1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
Growing up, my mother was my guiding light and she always stressed education as a top priority. Because of my mother's wisdom and insight, I gained an appreciation for education and all of the opportunities it afforded and as a child I took advantage of educational enrichment programs such as: Head Start; TWIGS; MESA; and Upward Bound, all which helped strengthen and broaden my academic and cultural experiences. After matriculating through the Baltimore City Public School System (Harford Heights Elem., Yorkwood Elem., Chinquapin Mid., and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute) I sought after higher education and graduated from Tuskegee University, making me the first in my family to graduate from college. I hold a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Tuskegee University where I was selected for Eta Kappa Nu, International Electrical Engineering Honor Society. Currently, I am a Video Network Engineering Manager in the Telecommunications Industry and I have managed projects with budgets of over $30 million as well as managing upwards of 22 employees. In addition to my wealth of business experience and success, I also have an extensive record of public service. I am the immediate past President of the Bolton Park Neighbors, Inc. in Reservoir Hill and current board member of Midtown Community Benefits District (MCBD), Empowering Minds of Maryland Youth (EMMY), and Elijah Cummings Youth Program (ECYP). In 2008, I was honorably appointed to the Maryland Democratic State Central Committee for the 40th District and served as a board member of Community Building in Partnerships Incorporated in Sandtown-Winchester.
Having benefitted from remarkable extra-curricular programs, I not only recognize the need and importance of having quality after-school enrichment programs for the youth, I also recognize my personal responsibility to give back to youth. As such, I have been an instructor and mentor with the Omega Academy, a College Tour coordinator with the Winning Teams Mentoring Program at Coppin State University, a seminar facilitator with Inroads, Inc., as well as a volunteer with the Upward Bound program.
My educational and professional background has prepared me to serve on the City Council in many ways. I believe I have the ability and foresight to promote policies that will inspire others to invest and believe in the potential of this great city. I believe my energy and interpersonal skills will allow me to effectively work with our Mayor and City Council members as well as citizens, business, and labor communities to move Baltimore in the right direction.
My diversity to inclusively relate to all stakeholders set me apart and makes me the right fit for the seventh district.
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
The seventh district desperately needs a leader who has the ability to effectively think forward and energize our communities with new ideas. We need leadership that will drive innovation to address our issues at the root and steer momentum for change. My corporate experience of managing large capital projects has provided me the skill set to drive more efficient and effective local government and my years of work in the community has prepared me to articulate the needs of all Baltimoreans. I believe my diversity of corporate and community experience sets me apart and has afforded me the unique opportunity to help efficiently drive and support city development while connecting the dots to the needs in our community. Whether I am in a downtown boardroom or on a city street corner, my ability to effectively articulate the issues and produce resolutions, illustrates what we need out of future leaders to propel our city forward.
When I become the next Council Representative of the seventh district my focus will be on developing innovative solutions that will cut Baltimore's over-inflated property taxes. I truly believe that property taxes are the number one reason for our ever shrinking middle-class population and decay of our historic neighborhoods. We must act now to counteract and cure the shrinking and decay of our communities. This election cycle has focused a lot of attention on bringing new residents into the city, however another avenue that must be addressed is retaining our current citizens. I think a way to do that is to develop tax incentives aimed at slowing down the churn of individuals leaving the city for the surrounding counties, especially families with young children. Baltimore loses a segment of our population from existing home owners who are looking to make a larger home purchase. Most look at the current buyers market and become very excited about their next home purchase. However after evaluating the right foreclosed house with the right principal, the buyer is quickly displeased by the inflated real estate tax burden. I propose developing a graduated tax incentive program that factors in a person's current tax plan (Homestead, etc.) and applies an incremental increase for the their next home purchase. This will give an added incentive to a buyer in the city to stay in the city and the opportunity to take advantage of the current buyers market. We must invest in our city residents and provide programs geared towards investing in their families' future.
Another area of focus will be on the abandoned houses that plague the growth of this great city. I see this as a major opportunity to develop innovative job placement programs and bring back the charm in some of the struggling parts of the district. I would like to partner with the public and private sectors to develop programs that train residents to become skilled workers and revitalize our communities. I would fight for the development of community based skill centers to provide comprehensive training for the unemployed and underemployed citizens and curriculum based training for the public school system. This twofold approach would help mold and align our citizens to the jobs of tomorrow and provide them with an opportunity to have a vested interest in their communities. We have failed in the past to proactively prepare our citizenry with the skill set to master the emerging jobs of Baltimore's future. This solution not only impacts the challenges we face with the 47,000 abandoned properties in our communities but it also addresses Baltimore's over inflated unemployment rate.
