Sunday, May 31, 2020


After weeks of politically-driven criticism of Calvin Ball, local residents are pushing back. Community response to those hateful, racist signs in Ellicott City has shown a repudiation of the Reopen Howard County rhetoric. Beginning Friday, a steady stream of of photographs and personal statements have been posted on social media, thanking the County Executive for his dedication and hard work in Howard County.

Think about it: people who are grateful for a scientifically-driven response to a community health crisis are not going to be showing up in droves to march in favor of physical distancing.

When the loudest voices are the negative ones, it’s easy to think that theirs is the prevailing point of view. The pushback on social media makes it clear that there are positive voices. A lot of them.

All of this has put me in mind of a post I wrote marking one year of Dr. Ball’s term. I am running it again because this week’s events make it increasingly relevant.

If Not Now, When? (November 7, 2019)

One of my favorite photographs of myself is a candid that was taken at a party at the Chrysalis. I was deep in conversation with Dr. Ball. This was before he had declared his candidacy for County Executive, but it was widely assumed that he was considering it.

The gist of what I said was that I had complete faith in his ability to to the job itself, but that I wasn’t convinced he should run because of all the hatefulness he would have to endure. I dreaded the possibility of more local racism coming out of the woodwork and of partisan smears whose only goal was to try to cut him down so that he looked small compared to their candidate.

Dr. Ball’s response was to acknowledge that those things would most likely occur, but that he couldn’t make a decision based on avoiding that. To paraphrase, he said that if he believed that the time was right for him to offer his service as County Executive, then he had to be willing to face that. “If not now, when?”  Waiting until the perfect time was not an option. And with that was the suggestion that there would never be a perfect time.

For some, nothing this County Executive does will ever be right because he is not Their Guy. And for others, everything he does will be right because he is Their Guy. The truth of the matter is that Dr. Ball will do good, work hard, make some mistakes, and learn from them. His election was historic. That does not require him to be perfect. Anyone who attempts to hold him to that standard and call anything else a failure is showing their own bias, nothing more.

And now, a year in, everything we both said is true. More local racism has continued to come out of the woodwork. Partisan operatives seize every opportunity to cut him down. Yet it is equally true that Dr. Ball made the choice to continue his public service to Howard County and continues to make that choice every day. There is no perfect time. There is only the choice to do one’s best.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Breaking the Silence

Dear friend,

Dear nice, kind, funny, sweet friend. 

Dear smile-at-parties friend. Dear catching-up-on-Facebook friend. Dear served-on-that-committee friend.

Why are you so silent?

I’ve been holding this door open for you so long. There have been times I was almost sure you were coming through. And then, nothing. 


You and I, we have so much in common. Loving families, good education. A passion for things we care about. Walking through life protected by an invisible blessing that others are denied. We know it’s there. We don’t talk about it. If we veer too close, somehow the conversation melts away or stalls into silence.

Can’t you hear?

The screams of the murdered.
The cries of children.
The hopeless wail of the unjustly accused and imprisoned.
The endless march of injustice: each day, each hour, each minute.

It must be so much work to build a silence strong enough to block them out.

Dear friend, 

Dear witty, share-a-cocktail friend. Dear really-means-well friend. Dear I-thought-we’d-be-friends-forever friend.

Why are you so silent?

I’ve been holding this door open for you so long. There have been times I was almost sure you were coming through. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Do Something

Today my words are not important. I’m sending you over to Ubuntu Mom blog for:

9 Ways to “Do Something” To Help Fight Racism

Ubuntu Mom is a resident of Columbia and a teacher. Trust me when I say that you need to hear her voice today.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Truth in advertising: I was never all that interested in science when I was in school. I loved to read, loved writing poetry. I lived for music class. In high school, theatre was my everything. I suspect it had something to do with the way it was taught, because I have come to love science so much more as an early childhood educator.

