Verna Jones announces candidacy for House of Delegates from 44th Activist would bring economic growth to district


Community activist Verna L. Jones opened her campaign headquarters yesterday in the same West Baltimore neighborhood where she used to buy snowballs when she was 10.

The vacant building she used was a reminder of the poverty and homelessness that moved into her community, she said, and of her pledge to bring economic investment to West Baltimore -- if sent to the House of Delegates in the fall.

Jones, 42, announced her candidacy for delegate in the 44th Legislative District yesterday, on a platform of HOPE -- an acronym for health care and housing, opportunity and optimism, public safety, and economic empowerment. She said she would officially file today.

She is running for one of three seats held by Dels. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, Ruth M. Kirk and Carmena F. Watson. Kirk is the only incumbent who has filed for re-election. Candidates have until Monday to file for the Democratic primary Sept. 15. The general election is Nov. 3.

The other candidate who has filed is Charles Neal, according to XTC the state elections board. No further information about Neal was available yesterday.

Since 1994, when she lost a primary bid for the same seat, Jones said she has built a name for herself in West Baltimore by participating in local programs to improve the community. In 1994, much of her experience had been working in community development programs at a national level.

"You really need to be home," she said, adding that this year's campaign staff is made up of people who live in the neighborhood, such as Lilly W. Swift.

"She knows exactly what we need and what we have," Swift said yesterday. Swift described her community as one with "fine homes" and "hard-working people" but with few homeowners, too much crime and a lack of economic development.

Though the city has big plans for bringing business to West Baltimore, it needs to emphasize educating people and helping people build careers, Jones said.

"To do real revitalization, you have to get people out of the mind-set of jobs and into more entrepreneurship," she said.

Many district residents don't vote because they feel no one is listening, Jones said. They could see their impact if they took advantage of opportunities to get involved, such as volunteering, she said. If elected, she said, she would sponsor legislation to promote voluntarism -- possibly making it a requirement for people receiving government aid.

Jones, founder and president of Collaborative Solutions consulting and training firm, is the chairwoman of the Maryland Public Policy Committee of the National Black Women's Health Project. She is co-founder and former president of the Maryland Low-Income Housing Information Service and Coalition.

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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