Maryland made history last month ushering in a new Speaker for Maryland's House of Delegates! After the untimely death of Speaker Michael Busch, a special session was called and held on May 1st. Three delegates expressed interest in succeeding Speaker Busch and Baltimore County Delegate Adrienne Jones was elected as Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates! I was honored to cast my vote for Speaker Jones.
While Speaker Jones is blazing a new trail as the state’s first woman Speaker and its first Black Speaker, Speaker Jones is not the first person in her family to blaze trails. On September 10, 1935, her aunt, Margaret Williams, and Lucille Scott traveled to Catonsville High School to gain admittance. They were met by Principal David Zimmerman who refused to admit the young ladies to Catonsville High because Baltimore County Public Schools prohibited blacks and whites from attending the same public schools. The NAACP’s counsel, Thurgood Marshall, sued Baltimore County on their behalf in the case of Williams v. Zimmerman on their behalf and although Maryland’s Court of Appeals did not rule in their favor, the case was known as the second stone to Brown v. Board of Education.
While Catonsville was not integrated, Margaret Williams’ and Lucille Scott’s courage forever changed the Baltimore County public school system. As a result of their efforts, Baltimore County opened the Benjamin Banneker School in Catonsville, the George Bragg School in Sparrows Point and George Washington Carver High School in Towson.
My office worked to commemorate their bravery and unveiled a historical marker in their honor at Catonsville Elementary, formerly known as Catonsville High School, last September. The video of the ceremony can be viewed here.
There are so many people that I have the opportunity to meet as I represent our district. This month, I wanted to share an interview that we had the pleasure of conducting with Mrs. Tina Brown. Everyone knows Mrs. Brown. You may see her walking around the community or volunteering at the community swimming pool. Mrs. Brown is a constituent and President of the Woodbridge Valley Improvement and Civic Association (WVICA).
Woodbridge Valley was founded in 1968 and is one of the northernmost communities of Catonsville. WVICA is a tax-exempt 501(c)4 social welfare organization and was established in 1970 to represent over 800 homeowners and residents of Woodbridge Valley. WVICA is dedicated to serving its community by promoting the safety, common good, and social welfare of Woodbridge Valley residents. It strives to build community, preserve and beautify the neighborhood, and provide services of value to the community.
During the interview, we gained some insight into Mrs. Brown's passion to serve our community.
Q: How long have you lived in Woodbridge Valley?
A: I have lived in Woodbridge Valley for 43 years.
Q: What do you love about your community?
A: Woodbridge is a community that has an active association board who maintains the covenants in the area. The homeowners keep their property in good condition. Most families are willing to help their neighbors. There is a good mix of seniors and young families as well as a melting pot of nationalities. We all learn from each other? This is a community where neighbors help neighbors.
Q: What drives your passion to serve?
A: I like to keep our community up to date on all matters political. I strive to make our neighborhood a place where we love to reside and make it a place that invites others to move here.
Q: In serving your community, what is your biggest accomplishment thus far and what would you like to accomplish going forward?
A: I am proud that the board has helped me keep our community a safe and lovely place to live. We maintain a robocall system and a website to keep everyone informed. We were successful in having new community signs erected with the help of a Community Conservation Grant. The community covenants must be extended every 20 years. I have been here to work with the board to have them extended twice. So far we have gotten signatures from 51% of the 850 homeowners in the area. I would also like to encourage some of our younger neighbors to join the board.
I also wish to recognize the following constituents on their new appointments to State boards!
Carlton J. Brown was recently appointed to a three-year term to the Dairy Industry Oversight and Advisory Council. As a new member, Mr. Brown will review concerns impacting the state's dairy farmers, dairy processors, and consumers. Every year the Council recommends strategies to support Maryland's dairy industry.
The Council works to improve and sustain the economic viability of Maryland's dairy industry. While encouraging collaboration among the State agencies responsible for regulating the dairy industry, the Council also evaluates the current regulatory structure, potential Federal and State regulatory changes, and current quality assurance controls within the industry. Further, the Council identifies barriers to profitability in the dairy industry and technological changes which will affect the industry.
Additionally, Mr. Brown was also appointed to the Maryland Food Center Authority (MFCA). The MFCA's mission is to develop, own, operate, improve, and maintain real estate projects that provide economical, sanitary, and modern facilities for food distribution in the State of Maryland. It studies how to develop food industry facilities throughout Maryland. In this effort, the MFCA maintains real estate that ensures Maryland's future food supply is safe, sanitary, and efficient for distribution.
Nakia Zaahir was just appointed to the Correctional Enterprises Management Council. The Council, among other things, improves the quality of job training programs and reviews the working conditions for inmates. It also solicits ideas from community partners to help inmates develop skills that will be helpful in obtaining employment after their release. Additional information about the Maryland Correctional Enterprises can be read here.
Congratulations on your appointments!
Charles in the Community
I participated in an American Bar Association panel, at the University of Baltimore School of Law, during its 2019 Spring Conference. The program was entitled “Your Money's No Good Here: Source of Income Discrimination in Maryland Housing”. The source of income discrimination has long plagued low-income individuals seeking housing. Many that are forced to pay rent with government vouchers, veteran's benefits, social security payments and the like are often denied housing by landlords as a pretext for prohibited discrimination based on race, disability, national origin and more. The seminar touched on advocacy strategies for capitalizing on this momentum to pass anti-discrimination laws in Maryland.
Additionally, I participated in a Maryland Legislative Session Debrief at UMBC. The event was sponsored by its Graduate Students Association. We discussed a variety of legislation important to the audience. Topics included, but were not limited to “The Blueprint for Maryland's Future” (SB 1030), the Clean Energy Jobs Act (SB 516), and the “Fight for Fifteen” bill to increase minimum wages (SB280/HB166).
Additionally, on May 2nd, I, along with other members of the Legislative Black Caucus visited and toured Maryland's Charlotte Hall Veterans Home which has been proudly “Serving Those Who Served” since 1985. Secretary George Owings and his staff gave a great presentation and we all learned a lot about the service The Home provides to our veterans.
Charlotte Hall is situated on 126 acres in St. Mary’s County and offers a continuum of care from the 168-bed assisted living program to the 286-bed skilled nursing program.
In the News
Last month I was interviewed by Megan Molten of Wired.com about House Bill 30. In her article titled “What the Golden State Killer Tells Us About Forensic Genetics”, she wrote:
"Before it gets to the masses though, lawmakers like Charles Sydnor III are trying to make sure the public has a frank discussion about what it means for the government to have access to consumer DNA databases filled with millions of law-abiding American citizens. In January, he introduced a bill into the Maryland House of Delegates that would have been the first law in the US to ban police from using genetic genealogy, based on concerns that it amounts to "genetic surveillance." But state law enforcement agencies came out hard against the bill (as did Parabon's CEO, Steven Armentrout), and it died in committee a few weeks later."
Sydnor is now planning a special interim hearing for this fall to educate his colleagues on the topic of investigative genetic genealogy, before trying again next session. You can read the full article here.
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