Be that as it may, even though I found those classes to be passable or downright tedious as a student, I never, ever doubted the validity or importance of science. I was raised believing that those who made scientific breakthroughs that benefited humanity were a special kind of hero. I had a book I read over and over about Louis Pasteur, Alexander Fleming, Joseph Lister, Edward Jenner, and more. Although I felt no calling to be a scientist, I saw the pursuit of science as a noble calling, a social good.

I am frustrated beyond measure by the current mood that encourages us to “cancel” science if the scientific evidence doesn’t say what we want to hear. This is particularly dangerous as we are faced with the daily onslaught of a global pandemic. If public health officials, doctors, nurses, and other front-line carers have evidence-based guidelines to share, why do so many want to reject it?

At the national level we have seen a president who “disappears” the most experienced and competent member of his health care team, Dr. Anthony Fauci, simply because his guidance is rooted in science rather than the idealogical whims du jour. At the state level we have a Governor who stood up for science until it became a political liability. 

Here in Howard County we have people who have decided that local governent has targeted the Roman Catholic Church for persecution because church reopening guidelines currently warn against eating or drinking as a part of religious ritual. Can we pause for just one moment and consider that there’s a scientific basis for a recommendation like this? That the sharing of Communion at this time could be a significant public health risk?

It wasn’t that long ago that we appeared to care about the devastating suffering of Covid 19. But we’re tired of that now. And it’s far more expedient to blame the hard times we are going through on anyone we see as standing in our way, instead of the powers of a disease we can’t truly fathom. 

It’s as though the shutoff switch for accepting evidence-based public health guidelines has clicked. And now, it’s just “over”. Science is canceled. Your personal political opinions are now free to roam the internet and the community, making accusations and providing no proof. Bloviating at a lectern. Marching on Main Street. Threatening local politicians.

Remember this?

The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it. - - Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Our country used to see the work of science as courageous, and scientists as heroes. Not any more. Today science is for sissies. 

Along with more than 100,000 Americans dead, that cultural change is something to be mourned.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

On Display

Toxic white entitlement was everywhere in the news yesterday. It was certainly front and center in Howard County as protestors turned out in Old Ellicott City without masks, and without observing physical distancing guidelines, in order to hold up signs that might as well have said, “Look at me” and “I’m special, too!”

Yes, white entitlement was on display at the so-called non-politcal protest against the County Executive’s policies for guiding our community through the Covid 19 crisis. 

On a day when we saw the weaponization of a call to the police and, elsewhere, the horrors of what happen when the police show up, how eerie to see one of these Howard County protestors carrying a sign emblazoned with the words “Blue Lives Matter”. 

  Photo credit: Re-open Howard County

What does that have to do with reopening businesses? How is that in any way non-political? 

How unbelievably entitled one must feel to turn one’s back on the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubery, Finan Berhe, Brionna Taylor...

Didn’t any of those protestors say to that man, “hey, that sign is out of line”? Or “That’s not what the protest is about.” I doubt it.

Entitled. “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”

It’s not just somewhere out there, in a park in New York City, or on the streets of Minneapolis. It’s standing at the courthouse in Old Ellicott City in the middle of a pandemic, making demands. Saying, “you owe us.”

White entitlement says that it is always whiteness that will belong in any given space and that you are completely justified in any action you take to protect that space from people who are different. It is your right to demand police intervention if “those people” make you uncomfortable, or if you imagine they might be dangerous. Go ahead and make that call even if you interpret their presence as an annoyance or an inconvenience. 

When an all-white group assembles to protest the policies of a Black County Executive during a public health crisis that is hitting Black and Brown communities the hardest, that, my friends, is entitlement. 

                     Photo credit: Re-open Howard County

For that matter, when you hear people complain about those noisy Muslims celebrating Eid and disturbing their quiet neighborhood and wondering why the police don’t enforce zoning regulations, get the picture.

