I’d like to talk about cohesiveness and strength. Twenty years ago, I was a Pikesville resident and was active in community and politics. Before that, I lived in Woodlawn. Every so often I take stock about how northwest Baltimore County and the political landscape have evolved. This current round of legislative redistricting and the changing of the guard of our elected officials cause me to reminisce, hope and yearn for a better tomorrow.
In the interest of transparency, I’d like to share that I do represent two candidates: Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, who is running for the Senate in District 44, and Ben Brooks, who is running for the House of Delegates in District 10. No, I currently do not live in the district. Because so many of my waking hours are spent in area, I like to say that I sleep in another county and live in Baltimore County.
Not too long ago, there was a time in Baltimore County when African Americans were not being elected to any type of office within the state of Maryland or county government. Why? It was near impossible. The electoral lines were drawn in a way where black delegates and senators were not encouraged to run for office or confident they had a decent shot at winning. Plus, the number of black residents in a district wasn’t politically significant enough in to elect a black representative.
In an effort to right that wrong, a new 10th District was created in 1992. At that time, the makeup of blacks in this district was about 75 percent. This redrawn area, which included 20 percent Baltimore City and 80 percent Baltimore County (it’s since become totally a county district), made the minority population the majority population in the 10th District, giving African Americans their best chance to win a legislative seat. And they did.
In 1994, voters elected a black Senator and black three delegates to represent them in Annapolis. It was historic! Similar action was later taken for the 4th councilmanic district and an African American was elected for that seat also.
My hope and dream was that this would be a positive thing for the Randallstown, Windsor Mill and Woodlawn communities. We were looking for all the things that a community should have—great schools, economic development, jobs and more—and we looked to our elected officials to go to bat for us and see that money, influence and opportunity come to these communities.
Did it work out that way it? Positive things did happen. Could we have gotten more? Sure.
I would have liked to see those elected officials work together more often. We sent them in as a team, and they should work as a team. One person pushing a vehicle down the road will not get it as far as a group of people. In other words, going it alone will not get our communities as much as a collaborative, team effort. Imagine what our representatives could be able to achieve if they sit down, put together a plan for the district, pool their energy and resources, gather support, and execute the plan?
This time around, I hope they’ll work more consistently together for the common good of the community. When that happens, the community thrives. No one person has all the answers. Leadership is not about dictating to people. Leadership is about bringing people together and finding the answers. We should be mindful of efforts to strip a community of any gains.
Twenty years have gone by and the minority majority district no longer exists. New lines have been drawn, and the strength of the minority has been diluted. You go from 75 percent to 52 percent. Woodlawn has been pushed into Catonsville (District 1).
Would this have happened if there had been a strong team from Day One. I don’t think so. I believe the community and the votes that come out of that community are strong enough where the arguments could have been made to draw the lines in a different way. However, I believe the powers-that-be knew there was a house divided, which actually allowed them to come in and take that action.
Things change. And change doesn’t necessarily equate to bad. My question is Have we learned the lesson? Will the new team—whoever they will be—learn from the mistakes of the old team? Will they understand that they’re there to serve the community, to deliver to the community, and make the community the best it can become?
As voters and community leaders, we have to demand that the people we choose to represent us, do just that. It’s important that they put aside their personal differences aside and do the things that the community and voters who put them in office need and demand. To elect a representative who can’t work with other people will not achieve much for the constituents. And everybody elected isn’t and can’t be a boss. It’s you, the voter, who is the boss. So, please, conduct yourself accordingly. And as the saying goes, “Act like you know.”