Sunday, June 24, 2018

Money, Mouth, and Merriweather

This has surely been the campaign season of unusual endorsements. It has also been a time when we shake our heads and marvel at how many endorsement-giving organizations there are in Howard County. For example, there’s The People’s Voice, the Sierra Club, HCEA, the NAACP, Merriweather Post Pavillion...

Wait, what?

I must admit I was startled to learn yesterday that MPP was an endorsing institution this year. I’m wondering how they selected their candidates. Did they interview them? Have them fill out lengthy questionnaires? Perhaps they held a straw poll? I don’t know. But they clearly have choices.

If you haven’t received word of the Merriweather Post Pavillion endorsements, don’t feel bad, you’re not out of the loop. You’re just not an employee of MPP. You see, their recommendations weren’t meant for the general public, but for a select audience: the people whose paychecks they write.

Here’s the email they sent:

As talked about at the Safety Summit, we are reaching out to the entire MPP and JLH staffs to remind them to vote in the Primary, Tuesday June 26 for those who have not already cast their vote.

Specifically, if you are in DISTRICT 12*, please vote for MARY KAY SIGATY (State Senate) and JESSICA FELDMARK (State Delegate) if they are on your ballot. They have been long-time supporters of Merriweather and would be two solid voices to have in Annapolis for many reasons.

Merriweather supporters who have a Primary race:

Howard County Council – Jon Weinstein District 1; Christiana Rigby District 3; Deb Jung District 4; David Yungmann District 5

State Senate – Mary Kay Sigaty District 12

State Delegate – Jessica Feldmark District 12, Eric Ebersole District 12

Thank you, and remember, your vote does matter!

Jean, Brad, Brian, Jeff, Taylor, Justin & Sam


Now what they are doing here is not illegal. But it’s a far cry from a public endorsement process meant to enlighten the community. It certainly makes me curious. Does Merriweather as an entity put their money where their mouth is when it comes to candidates? It turns out that they do.


This is a list of political contributions from MPP and related entities. They certainly seem heavily invested in the campaign of Mary Kay Sigaty for State Senate. This information makes an interesting piece of a larger puzzle which includes enough information for two entire blog posts from Jason Booms of Spartan Considerations (start here) and an article by Kate Magill in the Howard County Times.

Outrageous? I don’t know. But when employers are heavily invested in candidates and candidates are throwing a lot of money around, I’d say that bears scrutiny. Much closer scrutiny. 

But Primary Day is Tuesday. Not much time left to get to the bottom of this mystery. So, here’s the thing. I’m not an endorsing institution, I’ve done no interviews, sent out no questionnaires, held no straw polls. But when I look at the excellent record of candidate Clarence Lam on the one hand, and all these shenanigans on the other, my (completely metaphorical) money is on Lam.

All of us in the community want Merriweather to succeed. Many of us have memories of summers spent enjoying concerts on the lawn. Merriweather is a Big Deal in our community. But that doesn’t mean they need to tell us how to vote. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Picture Postcard

This is the perfect day for me
The perfect moment
A few books, a new magazine,
Paper and pens and markers to color my
Thoughts and dreams.
More than enough paper in my sketch book to
Let my ideas stretch out, venture forth, perhaps
Take flight.

The sun peeks out from behind the clouds
And shows me the outline of my beach umbrella.
I move myself further into the shade.

Everything is right.
The sound of the water and children playing
The warmth of the day
And the fluttering coolness of the breeze
My toes wiggling into the cool sand.

A seasgull.
I had forgotten seagulls.


I’m back from a few days at the beach. Hello, HoCo. Thanks for holding the fort while we were gone. - - jam

Friday, June 22, 2018


Leadership looks forward. It is proactive, not reactive.

After the hateful rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election there were some very wise people who read the signs and saw what was coming. All those hate filled rallies on the campaign trail had everything to do with demonizing brown people at the border. Any border, any brown people.

Locally in Howard County there were many who didn’t take the proposal of CB9 seriously. They accused its proponents of nothing more than petty politics. There was no danger. We were doing just fine the way we were.

I wonder if any of them knew what was coming? ICE agents searching Greyhound buses demanding papers? Children separated from parents without plans for return? Travelers refused entry because of their religion? Maybe some did, and that’s exactly what they wanted.

But I’m guessing that some just didn’t think that could happen. They didn’t connect the dots from the campaign speeches to policy after policy designed to demean, discriminate, and deny basic human rights. They shrugged if off as an over exaggeration, fear-mongering.

It wasn’t.

Around the County there are still plenty of folks who think it would be wise to tar and feather (metaphorically speaking, of course) any public servant who supported CB9. They want to use it as a way to frighten the base. And perhaps they think that there is shame merely in its failure to pass.

Over the last week I hope that at least some people have gotten the point that acknowledging the universality of basic human rights is every bit as much a local issue as a national or international one.

There is no shame in looking forward, in being proactive. The shame comes from ignoring what is right in front of you and refusing to take action. Then the only course left to you is reaction.

That’s not leadership. And that makes none of us safer. We who live in Howard County must still grapple with our responsibility in responding to over-reaching policies from the current administration that threaten the very foundation of our cherished democracy.

Think it’s just politics? Think again.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Wrung Out

I am absolutely wrung out from the national crisis that has been dominating our shared consciousness. I feel as though I have nothing left.