That’s entitlement. That’s white supremacy at work. It cannot be separated from the violence that crushes Black lives across this country. It is one and the same.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Personal Space

By now you have probably seen images of the ingenious inner tube tables meant to ensure physical distancing at the Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City. Even if you think it’s too soon to be pouring out to the beach and boardwalk, you can’t help but smile at the sight: those folks grouped together like so many bumper cars at an amusement park, as they test out what may come to be the newest thing in summer fun.

In Italy, a museum is set to reopen an important Raphael exhibit with special restrictions to enforce distancing in place. A guide will lead groups limited to six museum patrons through the exhibit. Elsewhere in Italy, the Florence Cathedral will be issuing visitors “social distancing necklaces”.

The cathedral explained the new technology in a video posted on YouTube this week. Crafted by Italian company Advance Microwave Engineering, the rectangular devices can sense when they are within roughly six feet of each other. If users are too close for comfort (and safety), their necklaces will begin to flash and vibrate much like a noisy cell phone or restaurant pager.

Perhaps this is a sign that I continue to be a devoted introvert, but I can’t help but think that these measures might be worth keeping long after the virus has ceased to plague us. I can think of plenty of unsavory bar behavior that could be prevented by planting customers in inner tubes. And would vibrating necklaces gradually teach us to give each other personal space in museums, sporting events, or even the grocery?

It seems unlikely that either method will make the transition from a pandemic response to part of normal daily life. Those of us who are shy or who naturally treasure our sense of personal space might wish that they would, though. I’m sure others are longing for the time that we can all crowd together in safety. 

As a preschool teacher, I can only imagine how my students would respond to either method of physical distancing. I’m pretty sure they’d be fascinated by doing whatever they could to activate the mechanism of the necklaces. Repeatedly. And, as for inner tube tables? It could be the new activity room at IKEA.

What do you think? Will methods such as these (and others we haven’t even heard of yet) be accepted and used faithfully to limit the spread of disease? Or will they merely be a humorous footnote in the history of a scary time we would all just as soon forget?

Monday, May 25, 2020

This Is Us

As difficult as it has been to live within the confines of the current quarantine, the creativity that has arisen to honor and celebrate special people and occasions has been heartwarming. Birthday drive-by parades, prom photos from home, visits with neighbors from porch and sidewalk. Public health guidelines make most of our usual celebrations off limits for now. But they cannot suppress natural human joy.

Today’s story comes from our Muslim neighbors at Dar Al Taqwa. When I saw it on Facebook I immediately asked to share it here. 

A message from the Dar Al Taqwa Board of Directors:

Greetings to our beloved community and wonderful neighbors!

We at Dar Al Taqwa want to wish everyone a beautiful Memorial Day weekend and an Eid Mubarak to our Muslim friends and families!

This weekend marks the first of our high holidays, Eid Al Fitr, that celebrates the culmination of fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.

Due to the pandemic, we decided to turn COVID into a 'COV-EID' for our community members who have been unable to celebrate our holy month and holiday the way we normally would: together.

Over the last few months, we've all had to adapt our celebrations. We've seen and heard street parades, car honks, and loud music as community members have celebrated birthdays and graduating seniors. While at any other time this might have been considered noise, it has reminded us that JOY cannot be quarantined!

Working with Jason Levinson Entertainment, we hired clowns, jugglers, stilt walkers, and a unicyclist. Even Pikachu made a grand entrance! We provided pastries and goody bags, and to uplift the spirits of children and families as they drove through this parade, we set up a speaker playing holiday songs in the back of our property next to our building. To cap off the end of our festive 'drive-thru,' cars were sprayed with a fun bubble foam machine!

We are so grateful to everyone for their patience, support, and cooperation as we all do the best we can during these very difficult times. We also were happy to thank our first responders, police officers, and essential workers with pastry boxes to show them how grateful we are for their hard work and dedication, today and everyday. We are appreciative of their hard work that allows us to stay safe and celebrate!

Thank you and greetings of peace!!


