The Opportunity Coalition’s Call to Action

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Our Call to Action

The February 17th Call to Action event marked the public introduction of the Opportunity Coalition. The Call to Action is to join the Opportunity Coalition in its mission to connect Greater Baltimore to sustainable opportunity. Formed by members and fellows of the Opportunity Collaborative, and by the Innovative Housing Institute, the Opportunity Coalition is a new group turning regional plans into regional action. We do not intend to reinvent the wheel but to add strength and capacity to established and emerging leaders and organizations who seek a better Baltimore Region.

Goals and strategies toward fulfilling our mission are laid out in the regional plans already developed between 2012 and 2015 through a federal grant awarded to the Baltimore Metropolitan Council (BMC) and its Opportunity Collaborative. The plans, concentrated on Housing, Workforce Development, Transportation, and the Environment (including Environmental Justice), provide important guidance for a more inclusive and sustainable Baltimore region.

In this blog post, we’ve summarized the call to action event which included a number of speakers who represent the work we plan to do, and ended with meaningful discussion on those four areas of focus.

Welcome

Michael Palumbo, Senior Management Consultant at Easter Seals Veteran Services, welcomed participants and thanked Michael Kelly for his leadership of the Opportunity Collaborative work at BMC. It is the Opportunity Coalition’s intent to build upon the regional plans as a “road map” to guide efficient and effective implementation strategies and initiatives. Mr. Palumbo ended his welcome with the following, “We need to tap into and share our deep and collective reservoir of hope, knowledge, and unique experiences to build a powerful regional approach to solving our problems in ways that are mutually beneficial to those throughout the area.”

Presentation of the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development

Michael Kelly, Executive Director at the BMC and Carol Payne, Director of the Baltimore Field Office, HUD expressed their support for the efforts of the Opportunity Coalition and presented key points associated with the RSPD.  They also shared their thoughts and offered advice on how the RPSD can be implemented and how the Opportunity Coalition can be a positive force to building success across our communities in the near future. The Opportunity Coalition was implored to tell its story.

Launch of the Opportunity Coalition

The Opportunity Coalition was fortunate to have a number of political and policy experts to help guide the audience toward what to expect as we look toward the future and what goals need to be pursued to be an effective organization for positive change throughout the region.  We heard advice and shared experiences from the following valued advocates:

  • • Gerrit Knaap, Executive Director, National Center for Smart Growth, UMD
  • • David Rusk, Expert and Consultant on Urban and Suburban Housing Policy
  • • Brian O’Malley, Executive Director, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance
  • • Glenn Robinson, Researcher, Institute for Urban Research, Morgan State University
  • • Patrick Maier, Executive Director, Innovative Housing Institute

Invitation to Join the Opportunity Coalition

One of the energetic moments of the launch was kicked-off by two Opportunity Collaborative fellows – Tafadzwa (Taffy) Gwitira and Michael Middleton Sr., who also represents the Cherry Hill Development Corporation.  They energized the group and lead the process of attendees forming into four discussion groups organized by the major issue areas identified in the RPSD:

  • • Housing (Facilitated by Patrick Maier and Lisa Hodges)
  • • Workforce Development (Facilitated by Michael Palumbo and Michael Middleton)
  • • Transportation (Facilitated by Brian O’Malley and Jade Clayton)
  • • Environmental Justice (Facilitated by Taffy Gwitira and Glenn Robinson)

These small groups initiated the discussions related to establishing priorities and identifying relevant action initiatives and campaigns under each of these policy and action areas. Initial report summaries of these groups are below. At the close of the meeting all agreed to meet on March 16th, 2016 at Morgan State University Engineering Library at 6:30 pm. The next meeting on March 16th will further develop Opportunity Coalition plans and action steps.

Summaries from the groups are provided below.

Remember, as we move forward together…

“We certainly do not have all the answers, we don’t even know all the questions. But we do have a plan!”

So come join us to make the positive contributions to the communities we care about!

Housing—Facilitated by Lisa Hodges and Patrick Maier

The housing breakout group identified legislative and policy campaigns for both short- and long-term actions addressing the Housing plan. Discussion ranged from local to Federal policies and how to address each at local and regional levels. We reminded ourselves that although this group focused on housing, our solutions should incorporate considerations in each of the other subject matter areas.  The action plan for the coalition going forward should have a cross-disciplinary overlay linking housing, workforce development, environmental justice, and transportation priorities.

Workforce Development—Facilitated by Michael Middleton and Mike Palumbo

The workforce development breakout group identified specific priorities as well as legislative initiatives focused on job opportunities through growth industries, infrastructure’s impact on workforce development, and reducing barriers to jobs for youth, ex-offenders, and veteran populations. The workforce development discussion was particularly linked to transportation and mobility, which in the RPSD was listed as a weakness of and a barrier to job opportunities in the Region.

Transportation—Facilitated by Brian O’Malley and Jade Clayton

The transportation breakout group discussed a critical package of transportation bills currently in session and a major ongoing transit project called BaltimoreLink. The group then opened up the discussion to identify broader values and goals for the Coalition when pursuing transportation initiatives in the Region, including shifting focus away from moving cars and toward moving people, collaborating instead of competing with other jurisdictions, and creating advocacy tools to generate support for major initiatives.

Environment & Environmental Justice—Facilitated by Glenn Robinson and Taffy Gwitira

The environment & environmental justice breakout group first defined the two separate terms used to guide the conversation: (1) ENVIRONMENT -places we live, work, play, and pray.  The environment of everyday, and (2) ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE -EPA definition -which is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. Identified issues not only covered broader environmental issues such as pollution, water and sanitation, and food access but also the disparate geographic and racial share of the burden of environmental issues.

Download the Event Summary

The full summary of the event and breakout discussions can be found here.

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