On Thursday, August 6, over 60 PATH members came together to learn how we can defend our bold vision for an equitable Downtown Columbia. We learned of the status of 900 units of affordable housing in Downtown Columbia previously promised by Howard County Council, and the current political landscape in Howard County.
Pastor Tyrone Jones of First Baptist Church of Guilford closed the meeting with these words.
My name is Pastor Tyrone P. Jones IV and I am pastor of FBCOG and Co-Chair, along with Rev. Paige Getty of PATH.
Tonight, we are reminded of what it means to have the potential of a promise gutted and emptied out! A promise is a guarantee, it is an agreement, and it is a covenant made between two parties. What we hear tonight is not the potential of a promise fulfilled, but the pain of a promise denied!!
Over the years, PATH has worked hard and organized thousands of people to make sure that the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia reflected the values upon which the community was founded. We worked hard to ensure that there would be 900 units of affordable housing, and amenities to attract people to our community and make their lives better.
The legislation was passed, but now our newly elected officials want to undo what has been done, to use the worst aspects of bureaucracy to stymie the best aspects of the redevelopment project. This would mean leaving over $100 Million of state funding for affordable housing on the table, funding that other jurisdictions would be more than eager to have.
While our community applauds itself for being inclusive, reneging on this commitment would be the second time in only one year that Howard County would actively choose to shut people out, and to choose to be a community that reserves the best of its resources for the privileged elite.
Reneging on this commitment and forsaking the promise is letting our elected officials get away with turning their backs on the workers in our community, on people who have spent their lives building this community but who cannot afford to retire in this community.
So PATH, this is the question for us tonight. How many of us who stood proudly with our young people to proclaim that, “Black Lives Matter” just weeks ago will allow this to just die?
Are we just wiling to put up yard signs proclaiming inclusivity and equity, right as our elected officials are choosing to undo legislation by making our community less inclusive and by deciding to not support recreation and arts and housing that would provide a minimum of balance?
So will we stand by (just frustrated and upset) and let this happen?
Will we stand by and willingly not try to regain, what has been promised for us to have?
Will we stand by and let elected officials dictate terms to us, when elected officials work for those who elected them?
In I Samuel 30, the scripture records that David made a choice when faced with shifting circumstances. Verse 5 says, that the people were bitter in spirit (frustrated and upset), but David found the strength to encourage himself in the Lord!! But what I love about David is that David did not just Pray, but verse 8 says after consultation, He was given the liberty to Pursue because God promised that they would Prevail!
The work is the pursuit…
If we pursue the promise, we will prevail and have affordable housing!
If we pursue the promise, people who work here can also live here!
If we pursue the promise, we will not just chant “Black Lives Matter,” but Black and Brown lives will actually matter!
If we pursue the promise, we will prevail in having a more equitable and inclusive HoCo!
Pursue the promise by telling the County Council to “Keep the Deal!”
So PATH, we are asking you tonight to pursue what was promised and commit to the following:
- Join the Housing Action Team. This group will be organizing the campaign to “Keep the Deal” in Downtown. If you are interested, please sign up to attend the next Housing Action Team meeting on August 13.
- Attend the community meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 3-5pm, to show your support for “Keeping the Deal” in Columbia. We just need you to log on over WebEx to be part of the meeting. Sign up to attend.
- Talk up this topic in your congregations, in your community, with your friends and neighbors who you think will be supportive.
- Write a letter to the Council and the County Executive about your support for innovative arts and affordable housing in our community.
We are trying not to stoke the flames of the opposition, so be thoughtful, but get your friends and allies to send an email to the council.
Find 5 people who you will personally guarantee to send an email. Find one other person to come to the meeting on Tuesday. If you want to meet with your core-team after this meeting, we can set you up in a chat room to do so.
Like David, we must continue to pursue until what was promised has become a reality in HoCo.
So let’s go after this, with all deliberate speed!
Let us continue to press for our claim, and pursue with passionate purpose, and I believe, we will prevail on a powerful promise!
So let’s Seal the Deal!!