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It has been over 4 months since my last blog login. If that sounds a bit like the start of a confession, perhaps it is. For months now most of my waking moments have been spent trying to defend my community against a development unwisely being considered for an historic and extremely environmentally sensitive area. (A sad story for another day) I’d surface now and then for a Council bill I couldn’t ignore, a gathering of political candidates, or a meeting of the Development Regulations Evaluation groups being held by Clarion Associates. But basically, my focus has been quite singular—preserving the community I love.

But ultimately the real reason for my absence from the blogosphere has been thoughts of my long departed mother. You see, like many mothers, mine used to advise me that “if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” Taking that to heart, I have therefore been silent waiting for, if you will, something nice to say.

It’s been a turbulent year in Howard County, one which has evoked a lot of emotions—including feelings of betrayal and hopelessness resulting from disappointment in some of our local leaders. There have been so many issues which divide rather than unite us that it is easy to slip into negativity and say things which are ‘not nice’. I’m determined to find some good.  (The outpouring of parental concern over the inadequacy of APFO and the looming school redistricting may be one example of an unintended unifier.  Watch for it.)

Much of the local turbulence in 2017 resulted from the extensive consideration of the ‘Sanctuary County’ bill. I’ve been trying to find something good to come out of that divisive battle and I now believe I have. I think it is definitely something worth saying something nice about.  During the long nights of testimony citizens, including many from our immigrant community, for the first time spoke out on their feelings. Many had never experienced first-hand the democratic process of writing testimony and presenting it before a large audience–in what was sometimes not their first language. This took much preparation time and courage. While that experience was a good thing, had their activism stopped there, it would have been far too short-lived.

I’m quite tickled that persons who chose to be citizens of this country have exercised the right to actively participate and now choose to further “give back” by volunteering of their time and talents to offer their leadership!

It is way too early in the political season to declare who one is backing (and I may just skip that altogether in 2018.) However, I must express my extreme pleasure in seeing members representing our diverse community step up to serve our County. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and talking extensively with several early candidates, both R’s and D’s, for the County Council vacancies which will exist next year. I invite you to get to know each one better: Raj Kathuria, District 1; John Liao, District 2; Hiruy Hadgu, District 3; Lisa Kim, District 4.

How cool is it to see our diverse Howard County citizens, individuals with Indian, Chinese, African and Korean heritage, roll up their sleeves to do the hard work of making our democracy work for ALL its citizens!  (I welcome hearing from others who have joined or are considering joining the competition.)

Upon meeting these brave and ambitious folks I was flattered to be asked if I had a bit of advice for them. This is what I offered several months ago:

  • Put aside your National political agenda. Even if national office is your ultimate goal, as a Council member your job is to think and act locally on those issues of most importance to your local taxpayers—quality schools, adequate public facilities, affordable housing, health and safety, preserving the environment for our children and grandchildren, intelligent growth, equal opportunity, etc. In my opinion the Howard County Council is not the place to work on either the Democrat or Republican Central Committee agendas. If you need a national committee to dictate legislative ideas, then you are clearly unable to think on your own and should therefore not seek public office.
  • Most importantly, to get my vote I want to see and hear you out there at all of the meetings which I personally consider important enough to attend as a concerned citizen. These include meetings of the County Council, Planning Board, School Board, Zoning Board, Board of Appeals, Zoning Regulation reform contractor, and local community associations. If you can’t make time for these now, you won’t if elected. After gaining an understanding of how each group functions through observation, then begin to formulate your opinions and express them at those meetings. This will tell the public that you are willing to put in the hours to do the hard work to carefully analyze the issues before making a decision. Seeing you in action will be far more effective than random campaign promises.

I consider this advice good for everyone considering running for County Council, not just those from our immigrant community. I am delighted to report that over the past several months each of the four candidates I’ve identified HAS been visible and HAS spoken out at meetings which I’ve enumerated.  As a result they have truly gotten my attention and my respect. I suggest ALL local candidates get out and do the same, regardless of the office you are seeking.

Here is an opportunity for true diversity on our Council. I hope worthy candidates receive genuine consideration by a public that will give more than lip service to the concept of One Howard.

Check out these newcomers—and meet me on the high road, 

Susan  (not promising to only say nice things, just promising to look for balance)