March 4, 2019
By Elizabeth Mason Moses
Elevate Maryland. It’s a catchy name for a podcast. Simple, yet meaningful, and it provides for a variety of varyingly playful puns. Don’t believe me? Just ask any one of their Elevators (friends and supporters of the podcast). Merriam-Webster defines the word “elevate” as such: “to lift up or make higher”; “to raise in rank or status”; “to improve morally, intellectually, or culturally”; and finally, “to raise the spirits of.”
This post is surely retrospective, looking back over the many inspiring answers to the final question posed to Elevate Maryland guests, “What do we all need to do to Elevate Maryland?” But the true aim of this post, like that of the question itself, is to look forward. Forward and upward. Elevation.
As you read through these answers, I encourage you to make yourself a little list of actions you will take in 2019. Let’s get started with something I know you can do right now!
B-More proud of Maryland!
Several guests, especially those running in the gubernatorial primary, encouraged us to love and promote our great state!
As a gubernatorial candidate in April, Ben Jealous said, “We gotta just be more proud of who we are. I was at a fundraising event in a neighboring state and a friend said, ‘You know, I just bought the most fabulous wine from Maryland!’ You know, my family has been in Maryland for 80 years, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say,’ I just got the most fabulous wine from Maryland!’ We have fabulous wine!
…We have the largest onshoring company in the country in Baltimore…The programmers are 26% black; out ‘there’ [the rest of the country] it would be less than 2%. The possibility of building a more inclusive future is closer, I think, in Maryland than it is in most places.
…What other state can say that they had a year where they abolished the death penalty, passed marriage equality, and passed the Dream Act? Maryland is a great state!”
Also as a gubernatorial candidate, in February Jim Shea told Elevate listeners, “I’m a proud Democrat. We need to energize our message. We need to make it positive and optimistic and forward-looking. We need to dare Maryland to be great…we CAN be great! We have the values and principles [for] economic growth, public education improvement, transportation improvements.
We can do all of that and be great!”
Another gubernatorial candidate, Krish Vignarajah, had this to say in November of 2017: “I think we need to create a brilliant, diversified economy…I think it’s frankly [a matter of] pitching us, talking about our world-class academic institutions. Talking about our world-class federal- and state-level and local facilities ranging from NIH to the FDA. It’s talking about how we should have the best outdoor economy east of the Mississippi…I think we should be talking about Western Maryland, the Eastern Shore, Assateague, Chincoteague…There’s a reason why we’re called ‘America in miniature’ and I think getting that message out there would be one way we could do ourselves justice.”
Executive Chef to Governor Hogan Matt Milani thinks, “We have to represent Maryland products, first and foremost…I think one of the mistakes that Maryland and [its] small breweries made was saying, ‘We want what Guinness gets’ or ‘We want what Guinness is going to get.’ I think there’s so much state pride here in Maryland, …but we should be prouder of Maryland. We are going to get what we get, and Guinness can fit to us, or we’re going to go out and set ‘this’ as the minimum wage and Virginia is going to fight for our employees instead of the other way around. Or Pennsylvania’s housing market isn’t going to be dependent on Maryland’s borders…I think that to elevate Maryland, we need to be prouder of our state and really hold our borders stronger!”
Support those whose voices aren’t (yet) heard
A few thoughtful defenders of the people answered in truly supportive form, encouraging us all to find ways to listen to and support those who do not currently have an audience.
Shortly after being elected, the first African-American State’s Attorney for Howard County Rich Gibson explained, “In order to elevate Maryland, I think we need to make sure that we are always creating opportunities for good people…We have some great, great people here, and we need to encourage them so they realize their greatness. And we need to create paths for them to actually benefit society. When they achieve greatness, they’re helping us out. We’re all inter-related, so you’re helping everyone out when we create pathways for people.”
Nicholas Redding of Preservation Maryland said, “I know that there is a desperate need for good paying jobs in the state and—in many cases there are two different segments in the state, there’s the part of our state that is doing well and the part that is not doing well—and you can’t elevate the state unless you elevate all of it…I think we need more apprenticeships, and along with that—and I can’t fix this one—but if we were to create one thing, it would be mandatory public service of some variety…I think personally, that’s the way we fix a lot of society’s problems—by getting people out there doing something different for at least two years as young adults, giving them a different perspective. Whether they grew up in affluent Maryland or disinvested Maryland, I think there could be a lot of value to that.”
On the most recent episode, County Councilman Opel Jones answered, “What we can do to elevate Maryland…is to make sure all of our citizens are safe. That all of our citizens are welcome, no matter where they come from. It would be super, uber awesome to see the Maryland General Assembly pass legislation to make Maryland a sanctuary state.”
