Saturday, October 1, 2016

Dog Food

I looked over at the car next to me yesterday morning at Dunkin Donuts.

It brought to mind Bryan Sears, reporter for the Maryland Daily Record who has a dog named Sam. When people complain that his stories are behind a paywall, he gently reminds them that he needs to buy dog food for Sam. He has even coined a hashtag for it: #subscriptionsforSam .
I bit the bullet a while ago and started paying for online access to the Baltimore Sun and Howard County Times/Columbia Flier. Now that I have regular paycheck coming in again, the next step is a digital subscription to the Maryland Daily Record. As time goes on I see how much I need to know about what goes on in Annapolis and throughout the state in order to write this blog.
Think about how education advocates worked with the Howard Delegation during the last session to get bills passed for greater transparency. What about the County Executive's request that Sheriff Fitzgerald be impeached? It's not enough to read news created in the Bubble. Our issues reach beyond that.
If you want good journalism, you need to pay journalists. I write a blog as a hobby, one might say. I do the best I can with what I have and no one would confuse it with journalism. My profession is teaching. That's my field of expertise in which I have completed required education/training and have years of experience. I couldn't put in forty-plus hours a week without getting paid.
Neither can Bryan Sears, or Jason Whong, or the other good folks at the Maryland Daily Record. There's rent, or a mortgage to pay. There are groceries to buy, the baby's diapers, and of course dog food. Sam's dog food.

(Bryan and Sam hard at work.)

I'm finally ready to take that leap and be a responsible paying customer. You can, too. Click here to get the employee discount.
One last tidbit about Bryan. As a reporter for Patch he once kept a story going for thirty-six days because Baltimore County refused to give him the salary of a County employee without making him submit a written PIA request. He refused on principal. That's not what an MPIA is for.
Thirty-six days. That's an incredibly long time for a story to stretch on. His persistence paid off. His assertion that the salary information of county employees was a matter of public record was confirmed and he got the information he wanted.
Who was the County employee whose salary was being withheld? See for yourself.


Friday, September 30, 2016

What the Man Said

"Why is she so angry?" the man said.

"I guess you think she should smile more, eh?" I said.

"That will work," the man said. "A negative emotion makes the message look negative, no matter how noble the intentions."

The world is full of men telling women to smile more. This particular woman is a highly experienced and able candidate. She deserves more than that description.

Other women said:

  • Women are told how to behave.
  • Rules for men and women candidates are different.
  • Yes, "just smile and stop yelling."

The another man spoke. "I thought she came off fine. Intense, passionate, polished, and serious. She's ready for the job."

"Why is she so angry?"

"She's ready for the job."

It seems like we've been hearing a lot of this lately.

This has been a rough political season. The national election has brought out the sexists on a large scale. Except this conversation wasn't about the Presidential election or Hillary Clinton, although it certainly sounds like it.

It was about a candidate for the Howard County Board of Education.

It seems that even in Howard County there are men distressed by what they perceive as "angry women" seeking higher office. Women who are, in reality, qualified, experienced, passionate, articulate.

Think our only problem is Sheriff Fitzgerald? Think again.








Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Loudest Lout

Sheriff Fitzgerald still has a badge and a gun. He holds a position of authority and is still drawing a paycheck. What he does not have is the respect of the community, their trust, or their confidence. Why? Because recent events have revealed that he does not respect and embody the values of our community. His words and actions have been filled with racism and derision.

Rumor has it he'd like to stay. I sincerely hope this is a faulty rumor. It is completely impossible for someone with so little regard for the citizens of Howard County to continue to hold this position. This is not who we are. This is not Howard County, I hear people say. This is not Columbia.

In the midst of many online conversations about this issue I bumped into this by Alice Marks (HoCoHouseHon).

I feel like it's incredibly naive to think that this kind of racism is rare in Howard County or anywhere in America. We tend to notice racism which is spoken or racism proved violently at the point of a gun, but rarely do we deign to notice the casual, soft racism which is integral to our culture. This one man voices the racism of many. Most are too "nice" to say it out loud. We can be shocked, but we should not be surprised. We foster this.

I don't think it's naive to expect better - I think it's naive to think this problem isn't endemic to American society as a whole. Of course I want us to respect each other. But we don't. We should totally oust outspoken racists, but we need to be willing to look into ourselves for our own biases. How many of us have friends who have said something outré? How many of us have stood by when family members have been quietly racist? Common decency is too often a shield for not admitting our own silent bigotry. I want more. Getting rid of the loudest lout is only one step in the long journey of ridding our country of systemic racism.

She's right. Fitzgerald is the loudest lout in the room and he must go, but that is not enough. We can't pretend that he is some alien being that got dropped into the nest like a cowbird's egg. Even in Howard County there are those who allow racism to go unchallenged by ignoring, looking the other way, enabling. And by well-meaning people who don't stand up.

Maybe sometimes that's me. Or you. Because we don't want to rock the boat or make a fuss or get into a socially awkward or confrontational situation.

"We can be shocked, but we should not be surprised. We foster this."

It is time, long past time, to stop fostering and to commit to doing better. Fitzgerald must go. Then let's get to work to make Howard County a place that's fair and safe for all, and where the Fitzgeralds of the world cannot hide.


Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trying for Gratitude

It's Wednesday. There's a flash flood watch. I've been up since five o'clock and no local topics are leaping out at me. Let's try this gratitude thing again, shall we?

