For Now, Howard’s Sanctuary Bill Is Denied

Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman vetoes the county’s sanctuary bill. (Courtesy of Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman via Twitter)

On the evening of Feb. 9, Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman vetoed CB-9, a bill introduced to the County Council with the intent of declaring Howard County a “sanctuary” for immigrants and refugees. Only after the word “sanctuary,” the primary foundation for the bill, was removed did the council vote to pass the bill 3-2 before this veto.

The veto can be overturned if a fourth member of the council votes in favor of the bill when it is readdressed at a meeting on March 6.

While many feel the intentions behind the bill — which would prevent police and other county employees from enforcing federal immigration law or inquiring about immigration status — are good, it garnered dissent from politicians and prominent members of the community, being derided as rushed out and incomplete.

“One of my bigger concerns is that the sponsors didn’t do much investigation,” said Kittelman. “They did not contact stakeholders such as the police chief or the corrections department director, nor did they contact major advocates for the foreign-born community such as FIRN (the Foreign-born Information and Referral Network).

“Had they reached out, they would have found there was not a problem [in Howard County],” he continued. “If this bill is filed, it gives the impression that police are supporting [federal] immigration laws when they are not.”

Kittleman cited Hector Garcia, a leading immigrant advocate who has worked in Howard County for 17 years and who testified at the council meeting where the bill was reviewed; Garcia said that he had not heard one instance of complaint from people about how police act toward immigration status.

The legislators who introduced the bill, however, do believe there is cause for concern.

“I was saddened by the county executive’s veto and disheartened that, in his response, he indicated that he didn’t even believe we had a problem,” said Councilman Calvin Ball (D-District 2), one of the councilmembers who introduced the bill, “especially after hearing from so many people about their concerns and knowing that with each passing day, the concern grows.”

Ball felt that the bill was necessary to officially reaffirm the county’s commitment to an inclusive community. He feels that introduction of the bill into legislature would codify a large part of existing policies, which are currently not a part of the law officially.

“This bill will improve the relationship between police and immigrants because it will prevent [police] from changing their policy to uphold the federal immigration law,” said Councilwoman Jennifer Terrasa (D-District 3), who also helped to introduce the bill.

“When we initially filed the bill, the county executive said that this won’t change anything, that the county police already don’t ask and don’t enforce federal immigration policies,” she said. “But as we all move forward, there is no written policy, so this makes a written policy that immigrants can rely on. If it changes, it will be public; there will have to be a hearing. Unlike a policy, it wouldn’t be able to be changed tomorrow if it is in the legislature.”

Councilman Jon Weinstein (D-District 1), who represents Ellicott City, Elkridge and Hanover, was one of the two naysayers for the bill. He outlined his contention of the bill in a statement that said key stakeholders were not consulted and not enough time or research were put into its writing.

“The bill, even as it was amended and passed, didn’t really do anything but affirm practices already instated. However, it complicates the sensitive relationship between police and immigrants by making it law,” he said in the statement. “Howard County, for all intents and purposes, is akin to a sanctuary. Police and government here would never ask people about immigration policy.”

Weinstein further expounded on this point, explaining that in situations where police become aware of an undocumented person, they currently can assist that person in getting a visa. However, by putting it into law, officers will be limited in when and how they can use information about someone’s immigration status.

The big problem with the bill is that it does nothing to actually change how an undocumented immigrant would be treated, asserted Kittleman — in Weinstein’s statement, the bill is referred to as “purely symbolic.”

“The limitations it would place on public safety officers would make it more difficult for law enforcement to act on other activities such as gang activity and sex trafficking,” said Kittleman.

The community as a whole largely supports having Howard County declared a sanctuary, however. People Acting Together in Howard (PATH) is a nonpartisan, multifaith and multiracial organization composed of communities and congregations around the county.

“Given the national climate around immigration and the president’s threats to undocumented people, this bill provided an opportunity for our county to stand up and unequivocally declare that it stands behind its residents,” said Jake Cohen, a lead organizer of PATH. “Does the bill solve all of the problems? Of course not. Was it a good first step toward starting a larger conversation? Yes.”

