Weekly Letter: Hot Sox, HOAs, Pride, and Blues

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Last Friday, Galesville residents gathered at Hot Sox Field for a ceremony to accept an award from the Maryland Historical Trust for Outstanding Stewardship of a Cultural Site. The work done by our County Recreation and Parks and Public Works departments to upgrade the site of the powerhouse Negro League baseball team from Galesville, the Hot Sox, on formerly enslaved Henry Wilson’s farm, was extraordinarily well executed, but it only happened because the Black descendants of players and residents of Galesville advocated for it. 

A woman named Gertrude Makell led the charge to convince the County to do the project, and do it right. I got a taste of her spirit and leadership before she died late last summer, and the community wanted to honor her. That’s why the highlight of Friday’s event was the dedication of Gertrude’s Way, the path she walked between the Rosenwald school that she turned into a community center and the Hot Sox Field. Thank you, Gertrude and your followers, for bringing out the best in local government.

The next morning, I attended the opening session of Anne Arundel County’s first Community Association Summit. The event grew out of requests by a coalition of community groups called Growth Action Network (GAN) for the county to step in and help homeowners associations that struggle to maintain their infrastructure, particularly their stormwater management systems.

We’d thrown some ideas around over the years based on what other counties had done, but I was never willing to invest in the staffing that those models required. GAN’s pressure mounted this year as that organization grew in capacity, and our Office of Community Engagement and Constituent Services grew in capacity at the same time. So Director Vincent Moulden and Strategic Engagement Officer Hannah Thompson sat down with GAN leadership and agreed to jointly present this Summit. The agenda included sessions on Stormwater Management, Conflict Resolution and Communication Strategies, Organizational Governance, and Financial Stewardship. Sign-up reached its capacity of 120 early, and the room was packed.

It turned out to be a great event, not only because feedback from participants was overwhelmingly positive, but also because local government leaders and some of their most vocal critics rolled up their sleeves together and got to work. It’s a huge win for this old community organizer.

From there, I went to Annapolis for the Pride Parade, organized by a grass-roots advocacy organization called Annapolis Pride. I wrote last year in this letter about the things I’d come to understand by marching in previous years, including a statement that, “It’s a celebration that we have finally arrived at a place where it’s simply our humanity that we celebrate.” This year was even better, because the site for the post-parade celebration was at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, where performers, vendors, and many thousands of happy people were able to spend quality community time together. Well done, organizers.

And then there was the Annapolis Blues soccer game, another community super-success created by a handful of local businesses, wildly enthusiastic soccer fans, and smart organizers. 

Last year in their first season, they smashed league attendance records with a high of 8,480. This year they set an ambitious goal of 10,000 for their opening game at Navy Stadium, and blew through it with 11,171. The players used the fans’ energy to put DMV Elite away 6-2 by functioning like a single organism that moved the ball so efficiently that by the final quarter their opponents were run ragged trying to keep up.

The Annapolis Blues phenomenon isn’t a government success, but it’s a community builder. Friends gather to tailgate before the game, and kids swarm the grass area at the end of the stadium and run down the hill to high-five players after goals are scored. Tickets are $8 and season tickets come with a jersey. It’s good family fun and inspires people to play a sport that makes them healthy. 

There’s no government intervention needed, but that can’t stop my staff from gathering to tailgate after work for the second home game at 7pm Friday. Stop by before the game and say hello at the red pop-up tent somewhere near the light post with the osprey’s nest on top of it.

Until next week…

Steuart Pittman
Anne Arundel County Executive