“Baby, this is what you came for, Lightning strikes every time she moves. And everybody’s watching her, But she’s looking at you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, you, oh, oh, You, oh, oh, oh, oh”- Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna (and Taylor Swift apparently)

Heeeyyyy…I am a bad blogger. There, I’ve confessed. Junior year of high school has me running. As does everything else. That’s my story (this time).  It’s hard out there for a …. (wink).

Anyways… I had to pull out the laptop and hop all over my famous (lol) list. This is a shorter one this year but I had to shotout my Most Fascinating People in Howard County for the third year.

Five things before I get to the list. 1- Fascinating doesn’t necessarily mean popular. Or loved. 2- It’s my list. 3- If your favorite person or thing isn’t on this list, please read my previous blog posts. They may be on one of those. Or not. 🙂 4- I’m just writing what’s on my mind. It may not be gramattically correct. Please don’t be my editor. 5- The song choice is usually one of the top songs for the year.  This year I went with the number 5 pick. A gem by Calvin Harris. Because I just couldn’t go with a Bieber song. And I gave Taylor the shotout for my friend, Sam O’Neil. Taylor is her fav. Ask her about that.

So here we go:

Main Street, Elliott City

If you don’t know why I’ve listed Main Street, allow me to explain. One summer day in July, 6.5 inches of rain fell in the span of two hours and caused a freakish flash flood that washed away businesses, homes, cars, and, sadly, people. The footage from the storm is actually painful to watch. Painful. Like, you’ll cry.  But, if you’re like me, after you wipe away the tears and check out how the community came together and rallied to support Main Street, you’ll feel good. Real good.  I’ll admit that I’m not expert on all things Main Street but everyone, including me, who followed this story felt #ECStrong. Now head down there and buy some post holiday presents or grab a meal. My favorite place? Pure Wine Cafe (Sidebar- Pure Wine Cafe was founded by PJ Strain, who went to my alma mater, Trinity School. So I’m winning all around when I go there…).

Bonnie Bricker

I met Bonnie a few years ago to talk about her work with children and her book, Zoom Out Parenting: The Big Picture Approach to Raising Children.  We had a great meeting and made some mutual connections but nothing came of it then.

Since that meeting, Bonnie launched a FB page called HOCO School Interest.  And it took off like crazy. Go join the conversation. Seriously.

Her words about the page:

“Our goal is the best education for our students here in Howard County. That takes knowledge. Persistence. Courage. And-Listening to each other. Members are free to post high-quality articles about education policy as well as programs. Information and articles about HCPSS can be shared here. Our members are parents, students, teachers, administrators and Central Office staff as well as Board of Education members and other local politicians. We will treat each other with respect. NO personal attacks and we’ll try to subdue our snark a bit, too. If those restrictions don’t work for you, then this is not your group.”

My words about the page:

HOCO Interest has helped shape the conversation about K-12 education in Howard County.

Need to learn more about the diversity coordinator (wink)? Post there.  Have an opinion about school start times? Speak your mind.  Pissed about the amount of homework your 5th grader has? Type away.

I don’t always agree with the opinions on there, in fact, many times I disagree, but I can’t deny using that page as a resource, guide, and testing ground for ideas.  Even if folks can get a little harsh sometimes.

Howard County voters

You think I’m going to talk about the Presidential Election, don’t you? Nope. Except to say, we did our part. (smirk)

What I’m talking about is the local stuff. The Board of Education election.  Soon after the election, I tweeted something like…If you don’t think constituent services matter, you are sadly mistaken (or something like that). Anyways, my point was (and is) to highlight the importance of listening to constituents. Because if you don’t, they will vote you out office. After frustrations related to transparency, community relations, and accountability, the Howard County voters spoke loud and clear in the 2016 Board of Ed election.

Last year, I wrote this about the (then) four challengers- Coombs, Ellis, Ponnuri, Miller-

“These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County. I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously”

Hmmm. #listenandact

Councilpersons Calvin Ball and Jen Terrasa

This may seem lazy but I’ve just got two words (and then ask you to read the link for more information): SANCTUARY COUNTY.

https://apps.howardcountymd.gov/olis/PrefiledLegislation.aspx (CB9-2017)

Merriweather Post Pavilion

Local folks have a love/hate thing with Merriweather. People who love it appreciate the fact that we have an award winning arts concert venue in downtown Columbia.  And those who hate it complain about noise. And “those” concert goers. Which is funny because 1- Merriweather predates a lot of stuff. And people. And organizations. And 2- No diss but you moved next to a concert venue.

Well, in 2016, those who love it…well, won. At the end of November, the Merriweather advocates (including my fierce, bearded friend, Ian Kennedy) got an early holiday present when ownership of the venue was transferred from the Howard Hughes Corporation to the Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission. The transfer, which was approved by the Howard County Council, supports additional community programming, a parking garage!, additional development in downtown, and so much more.  All good.

(Sidebar- Can you figure out how I feel about Merriweather? #gem)


Now all they need to do to get my official stamp of approval is to bring John Legend back. (And yes, I know I talk about his music all of the time. #haters)

Opel Jones

I met Opel back in 2014 when he was president of Alpha Phi Alpha and I was president of the African American Community Roundtable. I was impressed by his commitment to our community (that’s always huge in my book) and his dedication to his family and friends (also huge in my book. Bonus- his wife is awesome.).  Soon after meeting, he was appointed to be a member of the Howard County Democratic Central Committee and his commitment to Howard County became even more clear as he began to advocate and fight for things we hold dear in this county- inclusion, equity, education-our values. And he’s done that as both a Central Committee member and a Human Rights Commissioner.

Can’t wait to see what Opel does next in Howard County (wink, wink).


Deeba Jafri and Tina Sheets Horn

I love rabble rousers. Especially when they’re women.

I love people who speak up and say something. Those who don’t remain silent in the face of injustice and hate.

I love people who look at an issue or challenge and say- the status quo is not good enough.

