This email, sent on July 17, 2019, urged HCPSS to redistrict based on socio-economic terms and cited a community member’s blog research as its supporting material. The message was relayed by a third party to Kevin Gilbert, Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Superintendent Martirano to provide “an additional reference” for them, likely to provide “cover” for the socio-economic based redistricting plan that Superintendent Martirano was working on.
Following this letter, an intense marketing campaign was initiated by Center Maryland, an online news & social media company with direct lobbyist ties to The Howard Hughes Corp., to coincide with the press release for county council CR-112 resolution on August 13, 2019 that called on HCPSS to “desegregate its schools” and the reveal of Superintendent Martirano’s controversial socio-economic based redistricting plan just one week later. Center Maryland was co-founded and is led by executives of KO Public Affairs, which was described in a Baltimore Sun Op Ed as the “vampire squid of Maryland politics” .
From July 2019 through November 2019, Center Maryland sponsored an aggressive social media marketing campaign with over 32 posts & ads related to HCPSS redistricting, all strongly supporting the Superintendent’s proposed redistricting plan in the name of “equity” as detailed here and here.
Center Maryland also sponsored an Equity Conference in September 2019, in partnership with the Maryland Building Industry Association(MBIA), that heavily featured supportive discussion about Superintendent Martirano’s socio-economic based school redistricting plan and even featured one of the HCPSS Board of Education (BOE) members, Sabina Taj, who was the strongest proponent of redistricting students to rebalance the FARM student percentage among HCPSS schools. The community member whose blog posts were so heavily cited in defense of CR-112 and Superintendent Martirano’s plan also presented at this Equity Conference. BOE documents reveal that this community member was invited to meet with the Superintendent in an 8/16/2019 Boundary Review Follow-up meeting.
Of note, evidence that showed that ticket purchases for this Sept 2019 Equity Conference were linked to the MBIA website (proving their partnership in coordinating the event) was taken down by Center Maryland. However, this evidence was fortunately saved as a recording in this Facebook post.
Additional proof of partnership and explanation of connections between Center Maryland, MBIA, and select Democratic politicians, including HCPSS Board of Education members can be found here.
The Howard Hughes Corporation’s strong marketing campaign and behind-the-scenes pressure on the Board of Education to implement Superintendent Martirano’s socio-economic based redistricting plan is very interesting, particularly considering that it has a $5 billion development deal in Central Columbia. The area around this development deal includes polygons that were featured in Superintendent Martirano’s plan as clear examples of socio-economic status driven redistricting (versus redistricting to alleviate overcrowding/over-capacity).
Another interesting recent find is the attached July 29, 2019 email from Michael Harris, special assistant to County Councilman Opel Jones, to other County staff members. According to Mr. Harris, a 2019 summer intern had been assigned a special project to research the effects of redistricting on property values in select areas in the county for an upcoming meeting with Superintendent Martirano.