Lastly but most important, a renewed interest in the way we facilitate the experiences of our youth by developing and maintaining innovative and sustainable programs. We can continue to chase the byproducts of systemic issues that plague our city and receive minimal impact to future growth or we can decide to place aggressive targeted attention to our youth and proactively slow the cycles of illiteracy, poverty, and crime for a more socio economically sustainable future of Baltimore. I think there are a lot of opportunities to partner with private entities to create and fund these ventures as well as craft policies that put an added interest on the allotment of resources geared towards the betterment of our youth. I think the structure of the current school system, charter and traditional public, is failing to properly train and inspire our youth for tomorrow's emerging industries. One main role of a school system is to expose its youth to experiences that will ignite their interest and absorb their focus on career paths. I think the traditional curriculum teachings are outdated and do a poor job of engaging our youth, hence our inflated dropout rate. I would like to see a renewed focus on subject matter curriculum in our elementary and middle schools based off of the interest needs of students and emerging jobs of Baltimore's future. Countries all over the globe have subject matter curriculums that allow students to aspire to achieve and grow in specific industries. Today in China, children are learning the basics skills around electronic circuit design in the fifth grade and in India, children are learning basic IT programming commands in the third grade. Other countries understand the importance of preparing children for the industries of tomorrow and we should fall right in line with that same methodology.
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?
I am a strong supporter of the ideology of targeting and chasing down Baltimore's most violent offenders. However, I think an evaluation of violent offender sentencing should be conducted in the Baltimore City judicial system. In the past we have seen many cases where violent offenders have committed heinous crimes after being convicted and imposed with light sentences of other violent crimes. This poses a huge risk to public safety and more importantly the judicial structure around witness cooperation and juror participation. We need to dig into the surface and understand why the attitude imposed by the bench is different in Baltimore City as opposed to the decisions handed out by benches in neighboring jurisdictions.
We must develop ways to strengthen the relationship of our police officers with the communities in which they serve. We are facing an unproductive cycle that disconnects justice and normalizes a culture of distrust of police in many communities. Community engagement tactics should be deployed to allow the citizen daily interactions with police officers. Out of car exposure, such as post walking and bicycling should be mandatory routine for officers. Another way to strengthen the bond between the police department and community is to push harder code of conduct stances on our officers and ensure the highest level of integrity is carried out on all levels of the police department and transparent to the community.
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 am in total support of the recent reforms of incentive base pay for our city teachers. Properly rewarding our best teachers will only drive a better product and potentially serve as a catalyst for classroom creativity. I have always been very active in the process of creating a partially elected school board structure for Baltimore City residents. This will allow Baltimore citizens a voice to dictate and hold their representation on the school board accountable for delivering solutions to strengthen our school system.
Lastly, I would fight for the full funding of the Thornton Commission Legislation to provide our with facilities and resources comparable to the one's utilized by their peers in other jurisdictions.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
The first step to efficiently solving this issue would be to prioritize the maintenance and renovation needs of school system facilities and identify the critical and major deficiencies. Next, I would look for private public partnership opportunities to address the needs of the most critical issues. And lastly, I would work with the Baltimore City delegation to push for the fully funding of the Thornton Commission Legislation.
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?
I believe the city's property tax rate needs to be reduced and I am committed to developing innovative solutions to cut our over-inflated rates. I truly believe that property taxes are the number one reason for our ever shrinking middle-class population and decay of our historic neighborhoods. We must act now to counteract and cure the shrinking and decay of our communities. We must develop programs to help and encourage growing young families to stay in the city. Most candidates stress the importance of attracting new residents to the city, while that is a key factor, retaining our current citizenry is equally as important. We have to craft policies that incentive individuals who are committed to the betterment of our city and policies to hold speculators and vacant property owners accountable. I am a proponent of the creation of a higher tax structure for vacant property owners to offset the decay of neighborhoods and take some tax burden off of our owner occupied residents.
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?
My platform is built on three main principles of efficiency, accountability, and transparency. I believe with a more efficient local government we will be able to uncover some budgetary waste and properly redirect funding. I am a strong believer that our current operating budget can be structured to sustain all current city services. We cannot afford any additional cuts to programs and opportunities that serve our youth.
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?
From an economic anaylysis perspective of business development, you must factor in the socio econmic predictors in the the area. And like many other districts in the city, the seventh is no stranger to high unemplotyement, high vacancy, and high poverty pockets. These three things limit business growth and generally narrows the scope of potential buisness development. In order to reverese course, we must develop innovative ways to drive interest back into our neighborhoods.
Secondly, we must reinvest in training a workforce that is educated and equipped to perform the jobs of the future. In order to attract more businesses to Baltimore, we have to have to develop a workforce that can handle skill sets of the future, such as, green and emerging jobs. To that same accord, we must invest in our most precious asset, our youth, by providing subject matter curriculum at the elementary and middle level and city wide after school and enrichment opportunities. This will better prepare them to become the City's next generation of workforce leaders.
Lastly, we must apply focus and support on our small business community. There has been a mindset of luring major retail conglomerates with incentives and tax breaks. I believe the focus should be redirected by helping our home grown small businesses a chance to expand in our back yards. With the current economic conditions keeping interest rates low and our excellent bond rating, Baltimore has an opportunity to redirect those resources and grow our internal economy.