I love Deeba and Tina. Well…love is a strong word and I don’t say it lightly..especially about people I barely know so…I really like these ladies.

Deeba. I admire Deeba for standing up and refusing to be silent about the effect that racist rhetoric and hate speech has on our children and our community.  It’s not easy to stand up in front of hundreds of people and speak (extemporaneously!) with raw emotion. And it’s even harder to do when someone is attempting to silence your voice.  And Deeba did. Twice.

Tina. Tina is one of the fiercest Black Lives Matter advocates out there.  You know those monthly vigils that take place on the corner of Governor Warfield and Windstream? That’s Tina. You know the Black Lives Matter- Columbia, MD advocacy group? That’s Tina. Follow her on Twitter if you don’t believe me. Tina stands up for those who have been marginalized and for those who need an ally. And pretty much everyone else in between.

Thank you Deeba and Tina. There are no words to articulate how much your advocacy means to me. #morevoices

Sheriff McMahon

A couple of years ago, the Chief…err Sheriff.. was on this list for his leadership after the Columbia Mall shooting.  I try not to repeat on this list but this is noteworthy.  If anyone can help change the negative image and horrible reputation of the Howard County Sheriff’s office, Chief McMahon can. He is simply one of the best.


Did you know that a kid from Howard County has been nominated for a Grammy award in the category of “Best Urban Contemporary Album”? Yeah, me neither. Well, until recently.

You may not have heard of Gallant but he is killing it.  His full name is Chris Gallant and he is the insanely talented son of Chris and Lillie Gallant.  His debut (DEBUT!!) album, “Ology” is up for the award.  He also is touring in Europe and performed at the Library of Congress’ tribute to Smokey Robinson.

The fella can sinnnnggg.  Check out the Grammys on February 12th. And root for the hometown guy for the W.

“Baby, this is what you came for…Lightning strikes every time she moves…And everybody’s watching her…But she’s looking at you…”


























“Can you help me remember how to smile?…Make it somehow all seem worthwhile…How on earth did I get so jaded?.. Life’s mysteries seem so faded…I can go where no one else can go…I know what no one else knows…Here I am just drownin’ in the rain…with a ticket for a runaway train…”  Runaway Train- Soul Asylum

After a (now deleted..perhaps to protect the child?) post by the Howard County Police Department about a missing thirteen year old child from Wilde Lake Middle School, many in our community sprung into action to try to do what they could to help find the young lady.  There were reposts, prayers, questions, lookouts, etc.  Authentic concern for a child in our own backyard!

According to the police, the young lady returned home.  I don’t know the circumstances but it seems as if it could have been a runaway situation.  Someone even commented on one of the posts that “she has done this before…”

I don’t know if it’s because it is so close to home (my mom taught there for many years, my daughter’s cheer couch was the principal for three years, and I have several friends who have kids who attend the school) or what but this situation really bothered me.   This truly could have been anyone’s kid. Seriously.

On one of the posts, some friends and I asked why an Amber Alert wasn’t issued for this young lady.  Someone in law enforcement advised us that Amber Alerts are only used when a child has been abducted or is endangered.  We pushed a little more… Why wouldn’t we want to issue a broad alert for ANY child who is missing?  Aren’t they all in danger?  (That’s just how Amber Alerts work…)  One of my friends even said, in this particular case, the child is on medication, doesn’t that warrant an alert?  (No.)

So, because this makes no sense to me… (DISCLAIMER- This is NOT a bash on law enforcement at all.  Many of you know I worked very closely with the Howard County Police for many years and I have great respect for many police officers.  Sad that I have to give that disclaimer but you know how folks are….)…I needed to have a better understanding of Amber Alerts.

Sidenote- Google, I love you.

“An AMBER Alert or a Child Abduction Emergency is a child abduction alert system. It originated in the United States in 1996. AMBER is officially a backronym [that’s a new one] for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response, but was named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old abducted and murdered in Arlington, Texas, in 1996.”

“In the United States, AMBER Alerts are distributed via commercial radio stations, Internet radio, satellite radio, television stations, and cable TV by the Emergency Alert System and NOAA Weather Radio (where they are termed “Child Abduction Emergency” or “Amber Alerts”). The alerts are also issued via e-mail, electronic traffic-condition signs, commercial electronic billboards, or through wireless device SMS text messages. AMBER Alert has also teamed up with Google ]Bing, and Facebook  to relay information regarding an AMBER Alert to an ever growing demographic…”

“To avoid both false alarms and having alerts ignored as a “wolf cry”, the criteria for issuing an alert are rather strict. Each state’s or province’s AMBER alert plan sets its own criteria for activation, meaning that there are differences between alerting agencies as to which incidents are considered to justify the use of the system. However, the U.S. Department of Justice issues the following “guidance”, which most states are said to “adhere closely to” (in the U.S.):

  1. Law enforcement must confirm that an abduction has taken place.
  2. The child must be at risk of serious injury or death.
  3. There must be sufficient descriptive information of child, captor, or captor’s vehicle to issue an alert.
  4. The child must be under 18 years of age.”                                                                     Source- Wikipedia (I know..but it’s quick.)

Ok.. Got it.  So we certainly can’t have an Amber Alert for suspected runaways or if the above criteria isn’t met.  We would be getting  alerts all day! Doesn’t make sense.

BUT.  Why can’t we have some sort of local alert when a child is missing. If the situation makes the Howard County Police Facebook page, then I’m assuming it’s a big enough deal to alert the community in a broader way. (Note- My friends who have kids in school at WLMS told me that the school didn’t alert parents or students.  I’m not trying to be funny but kids can find other kids in about ten minutes.)

Let’s utilize NotifyMe Howard.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as weather updates and water main breaks, right?  Let’s utilize the text/email system through HCPSS.  Certainly alerts about missing children are just as important as school closings, right?  These two things are just a start.

This is Howard County folks.  We can be a model community on this.  Because any missing child is a priority, in my opinion.  We are a community of action oriented people.  Let’s work together to bring kids home safely…runaways or not.

