2018 Primary election results

Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong

Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong
  • Democrat
  • Age: 47
  • Residence: Lutherville-Timonium

About Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong

Education

I grew up in New Orleans and attended St. Mary’s Dominican High School and Louisiana State University where I graduated with a B.S. in environmental management systems. Learning doesn’t stop when school does. Living and working overseas taught me how to interact and engage with people of differing cultures and ideals. Moving from environmental to agricultural education challenged me to become knowledgeable about farming. And as a foster parent, I have learned first hand about the social safety net.

Background

My 23 years in environmental science and education, program and curriculum development include a stint with the Peace Corps, the U.S. EPA, the Territorial Government of American Samoa, Environmental Concern Inc., The Maryland Association for Environmental and Outdoor Education, the College of Notre Dame, the Maryland Agricultural Resource Council, and the University of Maryland School of Nursing. Having worked in government at all levels, non-profits and institutes of higher education both here and abroad give me a unique set of skills to manage councilmanic duties.

Questionnaire

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1
Kamenetz record
What do you consider the greatest accomplishments and failings of the Kamenetz administration?
Mitchell-Strong: As a parent of children attending Baltimore County Public Schools, I consider the hiring of Dallas Dance, gifting him with cart Blanche to experiment with untried, unproven, technology products that have cost taxpayers more than 300 million dollars while schools crumble and basic student support systems are woefully understaffed, to be the greatest failing of the Kamenetz administration. I applaud the Kamenetz administration for its commitment to public recreation including the addition of 11 new parks, four new dog parks, five new artificial turf fields, and 10 major park improvements like new community centers, trails and large-scale enhancements at Lake Roland and Oregon Ridge Parks. The administration has also been a major supporter of the Baltimore County Agricultural Center which is a public park, a center for agricultural research and education, a treatment center for PTSD through equine therapy, and a provider of fresh produce to our neighbors in need. Through the Produce for the People program, the by-product of agricultural education programs, food grown at the farm park, is donated to county homeless shelters and food banks.
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2
Resources/Taxes
Does Baltimore County have adequate resources to meet its needs, particularly to renovate or replace aging schools? Do you support increasing the property tax or local income tax?
Mitchell-Strong: Years and years of deferred maintenance combined with increased strain on public infrastructure with population growth, has driven the county to a tipping point. Either we muster the courage to invest in the future today, creating a fertile landscape for new businesses and families to take root, or we continue to put band aids on gaping wounds. Good schools raise According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a definite correlation between school expenditures and home values in any given neighborhood. A report titled, “Using Market Valuation to Assess Public School Spending,” found that for every dollar spent on public schools in a community, home values increased $20 and a return of investment of $1.50 is realized. In a small state like Maryland, families have the flexibility of shopping many counties while still being able to commute to and from work. Baltimore must remain competitive. Taxes in and of themselves are not bad. Without taxes we wouldn’t have roads, schools, police, libraries, parks and the hundreds of other amenities and services a community needs. The key is spending those precious resource wisely. Prioritizing needs, trimming administratively top-heavy departments, using technology to improve efficiencies, and changing procurement methods are ways to apply existing resources to fulfill these critical needs. However, additional funds may be needed. I do support short-term, targeted revenue generation.
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3
Housing
Do you support Baltimore County's federal housing consent decree? In particular, do you support a prohibition on rental discrimination against those who use federal housing vouchers?
Mitchell-Strong: I cannot support the prejudging and denying services based on age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or the use of a voucher to pay a portion of rent. As Atticus Finch tells Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb in his skin and walk around in it.” For some, the words housing vouchers can evoke fear, resentment and instability. For others, those same words can evoke hope, opportunity, and stability. There is a massive lack of affordable housing available in the U.S. This, not the vouchers are the issue. Stable, affordable housing is a platform for health, education, jobs, and strong communities. These vouchers exist simply to cover a portion of rent thereby moving a person or a family from a position of instability to stability. A voucher doesn’t tell you about a person’s values, ideals, moral compass, or judgement. It does indicate that the holder is determined to build a better life for themselves and in doing so, a better community as a whole. It’s disingenuous to claim America is the land of opportunity celebrating only the exceptions to the rule, the one in a thousand success, while the true story of the 999 stays hidden in the shadows. To flip the odds, barriers to opportunity need to be removed. Until more affordable housing is made available, these vouchers serve as a pipeline to prosperity - which is the essence of the American Dream.
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4
School system
Does the county government exercise adequate oversight over the school system?