Learning about this event at Dar Al Taqwa is both a window for me into the culture of a religious community different than my own, but also a mirror of the deep yearnings I feel to be connected to others. We have the opportunity to see ourselves in every single quarantine celebration. Each one is an expression of the human spirit we all share. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020


Six days out of every seven volunteers show up at Columbia Community Care sites and facilitate the distribution of food, hygiene products and other necessary items to members of our community. Their work is a lifeline. The donations are supported by individuals and groups from all over Howard County. The work of founder Erika Strauss Chavarria and her team has been featured nationally on NPR’s Hidden Brain.

The economic instability underlying this desperate need during the Covid 19 crisis is provided, in part, by a lack of affordable housing. Decisions about affordable housing come from our local government. Local government is elected by us. We are responsible.

It’s all connected.

From “The Difference”:

I’ve written about this before, but it has come back to the front of my mind as I watch the massive effort put forth by Erika Strauss Chavarria and her team at Columbia Community Care. Why is their work necessary? I would argue that the combination of low wages and high housing costs is a recipe for disaster. Low wages are not specific to our area but the high cost of housing is definitely a local feature.

The work of Columbia Community Care, the Howard County Food Bank, and other such local efforts  is necessary not just because of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic but, perhaps even more, because of the crazy imbalance our culture perpetuates for the marginalized.

We have all seen plenty of articles recently about the importance of essential workers during this crisis. So many of those people without whose work we cannot survive are the same people whose low wages and high housing costs leave them just barely making it during the best of times. What would happen if we, as a society, chose to honor the dignity of their work by insisting on a living wage, and pushed our elected officials to support affordable housing solutions and fought for them ourselves? What if we were determined to remove the barriers which keep members of our community perpetually behind, perpetually out of balance, and perpetually fearful?

Right now the County Council is working on our annual budget. It’s a difficult, economically uncertain time. They must assess what is most important for the good of the community. It’s hard work. 

Guess what’s on the chopping block? Affordable housing. A project you may have seen called NCC, or the New Cultural Center, combines an arts venue with a housing component. Included is affordable housing for eighty-plus families in the heart of Downtown Columbia. A project like this is the result of a lot of complicated financial agreements and the joint cooperation of a variety of local and state organizations. 

A letter from the Association of Community Services outlines:
  • the importance of the multi-purpose facility for development of 87 units as a contribution to closing the County’s affordable housing gap
  • project delay threatens the already secured $65 million in State and other funding that will fully fund the affordable housing component of the NCC
  • delay would also threatens development of the other four (4) multi-use projects that are to include almost half of the 900 affordable units the County committed to develop in the 2016 Downtown Development Plan.
The three council members proposing these cuts (and a host of others) are Deb Jung, Liz Walsh, and David Yungmann. They no doubt believe that these are things we cannot afford. I would counter that anyone who is meeting the needs of our most vulnerable right now is painfully aware that what we cannot afford is more poverty creation. Poverty acceptance. Poverty as a part of the way things work.

High housing costs make people dangerously poor in Howard County. Either we make affordable housing a priority or we are tacitly accepting poverty as a necessary evil that makes things work better for the rest of us. If our family budget is balanced through choosing to sustain poverty, what kind of family are we?

It’s all connected.

Please write the County Council if you feel we should make affordable housing a priority even during (or especially during) economically difficult times. It’s easy to write the entire Council at this address:

Make the connection.

Saturday, May 23, 2020


They say that one should never discuss religion or politics. This post is about both. 

Yesterday afternoon’s statements from the White House briefing room, without interpretation or analysis, are that the President declares that all churches and places of worship to be ‘essential’ and should be open. 

There’s plenty to dig into here, most especially the public health ramifications of such an announcement, but also whether the President has the legal authority to make and enforce such a decree. I encourage you to do your own homework on that. What I want to say is a bit different.