I will be sending this to the county council, chief of police, superintendent, board of education, and board of education candidates.  If you support this idea, please repost this and send it to those folks as well.

And please invite me to the press conference when this gets changed. (smile)

Oh…A friend said let’s call it the CDR Alert.  Thanks but I think we should call it the Jaylen Alert.  And let’s tell that young lady (who this post is referencing) that she sparked a HUGE change in her community.

“And everything seems cut and dry…
day and night…
earth and sky…
somehow i just don’t believe it…”

“I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing, I know when that hotline bling, That can only mean one thing”- Hotline Bling, Drake

This song doesn’t work with this post.  But, as I write this, it is the number 2 song on the Billboard Top 100 list (Hello, by Adele, is number one and I’ve already used that tune) and so Drake it is!  Plus, who doesn’t like this song?  And we’ve all laughed out loud at the video and subsequent memes.  (My favorite is the tennis one. So, so comical. And you know, the Serena thing. And I played tennis.  So yeah…)

Anyways.  Here we go!  My (with a little help from my friends) Most Fascinating People of Howard County-2015!

Oh..and as I said last year, this is not an endorsement announcement.  And this is in (kind of) alphabetical order. So keep it chill, Howard County.

Baltimore-  Of course I know that Baltimore is not in Howard County but I had to add the city to this list.  Most of you know that I started working in the city in April.  A few weeks before April 27th.  The unrest.  So I added Baltimore because it’s just so damn complicated…which makes it fascinating to me.  Such a beautiful place (with beautiful people!) scarred by a history of complex social issues.  As TS said, “bandaids won’t fix bullet holes” so let’s all pray for the next leader of B-more.  Oh..and thank God for all of the do-gooders who are working on those complex social issues..And special shoutout to the good police officers who work hard at making Baltimore safe.  I see you (wink).

Kathy Barnett- I have been friends with Kathy for a minute.  I have greatly appreciated her unselfish support of me through the years and I probably should tell her that more often.  (Sidebar- It’s amazing what women can do when they know other strong women support them!)  But she’s not on this list for just that.  She is here because, as one blog reader put it, she “…is out there improving STEM education opportunities for kids in interesting ways.”  If you haven’t seen her work with the Young Women’s Giving Circle of Howard County or with Girls Who Code, you’re missing out.  Get with it.  And go check her out.  #beyouhowardcounty

Towanda Brown- You may or may not know who Towanda is.  Well, if you don’t, let me tell you (If you do, you can still read this.).  Towanda is a member of The Council of Elders in Howard County and she runs the African American Community Roundtable Parent Academy.  But she made this list because of her relentless pursuit of information (suspension data, arrest statistics, GT/AP info, etc.) that she believes will help improve life for African American students in Howard County.  Towanda works hard on equity issues and is a tremendous advocate for children.

Kirsten Coombs, Mavis Ellis, Pravin Ponnuri, Robert Miller- Talk about stepping up to the plate! These four individuals are running for the board of education…and I’m not positive but I would guess that they made this huge decision to run for elected office after witnessing the current, very public education challenges in Howard County (correct me if I’m wrong).   It’s not easy to run for elected office (especially county wide elected office) but these brave souls decided to take the challenge.  I’ve either read about or talked with each of them re: their priorities for our school system and I think they are right on point.  Now can they beat any of the incumbents?  Only time will tell. #payattentionhoco #thisisasimportantasthepresidentialelection #yesseriously

Vicky Comer Cutroneo– I know a thing or two about community organizing.  Yes, sure, usually communities rally around some injustice or issue or concern.  And this was the case with the parents in the western part of Howard County who were concerned about mold in their schools.  I have never, however, seen a community organizer put together an effort quite like this.  It’s totally organized, has a great following, has engaged and educated the broader community, has encouraged folks to testify at public meetings (THIS IS HUGE), and has attracted the media.  And the leader of this effort, Vicky, deserves much kudos.  Now, will the folks who need to listen to the message, pay attention? #weshallsee

Scott Ewart- It’s not easy to leave the comfort of a full time job to venture out and start your own business but Scott did.  And his business is a cool one.  Yes, he’s a technology consultant but he also started a super cool social media scorecard for elected officials.  It’s kind of like a “one stop shop” with ratings for the social media pages of elected officials.  So..let’s say you want to know more about a board of education candidate?  You can go to ScottE Software’s blog and find the social media pages for all of the candidates who have one.  Super helpful.  (And see what I did there? #strategic. Lol.)

Stephanie Geddie– This fantastic Laurel Woods Elementary School teacher was a finalist for Maryland’s teacher of the year award.  She is well known as someone who builds relationships with her students, their families and the broader community.  And we all know that those are key ingredients for success in education.  I had the opportunity to listen to her speak at the AACR Education Forum back in September and she is the real deal.  But WHERE is her sign on Route 108??

Judy George- My relationship with Judy started some years ago (maybe 2008?) because she was by far my most difficult (in a good way) constituent  when I worked for HoCo Government.  Anyways, Judy became “my eyes” in the southern part of the county and we became friends.  Judy has great awareness of county challenges and opportunities and is not afraid to tell you her thoughts.  And if you need her to show up, she does.  Thanks, Judy, for helping me cultivate my constituent service skills.  Hope you’re working closely with the current administration.

Lyme Disease– Period.

Mickey Gomez- Mickey’s storytelling is elegant and beautiful.  I mean, we all feel like we knew Gram.  And we definitely know Shiloh and Sophie.  She also has a kindness about her that you just can’t put into words.  And she’s hilarious.  Just don’t let her near you in the kitchen.  Or a hotel room.  Well, or anywhere there are sharp knives. Or brushes. #theresastorythere

Elizabeth Kromm- Babies. So many babies.  That sums up 2014/15 for my friend, Elizabeth.  So her story goes like this:  After many tough years of trying to have a baby, Elizabeth, and hubby Jon, happily announced that their wonderful surrogate was pregnant and due in November, 2014.  Shortly after that announcement, she found out she was pregnant! Yay and wow!  But here’s the kicker:  Baby one (Linny) was born on Nov 1st and baby two (super baby Millie) was born eleven days later at 27 weeks.  ELEVEN DAYS LATER.  On the real, thus far, I have never been more happy about anyone else’s pregnancy.  Talk about a blessing!

