I hope you and your loved ones well and you are staying safe during this pandemic. My office and I have been extremely busy responding to constituents on a myriad of issues related to the pandemic since session ended last March. As you know, Senator Shirley Nathan Pulliam retired after more than two decades of service to the citizens of Maryland. I submitted my name to be considered for appointment to serve out her term. I was selected by the Governor and I was sworn in on the General Assembly’s opening day, January 8, 2020. My selection would not have been possible without the outpouring of support.
Upon entering the State Senate, I was appointed to serve on the Judicial Proceeding Committee (“JPR”), akin to the House’s Judiciary Committee on which I was privileged to serve. JPR acts on legislation relating to constitutional amendments; corporations and associations; correctional facilities and services; criminal and civil laws, penalties, and procedures; family law; human relations; judicial administration and court structure; juvenile justice; law enforcement organizations; the legal profession; legal rights and immunities; public safety; real property, including landlord and tenant laws; trusts and estates; and vehicle laws, including drunk driving.
While I was unable to send the 2020 End of Session letter at the time I generally would, nevertheless I am proud of the work done during the 2020 Session and encourage you to read my full letter about those effort and district highlights by clicking here. I am continually honored by your support. Please stay safe and continue to wear those masks.
District 44 Featured Interview of the Month
I would like to welcome Mr. Kirk Sykes back to District 44. Mr. Sykes was newly named principal of SEED School of Maryland (the “SEED School”), located on Font Hill Avenue in Baltimore, is no stranger to the Baltimore Community. Years ago, he was the principal of Woodlawn High School in Baltimore County.
The SEED School is a co-ed boarding school in Southwest Baltimore City which has been in our community for 12 years. Students apply through lottery and the school now has two points of entry in 6th grade and through 9th grade. The SEED School currently serves 400 students from across the state in a boarding setting.
For the last four years, Mr. Sykes has served as the Area Executive Director of Schools in the South Learning Community of Fulton County Schools in Atlanta Georgia. He oversaw and was responsible for the growth and development of 12 schools. In that role, he grew many of those schools to their highest gains on record.
Mr. Sykes shared that the SEED School’s mission is to present students from across the state with an extraordinary opportunity to receive a tuition-free education that prepares them for success in college and beyond. His vision is “to install a framework of communication, collaboration, and consistency that supports rich and rigorous college preparation and student life supports that will develop well rounded, confident, and responsible scholars.”
When asked what it was about the SEED School of Maryland that prompted him to apply for and accept the principalship, Mr. Sykes shared that it was his “dream role”. He added “To lead the only college prep boarding school in the state. The school has an excellent mission, a talented faculty, and an energized board. All of this right in my hometown made the opportunity very attractive to me. I believe I’m the right leader to help it become one of the premier options for students in the region.”
Regarding the SEED School’s plan to operate this fall in light of the ongoing pandemic Mr. Sykes explained that the school has a very comprehensive COVID Re-Opening plan. The SEED School is beginning the year in a remote learning mode through the 1st quarter and will implement a hybrid re-opening at the start of the second quarter of the school year. Mr. Sykes noted that the school is prioritizing student and staff safety and it has spent a lot of time in pre-planning with a focus on improving its remote learning and student life experience. Mr. Sykes said “We feel really good about being better in this regard and are looking forward to engaging with students beginning on the 1st day of school on August 31st.”
To learn more about the SEED School would you may go to its website to learn more at www.seedschoolmd.org or follow its hashtag #seedmd.
In the News
- I was pleased to hear Governor Hogan recently his direction for state health agencies to begin reporting racial data in COVID-19 infection data. This reporting is essential in helping to flatten the curve in a shorter time frame, while helping our doctors and researchers to better understand the impact of the virus and potential treatments. You can read more about the announcement in the Baltimore Sun and its importance here in independent healthy policy expert Leni Preston’s commentary in Maryland Matters.
- I recently participated in a regional initiative to encourage residents in Baltimore City to refrain from gathering during stay-at-home orders. You can read more about this initiative in the Baltimore Sun.
- Our work with PANDAS insurance coverage legislation is continuing to gain the attention of local and national healthcare observers. One family's brave fight for equity was featured earlier this month in the Baltimore Sun.