In February, while still a county councilman, Dr. Calvin Ball shared that “We need to invest more and help more the people who we don’t see at any of these community meetings—the ones who are not advocating for themselves, whether it’s the homeless or those dealing with human trafficking—the ones who many just think are unseen.”
Indeed we do, County Executive Ball!
Get Involved! Learn, Volunteer, Vote!
Of all of the guests of Elevate Maryland to answer this question, more than any other advice, they implored Marylanders to get out into and involved in their communities, or at the very least, vote!
Maryland state delegate Cory McCray implored Marylanders back in January, “We all need to take responsibility—I always say we all have these small circles that we do control…we all have something that we could be doing, whether it’s passing out flyers, getting involved in your neighborhood association, maybe you’re coaching little league…But we have a responsibility to do that, to make sure it is better, for our children.”
On the podcast in summer of 2017, Horizon Foundation’s CEO Nikki Highsmith Vernick told Candace and Tom that they already are elevating Maryland by “listening to both sides, weighing opinions, elevating voices that need to be elevated in our community…[You] engage in a thoughtful, productive, encouraging way…That’s what we’re all here to do, right? To create a better community, to create better families, engage in a place that we all want to live, work and play.”
In December 0f 2017, Community Action Council’s Bita Dayhoff answered, “I think [we need to] continue to, especially this coming year, elect individuals who are extremely passionate about the issues that are important in our community and for our state. So [we elevate Maryland by] getting very involved.”
Overall, I ‘d say we did most definitely elect many individuals who are extremely passionate about what is important in Howard County and in Maryland!
Senator and gubernatorial candidate Rich Madaleno, in October of 2017, said, “I think we have to get involved…in the process…There are so many ways to get involved and shape the outcome. You were talking about redistricting of schools. There are probably so many different committees you can be involved in that help shape that decision…Because…you have the opportunity to…build a network of reliable relationships…don’t just sit around and comment, ‘Why isn’t everyone reliable?’ Well, you can model that behavior by going out and building it yourself!”
ProPublica reporter Alec MacGillis was on the podcast in November and replied, “Top of the list would be do everything you possibly can to support Maryland media… Do everything you can, whether it’s subscribing or donating, there’s various fledgling efforts out there now to cover the state, on top of the existing legacy institutions.”
He went on to discuss the negative impact of not having coverage, especially on campaigns. He said, “There’s nothing for people to generate that debate, and there’s also very little vetting of the candidates, so people get into office and suddenly you realize, gosh, they’re not that good, or x or y, and we didn’t really know because…it just doesn’t happen at the front end.”
In August, Walter Olsen of the Maryland Redistricting Reform Commission explained, “What I liked so much about Maryland when I came here is that it is a place where civil governance is done face-to-face. You get out there enough and before long, you’ll know them all! … Now the temptation is to change that over to a data-driven ‘Let’s do a mailing which targets everyone with such-and-such connection,’ but shouldn’t we be knocking doors? In Maryland, knocking doors still wins. I lived in California only for a few years, but long enough to get very annoyed at how the politics would exclude people who were not a part of a large organism like an industry group or union…. Maryland has not lost that intermediate stratum of institutions that still invite involvement and reward involvement.”
Josh Kurtz of Maryland Matters, Elevate Maryland’s most featured guest, encouraged Marylanders to “pay attention and participate and really learn up on the state and local races, and vote! I think all too often so much attention is paid, particularly with this president, on what is going on nationally…All too often, local issues get decided by a very small minority, and it would be so much nicer if there was more participation at the state and local level. Be more informed!”
In July, political strategist Roger Caplan contemplated how to get people involved in the political process. He said, “I don’t know how we get people excited in elections. Do they make a difference? Well, Trump’s nominations to the Supreme Court versus Hillary’s, was there no difference? Come on guys! Somehow the people who are listening, and those of us in this room, we get it, but we’re not translating this. I taught a class once on the history of the right to vote in America, and the struggles that folks have had, and I think people would be astounded if we taught American History in a way I think it should be.”
I strongly agree with Roger and I’d like to take a moment to invite you all to read A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn.
Maryland Pollster Mileah Kromer stopped by the podcast in October and implored parents to “tell your kids how cool it is to participate in state and local government. At a very young age, as soon as they can start paying attention, start talking to them about how important it is to have a strong, stable democracy…The reason I think we are able to endure through difficult election cycles perhaps, and maybe uncommon leaders…is because of the strength and stability of the American democratic system, and that strength and stability is rooted in political socialization—the stuff we [say and show] to our kids.”
Elevate Maryland host extraordinaire Candace Dodson Reed got to share her answer on the 2017 Year in Review episode. She said, “I think elections matter and I think that we need to make sure, and not just in 2018, we need to make sure we elect individuals who will do what’s best for all. Period.”