PS- Both babies are doing exceptionally well!

Vivian Lawyer and Tracey Williams-  Service.  These two ladies are the definition of the word…service.  They are currently the presidents of the two largest black sororities in the county, Delta Sigma Theta and Alpha Kappa Alpha, but their commitment to service in our community goes much further than those positions.  On any given weekend, you can find them leading efforts to collect clothing or gifts for those who are less fortunate or helping folks with minor criminal offenses correct their records.  And that’s just two examples.  They are often bouncing around to support several service projects or programs.  They show up and get it done.  And they deserve recognition on lists that are far more reputable than this one.

Leonardo McClarty-  I’ll admit it.  I was really happy when I saw that the Chamber chose this gentleman as it’s leader this past year.  Not to be too critical but the Chamber’s record on diversity is a bit challenging. And we all know the importance of having different voices at the table (Well, some of us know…).  Well, Leonardo is fantastic.  He’s an engaging, committed, community minded, smart, talented family man with business acumen. And he’s a cheerleader for business in Howard County (check his Twitter page out if you don’t believe me…).  Oh..and, by the way, he’s working on that diversity challenge at the Chamber.  Looking forward to 2016!

Christine McComas-  Christine’s current story has a sad beginning.   In 2012, she lost her beautiful daughter, Grace, after “…an uninvestigated drug-assisted sexual assault by an older student, was followed by months of sexual harassment, bullying and cyber bullying…”.  Since then, she has fought to keep her daughter’s story in the hearts and minds of our community and has worked hard to have Grace’s Law passed in Maryland (http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-graces-law-passes-20130410-story.html) in 2013.

The reason Christine makes this list this year is for her passionate plea to access her daughter’s school records.  A plea that has gone unanswered thus far.

As a parent, I admire Christine’s fight.  As a community member, I support her request for her daughter’s school records.  Let’s hope that the people who can make this right choose to do so.  God bless you, Christine.

Todd Olsen and Mary Kay Sigaty-  A couple of months ago, Todd (as executive director) and Mary Kay (as a board member) came to an AACR board meeting to discuss the Columbia Festival of the Arts and it’s “rebirth” (as one of my blog readers called it…).  The presentation was great and we learned that the rebirth embodies a lot of cool things including a year round festival and a key focus on diversity.  Diversity like…soliciting input from minority arts lovers in our community.  Like partnering with African American organizations to offer diverse shows and plays.  Like listening to people who may not look like them.  YAS. #staytunedfolks

Wendy Royalty- I’m a Wendy fan.  Straight up.  Last year she bravely ran for Howard County Council (There’s a good story there too…) and then, in support of her family, packed up her bags and moved across the country to Seattle.  Brave.

The things I love most about Wendy?  Her ability to make anyone feel welcome, the way she sticks up for things/people/issues she believes in, and the fact that she turned me into a (sort of, kind of, maybe but not really) dog lover (RIP- cute Bailey).  #muah

Jurgis Ruckus and Ms. Frizz– I mean, who are you?  You anonymously tweet and blog with great awareness of our wonderful county.  And you’re both clever and funny.  So give it up in the ’16!  Let us know.  Or just let me know.  I won’t tell a soul. #shhh

Lisa Schlossnagle-  I don’t know Lisa very well.  I don’t even think I’ve ever met her.  But I read her blog and we are FB friends so I kinda know her, right?

And I don’t know the full story behind her packing up her family and leaving her comfort zone in Maple Lawn to travel the world but I love it!

I am not a big traveller.  Mostly because every extra penny (I laughed when I type the word extra…) I have goes to something extra related to MJR.  And that’s not a whole lot of pennies.  But I find myself “living” through Lisa’s posts as she crisscrosses Europe and Asia.  So, thank you, Lisa B, Mrs. S.

Buffy Beaudoin Schwartz-  I first met Buffy when I worked for the Columbia Foundation (now the Community Foundation of Howard County) in 2006 and I learned quickly that Buffy gets community.  Whether it be through philanthropic efforts that support women and girls or consistent support of the institutions that drive progress (for everyone) in Howard County, Buffy just gets it.  For her continued support of our community and her kind, inclusive spirit, I nominated her for the Women’s Hall of Fame.  Come on Howard County Commission for Women, let’s get her in there! Please.

Frank Turner, Sr.– One of my favorite elected officials because he quietly handles his business while others shine in the limelight.  He has (almost) single handily advocated to get the Tubman School turned over to the community and this year, it happened. He (and Ken Ulman) told folks four years ago that we should examine the process by which people are elected to the board of education.  And now… well, you know.  He organized a bipartisan town hall meeting on education issues after hearing the many concerns of constituents in our community.  And he supports those who are less fortunate, all while co-chairing one of the most powerful committees in Annapolis.  But bet you don’t know all of that.  If you did, you’ve been paying attention because Frank probably would not tell you this.  You go, Frank.

Reverend Dr. Robert Turner-  First off, Rev. Turner is the best hugger in town.  You can be having a horrible day but then you get one of those hugs (and a blessing) and your day turns right around.  No, seriously.

Not only is Rev. Turner the dynamic pastor at St. John Baptist, but he is also a community activist extraordinaire.  He’s a member of PATH, the AACR, the AA Coalition, and probably some other groups that I’m forgetting.  He stands up for what is right and demands that others do the same.  We are lucky to have him in Howard County.

