Learning and Zip Codes

“Do we as a society believe it is acceptable for a child’s life to be predetermined by the ZIP code in which they were born?”

City schools CEO Sonja Santelises posed that question last night to a commission studying the state’s funding of pre-kindergarten through 12th grade in public schools throughout the state.

Irvington is in zip code 21229 – Frederick Road near the City line. My 41st District colleagues and I attended the community’s monthly meeting Tuesday night. Concerns about drug dealing in the immediate area where the meeting took place were the focus of discussion..

The next day, an Irvington resident emailed me, “I’m wondering, very genuinely, if more money for education is a reasonable solution to our education problem when, from an outside perspective, we don’t seem capable of managing the money that we do have and have had access to…I’d be interested in hearing also, how we as a community can hold our public officials and managers accountable for spending appropriately.”

I responded: “You make a valid point. An increase in funding for our public schools would be an opportune moment to seek to increase the quality of education by adding appropriate criteria to assess how the money is spent. At the same time, the vast majority of the children attending City schools are in poor families. That means that more resources are essential to enable them to overcome the obstacles generated by poverty. Those resources cost money.”

Our public schools are where all students, regardless of income, regardless of zip code, have the opportunity to prepare themselves for adulthood. It is our obligation, as citizens and as legislators, to fund our public schools and then oversee their operation so that they can meet that obligation.

Protecting Our Rights – Voting and Guns

My bottom line: The law should benefit people or prevent them from being harmed without unduly burdening the rights of those whose conduct is being regulated or criminalized..

One example is voter fraud.

To what extent should we impose barriers to the exercise of this fundamental right when seeking to prevent individuals from voting illegally?

The Congress struck the proper balance when it enacted the Help America Vote Act in the wake of the Florida recount in 2000.

In addition to official government documents, proof of residency can be demonstrated by a person’s address on a rent notice or a utility bill.

My legislation, which was enacted, adopts that federal standard when an individual’s right to vote is challenged at a polling location.


A second example of that balancing act is gun control.

Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.

Who wrote that? It was Justice Scalia in his majority opinion striking down DC’s gun control law.

When the members of the Congress, the General Assembly, or any other legislative body seek to prevent the loss of life due to firearms, we must do so without violating the 2nd Amendment rights of gun owners.

But we can do so, as Justice Scalia pointed out.

And we must.


Contacting and Thanking Voters – On line and at their front door

Russians bought at least one Facebook ad that targeted voters in Baltimore during last year’s Presidential election. The ad made reference to the Black Lives Matter movement, the Baltimore Sun reported yesterday.


Under Maryland law, each campaign finance entity responsible for publishing or distributing campaign material through the Internet must keep a sample copy on an electronic medium that can be produced as a facsimile.

Is this ad covered by the existing law? Can we enforce this law against a foreign group? Can we regulate Facebook or does that authority belong to the federal government?

I’ve asked Attorney General Frosh for legal advice.


Mailings, automatic phone calls, and personal contact have little effect on a voter’s decision in the general election.

That’s the conclusion of a study done by two political science professors that a good friend shared with me.


Two days ago, I knocked on the door of an 89-year old man who lives next to the Forest Park Golf Course.

I introduced myself, and he responded, “I know who you are.”

I asked, “How do you know me?”

“I read the newspaper, and I get your newsletter every April.,” he said.

I doubt that my constituent has read the professors’ study.

It’s more likely that he knows what Tip O’Neill said.

“People like to be asked and people like to be thanked.”

My father said that as well.




Long-term delivery

Amazon guarantees two-day delivery.

It’s decision where to locate HQ2 will have an impact on the chosen city/region/state for decades.

This bidding war will also affect the losing applicants.

Here’s my minor role in this process.

I introduced a bill that created an internship program in high tech start-ups for Maryland college students.  The state would pay half the cost.

I did so after reading UMBC President Freeman Hrabowski’s op-ed about such a program in Massachusetts.

House Bill 1317 passed in 2014.  It has not been funded.

Amazon would welcome this pipeline of future skilled employees.  Funding for this program could be part of the package that is presented to the company.

