Elected officials discuss upcoming General Assembly, county and community health

There was a slight hint of sadness in the air at last week's annual legislative luncheon hosted by the Greater Catonsville Chamber of Commerce.

Of the seven elected officials who spoke at the event, two will retire after the 2014 General Assembly and two will no longer represent Catonsville as a result of redistricting.

Del. James Malone Jr. and Del. Steve DeBoy — current representatives of District 12A — both announced their retirement earlier this year and state Sen. Delores Kelley and Del. Adrienne Jones will no longer represent Catonsville as part of District 10 next year.

"Let me say this, it isn't over yet," Kelley said, after telling the group she felt as though she was leaving a family behind. "I'm still yours until January of 2015, and even after that, we belong to the entire county."

"It's been a real honor to serve this district," DeBoy said, hinting that his political career may not yet be over. "I'm not falling off the face of the earth. I'm going to stay involved, stay engaged and just see where life takes me."

All four spoke to the crowd of chamber members and community residents, in addition to state Sen. Ed Kasemeyer of District 12, Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and 1st District Councilman Tom Quirk.

In addition to the thank yous and goodbyes, the speakers addressed a wide variety of issues on the community, county and state levels.

DeBoy said he expects to see legislation to address a major issue, mostly in Baltimore City, regarding members of the prominent Black Guerrilla Family gang and corrupt corrections officers in state prisons.

"I suspect there will definitely be some personnel legislation that will come out of this," DeBoy said. "A lot of the female corrections officers that were corrupted from the Black Guerrilla Family actually came from the communities that they [BGF] were working in."

He said he also expects to see legislation to attempt to end discrimination against transgender employees.

Kasemeyer, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, said that while legislators thought they were in the clear at the end of last year's session, the state will once again face budget woes in the new year.

"The past couple years, we've talked about the structural deficit," Kasemeyer said. "We thought when last year ended, we had gotten rid of this billion dollar plus problem."

He said a group was formed in the fall to address next year's budget and the news he received at the first meeting was not good.

"It was very negative in a sense that they reported that, well you left [the 2013 session] with a $294 million fund balance, and now you're at minus $88 million," he said.

On a local level, Quirk and Kamenetz both discussed the county's economic health and the huge influx of investment into the southwest part of the county.

"The overcrowding issue that has existed in Catonsville [elementary schools] for many years is fundamentally being solved, which is huge," Quirk said. "The amount of money that's coming into southwest Baltimore County is unbelievably significant."

The $600 million project will address school crowding for at least the next decade, Kamenetz said.

Additionally, he said there have been a number of other large investments in the area, citing the new Kaiser Permanente health care facility in Lansdowne and the new Orthopedics Associates building on Frederick Road in Catonsville.

"We have seen $200 million of new investment taking place with 1,200 new jobs that have been added to the area," Kamenetz said. "It's an attractive area for job growth."

Malone said that, in addition to continuing his effort to streamline cell phone laws, he will also work to secure state money for a community project near and dear to his heart.

"I will also be working very hard to get a turf field at CCBC Catonsville," said Malone, a graduate of what was formerly known as Catonsville Community College.

"When you go to the high schools, you have a great turf field at Catonsville [High School}, and they have a great turf field at Lansdowne [High]," he said. "And then you go to Catonsville Community College [CCBC] and they don't have a turf field."

Joan Swiston, campus director for CCBC Catonsville, said she is grateful to hear Malone's promises to build a new field.

"We are always needing funding to keep our campus up to date," she said.

Omar Jennings IV — whose father, Omar Jennings, owns Jennings restaurant on Frederick Road in Catonsville, said after the meeting that he was impressed with the presentations.

Jennings, a financial advisor with chamber member AXA Advisors, said the luncheon made him realize what a great team of the elected officials there is in the southwest area of the county.

He said he would be sad to see Dels. DeBoy, Malone and Jones and state Sen. Kelley no longer represent the area after next year.

"My biggest take away [from the luncheon] was realizing what we're losing in our leadership team," he said.


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