Senator Sydnor Awards District 44 Scholarships for 2020
As the new Senator for Legislative District 44, this is the first year that I have had the opportunity to award students graduating from high schools and those continuing various phases of their higher education in both Baltimore City and Baltimore County. This year, students had to submit an application package wherein they had to respond to the following inquiry: “If you were to share your thoughts about your community, what would you describe as its best quality? What would you describe as the aspect most in need of change? Finally, what are you doing to help facilitate the change that is needed?”
Students within District 44 were awarded more than $41,000.00 in scholarships. Students awarded scholarships were home schooled and attended the following schools:
- Bard High School in Baltimore City;
- Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women;
- George Washington Carver Center for the Arts and Technology;
- Calvert Hall College;
- Catonsville High School;
- Institute of Notre Dame in Baltimore City;
- Lansdowne High School;
- Milford Mill Academy;
- Western Tech High School; and
- Woodlawn High School.
I also had the opportunity to award students who currently attend the following Maryland Colleges and Universities:
- Bowie State University;
- Community College of Baltimore County;
- Howard County Community College;
- Morgan State University;
- Towson University;
- University of Baltimore;
- University of Maryland at Baltimore (School of Social Work);
- University of Maryland Baltimore County; and
- University of Maryland College Park.
I would like to thank my Scholarship Committee: Dawson Porter, Brenda Armstead, and Denise McDougal, which reviewed each application submitted to us this year and helped in highlighting some of this district’s best and brightest students.
Engagement in State and Local Police Reform Discussions
As the United States, following the civil unrest after the death of George Floyd, examines the ways in which existing criminal justice and policing policies at the local, state, and federal levels affect our communities, I have had the opportunity to engage a variety of stakeholders throughout our community about this subject.
On July 23rd, I was invited by the Baltimore County Progressive Democrats Club to a club meeting which focused on police reform and Black Lives Matter, along with Baltimore County Councilman Julian Jones, and a student leader of the recent Catonsville High School Black Lives Matter march. I was also invited to discuss this topic by the Catonsville Indivisibles on August 21st, along with Councilman Jones and Delegate Pat Young.
Additionally, I have continued my service on Baltimore County’s Equitable Policing Workgroup and just began my service on the Law Enforcement Body Camera Task Force which was formed by the General Assembly (Chapter 309, Acts of 2020). Our organizational meeting can be viewed here. I also worked with my delegation colleagues to pen a letter of support for Councilman Jones’s council bill to reform policing in Baltimore County.
At the state level, my colleague and chairman of the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings, Chairman William C. Smith, Jr., has scheduled virtual hearings for September 15th, 16th, and 17th in which we expect to discuss bills concerning officer training, use of force, militarization, prosecutorial intervention, liability caps, the disclosure of personnel records, and the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights.
Baltimore County Open Space Projects to include Milford Mill Trail Reconstruction and Gwynn Oak Park Enhancements
This “Baltimore County Fiscal Year 2021 Annual Program,” lists park acquisition and development projects currently being explored by Baltimore County, for which fiscal year 2021 Maryland Program Open Space funding may be pursued. Projects listed herein will help to achieve the goals and objectives of Baltimore County’s “Master Plan 2020.” The Milford Mill Trail reconstruction and the Gwynn Oak Park Enhancements are of particular interest to residents of Legislative District 44B. The following excerpts were taken from the aforementioned plan.
Milford Mill Trail Reconstruction: This project consists of the analysis, design and reconstruction of the Milford Mill Trail, situated within Villa Nova Park in the Milford Mill community. This loop trail which is adjacent to the Gwynns Falls is in very poor condition as a result of flooding, erosion, and damage from tree roots. Potential changes to the trails alignment and surface type may be needed in order to follow best management/environmental practices associated with its location within the Gwynns Falls flood plain.
Gwynn Oak Park Enhancements: This project consists of the design and construction of expanded parking and an additional picnic pavilion, as well as the expansion of playground equipment. Gwynn Oak Park, situated within the Woodlawn Community, features one picnic pavilion, a playground, paved paths, and a lake overlook. These facilities are heavily utilized by the community, and the park likewise hosts special events and activities. Parking has long been problematic when the park is crowded, and the addition of a parking expansion would allow the County to provide an additional picnic pavilion, addressing a long standing community request.
Baltimore County’s full FY 2021 Program Open Space Annual Program is available to review here.