  • Parents like Atticus' mom who advocate for children in the school system.
  • Continuing progress on the Chrysalis in Merriweather Park/Symphony Woods.
  • New Weis Food Market in Oakland Mills.
  • Howard County Library's Choose Civility Year of Kindness initiative.
  • Columbia's first-place ranking by Money Magazine.
As always, I encourage you to add in your reasons to be grateful in the comments. The more, the merrier.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Shut Out

Let Atticus learn. He wants to learn. He's twelve years old and he has within him the motivation to do great things. But when he comes to school each day the doors to learning are closed to him.

I have been following Atticus's story through his mother's page on Facebook: Let Them See Clearly Campaign. Atticus has Binocular Vision Disorder and the Howard County Schools have so far been unwilling and/or unable to provide him with the accommodations he is entitled to under the IDEA. Atticus himself testified during the Public Forum at last week's BOE meeting.

You can read more about Atticus in Lisa Philip's story here. It is the story of a parent and child whose only goal is to open the doors of learning. Imagine yourself in this child's shoes: compelled every day to go to a place where adults encourage you to do things that you cannot do, and that will make you sick. Imagine yourself as his mother, one person against an unhelpful and unsympathetic system.

Howard County Schools used to be known as providing the gold standard in special education services. Sadly, that is no longer true. I have to wonder if the current focus from the top on test scores and the yearly gutting of the special education budget have something to do with this. Teachers in the classroom struggle daily to do what is best but are they being provided with the support and funds to give their students what the law requires?

Data show that unlimited funding goes to lawyers to fight parents of special education students who are attempting to get the school system to provide their children with free and appropriate education to which they are rightly entitled. Imagine what an amazing change would come about if we shifted where that money goes.

Imagine that. Imagine the doors to learning opening for Atticus, and for many other children whose names we do not know.











Monday, September 26, 2016

Way Out West

I ventured out of my neck of the woods to pick up an item I found on Craigslist yesterday. I found myself in a neighborhood of relatively new construction which appeared to be built surrounding a cornfield and a grain storage facility. I'm guessing that the entire area was once agricultural. Does anyone know more about this? I think I saw a sign that said "Hearth and Grain." Does this count as Agricultural Preservation?


From there I decided to zip on over to the Lisbon Dollar store. Holy Mackerel, there's an enormous Trump sign in front of the entire Lisbon Shopping Center. I'm trying to imagine an enormous political sign in front of Long Gate or Columbia Crossing. I just can't picture it. Whose permission would one have to get to post a sign like that? The owner of the shopping center? (The Oakland Mills Village Center has so many individual property owners they'd never be able to agree on a candidate.)


I've noticed Trump signs going up along my route as I drive home from work. There's another large one on 108 in Highland, no surprise. What's up with the homemade sign with stick-on letters posted next to it? It said something about Kittleman but I didn't stop to check it out. The next day it was gone, so, somebody didn't like it, I guess.


On the way back from Lisbon I noticed an large Hillary sign doctored with an intent to insult and defame. Is that a legal use of a campaign sign? Forgive me if that sounds naive. It just doesn't seem like an appropriate use of a campaign sign, no matter who does it.


Back in my neighborhood, I discovered the Big Orange Signs are returning to their usual haunts. As far as I am concerned, those signs are a helpful indicator that there are better places to buy gas. If you see that sign, just keep on driving to find one.


There's a lot of money behind the incumbent's campaign for Board of Education. I'm hoping that people power will be stronger on Election Day.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Voter Fail

Some frustrated head banging going on over here today. Why?

This. "Report against Howard County sheriff unveils 'common knowledge' of a 'living hell' unchecked for years, sources say," by Fatimah Waseem of the Howard County Times.

I voted for this man. I voted for him because he was a Democrat and I'm a Democrat and I just trusted that was the right decision. To be honest, I didn't really even understand what the position of Sheriff entailed. I just knew that Howard County had one.

I pride myself on getting to know the issues and the actors in local politics but in this case I was merely a low-information voter. I am just kicking myself.

I continue to have questions about why we need to have a partisan race for sheriff. I do understand better now what the Sheriff and the Sheriff's office actually does. But why do we make a partisan choice for this position? This still makes no sense to me. And yet up until last week I was perfectly content to not know and just trust it was all working they way it was supposed to.

How could his man have gone through interviews for endorsements without setting off some major red flags? Even if he chose his language carefully, wouldn't his temperament have shone through? Or is he a master of conning the people who might have had the power to rein him in?

In my experience men like this--abusers--are notable for their belief that they know everything. I fear nothing so much as a man who knows everything, to paraphrase Mme. de Sevigné. Men like this also believe that rules don't apply to them. (I'm not suggesting that a woman couldn't be like this. My personal experience has been with men.)

I have a hard time believing that these qualities didn't present themselves earlier and that Democratic Party leadership didn't pick up on this. I also have a hard time believing that there are people like this who are Democrats.

There are a few notable Republicans who read this blog and I would appreciate it if you didn't jump in and gloat in the comment section. You may recall I've been less than supportive of Democrats gloating over Republican failings. I don't really think it looks good on anybody, to be honest.

Fitzgerald has clearly got to go. Of course the best way would be for him to acknowledge that he has lost the confidence of the citizens of Howard County and resign. Short of that, options for his removal must follow whatever laws are in place to resolve such predicaments. We're going to need some bipartisan cooperation to make that happen.