However, the law would have to be amended.  Only small businesses are now eligible.

Removing that requirement would make Amazon or any other high tech business eligible for this benefit.

And there will be many companies – big and small, considering our HQ2 proposal and how it would affect their location or expansion decisions.

Building coalitions, Building credibility

My coalition building began in a basement on a Thursday night more than 35 years ago.

When I ran for the House of Delegates the first time, I wanted to get votes from both the reform and the machine factions of the Democratic Party.

I had been going to meetings of the New Democratic Coalition – Fifth District since the group was formed after the 1968 election.

This was the Gene McCarthy wing of the party. I had volunteered for Hubert Humphrey.

Morty Pollack was the son of the legendary political boss, Jack Pollack.

The Trenton Democratic Club met in his basement in Ranchleigh every Thursday night, just as it had met weekly in the Trenton club house on Park Heights Avenue near Park Circle.

Once a month, I would go to the Trenton meeting.

The club endorsed me in 1982.

When I ran for reelection, the landlords opposed me because I had introduced legislation to reduce childhood lead poisoning. They asked Morty if he would support another candidate whose last name was Rosenberg.

He told them no.

For the last 15 years, I have represented a district where a majority of my constituents are African-American. The 41st District also has a significant number of observant Orthodox Jews.

I take great pride in the fact that I have credibility with both the African-American and the Orthodox communities.

After speaking at Morty Pollack’s funeral on Friday, I realized that there was a connection between my coalition building – then and now.

Jail Time for Tenants and Terrorists

People are going to jail because they did not pay their rent.

That would not happen if they had a lawyer.

I’ve introduced bills before to require that an attorney be provided in certain legal situations.

After reading the Sun article about this procedure, civil attachment, I’m working on legislation to require that legal counsel be provided for renters at the appropriate point in this process.

The landlord who pursues civil attachment most frequently is Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of President Trump.

See http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/investigations/bs-md-kushner-arrests-20170812-story.html

Last week, I received an email from the National Association of Jewish Legislators regarding legislative efforts in Ohio and Illinois to label neo-Nazi groups terrorists.

Maryland law defines a legitimate law enforcement purpose as the “investigation, detection, or analysis of a crime or a violation of the Maryland vehicle laws or the operation of terrorist or missing or endangered person searches or alerts.”

Criminal statues are interpreted narrowly, I learned in law school. Someone should not be put in jail unless the legislature clearly intended to make their actions a crime.

My next step is to ask the Attorney General’s Office whether the language above includes both domestic and international terrorism.

Orioles Fans and Classmates

I was walking to the Orioles game on Greene Street last night. Nothing blog worthy about that.

But then someone said, “City College.”

“What year?” I responded.

“’68,” he said.

We were classmates.

Both of us have worked in state government. Tom in Parole and Probation.

He spoke positively of the Math and English departments at City.

As we approached Camden Yards, he told me that he has myeloma but has benefitted from stem cell research.

I told Tom that of all of the bills I’ve worked on, the one creating the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund could touch the lives of more people than anything else I’ll do.

I wished him the best. As we parted, we both said, “City forever.”

PS I just co-signed a letter to Governor Hogan asking him to increase funding for stem cell research. A portion of this increase would support discovery research.

I’m going to add this story in a PS.



Statues and Words

“Curious to hear your thoughts sometime on removing the Taney statue in Annapolis.”

My rabbi, Daniel Burg, wrote me that this morning.

We did not remove the Taney statue from the State House grounds when that was proposed 23 years ago.

Instead we built a statue to Thurgood Marshall.

That was Pete Rawlings’ brilliant idea: Add, instead of subtract.

I introduced legislation in 2016 to add to our knowledge of Maryland history by erecting a plaque to memorialize the last lynching here – in 1933.

My bill did not pass.

At this moment in time, removing the Taney statue in Annapolis and the four Confederate statues in Baltimore is the right thing to do.

I commend Mayor Pugh, in particular, for her decisive action.

