1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
Educational background -- Morgan State University/University of Baltimore -- B.S. degree Accounting; The Johns Hopkins University -- Graduate Certificate in Leadership Development, Masters in Business Administration (MBA) -Concentration in Management; St. Mary's Seminary and University's Ecumenical Institute of Theology -- M.A. Theology and M.A. Urban Ministry; Greater Baltimore Leadership Program; University of Maryland, McGregor Burns School of Government, Rawlings Fellows Program
Professional background -- Certified Public Accountant (CPA); Professional in Human Resources (PHR); licensed insurance agent (Life, Health, Property, Casualty); Ordained Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church; Former Baltimore City MBE/WBE Certified small business owner
My educational and professional background has prepared me to serve on the City Council by providing the depth and breadth of experience to analyze and to address fiscal opportunities and constraints, to address social, educational and economic needs of constituents across the generations, and to appreciate the fabric of this great City, whether by serving visitors in a soup kitchen, speaking to students on a university campus, meeting with business leaders in our community to address infrastructure challenges of local communities or volunteering time to support the less fortunate. I have also developed good working relationships with our state and federal representatives that are critical to getting things done.
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
I want to continue to serve because I enjoy building structural bridges to make life better for others, especially for urban youth, for working families, and for senior citizens. I am genuinely collaborative and appreciate the need to understand the perspectives of all stakeholders in the great enterprise of local government. I fight hard for the communities that comprise the 8th District, and I support the increasing levels of civic engagement of our residents. I want to continue to serve on the City Council because I love Baltimore and am passionate about our ability to not just survive, but to prosper and thrive as one of the greatest cities in America.
My top priorities if re-elected would be to create more job opportunities for city residents and small businesses; to work towards reducing our property tax rate; improving the business climate to attract more businesses to choose Baltimore as the place to locate and grow; strengthen and expand youth opportunities; focus more on community engagement/participation in the redevelopment of neighborhoods around housing/retail/recreation.
3. Do you support Baltimore's current crime-fighting strategy? What changes, if any, would you advocate for to improve public safety in the city?
Yes, to some extent. We cannot arrest our way out of our current condition. We do need more officers on the street (literally on the street), they need to spend more time out of cars and walking neighborhoods to be more engaged with the people they are charged to protect and serve.
4. Do you support the recent reforms in the Baltimore City school system? Do you believe any changes are needed in the schools' governance structure (such as direct mayoral control or an elected school board)?
Yes, we have made some good steps forward towards reforming our school system but we have more work ahead. I am glad that under Maryland's Race To The Top Grant, Baltimore is one of the seven Maryland school districts that will pilot new measures for strengthening the annual evaluations of our teachers and principals (our precious human capital, who impact significantly upon the achievement of our students), as we prepare them for knowledge-based jobs in a global economy.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
The recently established fund created by the City Council is a start. We need to receive payment in lieu of taxes (PILOTS) from certain thriving institutions in Baltimore which although having great balance sheets, tens of millions in reserves, and/or huge endowments, are tax-exempt and are therefore not assessed for even the City services which they enjoy. Until we truly embrace greater investment in our children as critical to our success as a city and nation and commit our dollars to that end, we will continue to lag behind. This is not a problem that can be solved by Baltimore City alone or funded solely by the taxpayers of the City.
6. Property taxes have become a major issue in this year's election. Do you believe the city's tax rate needs to be cut? If so, by how much, and what steps would you take to keep the city's budget in balance while lowering the rate?
Absolutely. This is a challenge that has faced Baltimore long before I became a member of the Council and one that will not be easily solved in the short run. Reducing the tax rate in Baltimore City is an issue that we must begin to address regionally. Baltimore is the hub of healthcare, education, sports and entertainment in the greater Baltimore region, with the expectation that we should pay for the services to support these industries without significant support from the surrounding jurisdictions that benefit from what Baltimore offers. Public safety (fire and police) and public works (street/road maintenance, traffic control, trash collection, etc) are not free services and as a region must be equitably addressed. A sustainable PILOT program should be seriously explored, not just when the city is financially strapped, but as an on-going means of compensating for almost one-third of the tax exempt property that doesn't financially contribute to the services provided by city property tax dollars.
7. The city has faced large budget shortfalls in recent years. If that trend continues, what top priorities would you protect from cuts? In what areas would you pursue spending reductions?
The top priorities I would protect from cuts would be youth opportunities, public safety, public works, and social services for low-income elderly. I would pursue reductions in upper and middle management; we have grown fat at the top of the labor ladder without real appreciable gains in services; we need to flatten the organization. I'm not convinced that privatization is the best alternative to spending reductions; we should look at incentives for efficiencies in the delivery of our core services.
8. Baltimore has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade. What would you do to encourage economic development and provide employment opportunities for city residents?
To encourage economic development we must take a realistic look at the impediments to businesses locating in Baltimore and search and study best practices that have assisted other cities/counties in revitalizing their economic development efforts; there are some very good models to explore. Employment opportunities are closely tied to city residents being job ready. We need to focus more on employment development and job training as an integrated function of public education. We should align our workforce development efforts with our industry development efforts, so that training dollars prepare workers for industries and professions that are growing, rather than for those that are either static or in decline.
District 8: Helen Holton
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