Rabbi Susan Grossman of Beth Shalom Congregation in Columbia is a member of PATH. She asserts that the Howard County Board of Rabbis is supportive of sanctuary measures to “support the Jewish value of protecting strangers.”

“The bill is not perfect, but it is a good message to send and shows support for the community, especially in this time of political uncertainty for all types of immigrants in our country,” said Grossman. “I know that the effort to have that bill was to respond to concerns voiced. I hope that there is an opportunity for the parties to sit down together, look at the concerns and come up with appropriate wording or amendments so we can pass a sanctuary bill.”

dnozick@midatlanticmedia.com

Meaningful Giving

cary-millsteinLately my mind has been awash with thoughts pushing and pulling in all directions, motivated by my love of family (immediate and communal), my connection to Israel and the Jewish people and the needs of my new business.

The connectedness of those things most important to me adds meaning to my life and inspires me to promote those connections. My belief is that we are placed on earth to do good — to make a positive contribution, whether volunteering time, providing leadership or simply donating money to help improve society. By making a personally meaningful contribution, I feel that I am helping to save a life or repair the world in a way that is significant and gives my life more purpose.

A meaningful gift, in my opinion, is one that involves sacrifice. If I gave loose coins from under the sofa — that would be a donation, but I would feel that it did not rise to a level of a “meaningful gift.” Each of us must decide for ourselves what a meaningful gift would be from us at various times in our lives.

I am extremely proud of our Jewish Federation of Howard County and the way dedicated office staff and lay leadership have embraced change, stepped up to improve ties to our community, helped those in need during difficult times and grown our base of active participants and supporters. We recently raised $82,000 on Giving Tuesday, wildly surpassing our goal and gaining a record for a single day of giving.

In 2017, Columbia, the central city in Howard County, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. I am excited to imagine what our diverse and inclusive city, one of the top 10 American cities in which to live and raise a family, will look like in 50 years. As we grow commitment and develop “meaningful giving” in support of all of our communities — locally, regionally and globally — I believe we will have an extraordinarily strong community and bright future.

The Chanukah miracle  reminds us of how limited  resources were miraculously extended. Won’t you help extend the limited resources of the  organizations that support our collective Jewish society? Please pledge a personally “meaningful gift” this and every year in support of the organizations that support us all and be a strong  example for others.

Thank you to each of you who have recently joined us and especially to those of you who have supported the Jewish Federation of Howard County for years, and in many cases, for decades. We would not  be here without you and are dependent on all of you to help grow our organization and strengthen our connection.

Happy Chanukah.

Cary Millstein is vice president of campaign at the Jewish Federation of Howard County.

New Howard County Sheriff Appointed

James Fitzgerald (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

James Fitzgerald stepped down after a report detailed alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior. (Screenshot: http://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/36loc/how/jud/sheriffs/html/msa15142.html)

Gov. Larry Hogan on Nov. 10 announced the appointment of William McMahon to replace Howard County Sheriff James Fitzgerald, whose alleged anti-Semitic, racist and misogynistic remarks and threatening behavior were detailed in a September report.

McMahon, 54, a Republican, most recently served as the acting executive director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commissions and director of its Leadership Development Institute after spending 28 years with the Howard County Police Department.

He was the county’s chief of police from 2006 to 2014, gaining recognition as the face of the department during the investigations of the fatal shootings at The Mall in Columbia two years ago before retiring from the force.

“Bill McMahon’s distinguished service and extensive law enforcement experience make him the best choice to serve and protect the citizens of Howard County,” Hogan said in a prepared statement. “Bill has a keen understanding of law enforcement at every level, and I am confident he will be a strong leader for Howard County. I offer him my sincere congratulations.”

The county’s Office of Human Rights released a 48-page report Sept. 1 that detailed Fitzgerald referring to former County Executive Ken Ulman as “little Kenny Jew-boy” as well as derogatory comments about African-Americans and women. Fitzgerald, a Democrat who was serving his third term, was also accused of retaliating against deputies who did not support his re-election in 2010.

