1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
I am a native of Baltimore City's 8th District and a graduate of the Baltimore City Public School System. For 20 years, I accomplished continuing professional education courses in line with positions I have held. I have served in various capacities of increasing responsibilities in Baltimore City's Department of Recreation and Maryland Department of Juvenile Services such as,
— Advisor for the Citywide Teen Council Program
— Certified gang liaison, Maryland Department of Juvenile Services
— Co-coordinator, District Council 8 Gang Summit
— Community Liaison , Delegate Nathaniel Oaks, 41st Legislative District
— Legislative Aide, former Delegate Wendell Phillips
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
Baltimore City's District Council 8 is confronted with many economic and social crises. The state of our community provides an extraordinary opportunity for visionary leadership at every level. My passion for serving on the council did not, however, begin with the 2011 race. Rather, I ran in the previous two Councilmatic races because of steadily declining sections of our community, escalation in violent crimes, poor constituency services and cronyism. Many of the same issues that existed in the prior two council races still persist today. We entrust our collective well-being in the hands of our elected officials. Regrettably, we have been let down by unethical and illegal conduct. Residents of the 8th District deserve better from their council member. If elected, as a public servant, I will offer better constituency services, accessibility, honesty and accountability.
Twenty-five years of unwavering community work has been a hallmark of my civic engagement in Baltimore City. I have worked with diverse groups of community organizations as a community leader, in the following capacities:
— Chair, 8th District Action Committee
— Active Member, Uplands Community Association
— Recreation Specialist of Hickey School/Department of Juvenile Services
— Red Line Community Advisory Council (former)
— Founder and head coach for the Mary E. Rodman Football Organization
The top four issues that I plan to address if elected to office are: (1) Create Living Wage Jobs, (2) Strengthen Public School Education, (3) Enhance Public Safety and (4) Improve Economic Opportunity for minority and women owned businesses and bring new retail development in the District.
3. Do you support Baltimore's current crime-fighting strategy? What changes, if any, would you advocate for to improve public safety in the city?
Baltimore's crime fighting strategy appears somewhat elusive in terms a comprehensive strategy. The City's use of Citiwatch, camera technology is being touted by the Police Commissioner has having a positive, measurable result in the reduction of criminal activity. This is a step in the right direction. I believe that we need enhanced funding for community policing programs. The relationship between police and residents must be strengthened. This effort requires thoughtful collaboration with stakeholders. The City should fund and reinstitute PAL Centers to give children a safe place alternative.
4. Do you support the recent reforms in the Baltimore City school system? Do you believe any changes are needed in the schools' governance structure (such as direct mayoral control or an elected school board)?
The Baltimore City Public School System is moving in the right direction with respect to (a) increasing public school options for families and students, and (b) providing school administrators with greater autonomy and establishing a strategy (formula) for an equitable, per student allocation. As reported by the City's School System, flexible dollars are up from 3 percent to 80 percent. This is encouraging news. Next, the recent "landmark contract with teachers" is untested and may or may yield positive outcome over the next five years.
Successful learning environments produce youth and adults prepared for the workforce or college. Many learners, however, may not desire to pursue a college education in math, sciences or business, etc. Therefore, I not only support colleges and university, but also entrepreneurial, pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in skilled trades, gaming industry careers, as well as supervisory, managerial career options.
As to governance, my position is that greater transparency and a checks and balances system in Baltimore's public policy are vitally important to our children's future. With respect to composition of the board members, the issue should put to a citywide referendum. However, I would not oppose the composition of a school board that is both elected and appointed members with term limits of two, four-year terms.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
I have grave concerns regarding insufficient the capital investments in the aging school buildings, especially in the 8th District. The Council body needs to take an aggressive approach to help ensure available capital funds may be disbursed through the Board of Estimates. A new revenue stream could be derived from slots and gaming, among other state revenue sources. According to a recent Daily Record article (August 2011), Maryland's two casinos brought in $15.5 million in revenue in July, the first month of fiscal 2012. The gaming parlors in Baltimore appear to be position to provide a much needed infusion of revenue. The City should also benchmark the renovation plan against successful urban school systems models throughout the United States.
6. Property taxes have become a major issue in this year's election. Do you believe the city's tax rate needs to be cut? If so, by how much, and what steps would you take to keep the city's budget in balance while lowering the rate?
City homeowners generally agree that Baltimore's property tax rate is almost double as rates in adjacent jurisdictions. I believe that a balanced approach to reducing property taxes must be accompanied by an aggressive marketing plan that attracts new businesses and homeowners who want to live, work, and raise their families in Baltimore. Revenues from PILOTS and Baltimore's slots and gaming should be used not only to increase per student funding level, but also to reduce property taxes. I support raising taxes on vacant houses in the city that will generate new revenue as a component of a comprehensive plan. We also need to develop innovative approaches in neighborhood revitalization that includes homeownership.
Steps to be taken in keeping a budget balanced should involve program audits of city services. The audit are solely designed to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse while improving city services and retaining public employee jobs. The state delegation also plays a key role in assisting the City to secure state and federal resources. I believe an individual council member should be a strategic partner in championing funding for the city. If elected, I plan to work with state delegates to help the city. In addition, I will initiate a think tank of the best and brightest comprising accountant, actuarial, economist, business and educator, among other, professional to assist me in devising progressive and proactive solution to the budget crises. As to the percentage by which a budget reduction would occur, this factor must be taken in the context of a complete budget analysis. Therefore, further study is required in this matter.
7. The city has faced large budget shortfalls in recent years. If that trend continues, what top priorities would you protect from cuts? In what areas would you pursue spending reductions?
Protection of pension and benefits of public employees is vital to our economic and public safety. Safe investment of the principal is a priority. Further, a serious review of the pension board selection process and term of appointment should be revisited. A renewed level of commitment to healthcare, education, family, youth and young adult programs, drug treatment is another priority. The preservation of public lands and historical buildings are important assets. Clean water and green environment/jobs programs are important to our overall well-being. Therefore, I will fight to support and protect these groups of programs.
I believe the City could realize substantial cost savings if we reduced the number of contractors performing inherently governmental work, and identify ways to reduce cost over runs in construction contracts by increasing use the U.S. Corps of Engineers on city-related engineering projects through a work sharing agreement. Future long-term TIFs (20 years+) would be significantly shortened in order to more quickly generate new streams of tax revenue.
8. Baltimore has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade. What would you do to encourage economic development and provide employment opportunities for city residents?
The Uplands Redevelopment Project is in the 8th District and is reportedly the biggest redevelopment in Baltimore's history. In 2008 demolition began on the entire Uplands Neighborhood. Once demolition was complete work began on upgrading the infrastructure in preparation for the new development. From an observer's position, I did not witness enough Baltimore resident's being employed at the site. The official groundbreaking was on October 1, 2010 and Phase I is just now getting underway at Edmondson and Athol Avenues. As the council member, I will hold the developer accountable for hiring city residents in Uplands. In addition, by employing coalition building strategies, I will seek to:
a. Create economic incentives for small entrepreneurial programs in the residential market as those in commercial markets;
b. Support Community Partnership Agreements that requires commercial, construction companies and developers that benefit from multi-million dollar contracts or PILOTS to partner with the city and labor's hiring hall. Increased employment would likely result in growth in the City's economy;
c. Work with stakeholders in creating a clear, comprehensive retail development plan for neighborhoods; and
d. Create and support minority and women small business programs that require employment of local residents.