PATH targets community issues

Activists hope to influence officials on transportation, housing, youths

June 14, 2006|By JORGE VALENCIA | JORGE VALENCIA,SUN REPORTER

A new community-based organization hopes to be an influential force in Howard County, focusing on transportation, housing and youth issues.

People Acting Together in Howard attracted more than 400 visitors to its first open session Sunday night at St. Augustine Church in Elkridge.

And with this being an election year, public officials and would-be officeholders were in attendance as well. They included several Howard members of the Maryland General Assembly and some members of the Howard County Council, including Councilman Guy Guzzone.

FOR THE RECORD - Carletta Allen was misidentified in a June 14 Howard Sun article, "PATH targets community issues." Allen is pastor at Locust United Methodist Church in Columbia. The Sun regrets the error.

"We certainly look forward to working with you and [to] the pressure you're going to put on us," Guzzone said with a chuckle as he introduced himself to the crowd.

During the summer, PATH, which comprises more than 40 mostly religious institutions, plans to get down to specifics. The organization has formed 12- to 20-person action teams for each issue it will target - transportation, housing and youth concerns.

As a first step, one-on-one meetings will be held with community members to hear their concerns. Then, group meetings will be scheduled with the same purpose.

"After talking to people, what needs to be addressed about the issues begins to surface," said the Rev. Carletta Allen, pastor at St. Luke United Methodist Church in Sykesville and a PATH leader.

PATH will use the information to form proposals to be presented to the public at its next assembly on Oct. 8.

"We're going to invite candidates to come before us and listen to our platform, and ask them if they will support us," said PATH's lead organizer, Hector Rodriguez.

The group will not endorse any candidates. Instead, its leaders say, it seeks accountability and action to deal with its issues of interest.

"This group can bring a more balanced approach to things because it brings up issues that affect the voiceless," said Councilman Ken Ulman, a Democratic candidate for county executive.

He added: "Getting people active and to participate can absolutely influence the outcome of the upcoming elections."

Council chairman and Republican candidate for county executive Christopher J. Merdon was also in attendance, as was Harper's Choice Middle School Principal C. Stephen Wallis, who is seeking enough signatures to run as an independent for county executive.

For 81-year-old Ruth Watkins, who has complained about transportation issues in the county, having support from a large community organization will be helpful.

"If you have a group like that behind you," she said, "it's safety in numbers. Then it's not just that same old woman calling and complaining."

jorge.valencia@baltsun.com

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