Mitchell-Strong: In a word, no. A hands-off approach has led to a decline in the overall quality of education. Baltimore County Public Schools’ administration costs are 6th highest in the nation. Transparency has been replaced with no-bid contracts. Curricular materials chosen for our students do not meet standards of proof that they are effective. Bullying is on the rise and academic performance in on the decline. Schools are overcrowded and crumbling beneath the students’ feet. Support services have been woefully underfunded while poverty rates have increased. We cannot afford to write off 52% of the budget – year after year after year. The rubber stamp of apathy that has become the status quo must be discarded in favor of active engagement and oversight.
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5
Revitalization
What role can the county play in assisting in the preservation or revitalization of aging communities?
Mitchell-Strong: The post-World War II suburbs that dominate most of Baltimore County must evolve to attract new and young families and support a 21st century world that we are only now beginning to glimpse. • Strong schools are magnets, drawing families to a region. • As retail patterns continue to shift, municipalities must be open to new uses for traditional commercial properties. • Investments in recreational facilities, parks, and bike trails historically provide a positive return in increased property values. • Clean energy and efficiency retrofits not only decrease operational expenses can be a factor in choosing a community. • Embracing innovative technologies can position a community at the head of the line. • Walkable communities benefit the young and the young at heart.
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6
Police
How would you characterize the relationship between the Baltimore County police and the communities they serve? Are any reforms necessary?
Mitchell-Strong: We are well served by the nearly 2,000 professional, committed and caring officers of the Baltimore County Police Department. As communities change and evolve over time, so too must the public institutions. Baltimore County is becoming more diverse. So too should its police force. Research is showing that when a department mirrors the community, it builds trust, and trust is key to forming relationships. Good police to community relationships are essential in maintaining safety. Like teachers in the classroom, police officers are on the front lines of systemic social ills, mental health, sexual assault, addiction, poverty, drugs, homelessness, helplessness. They cannot be asked to serve as counselor, therapist, or case manager, but they can be trained to understand how personal trauma, in all its forms, can manifest itself outwardly in behavior, and how to recognize the symptoms of mental illness, and connect citizens with services that are available. Our police force is a community asset. Let’s make sure they have the tools and training they need to be effective while at the same time walking upstream to solve problems at their source.
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7
Zoning
Baltimore County was a pioneer in rural land preservation. Do its zoning policies and the Urban-Rural Demarcation Line continue to serve the county's needs?
Mitchell-Strong: The Urban Rural Demarcation Line (URDL) is a living testament to the power of big picture thinking combined with long-range planning and political will. At the height of the suburban revolution, the county took its foot off the peddle, slowed down, and made a commitment to its future. It has helped to preserve the agricultural legacy and industry in the county, wildlife habitat, and water quality. The URDL came on line in 1965. This county council must now look for the next URDL – the next long-term planning tool that in fifty years will be seen as being just as pivotal in the history or Baltimore County than the URDL has been.
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8
Baltimore City
Is Baltimore County's support for cultural institutions in Baltimore City too little, too much or just right?
Mitchell-Strong: The county and the city. Like siblings it can be a love one minute and hate the next, but we are and always will be connected and interdependent. The success or failure of one impacts the other positively or negatively. Therefore, continued support of important cultural institutions is in the county’s best interest. County residents depend on the aquarium, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Science Center, and dozens of others for entertainment, education, and enlightenment. Yet, many more county residents, those with financial challenges may never step foot inside a museum. Therefore, I believe that we may need to rethink how the money contributed by the county to the city may be used to benefit more wholly the residents of the county. Therefore, a percentage of the direct grants to the institutions could be targeted to fund in class or out of class field trips, or coupons for low income county residents, many of whom are seniors, to visit. The 3.9 million that Kamenetz has budgeted for arts and culture in the 2019 budget represents .1% of the whole budget. Vibrant arts and culture cannot be relegated solely to the city. We need to invest closer to home as well, not only for the economic benefits, which are many, but also to inspire. Creativity is a top trait business is seeking in new employees. “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau.
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9
Transit
Is Baltimore County adequately served by mass transit?
Mitchell-Strong: Getting to a doctor’s appointment, school, a job, or the grocery store. If you are carless, these routine tasks aren’t so routine. I checked a few apps and found that on average, using the current public transportation options to get from Timonium to CCBC in Catonsville took 90 minutes, but only 30 minutes by car. That’s a 2-hour difference per day, 10 hours per week, and 40 hours per month. Inefficient public transportation is an impediment to upward mobility, health and education. It is, however, a very effective catalyst for car ownership which results in more traffic, more pollution, and more personal expenses in the form of insurance, gas, maintenance, and perhaps parking. The problem is a symptom of car-centric suburban design. The answer is not as easy to define. When we make the path to prosperity easier to navigate, more people will succeed. That has a net positive for the entire community. Thus, we need to boldly tackle the problem with a suite of solutions with an eye towards infrastructure requirements associated with the impending autonomous vehicle revolution which is on its way.
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