On the Howard County Council, I will pursue pragmatic and progressive legislation to create self-sustaining neighborhoods that invite and empower people to live, work, play and grow here. Now more than ever, we need bold leaders with the courage and determination to advance solutions rooted in our common values and vision. I do not doubt that together, we can fulfill Columbia’s promise to future generations for neighborhoods that are sustainable, thriving, and resilient.
- Janssen E. Evelyn
Coming to this country as a child, my parents stressed the opportunities that education would provide. In Barbados, my father was a teacher for over 13 years and we watched as my mother’s work to obtain an Associate’s Degree in Nursing from community college allowed new economic security and opportunity for our family. Every child should receive a free, high quality, equitably-funded, public pre-K and K-12 education followed by diverse opportunities for accessible, affordable vocational or university education..
Today, as the parent of a 2nd grader and a 5th grader in Howard County Public Schools, I am more committed than ever before to ensuring every child in this county receives a superior education that is resource-rich, and centered around the needs of students, families, and educators. To protect and expand our reputation as an academic leader in Maryland, we must prioritize investments in our teachers, our education specialists; repair, maintenance, and expansion of existing school buildings; new school construction, and the safety and technological assets required to meet the unique needs of today’s students and the demands of tomorrow’s job markets.
While the pandemic worsened opportunity and achievement gaps, it didn’t create them – and these gaps will continue to grow until we take more decisive action. I will fight for equal access to excellent spaces, tools, teachers and technologies so that every student in Howard County receives the same chance to follow their dreams, regardless of their family’s income or the village in which they live.
I worked closely with two administrations to help create the Howard County government’s trade apprenticeship program. As we rebuild our economy after the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Howard County can be a regional leader in vocational and technical programs. We can accomplish this by better positioning our high schools to create new pathways to a wide range of industries and expertise as hubs of not just apprenticeship training but innovation and exploration.
Community College and Library System
Our community boasts a coveted library system and community college. These institutions changed the trajectory of my family’s economic position in my youth – and my understanding of the world around us. I will always prioritize funding, recognition and access to these powerful tools for educational and economic empowerment.
Our collective prosperity now and for future generations is not only possible but dependent upon building wealth for all residents, no matter their starting point. We are collectively strengthened by different cultures, income levels, and experiences. Yet, for too many families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. Though above the poverty level, these households struggle to manage even their most basic needs – housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care, and necessary technology. It happens daily within our community – many of our neighbors are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between childcare, eldercare, or safe housing, filling a prescription or healthy foods, paying utilities, or fixing the car. These short-term decisions have long-term consequences not only for those families but for all of us.
As our population continues to grow, we must do more to ensure access to affordable, high-quality housing and homeownership across the full range of income levels. Despite the critical nature of many jobs to keep our local economies running, these workers often struggle to keep their households from financial ruin. These are our health care providers, the cashiers at our supermarkets, the salespeople at our local appliance stores, service staff at our restaurants, and local government personnel. They are your neighbors. The future success of our communities is directly tied to the financial stability of these households. Economic development and in-fill development with multiple tiers of housing stock must be done with these pandemic heroes in mind. Not only is it the equitable thing to do – but it is the smart thing for the continued success of our community.
Through changes to local policies that impact housing and meaningful partnership with residents, community stakeholders, and property owners and more robust pathways to economic freedom and homeownership for healthcare and public safety personnel and other heroes who help strengthen our communities every day, we can accommodate growth and protect our green spaces while taking advantage of the known economic benefits of more inclusive communities.
Economic Empowerment for All
We must continue to encourage the revitalization of our village centers and other destinations in our community and across Howard County. On the council, I will work with community stakeholders to explore smart growth opportunities that provide more local businesses, restaurants, and job creators the opportunity to meet demand and compete with the big-box chains. This approach will be balanced to ensure equitable land use policy aligns community needs and aspirations with development project deliverables now and in the future. As a starting point, community benefit agreements provide a framework for engagement between developers and impacted communities to ensure partnership, job creation, community input, and hyper-local reinvestment.
In addition to strengthening policies that put more money in people’s pockets, I will proactively support equitable, community-informed placemaking strategies to ensure our community benefits from projects that developers pursue here, including through job creation, multi-tiered affordable housing, and carbon-neutral building design.
