Elected Building Representative of City College High School for the Baltimore Teachers Union three years in a row. Community Organizer, including most recently working in a coalition that secured $3,000,000 from City Hall to help close the digital divide by providing City Schools students with access to technology and the internet during Covid-19.
Why are you running for office?
District 12 residents deserve a City Councilwoman who will fight on behalf of the diverse needs in our communities. From Broadway East to Remington, Perkins Homes to Charles Village, too many of our neighbors’ voices are going unheard and too many of our concerns are going unaddressed.
As a teacher and 3-term elected Building Representative for the Baltimore Teachers Union, I have consistently worked to empower the people who are most impacted by the issues we face in Baltimore. I have a track record of building and working in coalition to achieve real results that improve people’s lives.
As your next City Councilwoman, I will work tirelessly to improve constituent services and pass just legislation. We need to address rampant trash issues across our district and also make sure the city employees who pick it up get paid a family-sustaining wage. I don’t take campaign contributions from corporations or developers, so I will work for and be accountable to you.
Working together with transparency, integrity, and shared values, we can move our neighborhoods toward the more just, better run, and safer city we all know it can be. This will require embracing programs that work, and being ready to try new ideas where existing programs fail.
We can’t keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. I am a different kind of candidate, I will be a different kind of City Councilwoman, and I will work with you to achieve real results.
What are the most pressing issues in your district, and how would you address them?
We have spoken with thousands of voters across District 12, from Harwood to Oliver, from Old Goucher to Clifton Park. Over and over again, the most pressing issues I have heard my neighbors describe are basic human needs: safety, real opportunities for our young people, and trash removal. On my website francaforthepeople.com I address in detail how I would change the conditions that lead to these traumatic realities. In addition, I have heard many neighbors describe how they just want basic city services like recycling, potholes, ADA accessible sidewalks, and the bus system to work better for them and their families.
The role of the City Councilwoman is to address the 311 complaint about illegal dumping or rodent infestations while also passing legislation to address the root causes of poverty and violence. I can and will fight for both, with your active support and participation. It will take a village, and luckily Baltimore is a city of villages.
I became an organizer in Baltimore fourteen years ago. I will put those years of lessons to work and build the coalitions and relationships necessary to address these issues head on with support from our powerful community.
How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?
On my website francaforthepeople.com, I describe in detail our campaign’s community-based safety proposals.
While in general the mayor and police commissioner are ultimately accountable for the unacceptable levels of violence in our neighborhoods, as a Councilwoman I will fight for our City to address the root causes of violent crime.
Our community continues to struggle with police brutality, gun violence, wage theft by employers, and other crimes of poverty and desperation. Despite a police budget that continuously increases, and the enactment of well-intentioned but ineffectual policing reforms, our City's homicide and crime clearance rates have not meaningfully improved. Instead of doubling down on failed strategies, we must respond to crime by addressing the roots of the problem: systemic racism and a lack of opportunity for many in our city. We need to transform the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) into a community-led public safety institution that serves ALL Baltimoreans. We must also prioritize funding to invest in the physical, economic, and social well-being of our neighbors.
Until communities are empowered with the resources to address these root causes, we will not see the results we so desperately need. We can achieve more peaceful neighborhoods by investing in our rec centers and schools; remediating lead paint which poisons our children and impacts their mental health and behavior; supporting a minimum yet living wage of $15/hour that automatically rises with inflation and includes youth workers; creating greater housing and homeownership support for all Baltimoreans; and more.
How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?
The children who work as squeegee kids across District 12, from Jonestown to Station North, are my students and our neighbors. We must address them with respect, love, concern, and care.
I began working at 14 years old as a restaurant service worker; paying bills to help my family. We know the same is true for many young people. Some are also parents trying to support their children. We must ensure that youth have a real chance to meet the demands of their own survival and well-being.
Parents and loved ones want their children to earn a good wage at a safe job and be respected for the work they do. We can support squeegee kids by making it possible for them to have safer and better paying jobs. This means ensuring they are getting the skills, resources, and mentorship they need at our schools and rec centers, allocating enough YouthWorks positions to meet demand, and raising the City’s minimum wage.
I have a track record working with high school students. As an award winning teacher and successful policy advocate, I am able to dialogue with these young people in the morning, teach their siblings in the afternoon, and work with the current City Council to improve school funding and education policies in the evening.
A human, holistic approach is the only approach that will work. I know how to make it work because I have done it for the past ten years as a teacher.
What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?
The high prevalence of untreated and undertreated people with substance abuse disorders is a major issue facing all communities in District 12. Everyone knows someone in their family or neighborhood who struggles to find treatment and a supportive recovery community. Maybe that person is you. There should be no shame in having this illness because it is in part the shame that makes it so deadly. There is no cure, but there are many proven public health and medical approaches that are highly effective.
The most important strategy is to increase funding for public health and increase access to medical treatment. I propose paying for that increase by decreasing enforcement and incarceration of the failed “War on Drugs”, which has proven to be a war on Black, brown, and working class people that exacerbates rather than addresses substance abuse disorders, related overdoses, and crime.
There are some very simple steps, like increasing access to Naloxone and related overdose intervention training, which for a miniscule price tag would save lives. By putting public health and community-based safety at the center of the conversation-- and the center of the City’s budget, we can increase treatment for our family members and neighbors with substance abuse disorders, decrease overdoses, and decrease crime.
How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission reforms?
