1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
My career began in the mid-1990's as a teacher in the Baltimore City Public School System. I then served a year in AmeriCorps teaching children to read in an after-school program. A year later I finished my tenure in AmeriCorps as an outreach worker in the community of Sandtown-Winchester. I then gained full-time employment as an outreach worker for a program that focused on increasing awareness of the Maryland Children's Health Insurance Program. I also reached out to substance abusers to encourage them to get drug treatment. These experiences shaped my view of the city and what its needs are. I am able to see beyond an idea or a piece of legislation and look at how it may help or hurt the most vulnerable residents of the city. I have developed a genuine passion for people.
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
I want to serve on the Baltimore City Council, because I am confident that I will make a difference and be a positive role-model to the youth in my district. My top priorities would be to: (1) improve constituent services, (2) link tax breaks for developers to jobs and (3) reform the process by which vacancies are filled on the City Council to allow for special elections.
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?
The city's current crime-fighting strategy does not go far enough. I support community policing and would strongly advocate for it to be used in the 6th District. It has been my experience that community policing is effective in combating neighborhood crime. Recently, I organized citizens on patrol programs in 3 different neighborhoods. Working with the Community Relations Council in the Northwestern District Police Department, I found that my experience in developing a citizen's patrol was appreciated. When used effectively, I think that community policing allows residents to get to know their local police officers and become comfortable sharing information with them. Additionally, whoever the Mayor is, I would work with that office to promote re-entry programs that offer resources to help ex-offenders become productive members of their communities.
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)?
I support some of the recent reforms in the school system, such as the involvement of community stakeholders in writing a school's budget. As a parent of a student in the school system, I would like to see an elected school board, because it would ensure that the school commissioners are at least accountable to city residents.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
I would address the backlog by working to reduce cost overruns on school projects. For example, at my son's school the library is being renovated with modern technology, used from stimulus funds. However, the contractors were supposed to be done by August 15, and now it's August 23 and they are not yet finished. There is no projected date for the library to be finished. The contractors have been working since the middle of June, and the cost to the school district is not cost-effective.
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?
State law mandates that revenue from slot machines may only be spent on school construction or property tax relief. As a homeowner, I do believe that property taxes are too high in the city. However, I would wait to see how much slots revenue came into the city before quoting a figure on how much property taxes should be reduced.
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 Department of Recreation and Parks seems to always suffer whenever the city needs to cut its budget. Libraries also seem to bear too much of the burden when cuts are made. I would recommend that the first agencies that need to take cuts are those agencies that duplicate the work of other agencies, such as the city's Office of Neighborhoods.
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?
The city offers millions of dollars in tax breaks each year to businesses. I would link the tax breaks to jobs for city residents. If developers and businesses receive tax breaks, they must set aside a number of the jobs that are created by those businesses for residents of Baltimore City. If development in the city does not produce those jobs, then I would not support a tax break for that business. I would instead seek to have that money directed to job-training and educational programs that prepare city residents for employment.
District 6: Mark E. Hughes
We've upgraded our reader commenting system. Learn more about the new features.