The fundamental flaw in the President's announcement is something more central than public health or politics or constitutional legality. It starts with the assumption that houses of worship are closed. 

They aren’t.

From Pastor Lura Groen of Abiding Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia:

Worship is essential! But our building is not. Thanks be to God we can worship together online, without gathering to spread a virus that is killing people. 

The church is open! But our building will remain closed until it is safe to gather again. We worship online, we give money and volunteer with organizations that are meeting the needs of the world, we study Scripture and support each other from a compassionate and life-giving distance.

The church is open. And the synagogue. And the mosque. They do not need their buildings in order to be alive in their respective communities. Religion is not weakened by acknowledging the realities of science. Anyone who peddles that line must think that their God is very weak indeed.

Not all of my readers belong to faith communities. I don’t write this making that assumption. But Friday’s announcement will have an impact on them whether they like it or not. Additional groups of people getting together in situations which have been proven to incubate super-spreading beyond their walls means that chance encounters will increase the likelihood of infection. 

Evangelism is supposed to be about sharing the joy of your beliefs. This is far from it. Being willing to spread disease in order to prove that no one can tell you what to do is not a choice that puts God at the center. Nor does it show love of neighbor as oneself. It is “me, me, me.”

I saw a statement online yesterday that was the epitome of this ego-centric philosophy. On a field of pink, emblazoned with hearts, it went something like this:

I would rather die singing His praises in His house than be safe at home alone.

Pretty words. Ugly reality. It should really read:

My right to sing His praises in His house outweighs your right to protect yourself and your loved ones from a disease that has no cure.

Is this religion? I am doubtful. Is it politics? Maybe. Are we all called to care for one another as much as ourselves regardless of religion or politics?


Friday, May 22, 2020

A Footnote

I’ve been mulling over this footnote to the story of the Board of Education candidate who withdrew from the race after numerous offensive social media posts came to light.

Out of the noise and internet frenzy came a plea from the candidate’s ex-wife, saying that she was being unfairly targeted for harassment. Her family and her business were being threatened. She was fearful that she could lose her livelihood. Her children were anxious.

Social media “dragging” is not for the faint of heart. It’s the mob and the pitchforks, even if you can’t see them in your front yard.

There’s just one odd thing about this particular case. The person in question was one of the people who participated in the online “dragging” of me and my family when I wrote about redisctricting. And when I wrote about that experience, she commented that, unless I revealed direct examples, it meant that I was merely saying these things to be divisive. Essentially, she called me a liar.

Perhaps it feels different when it happens to you.

I don’t wish that experience on anyone. It shakes you. It makes you feel less safe in your own community.

I suppose some might think this is my opportunity to return the favor and challenge this person to “prove” she has been harassed. That I should cast doubts on her story or suggest she’s just trying to “be divisive.” Turnabout is fair play, so they say.

Why would I do that? How would it help? Who on earth would take a cheap shot at someone who already feels demoralized? There’s no way I would stoop that low, especially since I know what it feels like.

There are a lot of things to be sad and angry and frustrated about right now. It is so easy to carried away in a group of likeminded friends. Tempers are high. Outlets for processing big emotions are low. We still need to draw a line somewhere in our social media interactions. We always have a choice, although it can be easy to ignore it.

Please keep an eye out for conversations that begin to cross the line. It can get way out of hand faster than you think.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Hogs Redux

Today’s news: there are people in Howard County who feel oppressed because other people are called essential workers and they aren’t. As a reminder, essential workers include everyone involved in hospital/medical care, and the folks who make sure you are able to get food and medicine. Oh, and childcare for other essential workers.

Why is it necessary to have an essential worker designation? Well, because we are fighting a disease that has no vaccine and no reliable treatment protocols. In addition, testing, contact tracing, and the availability of PPE are currently insufficient. Under present conditions, limiting who is out and about and in contact with others is the best public health strategy available.

And that’s exactly what the Governor said. Right up until he didn’t.