Currently, Baltimore City allocates only about 15% of its budget to Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPSS). Meanwhile, the average Maryland county contribution to education in 2018 was 36% of its total operating budget. While we must ensure the state of Maryland fulfills its constitutional responsibility to provide an adequate education to its residents, and while Baltimore City cannot be expected to pay as much as wealthier counties, City Hall must still pay its fair share. The Kirwan Commission determined that Baltimore must steadily increase education funding each year until reaching $161M in additional funds by 2030. As Councilwoman, I will ensure our city and state pay their fair shares for our kids’ education.
I advocated for the Kirwan education commission reforms in Annapolis as a teacher, 3-term elected Building Representative for the Baltimore Teachers Union, and advisor to student-led organizations. The best way for Baltimore to pay our share is to prioritize education in Baltimore’s budget. We currently spend roughly three times as much on policing as we do on education; yet, more investment in our schools and recreation centers would go a long way towards lowering crime in our city.
Our students deserve to have quality education, resources, and mentorship that will open up doors of opportunity, not be asked them to survive and thrive with both hands tied behind their backs.
What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?
Baltimoreans themselves are the overlooked opportunities for economic development. We are the engines of economic development. Black-, immigrant-, women-, and cooperatively-owned businesses are job creators in Baltimore. Let’s stop overlooking these entities and start investing in them.
For decades, City Hall has invested in the projects of wealthy businesspeople via huge corporate subsidies. Many of these developers are from outside the city and state, which means many of their huge profits don’t make it into our tax-base. Has this corporate welfare made the nurse, or the teacher, or service worker in my apartment building any better off? No. This strategy has robbed the City’s treasury of funds desperately needed for education, community based-safety, and people-powered economic development and job creation.
We see this same story unfolding with a wide array of tax breaks that put the rest of us on the hook for paying higher taxes to offset the public services that go to these big projects. This includes publicly-financed, privately-owned development taking place from Perkins Homes to Oldtown. How many times will Baltimore politicians gamble with our tax-dollars hoping the same bad bet will finally pay off for all communities, not just a select few?
Instead of investing in out of city and out of state corporations, let’s invest in Black-, immigrant-, women-, and cooperatively-owned businesses. My campaign motto is “for the People,” because I will work and fight for our working class families and our local small businesses.
Is the current structure of the City Council, and the balance of power between the mayor and council members, appropriate, and why or why not? If you would seek to change it, what would your model look like?
I respect the work that Council President Brandon Scott, Councilman Ryan Dorsey, Councilman Kris Burnett and unheralded grassroots activists have done to give the legislative branch of Baltimore government more of a say in the affairs of our city. The legislative branch is often called the People’s House, and for too long most people have not felt very at home in City Hall.
Most neighbors I talk to, from Greenmount West to South Clifton Park, just want a city government that works for them. I am running for City Council in the 12th District to bring systematic change to our neighbors, and the Council does not currently have the authority it needs to make good on that mandate.
I am less interested in shifting power within City Hall than I am in shifting power out of City Hall, into the neighborhoods that make Baltimore a Great American City, into the hands of families and working class people who have built and continue to build it with their commitment to our city. I ask the people of District 12 to elect me to bring power to them, the people.
What are the most important issues the council has dealt with in the last four years? Name several smart decisions and several not-so-smart choices members have made.
The most important issues the council has dealt with in the last four years are community safety, education, jobs, and city services. I have worked on some of these issues, especially related to education, with elected leaders like Council President Brandon Scott, Councilman Zeke Cohen, Councilman Ryan Dorsey, Councilman Kris Burnett, Councilwoman Shannon Sneed, and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
The work I have done with these elected officials includes advocating at the City and State levels for more City Schools funding; for more just entrance standards for highly selective high schools like City, Poly, Western, Dunbar, and others at North Avenue; and to close the digital divide through fighting for and winning $3 million to purchase technology and internet access for students.
There are honest, hard working members of the City Council who hold community-driven values and priorities. But too often, these members have come just one or two votes shy of passing important legislation. I am asking for your vote so I can cast mine on the Council in favor of progress and justice, not for business as usual.
A vote that has deeply impacted our city is the fight for and loss of the City’s $15 minimum wage by 2022. Despite an overwhelming majority of support, the District 12 incumbent did not support a veto-override, denying hard working families a much-needed increase in wages until 2026 when the state-bill goes into full effect. This will be too little, too late for many Baltimoreans.
What weaknesses do you see in the delivery of city services? What can be done to improve response time and resident satisfaction?
Despite the hard work of municipal workers, the current state of city services in District 12 is unacceptable. We deserve better.
We deserve fast, attentive, and detailed responses to 311 complaints, whether they are related to illegal dumping in Remington or Harwood, or a sky high water bill in Johnston Square or Collington Square. We deserve not only sufficient trash and recycling pick up, but a municipal composting program like Oakland, CA has had for years.
We deserve a fully-funded Baltimore City Fire Department so firefighters can perform their life-saving work with the equipment and staffing needed to do the job right. We deserve community and anchor libraries with expanded workforce development and job training services, as well as expanded hours that work for working families. We deserve streets that are not pocked with potholes and alleys that are safe, clean, and well lit.
We and our neighbors deserve all that and more. Showing up and working hard will be necessary but not sufficient to get the job done. In District 12, we must model the incredible work taking place in District 1 by Councilman Zeke Cohen, who has revolutionized the efficiency of constituent services. Improving service access and turn around will take reimagining our budgetary priorities, investing all D12 communities, and making desperately needed upgrades to the systems that track the progress and completion of constituent service requests.