Baltimore City Councilwoman, District 13 (2016 – present)
Why are you running for office?
Baltimore City is at a crossroads. The status quo has not worked for the people in our neighborhoods for some time now. In order to turn things around, we need leaders who will be accountable and transparent to the public while also having a track record of getting things done. I am that leader. I have introduced and passed more legislation than all but one of my colleagues on the current council. That was accomplished through hard work, mutual respect, and bringing all sides to the table for the common good.
Our challenge moving forward is to make our streets safe without violating the Constitutional rights of our citizens, show Baltimore City students that they are worth investing in, find creative ways to replace illegal guns with legitimate paychecks, and restore trust in City Hall by being open and transparent.
Baltimore City has so much untapped potential. We have access to key rail lines, sit at the intersection of I-70 & I-95, and one of the largest ports in the nation. We have beautiful parks, and waterfront that is unlike anything within a 300 mile radius. Finally, we have some of the kindest neighbors of any major city in the nation. If we do not address basic issues, we will continue to suffer the business and population losses that have plagued our city for years now, and Baltimore’s potential will continue to remain untapped.
What are the most pressing issues in the city, and how would you address them?
Reducing crime and ending Baltimore’s avertable and early deaths epidemic
The past decade saw Baltimore ascend to one of the deadliest cities in the nation. Over 1,000 people die early each year from a combination of gun violence, environmental pollution, traffic accidents, or unsafe workplaces.
Until we address these issues, we will not see population or economic growth, and ultimately fall short of the potential that we all see in Baltimore. But we must first stop the bloodshed taking place across the city, and interrupt the crime before it starts.
Prioritize education in our city budget and ensuring our children and educators are not at a disadvantage as compared to the surrounding counties.
I will do this by fully funding the recommendations of the Kirwin Commission that are adopted by Annapolis. We need to shift from quadrennial audits to annual audits of city agencies. This audit process, along with City Council oversight, will find ways to modernize city departments, find unnecessary spending, and shift resources to our public schools.
Equitable Economic Development.
Baltimore’s development has been focused in select areas, while the rest of the city has been neglected and, in many cases, abandoned.
Future Capital Budgets must be formed and distributed with an equity framework. The outlays for streets, sidewalks, schools, recreation centers, and parks are done so through the lens of equity. We must also look at where and how its economic development tools ranging from capital investments to tax credits, are being used.
How do you assess the current police commissioner’s performance and the department’s approach to fighting violent crime, specifically murder?
First, we need to support the Commissioner. We need stability at the BPD and someone with integrity in that position. Second, the Commissioner has taken steps to increase transparency, implement data-driven metrics such as tracking response time to police calls. I support his effort to redeploy personnel to have more officers on the street, and support his continual efforts to recruit more officers. So while none of us in City Hall are happy with the current violent crime rate, I am pleased that the Commissioner has taken tangible steps to tackle this problem.
As the next City Council President, I would make it a priority to get continual status updates from Commissioner Harrison on the progress of his initiatives, and expect that a comprehensive review of the City’s crime plan be done at regular intervals to assess what is working and what is not.
How would you address the issue of squeegee kids in the city’s intersections?
I would like to propose a “Youth Opportunity Guarantee”. Baltimore’s young people need access to meaningful job experience. Without those opportunities, too many young people turn into “squeegee kids,” or even worse, they may turn to serious crime. The Youth Opportunity Guarantee would be simple: any city resident under the age of 18 who wants a job will get one. This would mean an honest income, job experience, and breaking the cycle of crime for many of the young people in the family. Like the city and state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we need bold actions to help provide opportunities to these kids.
What strategies would you pursue to reduce drug addiction and associated ills, such as overdose deaths and crime?
First, we need to declare a drug emergency, similar to the one in Anne Arundel County, allowing City Hall to be more proactive in fighting this issue. Second, we need to expand the availability of naloxone and training of individuals in the use of the drug to keep people alive and ultimately get the resources they deserve. Baltimore City was a leader in having a standing order for naloxone. We just need to ensure enough resources are behind its deployment.
Third, I support establishing overdose prevention centers, so long they are in or associated with hospitals, not as stand-alone facilities. Drug treatment is not just dealing with the specific use of drugs. Often people turn to drugs to deal with underlying mental, health, and behavioral issues. Fixing the core root of the problem must be part of the treatment process if we truly want to provide lasting solutions for people dealing with addiction. Hospitals are typically the only place where you can find professionals in all of these fields.
How do you propose Baltimore pay for its expected share of the Kirwan education commission reforms?
In order to meet our Kirwan obligations Baltimore City will have to look at how we raise and spend our money. It is not in the City’s best interest to raise certain taxes like our already high property tax rate. Our income tax is already at the highest amount allowed by state law. Two revenue raisers would be allowing the City to have a share of the gambling revenue that will come from sports betting. Another is allowing for the City to implement a tax on liquor and on legalized marijuana. Any cuts to agencies would curtail service delivery. The City must take stock of our use of tax credits. We must also seriously consider shifting how we pay for solid waste pick up and disposal from our property taxes to a pay-as-you-throw utility. Paying for Kirwin will require hard choices, however we need to make smart decisions, not just the easy ones.
What are the overlooked opportunities for economic development and job creation in Baltimore, and how will you encourage their implementation?
Again, a key priority of mine is Equitable Economic Development. We need development in East and West Baltimore and opportunities for those residents to get to work, not just along the waterfront. I introduced the Community Workforce Agreement legislation in order to help spur opportunities for city residents to work on projects involving city resources. I would like to see an initial target of 10% of the workforce be Baltimore City residents and increase that benchmark over time. My proposed “Youth Opportunity Guarantee” would provide real work experience for our young people which would translate into better careers down the line, and keep some of our children away from the streets and a life of crime.
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 support the many of the charter amendments that will be before Baltimore City voters, including the proposed measure to reform the Board of Estimates. We need oversight and balanced government at city hall to hold elected officials accountable to the people. I also believe that voters will vote to give City Council the power to remove our mayor if he/she commits a crime. Leadership should be shared wherever possible and oversight should be expected of all those who hold positions of power in Baltimore CIty.
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.
Obviously, crime has been the top issue that we have dealt with over the past four years. Additionally, having an honest and transparent City Council has also been a top issue in light of the Healthy Holly scandal and other public corruption issues that we have encountered. I am proud of the work we did to require top officials to be Baltimore City residents, our Displaced Workers’ Legislation to protect contract workers who may lose their job through no fault of their own, along with my “gag order” legislation, allowing victims of BPD misconduct to speak about their experiences. I disagreed with legislation on mandatory minimums, voted for tax credits which might have not been the best practice with Kirwin in front of us, and was disappointed that we still do not have enough oversight of audit recommendations.
What weaknesses do you see in the delivery of city services? What can be done to improve response time and resident satisfaction?
There is a definite sense that different neighborhoods get different levels of service. The only way to combat this idea is through ensuring every neighborhood receives an excellent level of service. This means working collaboratively with agencies to make sure they implement equity in not only their service delivery but also their capital budgeting. DPW needs to be able to keep up with illegal dumping at the same rate in Harlem Park as well as Patterson Park. Every sidewalk in the City needs to be ADA compliant, not just those downtown. As Council President I would ensure that all agencies are delivering their services equitably, and if they aren’t it is I will work to find out why, and make sure they do. As Council President I will also work to ensure that agencies are also implementing their capital budget equitably.