Senator Sydnor on JPR Workgroup on COVID 19 and Housing
With the stark concerns around housing as a member of the Judicial Proceedings Committee Workgroup on COVID 19 and Housing, chaired by Senator Shelly Hettleman. The Workgroup issued its report on how to help vulnerable communities be safe and housed during the pandemic. The Workgroup met six times in virtual meetings from May 2020 through July 2020, during which the Workgroup received briefings from stakeholders, reviewed data, and engaged in extensive discussions. Click here to view the report with recommendations.
Senator Sydnor appears on MPT’s State Circle - Body Worn Camera Taskforce
Last month, I was invited to appear on Maryland's Public Television State Circle Political Round Table with host Jeff Salkin. Pictured is Senator Sydnor and Republican Senator Justin Ready. We discussed the work of the Body Worn Camera Task Force, which is tasked to finding venue(s) to house the growing amount of body camera footage in Maryland, and to recommend ways to pay the storage costs. I am is the Vice Chair of the Body Worn Camera Task Force. Voting by mail was also discussed. I favor all mail-in balloting, with enhanced in-person voting to serve those under-served in the primary election. Click here to watch the full Special on PBS.
Woodlawn Youth’s Black Lives Matter Rally
On July 25, 2020 the Woodlawn youth hosted a peaceful rally that began at Powhatan Elementary school and ended at the historical Gwynn Oak Park. The main purpose of this rally was to continue to call for an end to systemic racism in this country. Many state and community officials were present including Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski, District 44B’s entire state delegation, Delegate Dana Stein and Councilman Julian Jones. It was extremely inspiring to hear from many Woodlawn youth as we marched through the streets calling for justice not just for George Floyd but all people of color. It is important that we as a country keep the momentum going and continue to stand up against inequality in our schools, jobs, and health care.
Let’s Complete the Census
On August 1st and 8th, I had an opportunity to join Senator Antonio Hayes, Baltimore City Councilman John Bullock and others to canvass the Mill Hill communities in southwest Baltimore City encouraging neighbors to complete their censuses.
Efforts to encourage those in District 44 continued in Baltimore County with our Baltimore County kickoff on August 15th in Deerfield (Census tract 4024.04). Photos can be found here. With the help of community partners like, Baltimore County government, the U.S. Census, Epworth Chapel, Deerfield Community Association and Hilltop Community Association and members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, we will continue our efforts focusing on Census tract 4024.04 and two other Census tracts where the response rate was under 60%. These include Census tract 4024.5, which include the Featherbed-Windsor Park and Canroykin communities, and Census tract 4011.02. (See the Census tract maps below)
Baltimore County 2020 Census - Tract 4024
Baltimore County 2020 Census - Tract 4014.5
We will continue canvassing on August 29th, September 12th and 26th. If you live in one of these tracts or know someone who lives in them, please urge them to complete the census. Our communities mustn't leave resources ($18,000 per person uncounted) on the table. If you have completed your census, challenge those you know to do the same thing.
- The 2020 Census questionnaire will take about 10 minutes to complete.
- It's safe, secure, and confidential. Your information and privacy are protected.
- Your response helps to direct billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities for schools, roads, and other public services.
- Results from the 2020 Census will be used to determine the number of seats each state has in Congress and your political representation at all levels of government.
The census can be completed online. To complete your 2020 Census, please visit the Census website here.
In Remembrance of Congressman John Lewis, Vote!
With the passing of Congressman John Lewis, the United States lost one of its greatest heroes and Heaven gained one of its greatest angels. As President Baraka Obama eulogized him as a "founding father" of a better and fairer United States of America, let us all remember the immense legacy of this civil rights icon as we continue to fight for the America John Lewis fought for his entire life. Words cannot fully express the sorrow I felt after hearing of his passing. He was a man full of integrity, resolve, and an unbelievable fortitude. The lessons that he instilled in us all, through the life he lived, are a blessing that we all should cherish.
The Congressman and many others put themselves in harm’s way to ensure we all had the right to exercise our right to vote. If you are not registered to vote, you can apply to register to vote here. You do not have to wait for the Board to send you an application for a ballot. Please remember to visit the State Board of Elections’ website to apply for your ballot here. If you are unsure how to navigate the website you may watch this video produced by Baltimore Votes. Let’s continue his legacy by making “good trouble”!