What I hope and fear about the new statewide minority caucus

A friend of mine sent me an email recently with a link to an article about a newly formed statewide minority caucus.  The caucus is the brainstorm of Howard County’s own Dr. Calvin Ball, County Council Representative from District 2.  As usual, Dr. Ball has come up with a brilliant idea to bring resources together to address critical issues. I read the article and went to bed. Then, later on, I dissected the piece a little further.  I concluded that although the piece was missing some key elements, this subject is the perfect start for an interesting discussion. There is a solid case for establishing this coalition of leaders but I have some reservations as well.

What I hope will come from this caucus

If I understand the article correctly, this caucus is about minority leaders from around the state supporting one another and exchanging ideas about how to help their minority constituents. I’m glad to see some unity among leaders instead of the typical crabs-in-a-barrel effect.  When they meet I hope to hear about them addressing some very critical issues among minorities across the state (and possibly the country). Some issues that I hope they can collaborate on are

  • Voter suppression– it’s obvious that some people are not in favor of Obama’s reelection and they are resorting to some pretty low tactics to change the game.  We need people on the inside like elected officials who are familiar with the laws and the process to inform us of our rights as voters.
  • Lack of minorities running for office– there is simply not enough diversity on these county councils to fully reflect the community at-large. Howard County, for example is 58 percent White yet we have only one minority representative. Are we (minorities) running for these offices when the opportunity arises? If not, why not?
  • Foreclosures– Prince George’s County has the highest rate of foreclosure in the state.  This shouldn’t happen in a county where the majority of the population are supposedly wealthy African-Americans. If it’s happening there, you can best believe it’s happening elsewhere.
  • Low graduation rates from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)– Sojourner Douglass College (Baltimore) had a graduation rate of 22 percent last year.  Coppin State (Baltimore) had a graduation rate of 15 percent. Why such low numbers? One possible explanation is the lack of preparation these students have when entering the schools as freshman. That needs to change. There’s a lot more to that puzzle than meets the eye and a good policymaker can help this situation in a number of ways.
  • Unemployment– Ok. This one is personal for me because I just can’t stand to see someone not working. Although Maryland boasted the lowest unemployment rate in the country in 2011 among African-Americans (roughly 10 percent) it needs to be lower.  Much lower. The Hispanic rate was 7 percent. Having steady employment is not only helpful to our economy but it’s personally empowering.

What I fear will happen with this caucus

I try to be as realistic as possible when it comes to politicians.  I live in Howard County but I was born and raised in Washington, DC. I’ve seen a lot of hoopla and rhetoric from politicians so I don’t have the expectation that they are superheroes. They cannot always save the day. I fear that a couple of things may occur when the novelty of this genesis wears off.

First, I fear that this will begin with a lot of fanfare but eventually dwindle into fluff. Everyone is focused now but when the rubber meets the road I’m afraid that these leaders will eventually slack off due to scheduling, funding, and other logistical obstacles. Second, I wonder if minority constituents will be engaged enough to support this caucus. Are we going to hold them to the fire on their promises and praises them like crazy when they make good on them? Are we going to hit the streets to work to get them reelected?  Third, I don’t trust Prince George’s County leaders. There has been such inertia in that county regarding education, housing and crime.  Where are the strong, research-based initiatives to address these issues?  Where are the results? Also, the slots debate keeps my head shaking. In my mind, adding them to the mix is dangerous.

I will pray for success with this caucus and let God handle the rest. I would love to see this be a model for other states around the country to follow.  Minority leaders need all the help they can muster from each other and us. I hope they have the stamina to see this through and pave the way for others to follow in their footsteps.

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