I am running for office because I want to make a difference in my community. It is time for change. It is time to end the violence that is plaguing our city. We must address the root causes of the violence. The roots causes are poverty, inadequate education, and unemployment. It is time to educate and empower our youth. We must fully fund and implement the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations. It is time to end the stark racial disparities in District 4 and throughout the city. We must make sure that developers, corporations and non-profits pay their fair share and invest in struggling communities.
What are the most pressing issues in your district, and how would you address them?
Aside from the coronavirus crisis, the top issues in my district are violence, education and racial disparities. When elected, I will propose legislation to address the root causes of the violence such as poverty and the lack of opportunity. The legislation will establish direct lines of communication with at-risk youth and provide them with the lifesaving services such as mentorships, trauma counseling, quality education, vocational training, college scholarships, and jobs. A similar program was successful in Oakland. In addition, I will support legislation to increase funding to successful anti-violence groups such as Safe Streets in Cherry Hill.
As for education, I will support legislation ensuring that the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations are fully funded and implemented. We must renegotiate the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (“PILOT”) Program to ensure that non-profits pay their fair share. For instance, if Hopkins were to pay property taxes, the city would get $59 million a year. Currently, the city only receives $3.25 million under the PILOT. Furthermore, 11 non-profits pay only $6 million to the city under the PILOT agreements. Yet, those same non-profits receive $47 million worth of city services. Those funds could be used to comply with the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations and to invest in communities.
To address the problem of racial disparities, I would propose legislation creating incentives for developers to invest in neglected communities. To address the continuing legacy of red lining, racially restrictive covenants and segregation in Baltimore, I will propose legislation to address the question of reparations.
How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?
Last year was the second deadliest year on record. This year, we are on pace to exceed last year’s murder rate. At this juncture, the Baltimore Police Department has failed to effectively address the problem of violent crime.
How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?
I support legislation expanding Youth Works into a year around program and increasing the number of youth workers. In addition, I support legislation substantially increasing funding for youth entrepreneurial programs. Such programs will provide youth with the necessary training, skills and resources to start their own legal businesses. When youth have job opportunities, they are less likely to be squeegee boys.
What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?
I would support local, state and federal legislation treating drug addiction as a public health issue. Instead of incarcerating people for using drugs, the legislation would expand opportunities for treatment and counseling. I would support legislation regulating methadone treatment centers to ensure that they are not concentrated in just low-income, black communities. Additionally, the legislation would ensure that methadone clinics are regulated in such a way to prevent them from becoming public nuisances.
In addition, although I view drug addiction as a public health issue, we must shut down open air drug markets by passing laws calling for the strict enforcement of anti-loitering laws. Furthermore, I fully support the commissioner’s plan to disrupt and eliminate the top 25 violent street gangs. Many of those gangs sell lethal drugs such as fentanyl.
How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission reforms?
I support calls to review the budgets of all city agencies, including the Baltimore City Police Department. Non-essential items must be cut to fulfill the Kirwan Commission reforms. Equally as important, we must renegotiate the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (“PILOT”) agreements. As previously stated, we must ensure that non-profits like John Hopkins pay their fair share. Millions of dollars could be funneled to Baltimore City public schools.
What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?
The York Road corridor is an opportunity for development and job creation. When elected, I will continue the City Councilman Bill Henry’s effort to form the York Road Business Improvement District. I will work with all of the neighborhood associations and lead the effort to persuade commercial property owners to support creation of the District.
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?
No. The current structure of the city government must be reformed because it gives too much power to the mayor. The City Council and the mayor should have equal power. I support City Council’s proposed reforms such as granting the City Council the power to add items of appropriation to the budget, decreasing the number of votes from 12 to 10 to override the mayor’s veto, granting the Council more authority to define the roles of city agencies, granting the City Council the power to remove the mayor and other members for ethical violations, and restructuring the Board of Estimates by eliminating the mayor’s appointees to the Board.
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 Council has dealt with and/or is dealing with important issues such as ethics reforms, water bills, local labor requirements, public safety, local hiring, union agreements, sewage backup, minimum wage increases, plastic bags ban, hair discrimination and other issues. The Council has made some smart decisions. However, some of their legislation, such as the Water Accountability Act, does not go far enough.
What weaknesses do you see in the delivery of city services? What can be done to improve response time and resident satisfaction?
The City fails to promptly respond to requests to deal with illegal dumping and dilapidated, vacant buildings. The city fails to adequately address the problem of littering. I support doubling number of trash collection days and doubling fines and penalties for littering and dumping.