1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
Everything from my education to my professional and political experiences, including one term on City Council, one term in the Maryland House of Delegates, and more than six years in the office of Congressman Elijah E. Cummings, has prepared me to represent the 11th District for a second term. Having a separate, significant career at the University of Baltimore is also quite helpful in keeping my perspective these elected positions are a privilege and not a right.
B.A. in Government and Politics from the University of Maryland College Park (1994)
M.A. in Legal and Ethical Studies from the University of Baltimore (1996)
Member, Baltimore City Council (2007- present)
Associate Vice President for Institutional Advancement, University of Baltimore (2003 - present)
Adjunct Professor, Legal & Ethical Studies graduate program, Univ. of Baltimore (2005 - present)
Special Assistant to Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (1996-2003)
Legislative Aide for former State Sen. Walter Baker (1995-1996)
CIVIC ORGANIZATIONS, BOARDS, AND COMMISSIONS:
Board Member, Visit Baltimore (2010 - present)
Board Member, Downtown Partnership & Downtown Management Authority (2007 - present)
Board Member, Midtown Community Benefits District (2004 - present)
Director, Cecil Bancorp, Inc. (2009 - present)
Board Member, Babe Ruth Birthplace & Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards (2009 - present)
Board Member, Flag House & Star Spangled Banner Museum (2007 - present)
Board Member, Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics, Univ. of Baltimore (2003 - present)
Board Member, Fort McHenry Business Association (2010 - present)
Advisory Board Member, Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance (2008 - present)
Coach, South Baltimore Youth Soccer League (2006 - present)
Former President, Otterbein Community Association (2003 - 2006)
Former Board Member, Patriots of Fort McHenry (2000 - 2004)
Baltimore City Council, 11th District, (2007 - present)
Maryland House of Delegates, 47th District (1999-2002)
Democratic State Central Committee, 47th District (1998-2002)
Office of Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (1996-2003)
Baltimore City Council Committees:
Chair, Executive Appointments Committee
Chair, Housing & Community Development Subcommittee
Member, Taxation, Finance, & Economic Development (Former Chair/Former Vice-chair)
Former Member, Land Use & Transportation Committee
Former Member, Education Committee
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
Serving the 11th District constituents has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences for me. Constituent services are perhaps the most important part of a councilperson's job and I believe I have provided immediate and effective representation to 11th District residents, business owners, and visitors. At the local level, although policy is important, helping individual constituents resolve issues with city government remains most important to me and my staff. In addition to serving constituents, I will continue to focus on such issues as ethics reform, saving tax-payer dollars through increased government efficiency, and developing a plan for property tax relief.
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 support Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Commissioner Bealefeld's crime-fighting efforts and find the early results encouraging. Ending the revolving door for police commissioners has been helpful. Rotating commissioners every few years does not allow any crime-fighting strategy to last long enough to show results. While I don't always agree with our police strategies, I know that micromanaging the police department is not an effective role for the City Council.
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)?
As a father of three Baltimore City Public School students, I do believe that the progress in the classrooms is real. I strongly support Dr. Alonso's efforts to reform the system, especially focusing resources on the schools rather than on the administration. It is important to give him the opportunity to implement his plans as opposed to changing strategies every two years as we have done in the past.
I do not support an elected school board. It would further politicize our public education system to the detriment of the students. Having school board members raise money for elections and then campaign would be a distraction at a minimum, and more likely a detriment to the system. Further, no one has demonstrated a need for change in the School Board process -- no one has successfully proven that the board is not doing what it is mandated to do.
I also do not see any need to change the way appointments are presently made -- direct mayoral appointment sounds good, but doesn't necessarily improve outcomes.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
The fiscal reality is that Baltimore City will need state and federal assistance for the capital investment in school infrastructure. No matter how creative we may be, it will not be possible to both reduce property taxes and invest in school construction in the current economic climate. In addition, we must be realistic about the number and size of school buildings that Baltimore needs. With tens of thousands fewer students today than three decades ago, we need to determine the optimal number of schools citywide. Given that it may be more expensive to rehabilitate our oldest schools than to build new facilities, a careful analysis of each building is required.
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?
Reducing the property tax rate would bring more residents to Baltimore, ultimately increasing the tax base. Today Baltimore is struggling financially, but so are businesses and households. Given that we have no surplus, reducing taxes is a challenge. Making our property tax rate more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions takes a continuing effort to control spending, focusing on the larger dollar items like health care and pension costs, while looking for new sources of revenue. It is essential to implement outcome-based-budgeting to assure that every dollar is spent efficiently and effectively.
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 priorities I would protect from budget cuts are public education and public safety. Any savings found in either of these areas should be reinvested in those departments. All other agencies should be thoroughly reviewed for cost savings.
If elected to a second term, I will continue to look at opportunities to reduce expenses by (1) eliminating duplication of effort in city government, (2) consolidating city functions where there is overlap, and (3) reducing the city-owned vehicle fleet. For example, I introduced legislation to consolidate lawn-mowing services into one agency instead of multiple agencies that don't coordinate that service with each other.
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?
Growth in our higher education and health institutions -- UB, UMB, Johns Hopkins -- is encouraging, as is the gradual growth of our tourism industry. We must pursue several goals:
(1) continue to support growth in the emerging technology areas,
(2) ensure that projects receiving city subsidies give hiring preference to local workers,
(3) focus more on small businesses, the source of the greatest number of jobs for city residents,
(4) fight to retain our existing jobs it is less expensive to keep jobs in Baltimore than it is to bring jobs to Baltimore.
As has been proven by my support for the Baltimore Grand Prix, this city cannot be afraid to take calculated risks. Sitting idly by waiting for good things to happen is a wasteful activity. We need bold leadership and we need to recognize that Baltimore can create a different future if we dare to try new initiatives and employment areas.
District 11: William Cole
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