PS- With him, you also get his awesome wife, Kim, who I’m sure delivered some reader’s baby!  #powercouple

Victoria Gastro Pub/Manor Hill Brewing/Food Plenty–  So they already had me with Victoria’s.  Those damn fries, super cobb salad (sans the meat) and the good wine list.  Then the Marriner family started brewing beer on their farm in Ellicott City.  Now, I’m not a beer person but it’s local beer folks! And I’ve heard the stuff is good.  And now they are on track to open a restaurant in Clarksville in 2016!  A restaurant featuring farm and comfort food.  Uh..yum.  Can’t wait to eat there…and maybe I’ll get hooked on something besides those damn, addictive fries.

Jon Weinstein-  It’s no secret about who I supported in the D1 primary race in 2014.  But a couple of months ago, I sent Jon a note thanking him for his excellent work in the district that I live (and mostly play) in.  Someone wrote me and said, “Jon deserves a slot on your Most Fascinating list. Look at all the good work he’s doing on the Council!”  And I agree.  Whether it be co-signing Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill re: board of education elections, advocating for Elkridge folks who are downright pissed about noise from BWI-TM airport, or creating a fund to support after school activities, Jon has been on it.  And on it is what you want from your councilperson.

Special note:  

This is a little lazy but I think these two bills are important to mention again.  The following is from something I posted in November about two bills that have been filled to address some major community concerns related to education.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).

Special shoutout to: my daughter, parents, brother and sister in law, nephew, nieces, Julie, Audra, Rebecca, Regina, Cynthia, Luzi, Sharon, Lindiwe, Kim, Lenaye, Cherisse, Angie, Larry, Rev. Turner, Calvin.  Hearts.  You keep a sister well.

So there you have it!  Let me know your thoughts.  Who did I miss?

“You used to call me on my cellphone…”

Hello, it’s me, I was wondering, If after all these years you’d like to meet to go over everything, They say that time’s supposed to heal, yeah, But I ain’t done much healing…”– Hello, Adele

This song SPEAKS to me.  It sings to me.  I hear it in my dreams.  All that.  Her voice is sick.  Plus I’m kind of like Adele, right?  I’ve been gone for a little while and boom, I’m back. With a haircut and seventeen less pounds (Is that grammatically correct?).  Minus the voice, though.  Unless you count how I sound in the shower.

So I’m here. For now.  I was feeling all kinds of pressure to get posts done more regularly.  And I’m just not going to do that to myself.  So I’m here now and I’m not sure when I’ll post again. But hopefully soon.


Let’s start with national stuff and work our way down to the local fun.

The red (IT”S ONLY RED?!) Starbucks Christmas cup- So…I’m not even sure where to start with this.  In case you don’t know what I’m talking about: http://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2015/11/10/starbucks-faces-backlash-over-plain-red-holiday-cup. (One day I’ll figure out the “click here” feature. Until then, feel free to laugh out loud.).

Bottom line is that some evangelist with a following said that Starbucks hates Jesus because the cups don’t have Christmas trees, snowflakes and ornaments this year.  Then Trump, ever the opportunist, hops on the bandwagon and calls for a boycott.

I’m definitely a very spiritual person and I believe in the real reason behind Christmas.  And it has nothing to do with ornaments and trees. Right?  And, in my opinion, if you measure faith by what symbols are printed (or not printed) on a cup, something is wrong.   Am I missing something here?  If I am, I’ll listen.

A Jewish friend of mine posted this on FB, “You don’t see me complaining about the lack of blue Starbucks cups for Hanukkah.”

So, yeah.  Stop the madness, drink your coffee in the red cup, and then go do something nice for someone who is less fortunate than you.  Tis the season.

I hesitated to go here but….Greg Hardy.  Wouldn’t it be awesome if the Dallas Cowboys team took a play out of the University of Missouri playbook and decided not to play until Hardy was fired?   I know.  Don’t wake me, I’m dreaming…. (Bonus points if you know what song that is…).  It will never happen.  And that’s very sad.

We shouldn’t need photos (or videos) to be outraged about domestic violence and, at the same time, those photos paint a picture of something that many of us are fortunate enough never to see.  Or maybe choose not to see.  I’ve said this time and time again (about many things), silence is not an option.  Even if it makes you a bit uncomfortable, speak up.

Now, let’s get local.  And we should really pay attention to this stuff.

Two members of the Maryland House of Delegates have filed interesting bills to address some community concerns.

Delegate Vanessa Atterbeary’s bill would ensure geographic diversity on the Howard County Board of Education by electing five board of education members by district (the 5 council districts) and two at-large.  Currently only council districts 1,4,5 are represented on the school board and all seats are elected at large.  Shouldn’t all districts be represented?  Shouldn’t BoE members be accountable to the constituents in their general area while making decisions for the entire county?  Shouldn’t it be a bit easier to run a BoE campaign?  Yes.  Glad you agree (smile).

Friends in Oakland Mills, Long Reach, Kings Contrivance, Jessup, Laurel, Savage and others in districts 2 and 3 may want to pay close attention to this one!  You can read more here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/howard/ellicott-city/ph-ho-cf-school-board-restructure-1022-20151016-story.html

Oh.. and I like it! Well…  I love it!  But I’m sure you already knew that (wink): http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-09-29/news/bs-ho-ulman-board-20110929_1_dyer-and-other-members-board-members-county-executive-ken-ulman

In a separate bill, Delegate Warren Miller is concerned about public access to information from the Howard County Public School System.  Warren and I generally are not lock step on things but this is good.  As someone who dealt with constituent concerns for seven years, timely access to information is important to the public.  Essentially, his bill places additional requirements on the school system to ensure that information is released timely and it requires the school system to consult with a court before choosing not to release interagency docs (this apparently is a huge issue).  You can read some more on this too:


So…What to do? What to do?  You can lend you voice to the conversation (or even just listen) as there is a public hearing on these bills (and a few more) on December 1, 2015 at 7:00pm at the Banneker Room in the George Howard Building (3430 Courthouse Drive for the navigation system).

Get your popcorn out, folks as all of this stuff surely will make for an interesting Board of Education race in 2016!  I’ve already met a few candidates and I hope they will be at this meeting on the 1st.

