Voter guide: Sharon Green Middleton, City Council (6), Baltimore City
For The Baltimore Sun|
May 12, 2020 | 1:35 PM
Sharon Green Middleton
Democratic candidate for Baltimore City Council D6
Residence Coldspring Newtown, Baltimore City
Occupation Councilwoman/VP Baltimore City Council- District 6; 2020 Maryland Association of Counties (MACO) President; Board of Directors, National Association of Counties(NACO), Vice-Chair, Ports Sub-Committee, Member-Large Urban Counties Caucus; Board of Directors, National Org. Of Black County Officials, Inc.; Ex-Officio member of Baltimore City Women’s Commission
Education Morgan State University, Bachelor of Science, Secondary Education; Advanced Professional Certificates; MD. State Dept. Of Education, MD. Dept. Of Labor, Licensing, & Regulations, Director of Apprenticeship System; MACO Fellow Program Graduate, U. Of MD, College Park
Councilmember, District 6; Commissioner, Aging & Care Commission ; Chair, Taxation, Finance, & Economic Dev. Committee; Member: Land Use; Budget & Appropriations
Why are you running for office?
I’m running for office because it’s my desire to serve Baltimore City residents, and continue to use my leadership ability and experience to help make a difference that support safe, healthy residents (including our most vulnerable- children, seniors, and communities of color), a clean environment, and good jobs. I was raised to believe and understand that public service is a privilege.
What are the most pressing issues in your district, and how would you address them?
The District must continue to focus on increasing public safety. I support the Park Heights Safe Streets program which was one of the first areas of implementation in the City. Community policing is another strategy. We need workforce development programs, like the Jane Addams Resource Center in District 6, that offer residents an opportunity to break the cycle of criminal activity, and help both job seekers and employers.
There are a number of fragmented, uncoordinated transportation system lines that do not form working systems. The City must pursue a regional transportation strategy that expands fixed-rail and bus system.
Providing affordable housing for Seniors and families (rental & homeownership). Address through partnerships and community engagement solutions, like advisory boards, private and nonprofits entities. Planning, land use and zoning solutions, such as affordable housing impact statements, housing needs analysis, developer incentives. Funding and financing solutions, such as, community land trusts, service sharing, and housing trust funds.
Continued improved education curriculum in our schools, including our 2 new 21st century school buildings, like the finalized Pimlico /Sinai Hospital Middle Grades Health Science Program that will launch in fall of 2020. Then preparing to continue program in a high school. Preparing for the building of a new library in Park Heights.
Working to end hunger and food desserts by educating & creating new, innovative ways to promote and build a greener healthy lifestyle in senior center, schools, parks, open space/gardens, faith based, and recreation centers.
Illegal dumping is a Citywide difficulty. Efforts continue to happen with agency/citizen to use the 311 system and app, increased partnerships & educating communities and their associations on scheduled walks, clean-ups, scheduled dumpster days, work sessions, etc. A new hiring work development activity has begun in areas around Race Track.
How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?
Commissioner Harrison has been in Baltimore City in a little over one year, and has had a steadfast approach and strategies put in place, that focus on those responsible for committing violent and property crimes. He has been working collaboratively with our City’s residents, businesses, advocacy groups, non-profits, faith based leaders, elected officials, and city, state, and federal agencies. He has held community conversation sessions in most, if not all, city council districts. We know, the transformation of Baltimore City’s crime problem, or drop in the murder rate, will not occur quickly. The Commissioner’s seven core focus area goals of; crime reduction, capacity building, community engagement and policing, connectivity, compliance with the consent decree, creating a culture of accountability, and communication, should surely affect the quality of life in our neighborhoods in a positive way. I have seen recruitment efforts through advocating the explorers program at community meetings, and other venues of communication. Better and more efficient training of officers and new technology, has been put in place. Relationship building has started and is critical in every individual community.
How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?
The squeegee kids issue has been a hot, racialized debate, and law enforcement confusion, on and off, in Baltimore City for decades. We have to get to the root of why these youth are out on these dangerous streets. It’s clearly focused around the need of money, mostly to help with basic necessities for their struggling families or themselves, including peer pressure. Younger friends or siblings, see how money is being made and they learn the “business”. They each need “individual” long-term committed mentors to communicate, parental guidance, help for them to stay in school, and build on the interest of entrepreneurship or other career paths. The Mayor’s Office of Family & Children Success has implemented a plan. It’s a start. A community leader at Liberty Rec, in my district, has also received a grant for training in workforce development activities. Several individuals and nonprofit partners have stepped up, but we need more. Attention should to be giving to their families, too. The BCPSS and school police must be more involved with the agency and address truancy issues. Total wraparound services are needed.