Sending you over to HoCoHouseHon today for her refelections on this topic. She challenges us to “Imagine You Are Small.”

Don’t think for one moment that it’s over.  Don’t think it’s not really your business. It’s everyones business.

Oh, and today’s the last day of Early Voting. Please vote.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018


Since a number of people have reached out to me with this question after the PFLAG BOE Candidate Forum, I thought I should address it publicly here.

Question: Any further discussion of the bathroom issue from Mavourene Robinson?  That's the part I was most interested in/concerned about.

Answer: Yes. It was the first question. All candidates said that trans kids should be able to use the restrooms/locker rooms of their identified gender. But then several qualified their answers. Her qualifications were the most problematic to me.

Ms. Robinson essentially said that we are responsible to all children, so we have to make accommodations for children who are made uncomfortable by this, almost as though their views should influence policy equally with trans kids. I don’t agree.

Imagine if that were a school board argument against integration? What if white kids feel "uncomfortable" sharing a bathroom with black classmates, should we accommodate that?  Or eating lunch with them? Or sitting at a desk a black person used?

This is not a religious issue or a personal issue. It’s not even a sexual issue. It’s a civil rights issue. There will always be someone/a group of someones who are different. And they still have equal rights at school. And all of us should be defending those rights. 

There’s no honorable argument for policies that identify and treat some students as “other”. It doesn’t matter how carefully you say it, or how smoothly you couch your language. 

There’s a right answer and a wrong answer here: we can't put protection of civil rights to a majority vote. We must not demand special protections and accommodations for those who reject the rights of others or feel that the expression of those rights makes them uncomfortable. 

It’s important to note that two responses from other candidates were especially positive. They were “yes, and” answers. (This is not to criticise anyone who simply gave an unequivocal “yes”.)

Glascock: Yes. And we need to address this as we design and build future schools to come up with solutions that support this.  

Cutroneo: Yes. And we need to go into school communities and work with students to ensure that there will be a supportive environment for trans kids to make choices that are right for them.

I read a statement on Twitter this morning. You may feel it is too extreme to apply here. I don’t.

We can buy into the myth that our struggles are not interconnected but it will kill us. It is killing us. - - Ashley Yates @brownblaze

We absolutely must chose Board of Education members who “talk the talk” and “walk the walk” on civil rights. It’s not just about trans kids, or LGBTQIA kids. It’s Jewish kids. Muslim kids. It’s students of color, non-English speaking kids, kids with special needs/disabilities. Anyone who feels that a dominant group deserves special protections from accepting a minority group doesn’t belong on the board of a public school system, because that is not what public schools are all about.

Our struggles are interconnected.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Failure at the Forum

Yesterday I failed. Yes, I failed the PFLAG BOE Candidate Forum because I could not make it to the end. After an hour and forty five minutes of sitting I had the overwhelming urge to make my departure quietly so that I didn’t completely lose it and run from the room screaming.

I don’t sit well. I hadn’t thought much about it until recently, but almost every single job I have had in my professional life has involved moving around or provided frequent breaks with varying activities. As I have become more conscious about this in myself, I have started applying various strategies to get through long stretches of sitting. Therapy putty. Crocheting. Colored pens for doodling. The carefully chosen moment for a bathroom break.

I’m an adult and I get to choose a lot about how my life goes. Imagine students whose days are proscribed for them by a routine that depends on “the delivery of content” in a physically passive setting. All. Day. Long. I realize now that I daydreamed and doodled a lot in school as a way of ”making it through.” My favorite activities were ones that were multi-sensory: music where we marched or played rhythm instruments, the student teacher who taught us to make butter, the fifth grade assignment to write our own skits based on mythology.

I have no criticism of the forum. The students who ran it were wonderful. The questions were brilliant and to the point. The candidates were doing their candidate thing, like you do, at your eight millionth forum, only now during early voting. It just made me think about all the different ways we could present candidate forums, if we looked at presenting information to adults the way the best teachers create lessons for kids.

Surely I can’t be the only voter in Howard County who needs differentiated instruction.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Sour Grapes

I do not know if this has always been the case, but I am seeing a trend in candidates who, if not receiving a particular endorsement, turn around and kick the endorsing organization. It’s not a good look. If they were so awful, why were you seeking their endorsement in the first place?

It’s also not a very good long-term strategy. First of all, in insulting the organization, you are pretty much insulting the members of the organization, who are probably the voters you are trying to reach. Secondly, what if you ever decided to run again? Do you really want to burn those bridges now?

I agree that some local endorsements by groups have just been weird this time around. (I’m not even going to touch individual endorsements.) But is it better to say, “I am disappointed not to to receive the ABCDQ endorsement,”or to say, “They’re all jerks and that’s why they didn’t endorse me”? This seems to me to be a relatively simple choice.

Now, by all means, if you can prove bias or malfeasance in the endorsement process, you might want to comment. Did the evaluators ask how many bags of Skittles you can provide for their organization each year?  Did they ask questions that would be illegal in a job interview? Or, if in a group endorsement meeting, were some candidates permitted to bus in voters from out of district? This would be worth addressing.

I’m not aware of any of the above actually happening, by the way. Merely offering them as examples.

If an organization makes poor endorsement choices, it will eventually reflect on them. If a candidate  goes out of their way to lash out after losing out on endorsements, it will reflect on the candidate.

As the fellow on the radio says, “Just a thought. Not a sermon.”