Hello, how are you?, It’s so typical of me to talk about myself, I’m sorry, I hope that you’re well…”

RIP Nana.

“Thinkin’ of a master plan…’Cuz ain’t nuthin’ but sweat inside my hand”- Paid in Full, Eric B and Rakim

You were singing along, weren’t you? Lol

So there are a couple of things that I want to talk about.  One of them you might have heard (read?) about before during one of my rants.  One is new.

Let’s start with the old thing.. Well, the revisited thing…

So, obesity, sugary drinks, healthy food, etc.  I know, I know.  Bear with me, please.

Last month, I listened in on a presentation hosted by an organization called Leadership for Healthy Communities (http://www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org).  In their words, they are, “…a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation designed to support local and state government leaders nationwide in their efforts to reduce childhood obesity through public policies that promote active living, healthy eating and access to healthy foods.”  I decided to listen in on the call because I’m just so confused as to why some people are so adamantly opposed to supporting government’s efforts to encourage good nutritional standards for healthy living.

Now, perhaps Howard County wasn’t ready for restrictions on the types of beverages/food one could purchase on county property.  I don’t fully understand the anger around this but ok, you want to buy your Coke and hot dog at your kid’s Rec and Parks basketball game. Fine. (Note- For the record, you could have brought it..just not bought it..)

But NO standards?? Why be adamantly opposed to some nutritional standards?  Have you seen the effects of diabetes?  It’s not sexy folks.  Have you paid attention to what happens to your heart when you’re overweight?  I’m no medical expert but geez.  Do you know that our children have a shorter life expectancy than we do, Gen Xers?  Not good.  And for the everyone fend for yourselves, your mom should have told you how to eat, bottom-line folks, I’ll just say this….healthcare costs.

So back to the presentation.  The presenters made a great case as to why childhood obesity is a health equity and social justice issue.  They talked about food deserts and access to healthy food options.  Nutritional standards for communities and school based wellness policies. (Sidenote- KUDOS to HCPSS for flipping the script on their plan and subsequently earning national recognition for their improvements.  Please go ahead and comment about the fact that the kids can’t have cupcakes for Halloween.  I’m ready for it.)  They talked about education and awareness.

(Click the following link for the powerpoint as I obviously can’t write about the entire thing.  http://www.leadershipforhealthycommunities.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/LHC-REM-Webinar-Slides-FINAL.pdf)

They also talked about our collective responsibility AND our individual responsibility.  (Yes, of course, just like anything else, there’s a personal responsibility piece.)  But when you talk about community responsibility, we should look to our local and state leaders to have the courage to implement policies that benefit the collective good.

I’m not bashing anyone here.  That’s not helpful.  (I can talk politics all day but I don’t think we should play politics with people’s health…).  I am, however, encouraging our local leaders to revisit this and implement SOME nutritional standards and guidelines for our great county.  YOU really can make a real difference in the health and wellbeing of your constituents.  Why not talk it out and worn through the differences?


So the new thing..and this will be really brief as I believe blogger, Tom Coale, covered this brilliantly in his post called, “Leave Your Guns At Home, Howard County”.  http://www.hocorising.com/2015/02/leave-your-guns-at-home-howard-county.html

If you missed it, in January, the Baltimore Sun posted an article with a tagline that read..”You can pack heat in some county government buildings, but not others.”  And apparently, in Howard County you can currently come into a library, the nature center, a community center, etc. with your weapon.  Umm. Why would one need their glock at story time at Miller Library? Yikes.

Councilmembers Calvin Ball, Jen Terrasa, and Jon Weinstein have pre-filed a bill that would prohibit this.  Thank you.

“And we outta here…Yo, what happened to peace?…Peace, peace, peace…”

“Lift every voice and sing…Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty…”- Lift Every Voice and Sing, James Weldon Johnson

Happy Black History Month!

A funny..or maybe a not so funny..I remember when I first talked about Black History Month with my daughter who was probably about five or six at the time. She’s now 15.  She asked me why we only had one month to celebrate black people..and I didn’t have a good answer for her.

And I still don’t.

I guess from my perspective, it’s good to, at least, highlight the contributions that African Americans have made to society some time.  And February is as good a time as any. (Peep the sarcasm?)

Jokes aside, I don’t have a good answer for her…or anyone else who asks the question.  Not sure why it’s only one month.  I will, however, take the time (during this Black History Month) to focus on an African American organization in Howard County that is doing some truly wonderful community work- the African American Community Roundtable (AACR).

And oh…quickly…some folks have asked why we need an African American Community Roundtable.  I’ll just say this. In a very non defiant, kind, non confrontational way.  Until we no longer have the need to point out a particular month for a particular minority group, we need groups like the AACR.

And oh…full disclosure… I founded the darn thing (The AACR not Black History Month).  Back in 2012, I was frustrated about turnout at a public hearing.  The issue (diversity on the Howard County Board of Education…not saying more about THAT right now!) was super important to me (and, in my opinion, to the entire community) and we only heard from a small group of people.  The group we heard from did not reflect the diversity of our great community.  That’s painful.

(Side note- If you know me well, you know that I think it is critically important to have ALL voices at the table when discussing community challenges. ALL voices.)

So because I belong to three excellent service organizations (who independently do some AMAZING work in Howard County and beyond), I thought it made sense to get these organizations (and several of the churches and civic groups and museums) together to talk about our collective influence.  How can we work TOGETHER on challenges to affect positive change in our community?  Where are the gaps?  What are we missing as individual organizations?

And so here we are, three years later, with some really exciting stuff to share.  Not tooting my own horn but definitely tooting the horn of the wonderful people who make this thing happen.  Y’all rock.

Now..before somebody jumps all over me about putting one group before another, let me say this.  It’s not like that.  I LOVE Howard County.  All of it. I want to continue to make this place great for everyone.  AND I understand that there are some challenges related to education (#achievementgap) and health (#obesity) and economic development (#mbeprograms) and such that groups like the AACR need to come together on to discuss and act on.

