Weekly Letter: Doing the Good Things Because We Have To

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I’m writing on an airplane, in airplane mode, with no distracting pings from the tablet. Peace.

I’m heading west for the Mpact Conference in Phoenix, to speak on a panel about our region’s efforts to grow transit and learn from the best about creating transit-oriented communities. But I’m popping into Los Angeles on the way to visit my daughter and son-in-law in their new house. The conference will be good, but visiting Jesse and Ry will be even better.

Sometimes I find it extraordinary that in some parts of the world people are able to go about their daily lives, loving their families and improving their communities, while elsewhere on the same planet, our brothers and sisters are suffering and dying.

It seems like we should all stop and fix what’s broken, stop and create peace, but we can’t. All we can do is work the levers of democracy to put people in positions of power with the experience, skills, and intent to make the peace that we seek.

But if good work in one part of the world has a way of spreading to others, then Anne Arundel County did its part this week.

I started yesterday at Chase Home’s Affordable Housing Symposium, where county, state, city, and nonprofit leaders gathered to share progress and set goals on efforts to deliver the housing that our county needs at costs that are affordable at every income level. It was well-attended, well-run, and an important marker as we undertake hard work that our future depends on.

After my panel, I rushed to Historic London Town and Gardens for the well-attended ceremony to install the UNESCO Site of Remembrance Port Marker, recognizing the location where ships arrived from West Africa, loaded with kidnapped African men and women who stepped onto this land of “liberty and justice for all” and found neither.

It occurred to me at the ceremony that my ancestors brought those men and women to their plantations and used their forced labor to enrich themselves, not knowing that it would be the descendants of those enslaved people who would rise up and save this young country from the cruelty and injustice upon which its economy and its government were built. What a sweet message to share with my ancestors. Lacking a direct line to their souls, I shared it with the audience I had. Humanity is resilient.

I ended the day by introducing my friend Mayor Buckley to his own Annapolis constituents, in a failed attempt at an Australian accent. It was the launch of the City Dock Resilience Project, the creation of City Dock Park, and I wanted to be there as a cheerleader.

I’ve followed the process with admiration as residents engaged, planners listened, grants were secured, and the magical little city cobbled together the largest public works project in its history, keeping its head above rising seas, connecting the past with the future, and connecting the people to the water. Our county needs public spaces, places where community is created, and City Dock Park will be the best of those places.

And that was just yesterday. On Saturday there was the Disability Awareness Day Awards Ceremony at Annapolis Mall, the Kunta Kinte Heritage Festival at City Dock, the Howl O Ween Pawty at Animal Care and Control in Millersville, and the Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) Celebration at Maryland Hall.

Community celebrations are great. They put smiles on faces and remind us that we’re connected. But they’re not my favorite part of being County Executive. What’s even better is making and seeing progress.

I just read a brilliant memo from staff at Planning and Zoning identifying the parts of our zoning code that need to be changed, and offering very doable options for how to get it done over the next three years. It’s something that’s been on the to-do list for a long time - my list, my predecessor’s list, and his predecessor’s list. Game on!

I read another brilliant memo summarizing preliminary action items that will come out of our internal work group on personnel policy. It’s good stuff. It will make it easier to hire and retain public servants. Game on!

I joined the Rec and Parks senior staff meeting and heard their reports on upcoming groundbreakings, staffing progress at child care centers, and new training for rangers. I walked out with the same sense of progress that I got in similar meetings at Public Works and Inspections and Permits a few days ago. We have really good people in our county doing really good work, and they don’t stop doing it.

And it’s good that they don’t, because no matter how many bad things are going on in the world, we have to keep doing the good things. So we do.

Until next week…

Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive