1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve on the City Council.
I have a Bachelor's degree in History, with honors, from Duke University and a Law Degree from Fordham University. I practiced law in New York, DC and in Fairfax County, VA. Later, I attended George Washington Univ. for its Master's program in Secondary Education when I decided to switch careers into education. I taught Social Studies (primarily World History) for 11 years, in Virginia, Delaware, and in Baltimore County high schools, and taught History at CCBC for 2 years. While in Virginia I was the department chair.
Currently I run a law-related education program at CLIA, a nonprofit in the city that serves Baltimore City youth. I have been actively involved in community service and nonprofit work for most of my adult life. The combination of private, public and nonprofit work gives me a unique perspective on how to integrate these sectors through government. I have also served in many leadership roles both in my professional and volunteer careers.
2. Why do you want to serve on the council? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
Our representatives on the City Council should work to build communities and solve problems. The first district is represented by a councilman who does not actively engage with his district. He often sends staff to community meetings instead of attending personally, and he has a reputation for not returning constituent phone calls. I am running because our district deserves more active representation. I have the energy and the drive that the residents of the first district need on the City Council.
My approach will be to dig deeper into specific issues to find long term solutions beneath the surface, not just put band-aids on the problems. The city is in need of new ideas and new approaches to its problems. My top priorities are reliable constituent service, education, and tax reform.
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?
I support the approach of getting the most violent criminals off the streets, but would like to see more emphasis on prevention of crime among young people.
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)?
Dr. Alonso has good ideas and has made some progress, and most importantly cares about children and youth. I think there is huge room for more improvement, particularly in the upper grades. I think a combination of appointed and elected members of the school board would create the right balance of governance, and do not think the mayor should directly control the schools as of now.
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
This problem is so great that it requires outside funding from philanthropists, and from the state and federal government. Safety in the buildings (water, HVAC, windows, locks, etc.) should take priority. New technology is great but is useless if the power goes out or the building isn't properly heated or cooled.
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?
The property tax should be cut to 1.5% within three years, which would still be higher than the rest of the state, but not twice as high. In order to fund the temporary loss of revenue, a temporary tax could be imposed on the property of nonprofits such as the universities and hospitals. The city should sell the property it owns but which is not used for government purposes, with the buyers being eligible for the new lower rate immediately, and the proceeds of the property sales could be used to offset the loss of revenue. Vacant and blighted properties should be immediately taxed at a higher rate, and that rate should stay in effect. used to offset the loss of revenue. Vacant and blighted properties should be immediately taxed at a higher rate, and that rate should stay in effect.
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?
The first place I would look for cuts would be the Council itself. With fifteen members, Baltimore's City Council is twice as big as the legislative bodies in our surrounding counties. If we're serious about cutting City government, we need to amend the City Charter to cut the Council in half. I would also compare the size, workload, and pay scales of the City bureaucracy with surrounding jurisdictions, to assess whether city agencies are spending public dollars as efficiently as possible.
We cannot close budget gaps entirely by cutting the City Council and finding efficiencies, but it's a start. I would try to protect public safety and public education; although I do not believe any agency can be completely excluded from cuts in the budget process.
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?
We need an Economic Development Authority to promote the current businesses in the city and to attract new businesses, especially those that do not require advanced education (such as manufacturing and union jobs). Employers that receive any benefits from the city should be required to hire workers who live in the city first, and that compliance should be monitored annually.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times