So, the AACR.  Here’s what we’ve done thus far. (And I’ve said this before in a separate post but I want to mention this again!)

▪Received a $150,000 grant from the Horizon Foundation for outreach work with minority communities in Howard County

▪Launched an official partnership with the Howard County Public School System (more on this later)

▪Launched our website and our “brand”-   If you haven’t seen it, check out http://www.aacr-howard.org

▪Held a SUPER successful parent empowerment forum with HCPSS featuring Dr. Freeman Hrabowski

▪Bought Christmas gifts (lots of gifts!) for our adopted foster children

▪Supported each other at various events that the individual member organizations host and grew our membership to 28 orgs/churches/civic groups (unity y’all)

▪Launched a partnership with the Howard County Police Department to focus on hiring practices, cultural diversity training, and proactive community outreach

▪Partnered with various health organizations to host several Affordable Healthcare workshops and seminars

▪Announced our Parent Academy (check the website for the schedule)

Good stuff, right?!  And still more to do.  And to highlight. Even if it’s not February.

Finally….so last night I participated in a discussion that the Columbia Democratic Club hosted.  The discussion was called “Law Enforcement and Community Relations” and I was invited to be a panel member as the founder/president of the aforementioned roundtable (Did I mentioned we announced a partnership with the Howard County Police yesterday? Yay.).  So, it was me, the deputy police chief, and the deputy state’s attorney.  Discussion was good and the audience asked some really great questions.

One particular conversation stuck with me. The conversation was about the peaceful vigils that happened on Howard County street corners after the Ferguson/Eric Garner situations.  Remember the #blacklivesmatter vigils?  Well, the deputy chief of police expressed that he felt offended because (and I’m paraphrasing) HC police would never handle things the way that the Ferguson police did and therefore he did not feel like people here needed to protest anything.  The audience member said (something like) we were protesting in solidarity.  We were standing up for people.

Both of them were expressing their personal views/opinions.

It was no longer us/them.  Police/citizens.  It was people talking and sharing their perspective in an effort to understand each other.

I’m not saying anyone was right or wrong.  I’m not making that call.  I’m not even saying we solved anything yet but I would bet money (a very little bit but still) that both of those folks are revisiting that conversation in their head and thinking about what they said.

What I am saying is that it’s important to have the conversation.  To talk.  To form partnerships. To reach out.  With people who don’t look like you. Or who may have a different perspective than you. Or who may wear a badge and you don’t.  And it’s important to invite ALL voices to the conversation and highlight the richness of diverse perspectives.

You know, I’m no expert (at all!) but I really think we should try to do things like this year round.  Again, not just in February.

What say you?

Let our rejoicing rise…High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.  Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,  Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us…”

“You love this town…Even if that doesn’t ring true…You’ve been all over…And it’s been all over you…”- Beautiful Day, U2

I just love that song.  Hum along with me… and please continue to read.  I need your help.

I heard one of the best homilies I’ve heard in a long time at Mass yesterday.  The priest started by asking “What’s your good news?”.

At first I didn’t realize where he was going with this.  And, I admit, though, I’m trying to be patient, I was thinking…well…It’s been a rough couple of months and I’m staying faithful and hopeful but I’m not sure what to say about “good news”.

He continued and said (I’m paraphrasing) with all of the bad in the world: Injustice (he mentioned this a few times and we all knew what he was talking about), pain, war, fighting, etc…we need to do what we can do to change the story. And report our good news.

He went on to talk about not caring about whether you’re a Democrat or Republican (he used those exact words…which made me sit up to see if he was looking at me), gay or straight, black or white.  He’s not interested in your age or how much money you have.

He challenged each of us to do what we can to change the story.

And then report on our good news.

I thought about what he said.  And I changed my attitude.  And while I’m hoping and praying for some personalkindof good news as this year comes to end, I thought about this blog and our community.  And then about how I can help use my voice to change the story and report the good news.

Last week, as you may recall, I wrote about having a community conversation.  If you missed it, please click this link https://isthisthingon1.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/44/.

I was nervous to post it.  But soon after I posted, people started to comment…and text..and call…to express interest in a community conversation.  And then a few elected officials called.  And they too expressed interested in a conversation.

People want to talk.  And figure out what it takes to change the story in our neck of the woods.  (I mean, we don’t have war..but hopefully you get the drift.)

Now, I don’t want to be some lady who just helps start these conversations and then nothing changes.  I don’t want to be labeled but truly this stuff keeps me up at night (Well, this and a few other personal things…). And I also think we need to figure out how to invite folks who generally wouldn’t come.  What good is it to only chat with people who think exactly like you do..or look exactly like you!?

So what do we do?  What do you think?

A few years ago, I came across this program:  http://www.innovating.com/mosaic-partnerships/.  Other communities are talking!  Could this be it?

A friend of mine mentioned that she was a part of this initiative:  http://daytondialogue.org.  Maybe this it?

I don’t know the answer.  But I want to do my part and then tell the good news.  Help me out?

“It’s a beautiful day…Don’t let it get away…It’s a beautiful day…”

“Mother, mother…There’s too many of you crying…Brother, brother, brother, There’s far too many of you dying…You know we’ve got to find a way, To bring some lovin’ here today…”- What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye

Brene Brown, in her brilliant TED Talk in March, 2012 said this, “We heard the most compelling call ever to have a conversation in this country, and I think globally, around race, right? Yes? We heard that. Yes? Cannot have that conversation without shame, because you cannot talk about race without talking about privilege. And when people start talking about privilege, they get paralyzed by shame.”

Ms. Brown is probably referring to the Trayvon Martin tragedy but she easily could have been talking about Mike Brown or Sean Bell or Amadou Diallo or Eric Garner…

Yes, I’m soooo drinking her Kool-Aid right now but her point is valid.  We have many compelling reasons to have that difficult conversation about race. Right now.  In our neighborhoods. In our counties. In our state. In our country.

