Cory V. McCray: McFadden's Multiple Residence

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The responsibilities of an elected state legislator are myriad. There are the official duties: showing up to vote, taking an active role in committee assignments, and attending community and statewide functions, among other responsibilities. But arguably the most important role of a legislator isn’t one that takes place in any official setting. Rather, it’s the time they spend in their district building relationships with constituents and learning the needs of the many communities that make up the district. This duty often isn’t performed in any sort of formal manner. It takes shape when you meet someone new at a grocery store or restaurant you both frequent – or at that person’s front door as you’re canvassing the neighborhood.

These moments are so important because they go on to inform the decisions that are made once you’re sitting in a committee hearing room or getting ready to cast a vote in the House or Senate chamber. It’s important that when the time to be decisive arrives, you understand that the issues presented aren’t just abstract political theory; they’re the same issues being talked about and debated by the voters who elected you to represent them.

It’s fitting then that the final question posed to my colleague, Nathaniel McFadden, at last month’s “No RoFo 45th District Candidate Forum” touched on this very subject. As the forum was concluding, he was prompted to address the fact that instead of living within the 45th District, he actually resides at the The Village of Cross Keys. It was regrettable that McFadden’s response sidestepped the actual issue.

Rather than answer the question, he made thinly veiled racial overtures to argue that a black man in 2018 ought to be able to own multiple residences without it being viewed suspiciously. Of course, this response misses the point entirely. No one is taking umbrage at the fact that McFadden owns more than one piece of real estate. The concern is that the home he lives in day-to-day is outside of the 45th District – the very district he is asking to continue representing in the state legislature. It’s a legitimate concern and the voters of the 45th District are entitled to more than dismissive doubletalk when the issue is raised.

It’s only intuitive that a legislator who resides in his or her district knows a little bit more about the challenges it faces than one who doesn’t. After all, the best way to get a sense of what’s happening in any given place is to spend time there and find out for yourself. Even more than just possessing knowledge of the local neighborhoods and their specific needs, residing in the district you represent feeds the passion you have as an elected legislator because, like them, you also have skin in the game. When you’re walking into meetings about policy matters that impact your respective district, you aren’t talking about what’s happening in some unfamiliar place – or somewhere you used to live – you’re discussing the concerns that you and your neighbors are confronting on a daily basis. 

So it should be fair game to ask a resident of one of the most affluent zip codes in Baltimore City how he can effectively advocate for one of the most economically distressed. To be frank, the issues faced by McFadden and his neighbors aren’t the same as those faced in our communities. That matters.

When an elected representative doesn’t reside in his district, the gas station at the end of the block loses out, as do the local diners and grocery stores. While that person spends the bulk of their time in another part of the city, public safety issues and vacant homes are still rampant in the areas they purport to serve – even if they remain out of sight.

I know that when I have conversations with fellow residents about the conditions of local schools and troubling upticks in crime, we’re having a dialogue about concerns that we share and are jointly experiencing – not ones I leave behind when I go home for the evening.

One of the reasons I am running for State Senate in the 45th Legislative District is that I believe it’s important to have a clear intention to sleep every night in the district you want to represent. Yes, I too am a black man with multiple properties, but let me be clear that each and every one of them is in the 45th Legislative District. It’s a place that I’m proud my family and I can call home and one that I would be honored to represent as your next State Senator.

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