Howard County should apply its notable wealth and potential for citizen engagement to some glaring problems. "I think that there are a number of challenges that face the county, including lack of affordable housing, a noticeable homeless population, and a lower than desirable level of citizen engagement," says Progressive HoCo activist Dave Bazell. What to do? Organize for change.
/By Dave Bazell/ The Howard County chapter of Progressive Maryland, aka Progressive HoCo, is still in its infancy. Nevertheless, by working with other organizations in the community, we already have the Fair Elections victory under our belt. Progressive HoCo supported CB30, the Citizens' Election Fund, by testifying before the County Council, by writing letters to the editor in support of the bill, and by just showing up at important County Council meetings.
But what is next for Progressive HoCo? I think that there are a number of challenges that face the county, including lack of affordable housing, a noticeable homeless population, and a lower than desirable level of citizen engagement. My daughter lives in Columbia and is a single mom who is struggling to provide for herself and her son. This makes affordable house a very personal issue for me. Without help from her family she would not be able to afford to live here. She could be living in an overcrowded, filthy, and unsafe apartment, like she used to. Or she could be homeless like some other people I have met. To me, it is a moral failing that Howard County, the wealthiest county in Maryland and one of the wealthiest in the nation, should not be able to provide affordable housing for its citizens and that some of our neighbors should be homeless.
Just as with the Fair Elections victory, Progressive HoCo has the opportunity, or the obligation, to team with other organizations around the community to address these issues and to bring more county citizens into an activist role. We need to reach out to members of the community to educate them about issues and to engage them in order to solve problems that we all can see but often don't think about. Affordable housing, homelessness and citizen engagement are just a few of the problems we need to work on. I mention these because they are especially personal.
What can you do right now? I encourage you to go to our website, http://www.progressiveHoco.org/feedback, and let us know what issues are important to you and what you think we should do about them. We also need volunteers in a number of areas. You can volunteer at http://www.progressiveHoCo.org/volunteer. We will be holding canvassing events. We need help with outreach. We need to identify and develop our positions on issues that are important to you.
Community engagement starts with you reading this and taking the next step to share your ideas and volunteer to do more.
Dave Bazell is a Progressive HoCo activist.