PEOPLE ACTING TOGETHER IN HOWARD

PATH -

Howard County parishes join new community-action group
George P. Matysek Jr.
gmatysek@catholicreview.org

Giving voice to the concerns of the people of Howard County is the mission of a newly-launched community action group unveiled June 11 at St. Augustine in Elkridge.

More than three years in development, “People Acting Together in Howard” (PATH) is made up of more than 30 religious congregations, schools and other organizations, including the parishes of St. Augustine; St. John, Columbia; St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, Woodstock; and St. Paul, Ellicott City.

“We have a very strong private sector in Howard County, the lowest unemployment practically in the country and a strong public sector,” said Hector R. Rodriguez, a parishioner of St. John, Columbia, and one of PATH’s lead organizers.

“What’s missing is the civic sector,” he said. “Working together, we can speak for the whole community and have a place at the table for the ordinary citizen.” Part of a network of organizations in the Industrial Areas Foundation that includes Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD), PATH will likely focus on affordable housing, transportation and youth issues in its early stages, according to Mr. Rodriguez.

“We will have conversations so citizens can share their heart-felt concerns,” he explained. “It’s out of those conversations where we see what some of the common denominators are.” Bishop Mitchell T. Rozanski, eastern vicar, blessed the new organization during its kickoff celebration and commissioned the leadership team. Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders were also present, along with elected officials and candidates for public office.

Bishop Rozanski is the program director for Beyond the Boundaries, an archdiocesan program that promotes collaboration across geographic and cultural lines. “It was a privilege to see over 400 people from both Catholic parishes and all sorts of other religious denominations come together to support the cause of decent housing for our working class, good public transportation – especially for our elderly, and for addressing the situations that lead to juvenile crime,” Bishop Rozanski said.
PATH is in conversation with other Catholic churches in Howard County that are interested in joining the group, Mr. Rodriguez said.

Of the three candidates for county executive, only C. Stephen Wallis, who did not attend the Sunday evening meeting, agreed to support all the group's requests. Democrat Ken Ulman and Republican Christopher J. Merdon, who both attended, said they could not commit to spending $30 million a year on housing or to requiring that 25 percent of all new housing be for moderate income families. "One hundred twenty million dollars in four years is not reasonable or doable," Merdon said.

Ulman said no to the specifics but yes to the goals. Among County Council candidates, three Democrats - Mary Kay Sigaty of District 4, Jen Terrasa of District 3 and Don Dunn of District 5 - agreed to all the group's requests. Dunn did not attend the meeting. Tony Salazar, a Republican running in District 1, had the most "no" answers - four out of six. He did agree to support convening a summit on youth issues and meeting with PATH three times per year.

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People Acting Together in Howard