But in order to have open dialogue about race and culture, which in my opinion is the only way we become more accepting of each other, we must agree to two things: 1.  Honesty.  Honesty is paramount and we need to recognize it is going to be uncomfortable. And 2.  To Ms. Brown’s point, we must be prepared, regardless of what you look like, to deal with shame.

In her book, Daring Greatly, (I’m such the Kool-Aid drinker, I know, I know. This flavor is good, though…) she defines shame as “…the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”

I mean, break that down.  That’s deep.  And when you relate the feeling of shame to conversations about race, you might say that opening up and having frank dialogue is scary because what you say might get you kicked out of a “clique” you belong to.  You might be unworthy of belonging. You might even see that you’re flawed.  Someone may label you. GASP.  That is scary.

But here’s how I think.  If you choose to have regular, open dialogues (with some rules, of course) with people who do not look like you (or yikes, may even have a different religious or political ideology than you) and you really choose to listen to their perspective (ie- why they may be upset about Eric Garner or why they are not upset about Ferguson), and you embrace the fact that it is going to be uncomfortable, I believe that you become part of the solution.  Because, folks, we do have a challenge.  And we can either be silent…or complain…or riot and loot.

Or we can choose to work on it.

In 2010, I was on the board of a group called twentyfivefortyfive.  We were a philanthropic group and our mission was to “build a more caring, creative and effective community in Howard County by encouraging philanthropy among those between the ages of 25 – 45.”  Yay.

One day, after reading an article about the lack of diversity on various boards in Howard County, we decided to host a summit. In fact, we called it a beer summit.

Now..if you’re wondering why, we called it a beer summit, stop reading for a sec, and please click here immediately  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/07/30/beer-summit-begins-obama-_n_248254.html).

I was super nervous about it. (Thanks again to Ian and Josh for talking me off the ledge…multiple times.) Turn out ended up being great.  Conversation was good.  And no one had a heart attack.  No fights.  And, to my knowledge, no one was kicked out of their “clique”.

But you can read more about it here http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-08-26/news/bs-md-ho-diversity-meeting-20100826_1_columbia-foundation-diversity-abby-hendrix.

The only thing I regret is that we didn’t host additional community conversations with more people.  People who may not be drinking the same Kool-Aid we drink.

And so we stopped talking.

And that is shameful.

Picket lines and picket signs…Don’t punish me with brutality…Talk to me, so you can see…Oh, what’s going on…

“Allow me to re-introduce myself…”- Public Service Announcement, Jay-Z

My first blog post. Numero uno! Appreciate all of the support as I look to find my voice in the blogosphere (is that a word?)… Not sure what I’m going to regularly write about but this was on my mind…

Today is technically my last day with Howard County Government. Less than one month after the famous (or infamous?) 2014 Gubernatorial Election. “It’s politics…” I get it. I know. If you’re a Republican, I guess? you can’t have the person who garnered 10,897 votes to win a seat on the Democratic Central Committee in your cabinet. (Sidebar- still proud about every last one of those 10,897 votes. Thanks again, Howard County.)

So yeah, “it’s politics…”

My love for this community, and the work I was able to do over the last seven years, though, is more than just politics. I helped people (my people as I called them), regardless of their political party…their skin color, who they love, or how much money they happen to have in their bank account. Constituent services.

Yes, I belong to a certain party but, you see, for me, it was bigger than my party. The lady who called me because she couldn’t feed her kids, didn’t care about what party I belonged to. The community members who met me at their home in Jessup back in 2008 to address some serious, serious police related matters, could care less about who I vote for. And my friends in the trailer park on Route 1, who couldn’t get BGE (or anyone) to call them back to address the numerous downed wires that their kids were tripping over, didn’t care either. They just wanted me to help them.

(Note for the new constituent service folks in HoGo Government…It’s helpful to meet people onsite because I believe you meet people where they are so you can understand their perspective.)

Those are just a few examples of the “smaller” things. There are always potholes to fill, traffic calming techniques to work through, sidewalks to install, “crime” challenges to address, and community meetings to attend.

And then there was the bigger stuff too.

I have had the pleasure of working through challenges with the purchase of the Long Reach Village Center, community concern about a safe house off of Route 29, and the turf field installation process at Glenelg High School. And that’s just in the past two months.

I’ve learned about mulch, sewers, fields, septic tanks, libraries, parkland, and where your water goes when you flush the toilet (go visit the wastewater treatment plant. It’s awesome.)

And constituent services was just a portion of my job.

I’ve been on a few police ride-a-longs, advocated for nonprofits, worked on budgets, sat in some SERIOUS OEM briefings, and staffed one of the most prolific and innovative elected officials in the history of our great state (I know I’m biased..whatevs. Ken Ulman is wonderful.) Honestly, I could go on and on and write a book with all of the stories I have.

My amazing colleagues and I have served in snowstorms, hurricanes, a derecho (I’m still not sure what that is..), an earthquake!, and major flooding. I have slept on my office floor (ask me about that one day..funny, funny story), in the Emergency Operations Center, and in the Jim Robey Training Center. We have delivered food to people in need and set up water buffaloes for folks without power.

We shed tears with our community after a mall shooting, a tragic train derailment, bullying incidents, and many other situations that don’t make the papers.

And we did this together….most of the time while our loved ones waited (worried!) for us at home.

“Now before I finish, let me just say…I did not come here to show out…Did not come here to [try to] impress you…”

Thank you, Ken, for the opportunity to serve this great county. It’s been an honor. Councilpersons Ball, Fox, Sigaty, Terrasa, and Watson, it’s been a pleasure working with you and your teams on the complex… and the ordinary. Howard County Government colleagues, I love you. Thank you for teaching me everything I know about our great county.  Community, let’s work together to remain as one of the “top 10 places to live”in this country.

Change is good…yes, I know. And trust that I will put just as much energy and effort into whatever I do next!  But, for now, I will miss serving constituents in Howard County.

I will likely always have a D after my name.  When it comes to serving my community, though, it’s really not just politics.

It’s been real.

“Now back to our regularly scheduled program….”

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