Back to Howard County. In the same vein as those who turned up in Annapolis with their matching yellow t-shirts (Hogging the Limelight) now we have a local group who want to turn up in Old Ellicott City to proclaim:

I am essential!

An editorial comment:

The same kinds of people who decry “participation trophies” are sure bent out of shape right now that they’re not getting any.

The group, named “Reopen Howard County” announced big plans to stage a protest on Main Street in Old Ellicott City. Merchants in Old Ellicott City responded in dismay and alarm. Wouldn’t you think that leaders of the group would have made sure that a protest, which they claimed was to support businesses on Main Street, was welcome before they announced it? The fact that they clearly did not understand the concerns of Main Street merchants is a big “tell” on their motives.

Further examination of the group’s Facebook page indicates what it’s really about:  politics. The fact that almost anyone who disagrees with the group’s official narrative is either deleted or labeled as a “Calvin Ball surrogate” or “operative” lets you know what this is about. Reopen Howard County is pretty much the “We hate Calvin Ball” page.

In case you had any doubts, the group’s admin gave these instructions to potential protestors:

“This is not a political rally.”

I’ll pause to let that sink in.

Anyway, I’m happy to report that pushback from Main Street merchants and the Old EC community convinced the organizer to move the planned protest: to the Courthouse. Will they wear masks? Will they observe physical distancing? Will they come “ready to fight”?  I can’t answer that.

Will they be doing anything that makes Howard County safer, healthier, more able to respond to a public health crisis that has far reaching economic consequences? That one I can answer: no.

At the risk of repeating myself:

We are all familiar with the oft-quoted “look for the helpers” advice from the late children’s television pioneer Fred Rogers. This morning I’d like to add a corollary. If, in times of crisis, you see people thrusting themselves into the limelight to say “Look at me! I’m special!” those people are not the helpers.

They are the takers, not the givers. And they are making all of us, not simply themselves, less safe.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Let’s Talk

If you were concerned by the racist memes that recently took center stage in the Board of  Education race, you are not alone. If you have watched with alarm as racist dog whistles evolved into overtly racist language during the Redistricting process, you are not alone. 

Our teachers are watching.

You may have seen friends sharing this press release this week on Facebook.

On Monday, May 18, The Black Lives Matter at School 365 coalition, in partnership with the Anti-Racist Education Alliance, LLC, announced an opportunity for virtual space for Black educators to discuss how recent events have made an impact on their lives, and to discuss what steps can be taken moving forward. The Let’s Talk Event will be held on Wednesday, May 27th at 6 pm.

What does this mean? First, some background. The National Education Association EdJustice site says this about Black Lives Matter at School:

The goal of Black Lives Matter at School is to spark an ongoing movement of critical reflection and honest conversation in school communities for people of all ages to engage with issues of racial justice.


Black Lives Matter at School is a national movement that calls on all of us to have honest conversations about racist policies and practices that affect our students and schools. 

Right now we have people in our community publicly expressing racist views. We have people espousing the view that honest conversations about race are bad for students. We have people who deny that there are racist policies and practices that affect our students and schools. And some are explicitly vetting candidates to make sure they do not support Black Lives Matter at School.

How on earth would you feel as a Black educator in Howard County as public discussions swirl around you that compromise  your safety and that of your students? Yes, racism is hate speech and the growing acceptance of expressing it in public discourse makes our Black teachers and students less safe. It damages the educational environment, whether that is in a classroom, on Zoom, or on the Board of Education.

This event for Black educators is also a reminder for everyone of the goals of the Black Lives Matter at School movement:

  • End Zero Tolerance
  • Mandate Black History & Ethnic Studies
  • Hire more Black Teachers
  • Fund Counselors and Not Cops

It is also a clear call to Board of Education candidates that they have a responsibility to Black teachers, students, and families to educate themselves on issues of racial justice and to embrace, not run from, conversations about equity. Some candidates seem to think that equity is just a dirty word people use when they come for your housing values. They need to do way better than that if they want to serve our students.

piece entitled “Why the Black Lives Matter Movement is Vital for Us All”  released by the Caucus of Working Educators, pushes back on the notion that BLM is contrary to the work of the respected civil rights leaders of the 1960’s.