The pandemic was devastating for many small businesses, and we must work with local business owners to ensure a healthy recovery and incentivize entrepreneurship. Our neighborhood businesses are also at the heart of our local economy, and we should do everything we can to help them succeed and play an integral role in continuing to make our community the unique and thriving place it is. As a member of the council, I will work with business owners to help break down barriers to entry and increase access to capital and workforce development programs.
For example, to help increase the number of local firms receiving County contracts, I helped to strengthen the Local Business Initiative and helped ideate and coordinate both the very first Local Business Certification Workshops and a Small Business Summit, in partnership with the Office of Procurement and Contract Administration. These free events provided local business owners with assistance through Howard County’s procurement process. From 2018 through August 15, 2021, this has resulted in 137% growth in the number of businesses registered and certified in the Local Business Initiative program – from 100 to 237 employers.
As a child of the late ’80s and early ’90s, there was no lack of education around the need to reduce and recycle. For today’s youth, the stakes are higher as we are forced to confront the increasingly devastating effects of climate change. Responsible stewardship of our communities, our green, and built environments, and quality of life for future generations will require us to consider every policy – be it land use, housing, environmental, or otherwise – through the lens of sustainability.
From historic flooding in Ellicott City to increasing temperatures, our communities see and feel climate change in Howard County daily. We must move quickly, think creatively, and act boldly at all levels of government to reduce our carbon footprint and avoid the expensive and reactionary fixes that threaten county budgets, property values, and our collective quality of life.
Exceed Greenhouse Gas Reduction Goals
We can meet and exceed the county’s ambitious goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from government operations to 45% below 2010 levels by 2030 and reaching zero emissions by 2050 in part by:
- Planning proactively for more resilient roads and waterways,
- Expanding our use of renewable energy to power county homes, businesses and institutions,
- Requiring carbon-neutral design for all new development,
- Prioritizing the redevelopment of walkable and transit-oriented communities, and
- Taking advantage of new and existing climate technologies that divert our food waste from landfills, one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions
In my former role as Assistant Chief Administrative Officer, I worked closely with the Office of Central Fleet to create a Green Fleet Policy designed to reduce petroleum fuel consumption by 20%. As part of this work, we limited unnecessary idling and the use of take-home vehicles and replaced older petroleum-fuel administrative vehicles with electric vehicles or hybrids. As a result, Howard County now employs eight electric vehicles, six electric motorcycles, and 177 hybrid vehicles. For each electric vehicle, the expected annual cost saving is $459 per year. The 110 hybrid vehicles added in 2021 are expected to save more than $200k a year and reduce our fuel consumption by more than 85,000 gallons per year.
Reduce Food Waste
We must also expand our existing capacity for food waste recycling. Howard County was the first jurisdiction in the mid-Atlantic to start a composting program and will soon be the first county in Maryland to house utility-scale anaerobic digestion. Currently, though, the county’s Green Bin composting program is available in six of the County’s collection routes and six HCPSS. Through the recycling of food waste and other organics, we can significantly reduce methane emissions and fight back against climate change.
On the council, I will work to grow the County’s composting capacity, which is currently only available in six of the county’s collection routes and six public schools, and I will drive the education of local businesses to help amplify commercial organics recycling programs.
Support Arts and Culture
As both a cultural and a democratic tool, the arts are essential to a free and democratic society, a culture of coexistence, and a strong local economy. Part of what makes this community so unique is our connection to one another through arts and cultural events. In downtown Columbia and across the county, we need to fully lean in on investing in our cultural sustainability and integrating the arts into our democratic process in a way that includes our most vulnerable communities.
Connectivity & Civic Engagement
Howard County is home to a very educated and informed citizenry; however, too often residents are left out of – or not engaged enough in – local policy and decision-making processes. This is disproportionately true for people of color, immigrants, the working class, and youth. In this time of great division and collective angst for the future, it is critical that our elected officials govern from a perspective of empathy and lived experience. As an immigrant, a younger Gen Xer, and a Black man, I will leverage both my professional experience in local government, my years of community advocacy, and my lived experience to better engage our increasingly diverse community and build a future that reflects our dreams and aspirations.