Remarks as prepared
Delivered on Monday, January 29, 2024
Thank you, President Ferguson, and thank you for your leadership.
We’re joined by a distinguished team: Speaker Jones and Mayor Scott and Dr. Sauls and Councilwoman Porter and Pastor Flowers and many others.
Every so often, my phone rings in the middle of the night – and it’s never good news. Seven months ago, I got one of those calls.
It was Mayor Scott. He told me there had been a mass shooting in Brooklyn.
Immediately, we identified what the community needed in the short-term and the long-term.
Immediately, we mobilized agencies and coordinated with law enforcement so Marylanders could get support.
That night, we were focused on the tragedy in front of us. But in the days and months after, I’ve been unable to shake a deeper, enduring tragedy in this community.
In Maryland statewide, median household income is $98,000. In Brooklyn, median household income is $35,000.
In Maryland statewide, only about one in ten students won’t finish high school. In Brooklyn, one in three students won’t finish high school.
In Maryland statewide, about one in eight children are living in poverty. In Brooklyn, about one in two children are living in poverty.
And we’ve seen similar numbers in Brooklyn for over a decade.
These statistics and trends tell the story of a community that has gone unseen, unheard, and underestimated.
It’s a story we keep witnessing across our state – from Mountain Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
It’s a story that repeats. If you are born into poverty, you are very likely to die in poverty.
We owe it to our people to disrupt these patterns that drive pain, hardship, and tragedy. And we owe it to our state to unlock the promise of our communities.
And so today we say: Enough! Enough of the wasted potential. Enough of the cycles of crime. Enough of the lost opportunities.
I am honored to stand with our partners in government and the community to unveil the ENOUGH Act.
This bill continues the frontal assault on child poverty we launched on inauguration day – and it is the first of its kind in the nation.
ENOUGH will channel private, philanthropic, and state resources toward communities across our state with high rates of generational child poverty.
Instead of spreading money around, we’re going to target the places that are most in need of our help; And we’re going to do it in a way that follows local and national best practices.
For years, leaders in the private sector and philanthropic sector have been driving change by focusing on places and people. It’s time for state government to catch up.
You see: This legislation isn’t just about a renewed focus on poverty – it’s about a new way of governing.
We believe in following the data;
We believe in efficient and effective investment;
And most importantly, we believe that the people closest to the problems are closest to the solutions.
Government can provide resources, expertise, and collaboration. But to truly address a challenge like poverty, you need to recruit people on the ground.
You need to recruit people like Pastor Flowers, who is a pillar of the community.
You need to recruit people like Dr. Sauls, who has dedicated her career to improving the lives of Baltimoreans.
You need to recruit people like Councilwoman Porter, who is equal parts elected official and grassroots champion.
They’ve been fighting these fights their whole lives. They know our neighborhoods. And we desperately need their help.
Because every community is unique, and every community faces unique challenges.
Maybe there's no job training where you live.
Maybe there’s no transportation.
Maybe the nearest health care provider is across state lines.
Maybe it’s not safe for kids to play basketball after school.
Maybe local entrepreneurs can’t access capital to grow their businesses.
When it comes to communities struggling with poverty, there are likely many problems that need to be addressed all at once; And our village elders know what those problems are.
That’s why this legislation calls on community leaders to come together and create comprehensive plans on how to make their neighborhoods better.
The premise is simple: Leaders in our communities will provide the vision – and the state will provide the support.
We will fund winning proposals with a mix of public and private money;
We will build partnerships with communities, so they can benefit from the muscle and coordination of government;
And we will do it all through the new Governor’s Office for Children, under the leadership of Carmel Martin.
And I want to be clear: We aren’t asking neighborhoods to craft proposals by themselves. We’ve laid out clear guidance for the kinds of priorities we want these proposals to include.
We want to create safe and thriving communities;
We want to support healthy and economically secure families;
And we want to ensure access to high-quality education and high-quality health care for our children – from cradle to career.
The proposals we’re asking for will give us a roadmap for elevating communities – that’s written BY them and not simply FOR them.
We will lean on these roadmaps to guide our work – and hopefully, guide the work of others in state government too.
We are going to learn so much about our neighborhoods through this initiative. And the more we learn, the better we can strategize across initiatives.
That matters! Because history tells us that money means little without strategy.
Let’s not forget: In the 1990’s, tens of millions of dollars from philanthropy flooded into Sandtown-Winchester to revitalize the community.
Two decades later, Freddie Gray was arrested in that neighborhood – and killed in police custody. After his death, even more money came into the community.
And what’s the result? Today, the poverty rate in Sandtown is more than double the state average.
Money is important, but strategy is imperative.
We need to spend smarter and wiser across all state programs – in a way that follows the data and responds to the needs of the community. That’s what the ENOUGH Act is about.
Together, we will help transform distressed communities into places with top schools, good jobs, safe neighborhoods, quality housing, and economic momentum.
That’s the future we’re trying to build.
And we’re going to build it in partnership. I look around this sanctuary, and I see representatives from every part of society and every corner of the state.
That includes our two presiding officers in the General Assembly: Speaker Jones and President Ferguson.
Their presence sends a message: Fighting child poverty isn’t just the priority of a single administration. It’s the shared aspiration of our entire state.
Poverty is a West Annapolis issue and a West Baltimore issue. Poverty is a Mountain Maryland issue and an Eastern Shore issue.
The face of poverty is universal, and we refuse to look away.
We have a lot of work ahead of us. But today, we take a big step forward. And we believe the positive effects of this legislation will ripple out to every corner of the state.
The community partnerships that apply to join this initiative will lead our battle to end child poverty statewide. They’ll test and prove new approaches that can spread.
And by lifting more Marylanders out of poverty, we will build a more competitive Maryland for all.
You know, when I was at Robin Hood, I would hear people say that poverty was a choice.
And I would say in response: “You’re right, it is a choice. But not of the person who sits under its oppressive weight. It is a societal choice. It is a policy choice.”
In many cases, when we’re talking about places with poverty, we’re talking about places that have been the victims of policies like redlining or unfair appraisal values.
There's a measure of intentionality that drives concentrated poverty – so there needs to be a measure of intentionality in how we're going to address it.
That is why we will continue to name poverty as a challenge;
And we will work together to advance our mission to lift more Marylanders to the next rung on the economic ladder.
ENOUGH will be the rallying cry, not just here in Baltimore but all throughout the state of Maryland.
We’ve had enough with poverty. We’ve had enough with crime. We’ve had enough with a system where generational challenges go unaddressed.
Today we say we’ve had enough of the same neighborhoods facing the same issues – and coming up with the same solutions that drive the same results.
And we also say that it’s time to invest enough. It’s time to do enough. It’s time to partner enough.
Engaging Neighborhoods, Organizations, Unions, Governments and Households – That’s what ENOUGH stands for.
It’s more than an acronym. It’s a governing philosophy.
And with that philosophy in our minds and hearts, we will work together to build a state that leaves no one behind. Let’s keep up the work. Thank you all so much.