baltimore City is a major problem. Illegal guns account for an overwhelming majority of homicides in our city.
• Programs that reduce recidivism and support re-entry citizens. Oftentimes, conversations are fixated around the term “Violent, repeat offenders.” I believe it’s time we differentiate the two. A violent offender is different from a repeat offender and we need to address them with different approaches. Violent offenders need to be punished, while repeat offenders receive diversion programs and support to stifle their repeated behavior.
• Increased funding for community-based programs, such as Safe Streets and ROCA, that produce real results for the Baltimore community.
• Increased accountability and effective community policing within our police department. We pay for a police department to keep us safe, but the corrupt, unethical and unconstitutional practices displayed by some officers of the Baltimore City police department are inexcusable. We must demand more oversight and accountability measures. Once public trust is fully restored, we can see better community relationship that will foster better collaboration between community residents and our officers.
• Increase awareness and resources for victims and communities experiencing human trafficking, such as Brooklyn and Curtis Bay.
• Allocation for the appropriate resources to close open-air drug markets that present a danger to members of our communities.
• Increase efforts to aid individuals who are addicted to opioids and work to address the opioid epidemic as a public health crisis.
• Work with the mayor to support the Violence Reduction Initiative.
Job training, living wages, right to organize, vocational education and year-long youth employment are different community investments our neighborhoods need to address issues of generational poverty, income inequality, and workforce development.
For many of the families in Baltimore, generational poverty is a very familiar reality. Vice President Joe Biden once said, “a job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your place in your community.” Working to create employment opportunities is an investment in the communities of Baltimore. My office will work with businesses, small and large, to organize job fairs that are convenient for residents of the 10th district.
• I support a $ 15-hour minimum wage because it not only takes an individual out of poverty, it lifts that individual’s family out of poverty and begins to end the cycle of generational poverty. A $15-hour minimum wage is a living wage that helps individuals meet their basic needs
• I will work to increase opportunities for certification and job training programs that lead to career development and opportunities for promotion and career advancement, particularly for re-entry citizens and young people seeking employment following their graduation from high school.
• Supporting and organizing community job fairs for residents of the 10th district that connect residents with living wage jobs, certification/training programs, and opportunities for jobs in the growing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) field.
• I support expanding the YouthWorks summer jobs program to a year-long program and providing young people with access to employment all year around, instead of just five weeks in the summer.
• Supporting small businesses in the 10th district to help with hiring employees without concerns about managing their business.
Our district is home to some of Baltimore’s most historic neighborhoods, but some of our neighborhoods need a fair chance at equitable community development. With support from our neighborhood anchor institutions, we can make our communities safer, greener, and more prosperous.
Our district is in a unique situation. The development of the Port Covington project is scheduled to bring much-needed resources to the South Baltimore communities that surround it. Through the advocacy efforts of the SB7 (South Baltimore), Curtis Bay, Brooklyn, Cherry Hill, Westport, Lakeland, Mt. Winans, and St. Paul will see major developments that will give those communities a leg-up in resources. Baltimore City is also home to 42 opportunities zones that were created from the 2017 Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of the Trump administration. Six of those opportunity zones are located inside of the 10th district.
A community can only thrive when all its residents thrive together. This includes better schools and recreation centers for our children, employment opportunities that pay living wages for working adults, reliable public transportation that is equitable, neighborhoods that are safe for our senior citizens, and cleaner, greener communities that are environmentally just for all our neighbors.
There is still work that must be done to truly make sure our neighborhoods in the 10th district are healthy and thriving. This includes:
• Building the new state of the art recreation facility that will be housed in Cherry Hill.
• Establishing equitable public transit systems that connect workers to jobs and young people to their education.
• Continuing to ensure neighborhoods like Curtis Bay and Brooklyn can benefit from receiving free trees, job training, and achieve environmental justice in terms of cleaner air (reduces asthma and cancer rates).
• Supporting community gardens like the ones in Cherry Hill and Filbert Street in Curtis Bay.
• Work collectively to attract affordable, healthy food options for residents. Right now, if you live in Cherry Hill, Brooklyn or Curtis Bay and do not own a car, you must travel to either Locust Point, Lakeland, or Glen Burnie to shop at a grocery store. The residents of those neighborhoods need better options that are more convenient for them and their communities.
• Housing stability helps move families out of poverty and contributes to the unique culture of our neighborhoods. Support the affordable housing trust and attracting new homeowners to our city helps expand our property tax base and strengthen our schools.
• Increasing efforts to eliminate vacant homes that contribute to neighborhood blight and crime.
• Supporting small businesses along the Pigtown Main Street corridor.
• Working with anchor institutions, such as St. Agnes and MedStar Harbor hospital, and the Port Covington development project, to provide access to healthy living resources for residents of the 10th district.
My number one responsibility as your next City Council member will always be constituent services. It’s my obligation to make sure your 311 and other service requests are addressed in a timely fashion. I’ll also work to make city resources more accessible to residents like you.
My first obligation as your councilmember will be to provide you with 21st-century constituent services. This includes following up on concerns relating to sanitation request, illegal dumping, public works projects, information regarding city services, and many others. Following the 2020 election, our city, the state of Maryland, and congressional districts across the United States will undergo redistricting that is required by the constitution following the decennial census. My commitment to you is that I will work to ensure the boundaries of the 10th district are drawn fairly and justly to best represent the findings of the 2020 census.
The representatives of the City Council must reflect the values and priorities of their districts. Currently, our city government does not reflect the future of Baltimore that we all want to see. Our city’s $3 billion budget allocates upwards of half-a-billion dollars to our police department. It’s no mystery that we have a public safety issue in our city, but every conversation about violence reduction and public safety must not focus on increasing police and law enforcement. It’s time for our city to have a budget that invests in people and not failed practices that produce poor results and no return on our investment.
Aside from those issues, I will also work to make sure city government is working for the people. Currently, the City Council has very limited powers during the budget negotiation process. I support measures that will allow the City Council to have more influence during the budgeting process. I will also work to strengthen collaboration between our partners and representatives on the state level that represent the neighborhoods encompassed in the 10th district (40th, 44th, and 46th legislative districts).
Also work with representatives from our neighboring counties, Anne Arundel and Baltimore, in the spirit of regionalism to address issues that cross artificial boundaries and directly impact our constituents.