The constant rhetoric that believes that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would not support the Black Lives Matter movement if he were alive today is very unaware of his teachings and writings. He wrote, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education,” along with, “All men are caught in an inescapable web of mutuality.” In other words none of us are free if one of us is not. 

I’m not interested in voting for anyone who doesn’t get that. 

As our Black educators open their own discussion about how recent events have made an impact on their lives, I encourage you to have your own discussions and examine closely which Board of Ed candidate is truly prepared to serve on behalf of all our children.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Truth About Choice

Maryland makes the big time in this Newsweek article by Eddy Rodriguez from May 13th:

Maryland Restaurant Owner Can’t Get Employees to Return Because They Make More in Unemployment

While the story was initially run with a photograph of establishments on the Boardwalk in Ocean City, it’s actually based on interviews with the owner of Charles Village Pub & Patio in Towson.  Although I am not in the business of giving out awards, this article wins the prize for leaving the most important part out:

Coronavirus. Illness, dying, and death. Risking the same for one’s family members. Why does that appear nowhere in this article? 

Forget calculations of how much restaurant workers “ought” to be receiving during this crisis. This is not a story about numbers. It is a story about choice.

I cannot count the times that I have seen friends and acquaintances say since March, “I am lucky enough to be able to work from home.” 

I am lucky
I am fortunate
I feel blessed.

This is not luck, or good fortune, though one may certainly feel blessed to have it. It is a certain kind of freedom that comes from having a choice. There is a certain level of affluence that affords that choice.

Restaurant workers don’t usually fall into that category. Right now they are receiving unemployment benefits that provide a cushion of stability in a highly unstable time in the food service industry. I would argue that “having a little extra” is particularly important for those who work in low-paying jobs because they often live paycheck to paycheck and have no nest egg to fall back on in times of crisis. And remember, everything costs more when you are poor. It’s a far more expensive life than you would imagine.

I continue to be enraged by the attitude that “affluent people like us” are naturally responsible and trustworthy, while low-wage workers are treated like bad children. This article reads like a parent lamenting:

If only they hadn’t filled up on candy and junk food, they would have eaten my healthy dinner.

Hogwash. This is not about people who reject the morally superior call of honest work over the temptations of a government handout. It’s about risk, a truly calculated risk. What if I return to work and get sick? What if I die and my family loses my income? What if I infect my family? 

You know who isn’t interviewed in this piece? The workers.

This cartoon shows what is happening in states that haven’t provided the sort of safety net that Maryland has:

Cartoon by Konopacki

Is that what we want in Maryland? Some folks are “lucky” to have the affluence to chose, while others are not deemed valuable enough to have a choice? And while we are at it, perhaps low wage workers should be making a living wage that allows them the luxury of saving and other “lucky” choices. 

This is a story about risk and who we allow to have a choice. Or, rather, it should be. Somehow those truths didn’t make it into the article.

Monday, May 18, 2020

New Ventures

Have you started anything new lately? I keep reading suggestions that now is the time to take up a hobby you’ve always been interested in or learn a new language. I’ve done more crafting, but mostly I’m thrilled to be catching on housework that never seems to get fully accomplished while both of us work full time. I suppose you could say that’s something new.

Around town there are a few new ventures of note. The Elevate Maryland podcast now has a weekly e-newsletter. It’s easy to subscribe. Go to their website and look for the Elevated Voices newsletter on the homepage. It’s described as, “a weekly curated list of Maryland’s best political coverage and commentary.” Podcast cohost Tom Coale used to feature a Friday Links column on his blog HoCoRising. The new Elevated Voices newsletter is very much in that vein.