ACLU Maryland Executive Director Dana Vickers Shelley encouraged Marylanders to broaden their minds when she spoke with Tom and Candace at Lupa in December. “Get more people reading, and I mean everything. I like to go into the library and find magazines that, if these are the four you expect me to read, if you expect me to read Essence, then I’m going to grab Advocate and Garden and Guns, which is a great magazine in the south. What’s great about the library, or even book stores, is you can go in and just absorb different types of information. And also what’s great about reading, especially in these trying and sometimes stressful times, is that reading is quiet. Even if you agree with the pundit, the pundits are noisy; they’re under contract to be noisy. Reading is quiet and you can learn and be informed and be laughing and, it’s just a good thing.”
Many Elevate Maryland guests agree! Get involved! Learn, meet local legislators, support Maryland media, and vote!
One cannot justly speak of transportation, on a political level, without discussing climate change, social needs, and economic effects. It is a complicated but very important topic that two Elevate Maryland guests tackled.
In July of 2017, Downtown Columbia Arts and Culture Commission’s Ian Kennedy said, “I feel a lot of sympathy for people who have to commute outside of where they live and they have to deal with transit that is decent but could be so much better…I would love to see us figure out a way to be able to support expanding transit and transportation. I think we need to do this and across the state and nationally, we need to have a serious discussion about revenue. Because it seems like we have just taken that off the table. We’ve got aging infrastructure, we’ve got aging schools. We’ve got aging transit. We’ve got to fix this and you have to pay to fix stuff.”
In March, Spending Affordability Advisory Committee Member Josh Tzuker said, “We’ve really, really got to build up north-south mass transit, and that would help out Howard County a lot, you know, by being the key node between Baltimore and Washington… Washington has changed so much it’s basically become Manhattan. Baltimore has changed a lot, but a lot of it has gotten poorer. And there’s a lot of problems that have come from Baltimore being poor–from lack of cops being able to be hired, the violence, and the lack of opportunity. But they’re only 30 miles apart. If we can figure out a way [to fix it, we should], mass transit particularly.”
Several of Elevate Maryland’s guests gave short but unique answers as to how to elevate the state.
Before his untimely passing in May, Gubernatorial candidate Kevin Kamenetz visited Candace and Tom in December of 2017 and kept his answer short and sweet. “Elect Kevin Kamenetz!” For the many people in Maryland who planned to do exactly that, Kevin’s passing surely affected the democratic primary, and possibly the 2018 gubernatorial race.
As a candidate for Howard County Council in District 1 (and now Councilwoman), Liz Walsh, on the heels of the Ellicott City flood of 2018, said, “Plant more trees.” Amen to that!
In August, Ainy Haider-Shah, president of the Howard County Muslim Council, shared that “Ellicott City is near and dear to my heart. I’ve lived there for eighteen years, and I love that town… I think that for Maryland, Ellicott City is a big deal and we really need to take the time, the effort, and the money needed to really make sure that it’s not destroyed.”
Get Money Out – Maryland’s Doug Miller stopped by the podcast in September of 2017 and gave an expected but, I believe, extremely important answer. “Well, getting money out of politics is number one with me. I got into this because to me, that’s the issue from which a lot of other problems stem—environmental degradation, mass incarceration, all that stuff, you can trace it back to big money’s undue influence.”
Primary gubernatorial candidate Alec Ross said, in September of 2017, “Education, education, education! We will not have a great future unless all of our kids go to great schools. I think that if you are a citizen, you need to become a real advocate for your schools. If you are a business, you need to figure out how to get your business involved in schools. If you are in government, you need to be thinking about what we can do to be making our schools cathedrals. Education, education, education!”
His second time on the show, as Howard County Executive-Elect, Dr. Calvin Ball had a short but sweet response: “No matter what people tell you, always believe in yourself.” Indeed.
On the 2017 Year In Review episode, Elevate host Tom Coale gave a little push to those of us with much to offer but fear standing in our way. He said, “Mine would be to do things that scare you, and be brave. Because I find anxiety and fear is just a mindset shift away from being excitement and inspiration… I think that if more people were brave and courageous about their own convictions and who they are as a person, we would all be better because we would all be better human beings and we would create a better world.”
State delegate Brooke Lierman stopped by the podcast in September and said, “What I tell my son every morning: ‘Be kind, try hard, and have fun.’ And I feel like we were all a little kinder, tried a little harder (maybe to listen to one another, to understand one another) and we all tried to have a little more fun, we would be at a little higher place.”
Former Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler closed out 2018 as the final guest, and encouraged Marylanders to periodically re-evaluate our priorities. “I think people need to really step back and regularly ask themselves, ‘What is important? What do I care about?’ and, ‘Is my life reflecting those values?’”
Last, but judging by the numbers, most assuredly not least, the largest contingent of guests answered that respect and civil public discourse are both lacking and sorely needed in order to elevate Maryland.
