In 2017, we took action in all of these areas.
- Criminal Justice: Rev. Brian Murray, co-chair, reports: “We are entering the legislative session with an eye on bail reform. We have had a discussion with one of the co-chairs of “Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle” to develop a clear picture of the situation for the 2018 session. Our Anne Arundel County Caucus is advocating a change in the state gun laws to make possession of an illegal firearm a felony for anyone with a prior gun offense.
- Education: Betsy Amey and Rev. Norfleet-Walker report: BRIDGE has a working partnership with PRIScM and with Maryland Communities United as they monitor the Kirwan Commission (which is revising the state funding formula and setting standards for public schools) and promote community schools as an alternative to vouchers and private charters. Betsy and Denise met with Del. Adrienne Jones, who is on the Kirwan Commission and chairs the key committee in the House of Delegates. Members of the task force were trained on Community Schools through a Gamaliel webinar. We have the materials to educate others on this concept/movement. The task force is preparing a position paper for the 2018 Legislative Session.
- Transportation: Our task force is partnering with the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition to reopen efforts in revitalizing the Red Line discussion. We are also working with PRISCM in PG County to pass legislation to save the Purple Line. Washington Metro Transit Authority needs Maryland funding – so we are talking to legislators who support providing such funding.
- Housing: Vacant houses in the midst of a housing shortage: Rev. Marlon Tilghman, Co-chair, met with leaders from CPHA in Baltimore County; with them, we hope to galvanize folks around the issue of vacant housing in a specific community in Pikesville; develop a base, get a win and to grow from there. The Maryland H.O.M.E. Act 2018 may not be dead in after all. In a phone conference (about a dozen callers) the MMHA (The Maryland Multi-Housing Association) reported approaching Senator Will Smith about a 10% maximum limit on voucher holders. Rev. Tilghman asked why they approached Smith and the consensus was the fear of the “blue wave” in 2018. The coalition felt the 10% was an insult because it meant that they could legal discriminate against 90%. Rev. Tilghman recommended a counter offer would be 15% as a start with incremental increases until there were no discriminatory practices and no set-aside communities. After this bill passes it needs the teeth to work on its own. We may not need to get the bill passed in 2018 if the state leadership changes. We need to get out the vote as they did in Alabama and Virginia.
Other BRIDGE MD efforts:
- Workforce development: Rev. Tilghman participated in a meeting about the Fight for $15. BRIDGE was a member of this coalition when the bill passed for the fight for $10.10/Hr. That bill sunsets in 2018-19. The bill being presented is $15/hr with indexing. BRIDGE MD is working with the Poor Peoples Campaign that was originally MLK’s dream (Rev. Amy Williams-Clark and BMI Board member Shirley Eatmon are on the coordinating committee for this campaign). Fight for $15 needs people willing to give live or pre-recorded testimony.
- Earned Sick Leave Act: We have demonstrated in Baltimore City and in Annapolis with Working Families to support overriding the Governor’s veto of the Earned Sick Leave Act. Happily, the effort was successful and the act goes into effect this February.
All these efforts provide a base for BRIDGE MD’s involvement in social justice efforts – representatives of each task force will make a statement at our LEGISLATIVE RECEPTION, “BRIDGE TO THE CAPITAL,” FEB. 21ST, 4:30-7:00 pm, Lowe State Office Building, 6 Bladen Street, Annapolis.
Betsy F. Amey, Secretary, BRIDGE MD