A Commitment To Community, Social Justice

062014_oped_brownDuring my tour of duty with the Army in Iraq, I learned that no matter where you live or what your background is we all want the same things for our families. We want good jobs and opportunities made possible by a quality education, access to affordable health care and clean air and water and safe neighborhoods to live in. I’ve found this to be true everywhere, from Baghdad to Baltimore, from Silver Spring to the kibbutz I stayed at in Upper Galilee.

As I’ve traveled throughout our state, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to talk to Marylanders about a shared vision for our future. It’s a vision that’s centered around a tough but worthy goal: building a better Maryland for more Marylanders and giving all of our children, no matter where they’re born or what their parents do for a living, the opportunity to grow and succeed.

So much of that work begins in Maryland’s communities. Our neighborhoods are as diverse as they are strong, and we’ll make them stronger by embracing that diversity and investing in the institutions that support their families.

Maryland’s Jewish families are the foundation of so many of these communities. And the Jewish community too is diverse, with a long and proud history of keeping so many of our neighborhoods strong. Over the past eight years, our state has partnered with many of the institutions that support this effort. Organizations such as the Hillel Center for Social Justice in College Park, Sinai Hospital, Revitz House and so many others. I’m committed to continuing strong financial support for these types of organizations, nonprofits and groups that are working each and every day to build strong neighborhoods.

Supporting our communities also means committing to social justice. And over the past eight years, with the support of so many in the Jewish community, we’ve made tremendous progress in making Maryland an even better place to live, work and raise a family for all of our neighbors. We’ve also taken important steps to make Maryland a more just society, with a justice system that is fairer.

Together, we’ve raised the minimum wage, passed common-sense gun-violence prevention legislation, repealed the racially biased death penalty, established marriage equality, passed the Maryland DREAM Act and continued to build the best school system in the country. Together, we’ve also made significant reductions in domestic violence throughout our state, thanks in part to hospital-based domestic-violence programs such as the one at Northwest Hospital. And our work is far from finished: This year, we secured additional funding for this program, ensuring that we’re doing all we can to protect Maryland’s domestic-violence victims.

We’ll also strengthen our communities by creating jobs and supporting Maryland’s small businesses, especially the Maryland-owned small businesses that are central to the identity of our neighborhoods, such as Seven Mile Market in Baltimore. So as we look to the future, we must also create a more competitive business climate in Maryland. Together, we’ll focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and job growth. One way to accomplish that goal is through public-private partnerships, bringing government and the private sector together to invest in our infrastructure and create jobs for more Marylanders. A great example is the work being done by the Maryland/Israel Development Center. By working in partnership with the State of Israel, The Associated and the Federation, and thanks to the leadership of my running mate, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, we were able to bring ELTA North America to Maryland, where they’re employing Marylanders in the cutting-edge jobs of tomorrow.

Maryland’s relationship with Israel is strong, and companies such as ELTA help strengthen it further. In 2012, we became the fifth state in the nation to sign an Iran Trade Sanctions bill, ensuring that Maryland tax dollars will not go to a regime that supports terrorists. We also passed a law in 2008 that requires our pension system to divest from companies that do business with Iran. Governing is about making choices, and in Maryland, we choose to stand with our friends. As governor, I will continue to support and build on that already-strong relationship.

Maryland is a great state, but it can be better. As governor, I will build on the successes of the past eight years and focus on strengthening communities throughout our state. But in order to make that goal a reality, I need Maryland’s Jewish community to continue to be a full partner in that effort. Together, we can support our Jewish community. Together, we can perform acts of chesed and choose to believe that when our neighbors thrive, we all succeed. And together, we can make Maryland better for more Marylanders.

The writer, the lieutenant governor of Maryland, is a Democratic candidate for governor.

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