Community activist and former All-State Athlete Akil Patterson may make history as Baltimore’s first openly gay person elected to city council.
Often credited for his efforts to reform state statues around HIV criminal laws and perhaps the first person to bring sports into the national Marriage Equality movement, Patterson is no stranger to LGBTQ issues and legislation.
With state primary elections quickly approaching, we caught up with the 13th district candidate, full of questions about about his plans for reforming the 13th district and his thoughts on LGBTQ involvement in Baltimore’s economic infrastructure.
Charles Smalls: Some people in Baltimore may already know you for your work in the nonprofit and advocacy spaces, mainly around youth programming, LGBTQ advocacy and racial equality. What led you to running for City Council?
Akil Patterson: The only way to describe it is a genuine calling that I felt within. A few years back, I had a medical emergency due to stress and it wasn’t in God’s plan for me at the time to be in politics. I have a tremendous amount of love and respect for the city of Baltimore. I’m inspired by knowing I have what it takes to bring results back to the community and prove that anything is possible if you work hard.
If elected, you will be Baltimore’s first LGBTQ person elected to the city council. In what ways do you think the city council can be a more inclusive and progressive body?
The council can help shape our government to reflect a 21st-century approach to doing things, while still getting back to the basics like treating people with dignity and humanity. My candidacy shows that Baltimore City is enthusiastic about an LBGTQ candidate in the race. I am excited about ensuring that our government reflects the community and the ideas of change.
If elected, you will be succeeding councilwoman Shannon Sneed in the 13th district. In your opinion, how strong is the 13th district today?
I believe Councilwoman Sneed has done a good job in her first term and I wish her well in her race. With regard to the district, I want to ensure that we look at how we create a bigger pot for everyone to benefit from. We must find ways to bring in economic development, community safety, and ensuring that we all have a chance to be better. That will take us holding people accountable within government agencies, and the leaders of those agencies answering to the people’s reps which are the council members.
In your interview with the Washington Blade, noted referenced how the city council plays a role in economic development as it pertains to crime reduction. What are your plans for economic development in the 13th District?
I want to continue using our collective network to further help create an equitable opportunity for new companies and businesses to come to East Baltimore that are minority-owned and run, but when they come we use local talent and universities to retain community workers. I am not talking about jobs for a short period, but companies coming into Baltimore that will preserve the heritage and history of the community. I am talking about working with top-level companies to identify what skills and trades they are looking for and then investing in those through our education systems for city residents. My plan is to work with stakeholders and community leaders to bring forth progressive legislation such as an “Urban Equity Act” that will not only bring new jobs to the community but provide the necessary skills training so that individuals can sustain jobs and provide for their families.
In 2018, former Mayor Catherine Pugh introduced an order to include LGBTQ-owned businesses in Baltimore’s supplier diversity programs. How will you promote economic well-being among the LGBTQ community in Baltimore?
Unfortunately, this process is taking longer than expected because we have to figure out the MBE / WBE [Minority Business Enterprise / Women’s Business Enterprise] and how it will compare to the state and federal requirements for city contracts. What my plan would be to work with the city MBE / WBE programs and work on a supplemental application with diversity criteria that is weighted for added points on some projects. Working with the LGBTQ Chamber of Commerce I would seek counsel and find ways to invest in what needs these companies have and where we can work together to build together.
As the founder and president of Community Advocacy Consultants, one of your goals was to help others have a voice by helping them navigate the world of government relations and operations. How will you help ensure that your constituents are armed with proper knowledge when it comes to ordinances and resolutions passed by the city council?
I plan to host monthly meetings and calls with the community to update constituents. I would work with the council president’s office to create a city-wide communications plan that promotes all city policies and agendas so that community members have a chance to weigh in via a digital platform for those who do not have the flexibility to attend meetings and hearings. I would try and advance the 311 system which is sometimes non-effective in trying to figure out if and when a project has been completed.
Finishing up the interview, Patterson emphasized that responding to community needs, and ensuring responsive constituent services will be a major focus if elected. What would success look like at the end of his term if he wins? “Reducing violence by 24% by 2024 with a larger focus on violent crime convictions,” he said. The use of diversion programs instead of jail sentences for non-violent and low-level crimes are also in his purview. t
- Charles Smalls is a technical writer, artist and content creator with a strong passion for multimedia and storytelling. If you would like to connect with him follow him on twitter (@OnwardThought).