2019 Week 4: Policy/Law/Government

Grace R HeadshotGRACE REN | MARTHA’S PLACE

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to be part of an in-person, potential resident interview: this is the second intake step at Martha’s Place. After a brief informational phone call, potential residents will come for an interview with the program director (my supervisor), our on-site addictions counselor, and 1-2 current residents, whose role it was to see if the interviewee would be someone they could picture living with. It was also a chance for them to ask logistical or personal questions and, in general, get a sense of whether our program would be a good fit.

Throughout the hour-long interview, a lot of things stuck with me. The woman we interviewed that day (let’s call her Mary for convenience, although obviously I am not using real names here) hugged each of us before we sat down in a semi-circle. Mary told us about her early life, the family struggles that had caused her to start using, how she had been clean seven times in her life, but this was the first time she genuinely felt like she was in “recovery.” She said she wanted something of her own. She said she wanted independence. She said she wanted this more than she had ever wanted anything before.

“Alright, but how do you know that this time’s different?” one of the current residents prodded, folding her arms across her chest. They took the prospect of new residents extremely seriously.

“I see everything so differently now,” Mary responded. She raised her hands in either a hopeless or defiant gesture (I couldn’t tell). “Did you know, I was in a relationship for 9 years, most of which I was doing drugs? This last time I got out of treatment, I realized I didn’t even like him.”

I wanted to laugh but the look in her eyes and the look in the two other residents’ eyes was very serious.

“I saw my boyfriend different, sure, but I also just feel different about everything… like, this time, I actually care about living a real, honest-to-God life.”

After the interview ended, the remaining four of us sat and talked about our opinions. Lisa (again, a fake name), who had been living at Martha’s Place the longest and had been clean for over 6 years now, spoke the first and longest. “That young lady is exactly who I was when I first came to Martha’s Place,” she started, “and living here literally changed my life. We are a group of people who take risks and give second chances and I think everyone, including her, deserves it.”

She paused before repeating, “She is exactly who I was.”

 

Faith B HeadshotFAITH BROWN | YOUTHWORKS

This week was the first week of YouthWorks! It was simultaneously both the most draining and exciting week I’ve had thus far. Each day held new challenges that my YouthWorkers and I had to work through as a group.

First day of training went great! So far everyone that we have on the team is super kind and seem excited about the placement. We went through all of the presentations and everyone was great at participating.

By Tuesday, I realized that time is already going by much faster than the past three weeks, I feel that it is only going to get faster and faster from here on out. The Youth Analysts made suggestions for updating the survey as well as professional skills that they’d like to learn from me throughout the summer. I’m excited to take some our JHU Life Design Lab resources to use with the teens.

Wednesday was the world’s longest day. We finalized our full 5-person YouthWorks Analyst Team, and I took the analysts to meet some of the YouthWorks administrators. They were all super polite and professional. They keep impressing me more and more each day, although they keep calling me Ms. Faith which makes me feel kind of old.

We ended the week with our first round of YW Analysts interviews after meeting with the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. The interviews went by super quickly, and all of the analysts knocked it out of the park. We got lunch downtown to celebrate, and spent the afternoon scheduling and making phone calls. We cheered each time an analyst successfully scheduled a new interview. I love how supportive and positive our entire team is. I can tell the summer is only going to get better from here.

 

Josh L HeadshotJOSH LEE | BALTIMORE CITY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

During the CIIP midpoint training, I had a conversation with a few people about why we are doing CIIP in the first place – why we chose to do this internship over any other opportunities. On a smaller scale, my intentions are quite selfish: go through with the CIIP internship because it allows me to gain good work experience and because it pays well. I would get to have another summer working in Baltimore in a program similar to the one I did last year, but much better organized and with a cohort of many other students who are passionate about the city. On a larger scale, I constantly hear stories as I engage with people who have lived here their whole lives about the tremendous hardships that they face on a daily basis. I want to be able to do something that can potentially help and impact peoples’ lives in a meaningful way. Whether it’s the Youthworker I supervised previously who holds two jobs during the summer so that he can stay off the streets and avoid the same fates as his cousin and aunt, or the random Lyft driver I met this morning whose daughter and son-in-law passed away due to gun violence, leaving her two young grandchildren without parents, the stories of the people of Baltimore continue to move poignantly in my heart—and it breaks for them each time I hear of these tragedies. Despite this seemingly hopeless situation that they live in, however, I see hope in the way that they speak about the city. A hope that allows them to continue on, throughout all the hardships. I know that my internship and the work that I am doing at Baltimore City Public Schools will, at most, have a minor impact on the city as a whole. But I hope that as I continue to meet these tremendously strong individuals, that their individual passion and drive motivate me to continue doing good work for the city. I hope to be a servant that spurs others around me into action for the city, inspiring others to give Baltimore a chance so they can see the beauty that I see in its people.

 

Sam M HeadshotSAM MOLLIN | MARYLAND TRANSIT ADMINISTRATION

Now that I’ve passed the midpoint of my CIIP internship experience, now’s a good a time as any to reflect on my goals for this summer, and whether I’ve actually met them. I could talk about my far flung aspirations (learn the ukulele! Go off campus more often!) but for now, I’ll stick to details from work.

Going into my internship at the MTA, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. At first, I was really excited to work on actual transit policy. After that, I decided I really wanted to talk to people outside of the office, and eventually sort of settled into wanting both. Halfway in, I’ve at least partially met those goals. Through multiple community events that I’ve attended and helped prepare for (and more to come!) I’ve had the opportunity to interact with people who use transit every day and get their thoughts. Interest at events has sometimes been less than what I would like, but every day I become more knowledgeable about the transit issues affecting Baltimore, and many of the biggest community events are coming up.

