Dear Friends:I wanted to take the opportunity to update you on some important events over the next few days and share some thoughts on restoring integrity in the county. I will be holding a townhall meeting Saturday, Dec 11, our new county executive, Rushern Baker is holding an event on literacy at Greenbelt Middle School tomorrow, and Progressive Maryland is holding their annual gala (and honoring me) next Wed, Dec 15.
Details for all of these events are below.
| Washington Post explained, it's not just on them, the responsibility is also on us. |
Like many of you, when I first heard about the arrests, my jaw dropped, more because of the outlandishness surrounding the arrests (money, underwear, admissions), than the alleged crime itself. Many have suspected there was a 'pay to play' culture in our county (if you want projects approved or contracts awarded, you needed to pony up contributions to campaign accounts). Rumors have swirled that developers were routinely shaken down. Besides being unethical and illegal (although difficult to prove), this behavior not only hurts the public through increased opportunities to block or diverge from thoughtful, smart development, it creates distrust in government. When, over the years, I've heard the allegations, I have encouraged people in the development community to step forward. Of course, they've been hesitant and resisted, afraid of being blocked in future project efforts.
This practice is horrible and we must find ways to stop it, however difficult it is to prove. Sure, an official with zoning authority can deny it happened and 'anyone' can contribute to a campaign. Those elected leaders who engage in this type activity may not benefit by direct personal gain (cash) like the Johnson's appeared to do, but it's just as bad. It allows them to be in a more advantageous position for reelection.
What we saw last month with the Johnsons appears to take it a step further: a simple payoff. In those cases, we don't need new laws, we need to have officials who are ethical and don't break laws.
How have we gotten to this point? And more importantly, how do we get back?
We have to step forward as soon as we see something fishy or wrong with any government entity. That doesn't simply mean a difference of opinion, since that is bound to happen. We have to hold people accountable, whether they serve as an elected county official or simply work for the county. We not only can't go along with any unethical or illegal action or behavior in which we're directly involved, we have to reveal it, even if as simply observers.
People tend to take advantage and misuse their power if they think they can get away with it and if it becomes the norm. Obviously - and optimally - we need to encourage people to seek office who hold high ethical standards. But we need to change the culture surrounding governing. We can't simply 'settle.' We need to not only expect more, but demand more.
Of course, Ms. Johnson shouldn't take her county council seat. Every voter in her district should demand that she step aside. While she hasn't been convicted, her actions spoke volumes.
Low expectations have plagued our county in many ways beyond politics: in our schools, in our county services and, yes, in our government. We will get what we are willing to accept.
We all have to speak up and not just at election time. And that means those in office and those casting the votes.
I will be holding a townhall meeting on Saturday, Dec 11 from 10-11:30 AM at Berwyn Heights Elementary School. I'll share a legislative update and preview of the upcoming legislative session. An expert will share information on low cost ways to reduce your electricity and heating bill and a representative from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development will discuss ways to avoid foreclosures. And there will be time set aside to hear from you.
Rushern Baker in Greenbelt Tomorrow
As part of his inaugural weekend events, County Executive-Elect Rushern Baker will host a literacy event entitled "Read to Greatness" tomorrow, Dec 5 from 3-5PM at Greenbelt Middle School 8950 Edmonston Rd. Come donate your used books for others to read. The event includes a book-drive, readings, raffles, and refreshments. The event is free, but book donations are appreciated.
More information is available here.
Progressive Maryland Gala
Progressive Maryland is holding an annual awards gala honoring Senator Mikulski, and five "Champions of Working Families." I am pleased to announce that I will be among those honored.
The event will be Wed. Dec 15 at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt from 6:30 to 9:00 PM.
To see the full list of honorees and to get more information or purchase tickets, visit progressivemaryland.org.
Got P.I.I.S.D.? (Private Insurance Induced Stress Disorder). Come dance your way to the solution, Improved Medicare for All; at McGinty's Pub (Upper Floor), Saturday December 11th from 1 to 4PM. Healthcare -- Now is raising funds for an Economic Impact Study of the Maryland Health Security Act - A Single Payer System in Maryland. Music is provided by DEADWOOD, a swing and blues band.Click here for more information.
Delegates Gaines, Healey, Ross, and I will be hosting a reception in Annapolis for residents of District 22. All are invited.
What: 6th Annual Annapolis Reception for residents of District 22.
Where: Miller Senate Office Building, Annapolis
When: January 17, 2010 6PM-8PM
More information will be available later this month.
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