In mid-October, Fitzgerald resigned from his post in the face of intensifying pressure from county and federal officials and residents calling for him to step aside.

Prior to Fitzgerald’s resignation, County Executive Allan Kittleman, a Republican, asked the county’s representatives in Annapolis to explore whether the General Assembly could impeach Fitzgerald.

Kittleman threw his support behind Hogan’s selection in a prepared statement, saying, “I applaud the governor for moving quickly with this appointment and making such an appropriate and thoughtful choice. Bill McMahon has demonstrated he has the temperament, dedication and leadership qualities to lead the Sheriff’s Office and will help restore confidence to both that office and the residents of Howard County.”

McMahon, meanwhile, said he was “honored and humbled” by Hogan for the appointment.

“As a 30-year resident of the county, I am deeply committed to upholding our laws and working to ensure the safety of all citizens of our county and our great state,” McMahon said in a prepared statement.

jsilberman@midatlanticmedia.com

Rosh Hashanah In The Park

082313_rh_in_the_parkTemple Isaiah in Fulton is moving its popular Rosh Hashanah family service outdoors this year to Centennial Park in Ellicott City.

Last year, the Howard County congregation’s afternoon open-to-the-public family service at the temple drew close to 200 people. Now, the congregation is trying its hand at what’s called “Public Space Judaism.”

“It’s really meant to be something that’s relaxed and celebratory,” said Rabbi Craig Axler, who explained it’s a way for the synagogue to create opportunities that draw people to Judaism, “to be able to put something out there that has a low enough bar that anyone could come in.”

If passers-by just wander in, so much the better, he said.

“That’s part of what happens with Public Space Judaism. There will likely be some people who come because they’re intrigued,” Rabbi Axler noted.

Temple Isaiah will hold its traditional morning service as usual. The family service is an opportunity for families to worship together, as well as an opportunity to reach into the unaffiliated community.

“Mostly, the focus on that day is to bring in the New Year joyously at a beautiful location, up on the hill overlooking the lake, and have that spiritually in the outdoors,” said Monica Recht, a member of the Temple Isaiah board.

The service takes place on Thursday, Sept. 5, at 2:30 p.m. at Centennial Park Pavilions E, F and G — rain or shine. It’s free and open to all.

Participants are invited to arrive an hour early with a picnic lunch. Families should bring blankets to sit on, and they can throw balls and toss Frisbees as they wait for the service.

“The service, I think, is going to be really lovely. It will be really great for families,” said Rachel Petroff Kessler, Temple Isaiah’s family educator. “There will be a lot of singing, great stories by Rabbi Axler. Whether these are families that are also celebrating the holiday at synagogue in some way or are not currently connected to a synagogue in the area, it’s a great way for them to have a Rosh Hashanah experience together.”

“They can certainly expect a lot of music,” said Rabbi Axler.

At 3:45 p.m., the congregation will head to Centennial Lake for Tashlich, where participants will toss bits of bread or other food into the water to symbolically cast off the sins of the previous year.

A dessert Kiddush follows Tashlich.

The outdoor family service is a first for Howard County. The organizers emphasize that Rosh Hashanah in the Park is in no way competing with Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s popular Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. In its seventh year, the Under the Stars service will take place on erev Rosh Hashanah, Wednesday, Sept. 4. (Under the Stars is also free, but preregistration is required. Go to bhcong.org.)

Working with the Jewish Outreach Institute, Temple Isaiah will hand out customized Shalom Sesame calendars for the kids to take home and color. The calendars list Temple Isaiah events and other Jewish events and activities in Howard County.

“We’re out there opening our arms. We’re publicizing this event within our synagogue community and also in the broader community in Columbia and Howard County,” said Petroff Kessler. “This is something we hope everyone feels comfortable attending, whether they’re members of a synagogue or not.”

If successful, Rosh Hashanah in the Park could become an annual event.

Rosh Hashanah in the Park
Thursday, Sept. 5, 2:30 p.m.
Centennial Park, Pavilions E, F, G
4800 Woodland Road, Ellicott City

For information, call 410-888-9100 or visit templeisaiah.org.

Amy Landsman is an area freelance writer.