Weekly Letter: Elementary Graduation, High-Tech Policing, and Port Reopening Present a Different Reality

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Sometimes I feel like we’re living in two realities. There is the one in which crime is soaring, young people are depressed and disengaged, democracy is doomed, and government no longer works. The messages of doom come both from the far right and from everyone else’s reaction to the far right.

The other reality is beneath the surface of all that doom and gloom, a place where I get to work every day. That’s where optimism, progress, and a generation of leaders far wiser than any before it seems to be emerging. Here are a few highlights from that reality, just this week.

My first stop Monday morning was the graduation at Meade Heights Elementary School, where the student body is majority African American and majority eligible for free and reduced meals. All 57 sharply dressed kids lined up on the stairs to the stage with military precision and sang like a trained choir. They actually listened to my “keynote address,” and having met many of them just weeks before at career day, I couldn’t resist asking them to raise a hand if they knew what they wanted to be when they grow up. Hands shot up immediately from three-quarters of the kids, and I thought, wow. The future is looking good.

Then I went back to the office for a meeting with Police Chief Awad and the team that is creating the Real Time Information Center (RTIC). We saw data about businesses that have cameras integrated into the system, information about a new contract that allows us to install license plate readers for about one-thirtieth of what they cost today, how body-worn camera footage is accessed, and photos of the facility build-out. 

They described how information is processed during calls, and how that protects our officers, protects our residents, and creates evidence that is used to hold offenders accountable in a court of law. We discussed a plan to engage more residents and businesses, and to educate the public about the process. We discussed how these centers work in other jurisdictions, how they share information across county lines, and how public perception of the technologies has evolved as we’ve all come to accept the fact that nearly everyone we meet has a recording device on hand at all times. 

My own view is that laws should either be respected or changed, and I’m proud that the agencies tasked with enforcing our laws are becoming more effective at their jobs. On Monday evening I attended the annual Anne Arundel Police Awards Ceremony, where exceptional professionalism, bravery, and compassion are recognized. In a year when our officers have faced staffing shortages and reassignments to patrol, it was gratifying to see that the department continues to get stronger and more effective. I am confident that like most places in the United States today, crime will continue to recede, as long as we continue to create opportunity with smart economic policies and programs that promote equity.

Yesterday afternoon, I joined Governor Moore, Transportation Secretary Buttigieg, and many of the team that cleared the fifty thousand tons of metal and concrete from the channel leading to the Port of Baltimore during the eleven weeks after the tragic collapse of the Key Bridge. There were lots of good speeches and job-well-dones, but it was the longshoremen returning to work that struck me the most. A group of ten or so were on hand to greet and speak with the dignitaries. Half were from Anne Arundel County neighborhoods - Pasadena, Glen Burnie, and Linthicum - and all expressed sincere gratitude for promises kept. 

The theme of the event was that government still works. It can do hard things when, as Tom Perez put it, “egos are checked at the door.”

That’s the reality I see every day, and I wish more people could see it.

Until next week…

Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive