Special Update: Coronavirus, the environment and the legislative session

By Kim Coble, Executive Director

At Maryland LCV we care deeply about our staff, supporters, and fellow humans across the country. That’s why we are putting in place all the precautionary measures we can. For the immediate future, Maryland LCV has suspended all activities that would require people to come together in the same room. All staff are teleworking, all meetings will be via video conference and all events are cancelled.

If nothing else, the COVID-19 outbreak highlights the importance of a government that quickly and efficiently funds and enacts policies that benefit people and our communities. This public health crisis has made me more determined than ever to ensure we have a government and elected officials who are responsive and accountable to each and everyone of us.

As of this writing, the Maryland legislature is adjourning on Wednesday, March 18th. The first time since the Civil War that the legislative session has been cut short. However, our important work to protect Maryland’s air, land, water, and communities is continuing and we are urging the Maryland General Assembly to focus on a few key environmental bills before they close the doors on Wednesday.

And we could use your help! You can take action from the comfort of your home by checking out our Action Alert Center and sending an email to your legislators today. To find out who your state legislator is, please click here.

The environmental priorities that are a top priority and could pass in the next two days include:

I hope you are taking measures to stay safe and informed. And when you are not sending emails to your legislator, you can find updates on the Covid-19 outbreak from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and Maryland’s health authorities.

Thank you and take care,

Kim Coble, Maryland LCV
Executive Director

Stay connected with us while practicing social distancing:

  

Another Captain for the Planet

By Captain Donald Lawson

I am an avid sailor, educator, and in just a few months, I’m going to become the first African American man to attempt 12 world records, including the fastest person to sail around the globe, solo — thanks to a clean energy-powered sailboat.  

Growing up in Baltimore, I didn’t spend as much time near the water as you might think for living in a coastal community. But, when I was nine I had the opportunity to go sailing with the Living Classroom Foundation’s Lady Maryland program. This event introduced me to sailing and changed my life forever. The sense of freedom I felt steering the boat that day has stayed with me for all these years — it has influenced my dreams and shaped the direction of my career. 

The Captain of the Lady Maryland told me I could sail around the world one day — and I believed him.

From a young age, I noticed the stark racial and socioeconomic disparities of the boating and sailing community around the East Coast. Over the years, I have seen very few people of color on the water sailing, racing, or competing. In fact, African Americans currently hold ZERO world records in sailing and there are very few opportunities for young people of color to experience the joy of sailing as I did. 

As I went on to attend Morgan State University and studied engineering, I had the opportunity to teach sailing at the Downtown Sailing Center, Getaway Sailing and the US Naval Academy. It was important for me not only to excel on my own but to change this system. With my captain’s license from Annapolis School of Seamanship in hand, I was ready to share my knowledge for sailing with my community and invest in sharing my passion with young people —  just as my mentors Bruce Schwab and Dame Ellen MacArthur had done for me. I have spent years teaching and inspiring young people of color about the maritime industry, careers on the water, and the joy of sailing.

But, it wasn’t easy. Even with all my personal success as a sailor and educator, I struggled to find acceptance and support in certain areas of the maritime community. I was often doubted, rejected, and scrutinized for being a different face on the racecourse. But through the struggle, my drive only became stronger and my goals more meaningful. I knew it was my mission to change this narrative for others. That’s why I worked every day to give minorities and low-income students access to resources that I didn’t have starting off. 

And now, I am ready to do even more to change the sailing and boating community by beginning my journey to become the first African American man to set multiple world records in sailing. During this process, I will educate, inspire, and promote businesses owned by minorities and businesses that support the community.

What’s more, I will prove that you can win when you use sustainable energy sources by sailing with boats powered almost entirely by 100% clean energy. 

One thing that my decades of sailing experience have taught me is that being eco-friendly is not only a personal moral obligation but also an advantage when sailing.  My racing boat will be equipped with solar panels, hydro-generators, a wind vane, and a biodiesel engine. Each clean energy system will offer major speed and efficiency advantages at certain points of my voyage. In addition,

I’ll be able to go 15% to 25% faster than the average sailor since I won’t need to carry large quantities of fuel.

2020 is a big year for me, my team, and my sponsors. In the next few months, we will acquire the boat that will carry me through these records, and in the spring not only will my journey begin — but I will start a speaking tour to share my stories with communities across the country and make sailing more accessible for all people. And the educational opportunities don’t stop there. I will also be creating three separate documentaries with my non-profit partner, Independent Arts and Media, to chronicle my journey and create interesting, educational materials for sailors and non-sailors alike. Our first Documentary entitled: Dark Seas: The Legacy of African American Solo Sailors, will look into the stories of sailors who came before me, the history and rules of record-breaking and finally my program and our goals.

Becoming the first African American man to set a world record in sailing AND the fastest man to circumnavigate the globe means more to me than personal gain. It means elevating my community and bringing honor to my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. It means becoming the kind of role model to the young members of my community that I wish I had in my childhood. It means uplifting and carrying businesses and organizations that are led by and support people of color through this victory with me. But the most important goal I want to achieve is to leave a lasting Legacy in the world — and inspire others to follow their dreams to do the same.

 ____________________________________________________________

I am very grateful to have my team’s first set of partners: LCV, Harlem Brewing Company, Living Classroom Foundation, WSSRC, Alyte Consulting and IAM for believing in me and the vision.

 There is still an opportunity for additional businesses and organizations to join our crew! If you are interested, feel free to email us: donald@captaindonaldlawson.com

 If you want to get involved and support Captain Lawson with his project, please donate to his documentary fund: https://www.artsandmedia.net/cause/dark-seas-documentary

Originally posted on LCV

Where you’ll find the lobbyists in Annapolis

By Kristen Harbeson, resident Lobbyist and Political Director

I love tracking my steps during session – wondering how many miles I logged in a day.  Although there are days when my feet ache from all the walking, there is at least as much sitting as there is walking: sitting in committee rooms (and occasionally on the floor outside of committee rooms); sitting around tables during coalition meetings and while talking to legislators; sitting in the public lounges for emergency conversations with colleagues.

One of the most likely places you’ll find me during much of the Session is in a wingback chair in the hallway on the second floor of the House Office Building.  From there, I can talk to Delegates and their staff pass by on their way to and from the Environment and Transportation and Economic Matters Committees.  I’m not the only one who tends to find herself there – it’s a spot where lobbyists from every kind of advocacy group will find a place to take a call, charge their phones, or catch a few minutes on their laptops between meetings.

These kinds of relaxed locations are where conversations happen that build community, and sometimes provide news in bits and pieces that, when taken together, can help provide context to help shape a legislative strategy.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

Ramon Palencia-Calvo, our Deputy Director testifies for one of our priority pieces of legislation.

This week there was a hearing on our first priority bill.  Ramon testified on the importance of fully funding the Maryland Transit Authority, which has a $2 billion shortfall over the next ten years according to a study released last summer. The MTA serves every jurisdiction in the state, but low-income and already disadvantaged communities suffer the most from failures due to inadequate maintenance. Additionally, a strong, affordable, and accessible public transportation system is essential to reducing Maryland’s greenhouse gas pollution. (Did you know that the transportation sector – especially highway traffic – represents more than 40% of our greenhouse gasses?!) This is always an important moment in a campaign.  It’s the first time that arguments for and against are presented side by side, and examined by the committees who make the decision of what happens next. It’s a little bit like a play, and a little bit like a polite boxing match.

In this case, the hearing was in front of the House Appropriations Committee which works with the State Budget.  Ramon, and all of our partners provided strong testimony after the bill was presented by Delegate Lierman.  The Department of Transportation spoke against the bill, which isn’t uncommon, especially for bills that require the Governor to spend money in a specific way. Next week, the same bill will be heard in the Senate, and then we work on the next step: A vote from subcommittee.

Sitting or standing, or running through the halls, you can count on your Maryland LCV staff working hard next week to pass strong environmental laws.  Next week we’ll have some marathon bill hearings, too, so stay tuned!

Circles within circles

Weekly Counter

The weekly counter of our Political Director

By Kristen Harbeson, Political Director

There are a lot of analogies to describe Annapolis during the legislative session. One of my favorites is thinking of it as a dance: spinning, and turning, passing hand to hand; dozens of interactions, sometimes brief and sometimes lengthy, that ultimately creates a community. Circles within circles, everyone relentlessly moving through the steps of the dance that does not end until Sine Die, the last day of session. 

I was reminded of the nature of the community last week. When an emergency took me away from Session immediately after it began, the legislative work didn’t miss a beat. The Maryland LCV family and our coalition partners all stepped in to make sure that, while I took care of urgent family business, none of the important work we do together suffered: the dance continued. 

Coming back on Monday I was able to jump right back into the circle, only slightly disoriented with having missed a few rounds of the routine. The community is also extremely caring: While we all have our roles – legislator, aide, and advocate – we all are people first, and the human connections can be both strong and affirming. It’s one of the many reasons I love this job and this world. 

This week’s work was visiting legislative offices with the “blue backs” (in the House) and “white backs” (in the Senate) of our priority bills. These are literally copies of the bills, where legislators can sign their names as cosponsors before the bills are introduced.

 Asking for cosponsors helps us to determine the level of support for a particular bill (signing on as a co-sponsor is a strong commitment of support), and an opportunity to answer the questions that legislators and their staffs may have on our bills. Walking into their offices also, sometimes, gives the legislators a chance to say “hey! I wanted to talk to you about this other bill I’m thinking about. Do you have a minute?” 

Last week we were walking around two priority bills: the Plastic Bag ban and the ban on Chlorpyrifos – which I will talk more about in the weeks to come. Both of these are just about ready to move to their next step – being “read out” on the floor and assigned to a committee for a hearing date. We’ll be doing the same process next week with other bills, as the steps of the dance become ever more complicated (and interesting!).