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Think Hogan is doing a good job? Here’s why he’s not | COMMENTARY

Not everyone thinks Gov. Larry Hogan is doing a good job.
Not everyone thinks Gov. Larry Hogan is doing a good job. (Brian Witte/AP)

Think Hogan is doing a great job? Here's why he's not.

When news broke that Gov. Larry Hogan released over 700 inmates from Maryland prisons, there is no doubt that impacted families felt a wave of relief. This is a small win for the state’s inmate population of more than 18,000.

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However, while some celebrate this victory, I can’t help but reflect on Governor Hogan’s hesitation to take action. With the virus spreading like wildfire, advocates and elected officials called for the release of inmates and experts offered detailed recommendations for what to do and how to do it. But it took him more than a month, and immense pressure, to move forward. That month resulted in the first death of an inmate in Maryland. Now there are nearly 300 confirmed coronavirus cases among officers, inmates, and non-uniformed staff. The cases have only continued to rise, with no discussion of additional actions on his end.

I don’t say this to negate his productive actions, such as keeping us informed regularly and clearly, temporarily halting evictions, releasing data based on race and securing testing kits from abroad. But with our expectations for good leadership so deeply skewed by the incompetence of President Donald Trump, every day Americans are left celebrating things that should be expected, not praised. We have become so familiar with the villainous leadership in the White House that, in comparison, Mr. Hogan’s regular duties during this time of crisis seem extraordinary. They’re not.

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Mr. Hogan is playing a unique role in the national spotlight right now as the chair of the National Governors Association and one of the rare Republicans who challenges Mr. Trump. The national recognition of Mr. Hogan’s leadership has made some Marylanders feel proud. But many others find it hard to feel pride in our governor when his Trump-like ideologies on immigration and criminal justice have contributed to the current hardships that black and brown residents face during this time.

We can’t forget that Governor Hogan himself has vetoed and vowed to veto various immigrants’ rights bills — in addition to his most recent vetoes on several bills that directly support black and brown communities. Undocumented immigrants and mixed status families are among some of the most vulnerable during this time of crisis, considering that they cannot apply for unemployment and have been left out of the CARES Act, among other things. Yet, Governor Hogan still won’t commit to helpful policies, such as keeping ICE from raiding sensitive locations, such as hospitals. He won’t collaborate with immigrant rights organizations and has yet to do anything to provide relief to this group.

In addition to the enormous work needed to protect undocumented Marylanders, Mr. Hogan has also failed to protect middle and working-class families. He has temporarily halted evictions, but landlords are still collecting rent and issuing late fees, eagerly awaiting the day eviction freezes are lifted to kick families out on the streets. Many families are ravaged about not being able to pay May rent, not to mention the thought of paying June rent. While they fear homelessness when the moratorium on evictions ends, Mr. Hogan ignores the many people asking him to eliminate late fees and require landlords to engage in workout planning to cover arrears.

Finally, that the Maryland General Assembly was able to pass 600 pieces of legislation last session was an enormous accomplishment considering the shortened time because of COVID-19. But Mr. Hogan’s veto of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which would drastically improve educational outcomes and reduce inequities in our school system, is a devastating loss for the most vulnerable students across the state. Governor Hogan must play the role of responding to the crisis and also ensuring that all Marylanders can come out stronger after the pandemic ends. Unfortunately, he’s made a choice to condemn students, who are already falling behind, well after this pandemic is over.

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Still think that Mr. Hogan is doing a great job? Then raise your standards for leadership and demand more — because we deserve it. I want a governor who acts swiftly when it comes to protecting vulnerable groups and one who doesn’t need weeks of external pressure to act. I want a governor who addresses the inequities faced by those hurting the most during this time.

The recent release of inmates was a start for those incarcerated — but as far as I am concerned, unless every single resident is being taken care of with urgency, there is a lot more work to do.

Cathryn Paul (Cpaul@wearecasa.org) is research and policy analyst at immigrant rights organization, CASA de Maryland.

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