On the policy front, work on actual transit policy has been less forthcoming. At the same time, I’ve really learned that “transit policy” is much more complicated than a few people in an office deciding where the buses go. I’ve learned that in every decision the MTA makes, hours and hours of effort to get community input are used to make decisions. In that vein, much of the office work I’ve been doing has been developing an excel database for the Regional Transit Plan and looking for better applications to put the database. I’ve made progress in finding a better platform (Check out Airtable!) and have also significantly improved my excel skills (to the point where I’m not lying when I put “proficient in excel” on my resume!). In that sense, I have been working on policy, although not in the way I expected.

As my database project reaches a conclusion, I’m excited to see what other aspects of policy I get to work on. The next phase of my internship is going to involve working under new people in the office, and with my opportunity to choose who I help, I plan on learning more about the environmental planning that goes into transit projects, and the process of planning on more specific things like paratransit. I’m also still preparing for a big open house on the 23rd and the inclusive transit working session coming up in three days! In that sense, my goals haven’t changed, but this internship has helped me realize what my goals really were the whole time.

 

Alyssa W HeadshotALYSSA WOODEN | OFFICE OF SUSTAINABILITY

Sundays are supposed to be a day of rest. Not for me – I wake up at 6:45, bike to the Jones Falls Expressway Farmers’ Market downtown and stand at the Office of Sustainability’s booth for four hours, weighing compost and handing out flyers. Rain, shine, scorching heat or gale-force wind, the Office will be there collecting residents’ compost for free.

The first time I worked at the market, I was surprised at how excited Baltimore residents were that the City was running this program and how eager they were to learn about composting. There aren’t many options for people who live in the city – most people don’t have backyards, so they can’t start their own compost heap, and Baltimore doesn’t offer curbside pick-up for compost. Residents can sign up for compost pick-up through private companies, but these services can be expensive. They can drop a load off at the farmers’ market or at MOM’s Organic Market, but not everyone has the time or reliable transportation. As a result, a significant portion of compostable items ends up in a landfill or incinerator not because people don’t know or care about composting, but because they don’t have any way to do so.

I’ve learned a lot over the past couple weeks about ways to tackle this problem. There are a few composting systems out there that are more suitable for city living, like vermicomposting – using worms to break down food scraps – or the Bokashi method, an anaerobic process that uses microbes to ferment compost. Both of these systems require only a small container that can be stored on a kitchen counter, and need very little maintenance.

Another option is expanding the farmers’ market drop-off program to more locations. The current plan is to move to the Waverly Farmers’ Market once the JFX market closes for the year in December, and ideally the booths wouldn’t even have to have people running them – the Office could just set up designated bins and trust residents to know what they can and can’t compost. The Office could also partner with farms and grocery stores in the City to further increase the number of drop-off locations.

Perhaps the most sustainable – and most difficult to implement – solution would be to incorporate compost into the City’s regular waste pick-up services. Other cities, like Milan, Italy, have been doing this for years. It would require Baltimore to build an industrial composting facility capable of processing an entire city’s food waste, in addition to training and provision of compost collection bins for all residents, so even with dedicated Office employees working to make it happen, a program like this would take several years to become a reality. But it’s worth pursuing – composting has the potential to have a huge positive impact on this city. It would keep waste out of landfills and incinerators and off the streets, making Baltimore a cleaner, healthier place to live. Nutrient-rich compost could be distributed to local farmers, helping them grow higher-quality produce and increasing their capacity to feed the City.

On an individual level, composting doesn’t seem like something that could really make a difference in Baltimore. But it’s a simple action that everyone can take to create a significant collective impact.

 

Natalia W HeadshotNATALIA WOO | OFFICE OF THE STATE’S ATTORNEY

After a frustrating and stressful first week of meeting the Youth Workers, the storm has calmed into rewarding relationships. As Diamonté Brown advised us during our CIIP midpoint event, the teacher must be authentic and genuine when working with middle schools kids. I have realized that my Youth Workers are still kids who are sensitive, exploring, and having fun. I just needed to take a step back and enjoy too. With more friendships forming amongst the students and between the students and I, the students became more manageable and cooperative.

Although this work week was shortened from the holiday, it was incredibly insightful and thought-provoking. I was able to reorganize and reevaluate my passion for the criminal justice. It is evident that the current criminal justice system has many systemic issues of racism and low socioeconomic targeting. From the beginning stages of the arrest, there is much criticism towards the exploitation of police discretion. However, I believe that the prosecutors’ discretion is likewise critical– powerful enough to end or renew a person’s life. Like all forms of power, a prosecutor may abuse or inappropriately utilize their discretion to frame an innocent man of color or low socioeconomic status to become the scapegoat for the “sake of justice.” Or, the prosecutors can use their power to address and reform these inequities of the criminal justice system. As Brandon Scott, the Baltimore City Council President, spoke to the Junior State’s Attorneys, “Change happens from the people within the system and those that demand from outside the system.” Thus, the progression of the institutions and criminal justice system rely on members of the “inside,” like prosecutors. In Baltimore City, the role of the State’s Attorneys Office is to seek justice over conviction. According to Marilyn Mosby, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney, it is not the prosecutors’ mission to discriminately send people to jail. In fact, the prosecutors have the responsibility to represent and advocate for the rights of the defendants as well. Conviction integrity is critical, and exoneration is a duty. Baltimore City prosecutors are taught to be reform-minded in order to break down the barriers of distrust that have been built with the community. The speakers from Baltimore City who spoke to the Junior State’s Attorneys provided a very unique insight from inside the system. One of my goals for the summer was to further specify and explore my passion to advocate and learn about the criminal justice system. Through the Junior States’ Attorney’s Program, I have been inspired and encouraged. I feel confident in answering others when they ask, “Where do you see yourself after college?”

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