Over at the library, there’s a new blog called Chapter Chats. From Christie Lassen:

Chapter Chats will feature recommendations for materials in our collection (books, movies, music), information about our online content, and news from the Library. You can follow it here ( and on our social media. You'll notice the photo on the blog's home page features Frederick Toad, one of the sculptures in the Enchanted Garden at the Miller Branch. Frederick is practicing good social distancing while he reads his book.

Take a moment to check out the new blog and especially to check out Frederick. He’s adorable.

The Downtown Columbia Partnership has kicked off DTC Radio, a podcast which they describe as “the voice of Downtown Columbia.” You can check them out here. Early episodes feature downtown dining at Cured/18th & 21st, and a talk with Columbia Council member Deb Jung, hosted by DTC Director Phillip Dodge. 

Is there something new happening that you think I ought to know about? Tell me here. In the meantime, happy Monday! Have you mailed in your ballot yet?

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Shadows of Things

I discovered this morning that The Wilkes School at Grace and Saint Peter’s, where I worked from 1985-2003, will close its doors forever this Spring, felled by the coronavirus pandemic, years of declining enrollment, and a massive backlog of repairs needed to shore up their aging facilities. I have mixed feelings about this, and there’s probably a blog post in it, but I’m not ready yet.

I learned this news while reading an obituary in the Baltimore Sun for Downing Kay, “likely Maryland’s oldest resident.” I recognized the name immediately because the Grande Dame of Grace and Saint Peter’s School, first grade teacher Mrs. Nona Porter, used to visit her former colleague regularly and spoke fondly of her. A piece on the school’s website notes that they played Scrabble together.

The obituary, written beautifully by Christina Tkacik, recognizes earlier interviews of Mrs. Kay by Baltimore Sun columnist Dan Rodricks for his podcast Roughly Speaking in 2018. Ms. Tkacik is described by the Sun as:

...The Baltimore Sun's dining reporter, both reviewing restaurants and reporting on developments in the area's food scene. She first joined The Sun newsroom in 2016 as social media coordinator and later worked on the paper's metro desk.

I’m not quite sure when she started writing obituaries, long the territory of Jacques Kelly and Fred Rasmussen. I do know that the ones she has written are so good that you truly wish you had known the person and you often want to send her a thank you note. (I have, actually.)

If you’d like to talk to Ms. Tkacik about this piece or her many hats at the Sun, you can’t. She has been furloughed along with other Sun employees as a “cost cutting measure” by the newspaper’s corporate owners. Not a new story, but more of the same: the large entities that buy up media outlets continue to give huge bonuses to those at the top and bleed the actual newspapers dry to do it. 

This morning I read two obituaries in one. Recognition for a life well lived, and acknowledgement of the passing of a school founded in 1946 and would now be no more. Any day now could bring a different sort of obituary: word that the Baltimore Sun will publish its last issue and its will voice be silenced. Who will write that obituary?

“Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?"

Employees and community leaders have launched an initiative to restore local ownership of the Sun. You can go to their website, Save Our Sun, to learn more and sign their petition, which seeks to “return The Baltimore Sun to local ownership under a nonprofit model.” The petition will be delivered to the Board of Directors at Tribune Publishing. Follow them on Twitter @saveoursun and share their petition far and wide.

The Baltimore Sun has been telling local stories since May 17th, 1837. Exactly 183 years today. Just this month the paper won the Pulitzer for local reporting for its work on reporting the story of Catherine Pugh and the Healthy Holly book scandal. Without the Sun, who tells those stories? Who investigates, researches, collects information, organizes, analyzes, and persists in order to keep citizens informed? 

There are many things we can’t do right now because of the pandemic. This we can do: Save Our Sun. Sign it, share it, talk about it, write about it.

Persist. Journalists like Tkacik, Rodricks, Kelly, Rasmussen, and so many others are counting on us to step up for them and the vital work they do in our communities.