What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?
Strategies I would continue to pursue to reduce drug addiction are:
Listen to the stories of people in recovery to understand addiction. Finding ways to combat substance abuse effectively is challenging because even after rehabilitation, relapse often occurs and can be part of the lifelong recovery process. The passage of the Trauma Responsive Care Act, which will equip all city agencies that engage children and families with the training, tools, and resources to effectively respond to trauma will help.
Wraparound services, such as physical and mental health services, case management, housing, psychiatric evaluations and treatment, occupational therapy, vocational training and family engagement, are critical to meeting the needs of those in recovery.
Increase the availability of naloxone and medication-assisted treatment. Implement workshops and train residents on preventing overdose deaths, including people being released from prison. Distance and access to transportation are huge barriers to receiving addiction services. The idea of partnering with hospitals and universities to provide telemedicine services and/or investing in mobile units to transport individuals seeking help to treatment centers.
Research shows that people who use drugs are more likely to become involved in crime. Encouraging treatment and workforce training in the prison system and upon reentry to decrease recidivism is necessary.
How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission reforms?
An improved education system is what Baltimore City needs and is key to success of, equity, equality, and stability in our communities. It is the framework for transforming our City. I wholeheartedly support the Kirwan Commission legislation/proposals. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to advocate for quality education. As this blueprint is moving through the State, House and Senate, I urge State policymakers to continue to have discussions and propose amendments so that our City does not take the full burden in slighting other local services. Both State and Local governments need to identify growth in new revenue sources. Baltimore City Mayor, Administration and City Council review, balance, and approve the budget, usually in May and June of each year. Much of the City revenue comes from property taxes. I feel the State and City legislators must work together as true partners in supporting these new goals in education investment.
What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?
I am eager and committed to promote economic growth and create opportunity. We have one of the best Ports in the country. We have been #1 and #2 in our import and export of goods and services for many years and can building upon our transportation and logistics system. Focusing on the bioscience industry, information technology, and “green” jobs are a plus. As President of MACO, board member of NACO, and Councilwoman, use best practices learned. I will help to build relationships and partnerships to promote these new innovations. Continue to promote discussions on the importance of apprenticeships, internships, and career technology programs, starting from middle school to high school. Proud to share that one innovative program, which includes connecting partnerships, will be starting soon, at a 21st Century middle school in District 6.
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 believe the City Council has started a very important conversation on restructuring city government and to balance the powers bestowed to the Mayor through several revisions being proposed by the City Council. I look forward to continuing to dialogue on this important issue including restructuring the Board of Estimates, reporting and disclosure rules and continued ethics improvements. There is more work to be done and I want to be engaged in those conversations and changes.
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.
Some of the most important issues the council has dealt with were: Bills/resolutions introduced on equity in revenue sources, creating commissions, task forces, study groups, etc. and is expected to have significant impact on our City. It’s a way of addressing equity and inclusiveness. Bills concerning the police department overtime/community involvement, school funding, drug and mental health crisis. The Cyberattack that hit Baltimore City, was proof that government work/security efforts, needed to happen quickly, within the city’s aging technology infrastructure. The Water Accountability Act was passed to begin to help residents with incorrect billing statements on a case by case bases. Developing and implementing resilience land-use and building codes and practices by adopting the complete streets guidelines.Passing of the Fight for $15 minimum wage increase.
What weaknesses do you see in the delivery of city services? What can be done to improve response time and resident satisfaction?
I want to use the Council Committee structure to increase public accountability by city agencies. I think the citizens want us to be more engaged in how tax payers resources are used and to ask the hard questions when agencies fall short. I think we can use the auditing process better to account for millions of dollars and how those funds are spent. We have to be the watchdogs of precious city resources. Once the standard is set, the Council must use its power to force city services to be delivered in a consistent efficient manner.
One weakness example, was the cyberattack that slammed Baltimore City last year. It was a test on our need for improved technology infrastructure in city government. Employee training and updated systems are needed to improve response time for resident satisfaction.