Candidates for the 7th Congressional District seat appearing at an NAACP-sponsored forum last night outlined their plans for improving the economy, education and health care.
The Randallstown forum, sponsored by the Baltimore County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was attended by more than 100 people.
Nearly all of the candidates agreed that creating jobs is the key to economic revitalization of the district, which includes inner-city neighborhoods in West and East Baltimore and portions of Baltimore County stretching from Catonsville to Randallstown. But a common refrain was that the problems of crime and drugs would have to be addressed to attract businesses that would bring those jobs.
"People are not going to come into the 7th District and create jobs when you've got a high crime rate here," said Republican candidate Kenneth Kondner.
"What we have been calling a war on drugs has not been a war on drugs, and certainly it has not been effective," said the Rev. Arnold W. Howard, pastor of Enon Baptist Church in Baltimore and president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.
Baltimore Del. Salima Siler Marriott and A. Robert Kaufman, said drug abuse should be treated as a public health issue instead of as a crime problem.
"As long as there is a demand, there is someone who will take a risk to make a profit. And that is related to not having enough jobs," Ms. Marriott said.
Mr. Kaufman, who favors drug decriminalization, said, "You take the profits out of it, it cuts the whole thing out."
Traci K. Miller, a Baltimore assistant state's attorney, advocated stopping the production of drugs at the source, the farmers in foreign countries who grow coca leaves as a cash crop.
Other candidates offered various ideas for job creation.
East Baltimore Del. Clarence Davis and Gregory P. McDonald suggested devoting resources to rebuilding the country's aging infrastructure, such as roads and bridges.
The Rev. Theodore M. Williams Jr., pastor of Mount Sinai Temple in Randallstown and a manager in Johns Hopkins Hospital's radiology department, said that he would introduce legislation to grant economic incentives and tax breaks to hospitals in urban areas. He noted that the 7th District has seven hospitals that provide 20,000 jobs.
Also participating in the forum were Del. Elijah E. Cummings, Ava Mae Herndon, state Sen. Delores G. Kelley, Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., A. Dwight Pettit, the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, Craig Glenn Ring, Joseph E. Ward and Barney J. Wilson, all Democrats; and Republicans Robert C. Gumbs and William H. Krehnbrink.