We need to move on to other issues that will improve our schools, public safety, and neighborhoods.

As we do that, we should remember these words:

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds.

They are from President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

The Baltimore Jewish Council issued an excellent statement in response to the events in Charlottesville. I had a minor role, as I suggested that the Council should speak out and not wait for an incident where the Jewish community was directly affected.

The BJC statement follows.

Baltimore Jewish Council calls for forceful and clear leadership against hatred and anti-Semitism

The Baltimore Jewish Council calls upon our nation’s leaders to be unequivocal and forceful in response to the heinous events of Charlottesville, Va. They must be clear that blame is not something to be casually attached to many sides. There are only two sides here – those who support anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry and hatred, and those who oppose it.

We are deeply appreciative that we live in a state where our federal, state and local elected officials from all parties stand with us in support of tolerance and respect. We were proud to join with so many community partners Sunday night as Baltimore came together in solidarity with the victims of Charlottesville. Now is the time for strong leadership to expose and denounce these white supremacist groups, whose views and actions run counter to our core Jewish beliefs and American values. Hatred and bigotry have no place in our community or in our nation.

A Unique Program and Astounding Legislation

Saturday morning, I heard about the torch carrying white supremacists and neo-Nazis who marched around a church, shouting a Nazi slogan.

I thought of Nazi Germany and the American South during the civil rights protests.

That afternoon, not yet aware of the loss of life in Charlottesville, I was campaigning and knocked on the door of an acquaintance in Mt. Washington.

I knew that he was one of the students who sued in 1952 to integrate Poly.  I knew one of his local attorneys, Marshall Levin.  I also knew that Thurgood Marshall had argued the case before the Baltimore City School Board.

As a loyal City alumnus, I had to ask why Poly, instead of City.

“The engineering program there was unique,” he replied.

“Did you meet with Marshall beforehand?” I asked.

“Yes, he met with the 14 plaintiffs one weekend.”

“What did he tell you?”

“Behave.  Everyone is watching you.”

Last night, while watching MSNBC, I learned about legislation providing that “a person driving an automobile while exercising due care is immune for civil liability for any injury to another if the injured person was participating in a demonstration or protest and blocking traffic.”

By a vote of 67-48, it passed the House of the North Carolina legislature this past May.      It awaits Senate action.

That such legislation would even be introduced is astounding.

I read Maryland’s hate crimes law.  A death resulting from a criminal act, in this instance vehicular homicide, could be a hate crime.

I emailed committee counsel for the House Judiciary Committee in Annapolis: “If there had not been a death when a car was driven into the crowd in Charlottesville this weekend, would that have constituted a violation of Maryland’s hate crimes law?”

She responded this morning: “Driving a car into a crowd under these circumstances, not involving a death, would be a separate felony” and punishable as a hate crime.



Seeking advice and knocking on doors

One of the assets I can rely upon as a legislator is our professional staff.

Assistant Attorneys General, bill drafters, budget analysts, and research librarians. All of them are non-partisan.

I once told another legislator that we should meet with Ronnie K (name changed) to get advice on an issue the two of us were working on.

My colleague had no idea who this person was.

My conclusion: instead of seeking advice or information from our staff, this colleague sought help from lobbyists.

No doubt, he is not alone in doing so.

Some of my best friends in Annapolis are lobbyists, but I always keep this in mind. I am not their client. Their client is. That’s whose interest comes first.

Why is this story relevant?

Speaker Mike Busch asked me to attend the National Conference of State Legislators summit in Boston this week to serve as a state chair for NCSL.

At the organizing meeting for these chairs, I told the story above because NCSL is another non-partisan source that we can rely on.

After I got home yesterday, I knocked on doors.

One of my constituents reminded me that when he moved to the Cross Country neighborhood 40 years ago, Senator Clarence Blount suggested that he meet me.

I ended my work day by attending the National Night Out for Cheswolde on the street in front of Councilman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer’s house.

  • My Key Issues:

  • Pimlico and The Preakness
  • Our Neighborhoods
  • Pre-Kindergarten
  • Lead Paint Poisoning