One of the last public political events of the campaign season is also slated to be one of the largest, according to organizers.
Leaders from People Acting Together in Howard, or PATH, a grassroots, interfaith, non-partisan organization that advocates for affordable housing in the county, said they expect some 650 people to show up to the event, which will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at St. John Baptist Church in Columbia and will feature both county executive candidates and all eight candidates running for the school board.
PATH clergy co-chair the Rev. Dr. Robert Turner called the night an "accountability action" as opposed to a forum, "because we want the candidates to commit to work with us to forward our citizens’ agenda."
The group will ask candidates to commit to its agenda, which includes a focus on affordable housing, youth jobs, health and wellness in schools and senior transportation issues, according to a press release announcing the event.
The group hopes to increase affordable housing by broadening the Moderate Income Housing Unit requirement, an initiative to include a certain percentage of affordable units in each new development, to include all parts of the county, according to the release. They also hope to secure a commitment from county executive candidates Courtney Watson, a Democrat, and Allan Kittleman, a Republican, to require 15 percent of the housing redevelopment in downtown Columbia to be affordable to households making an average of $54,000, or 60 percent of the area median income, as well as to increase spending from the county on affordable housing by $20 million.
The group plans to ask Board of Education candidates to support improvements to the public school system's wellness policy and to ensure the school system provides transportation for Head Start students.
In the past, PATH has been successful at creating Youth READY, a green jobs program for local young adults, securing $17 million to help seniors receive care at home rather than in a nursing home and winning compensation for mobile home residents if the parks where they live shut down.
Turner said the group's requests spring from "thousands of conversations with Howard County residents and will make a real difference on the most pressing issues in people's lives."