In November, Bryan Sears of The Daily Record answered, “I have grown, especially over the last 18 months, very concerned about the tone of conversation. And it’s not that I want to—to throw out a Mean Girls reference—it’s not that I want to bake a cake of rainbows and smiles and we can eat it and all get along. I think there is a real benefit to having serious discussions about serious policy issues, but I think when the tone of the conversation devolves…then that’s a problem. I wonder how we get back to the point where people of good conscience can disagree on an issue.”
Former Sheriff Bill McMahon spoke to Candace and Tom in April and said, “I think Howard has always been unique in this regard in terms of politics… Even when there’s disagreements on policy, it tends to be at least cordial or friendly. I guess that’s my biggest fear: that the middle ground is kind of being lost because people seem to pretty quickly go to their corners and maybe they’re most comfortable and not always willing to listen to other opinions. It’s okay to disagree.”
In November of 2017, primary gubernatorial candidate Maya Rockymoore Cummings gave a beautiful answer. She said, “We need to love each other. We need to love each other on a level of humanity. We need to look beyond our differences—what we think are differences—whether that be zip code or income or race or class or religion and recognize that we all want the same thing, which is to be safe and healthy. To be able to enjoy our family and friends. To be able to pursue our joys in life. But as long as we let stereotypes and divisions come between us, that undermines our ability to truly maximize what we can be as a state. So we’ve got to love each other and we’ve got to recognize that we’re all humans and that we should be loved.”
Mary Ann Scully, CEO of Howard Bank, responded to the question of how to elevate Maryland by saying, “I do think literally find a way to have better discourse with one another… You have lots of smart people here; you have lots of great growth opportunities; you have incredible geographic diversity… We’ve got so much going for us and I don’t think we know how to talk to each other, and I don’t think, maybe more importantly, we don’t know how to listen to each other and together figure out a way to solve some pretty significant problems…It’s got to start with being willing to just listen to each other and keep an open mind and stop throwing the barbs back at one another.”
As a candidate for Baltimore County Executive (which he has since won), John Olszewski stopped by the podcast in June and shared his idea for improving Maryland. “We need to have more empathy. We need to just understand that everyone comes to different situations from different backgrounds… And I think that’s good advice not just for us in our daily living but also in governing.”
Howard County Library CEO Tonya Kennon said last May, ““I think continue to have conversations around just how to build through education, through social conversations, even the tough conversations, giving people the space to kind of do that, and to not be judged for their views. I think that’s it. Sometimes it’s just the conversation, kind of putting it on the table, so you hear both sides and hopefully can reflect on them.”
In June, Maryland Democratic Politico Dylan Goldberg said, “I was listening to Reverend Barber’s speech from the 2016 Democratic National Convention…He was talking about how we as a community, we as a people need to be the moral defibrillators of our time. That when there is somebody with a bad heart, somebody with a good heart comes along and shocks us back into a place where we are not just tolerating each other, but loving each other…We gotta love each other, we gotta be here to support one another, and accept that we have differences in opinion, and know that we’re all just moving forward together.”
Also in June, Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein shared his idea of how to elevate Maryland. “I think we need to take a deep breath. There have been a lot of things, particularly over the last year, where the tendency has been to go to anger and vitriol and not just stop before we get there [to find] the points of agreement…So what we can do to elevate Maryland, elevate Howard County, is to take the time to talk, not just post and tweet, and actually get into the specifics and at least try to agree on a basic set of facts and go from there.”
Shawn Gladden, Director of The Howard County Historical Society, sums up the rallying cry to respect one another repeated time and time again at the end of the Elevate Maryland Podcast. “I think it’s elevate the country at this point! I think we need to get back to an amiable public discourse in this country…I think we are setting a tone for future generations on how to deal with each other and it’s ugly. I think we all need to realize there are impressionable children watching us and how we behave and they are reading what we put on social media and they’re seeing what our politicians are saying. They’re learning how to engage and interact with each other and we’ve got to be careful.”
The Elevate Maryland podcast brings together some of the most influential and thoughtful minds in the state. You’ve just read the recommendations of thirty-six of the most keyed-in people on topics relating to the social, economic, environmental, and political health of Maryland. Please consider this a blueprint for your own actions in and around the state in 2019 and beyond.
To sum it up:
- Be proud of Maryland; her land, her history, her products, and her people! Tell everybody!
- Get educated and involved (at any level you can, nothing is too small). VOTE!
- Make space for, listen to, and encourage those whose voices are not being heard.
- Work on and support improvements in transportation and flood prevention and mitigation.
- Get Money Out of Politics! Follow and support Get Money Out – Maryland.
- Encourage and help engender a more civil and amiable political and social discourse and debate
Let’s all Elevate Maryland in 2019!