Charm City

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Summer for so many of us is a time of renewal: a time to vacation, unplug, decompress and visit loved ones. Perhaps it is the heat as we leave the hottest month in recorded history, perhaps it is the endless traffic on the Bay Bridge and the beltway reducing our time of renewal exponentially, or perhaps it is the endless negative rhetoric coming out of Washington, but this summer has been challenging.

I’m going to venture out of our district and into Baltimore for this column. I am often told to stay in my lane, a recommendation that I invariably argue I am already following. As delegates, we represent the people of our district, but we make policy for all of Maryland. One of the challenges of making strong, comprehensive policy is remembering and anticipating the impact on a broad range of communities and interests.

Baltimore, the colorful, diverse area that is Maryland's largest city and economic hub, is known for its beautiful harbor; quirky, distinct neighborhoods; unique museums; and the world-renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital to the east and the University of Maryland Medical Center to the west. Baltimore gave birth to our national anthem and the first common carrier railroad in the nation, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Our B&A Trail is a part of that heritage. Some of our greatest scientific achievements come from our port city as well as world-renowned medical advancements. Baltimore’s record-breaking seaport is a major economic driver for the region. Baltimore has a thriving art and music scene, and our native daughters and sons have brought us a legacy of literature, music, art and film from Edgar Allan Poe to Billie Holiday to Howard Ashman and John Waters.

I grew up in Anne Arundel County and have seen the rise and descent of our magnificent “Charm City,” a result of multiple factors, many of which are systemic. Throughout the session, I hear from people outside my district asking I not forget them when I’m voting on a bill that impacts agriculture, small business, rural communities, or industry on our waterways. Yet, recently, people in my own district have asked me to withhold funds from Baltimore, blaming the residents of the city for problems that exist. I do not have the power to withhold funding. That power lies with our governor, who has chosen to withhold funding for a variety of programs including summer lunches and youth advocacy programs, and the federal government. Our president recently publicly disparaged Baltimore as though it was not even in the United States and therefore not the responsibility of the White House. My colleague recently posed the question “When did we stop being Americans first?” a sentiment we can debate, but I ask the following question: When did Baltimore stop being part of Maryland? When did Maryland, whose largest city is still Baltimore, stop being part of the United States?

I prefer to work together toward solutions, but until we can acknowledge that Baltimore’s struggles are Maryland’s struggles, we will not improve our community and we should not support the denigration of any segment of our community. Anne Arundel County is the connection between Baltimore, Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and Washington, D.C., so comprehensive solutions must come from the whole of the state, not from the residents who are already struggling. Once again, I return to my lane, a four-lane highway that connects our community north and south, another that connects us east and west. I hope we all enjoy the rest of the summer, take some time to unplug, and remember we’re all in this together and we are all Maryland.

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