If you think the future matters, that it really matters, more than anything else, then I want to welcome you to Future Matters.
This is an advocacy organization, an activist organization, an organization with an urgent agenda, but the entry bar is very low. We all care about the future.
That’s the point. When people of diverse backgrounds and politics describe the future that they want for their families and their communities, the visions are strikingly similar. When divergent strategies are discussed in the context of destination, of the future, the dialogue remains civil.
Our timing is deliberate; one week after an election that both divided and mobilized the American people to a degree not seen in our lifetimes. We have either been motivated or paralyzed by a sense that our country and our politics are unraveling, by fear more than hope. We are in a vacant moment right now, looking for a next step.
For me, Future Matters is that step. The formative decade of my career was spent organizing neighborhoods, first in distressed parts of Chicago and later in the diversity of Des Moines, Iowa. Today I serve as the elected leader of a 580,000-person jurisdiction that is a microcosm of America.
Organizing, governing, and all of my advocacy efforts in between have cemented in my heart the firm conviction that the days of backroom political deal making are behind us, and that real progress is made in the public arena. Whether it’s developers funding local campaigns in return for permits and impact fee waivers, or large-scale corporate welfare as payoff for millions in dark political money, people are watching and they expect better.
When we passed our forest conservation bill here in Anne Arundel County, it was public engagement that got us the votes we needed on our county council, and the advocates were from both political parties. The same was true of our affordable housing bills and the budget we passed to increase investment in education, public safety, and health.
Last year I made the case to politicians across Maryland that counties should be allowed to tax income progressively. I argued that it was a strategy to divert a part of Trump’s tax cut for the wealthy toward education and local government services, but our bill died. In reflecting on the resistance we met from politicians of both political parties, I saw that I had underestimated the persistent influence of our corporate elite-driven campaign finance system, and that I had failed to mobilize the majority coalition that could tip the scales our way.
Most advocacy organizations fight the battles that we know we can win. The small victories inspire our members to stay involved. Politicians operate the same way. We work on the problems that we can solve before the next election, giving us the record we can run on. Cutting taxes is generally good politics, and leaving a structural deficit for the next administration is common practice. Rather than funding infrastructure improvements, we do studies to show that we care. How many Bay crossing studies have we done in Maryland now?
But today, people are really concerned about the future, especially young folks who have noticed that the trickle down promises made forty years ago by economists at the University of Chicago, where I graduated, were never kept. People are reading history, and discovering that things are as they are because they were set up that way. People are following the money, and discovering that our economy has many levers, levers that can be pulled in ways that deliver equity and justice.
What I’m saying is that we are in a moment when it’s possible to engage the public, not only on topics of short-term personal interest, but also on the matters that define our future: on land use planning, investments in education, visionary public health initiatives, and ending intergenerational poverty. We must act now.
We launch this organization with gratitude. Gratitude to the people who have put each of us in a position to take this step. Gratitude to the people who will make it succeed. And gratitude that we live in a place among diverse people who have unlimited capacity to do good.
My father used to say that humanity is becoming more connected and that we are evolving toward peace. I hope that Future Matters moves us closer to those ends.