What do you consider the greatest accomplishments and failings of the Kamenetz administration?
Kach: Accomplishments – For all eight years the County maintained AAA Bond rating and in partnering with the State, invested a record $1.3 billion in school construction and renovation. Failures – The County Executive failed to reach out to Baltimore county citizens for input regarding County projects and policies. Unhealthy relationships that his administration has had with special interests have also resulted in the County spending to benefit a few well connected individuals and companies. He has also ignored the acute need for recreational facilities in Baltimore County. Lastly, the County Executive has also adopted certain policies that are in direct conflict with Federal immigration policies, leading many to conclude that Baltimore County is a sanctuary county, including me.
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?
Kach: I oppose any and all tax increases, whether it be property taxes or income taxes. I do believe that we have the resources and means to afford the necessary replacement and renovation of public schools. It is simply a matter of priorities. Unfortunately, the current Administration has approved expenditures which benefit special interests and political cronies. The $43 million bailout to well-connected developers at Towson Row, funded by raiding future tax revenues, is a perfect example. Furthermore, recently the Baltimore County Board of Education approved funding totaling $140 million over seven years to continue the County’s STAT tablet program. There has yet to be an adequate evaluation regarding the academic success of this program. The contract is with the same company that won a no bid contract (over $200 million) under now convicted former Superintendent Dallas Dance. Under the current STAT contract, despite all the money spent by County taxpayers, all tablets currently in use must be returned to the vendor! Some of this lost revenue could be used for debt service in order to fund needed school construction and renovation. We do not need tax increases to ensure the necessary public services.
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?
Kach: I do not view the Consent Agreement as positive step for Baltimore County residents and I oppose forcing landlords to accept section 8 vouchers. The agreement is simply another step by the Federal Government’s fixation with social engineering, which poses a direct threat to a way of life that you and I and many others have worked to attain and maintain. This is the American Dream. The Agreement in which Baltimore County has entered into threatens it. Most of us were raised to achieve certain goals. Those goals included getting a good education, a job and advancing up the ladder of success. It is unacceptable that so many are trapped in failing schools and poor neighborhoods. I know that their chances of realizing the American Dream are compromised. No one person has all the answers, but I do question how, with all the money we spend on education, does the situation remain so deplorable in some of our schools? In a few areas of the County, there is an absence of community involvement working to facilitate good relations between the schools, police, social workers and residents. Thankfully the Third District is blessed with strong and closely knit communities which support one another.
Does the county government exercise adequate oversight over the school system?
Kach: Due to state law, the County has very little oversight power concerning the public school system. The County cannot order an audit of the School system nor can it dictate spending priorities. That power rests with the School Board. The County Council only has the power to cut the school budget. However, if the budget is cut, only the school board has the power to set spending priorities with the money that has been appropriated. I firmly believe that this relationship is in need of changing, especially in light of recent convictions of high level officials in the Baltimore County school system. In order to give the county more authority to monitor the adherence to fiscal policies, the state law will need to be changed. This way, the County Council and Administration will be able to ensure that receipts and disbursements are handled appropriately and ethically. In my opinion, this needs to be a priority in the upcoming term.
What role can the county play in assisting in the preservation or revitalization of aging communities?
Kach: Redevelopment of our aging communities and revitalization of formerly vibrant industrial centers should be a strong county priority. Encouragement of development where adequate public facilities exist is smart as well as preferable. I am a strong supporter of smart growth, but I do not support developing every square inch of open land in established communities, which is why I preserved over a thousand acres of green and open space in these communities during the last zoning cycle. Other subdivisions have addressed this issue by offering property tax credits over a finite period, offering assistance with settlement costs, or offering property owners loans to seniors which are then repaid with interest upon the sale of the home. Improvements to infrastructure are also catalytic in revitalizing areas in need. I am a firm believer in seeing what is successful in other jurisdictions and implementing similar policies.
How would you characterize the relationship between the Baltimore County police and the communities they serve? Are any reforms necessary?
Kach: Because of the vibrant community outreach programs such as the Police Community Relations Council, the people of the Third District have an excellent relationship with Baltimore County Police. This past winter, there were a number of high profile break-ins in the central area of the County. The police developed a strategy to quickly catch the perpetrators while keeping the public informed. With the implementation of body cameras, Baltimore County has taken a significant step forward in ensuring that the rights of both police and civilians are protected.
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?
Kach: I am a firm believer in the Master Plan and the preservation of the Urban Rural Demarcation Line. Asides from protecting property rights, these two factors were essential to my decision making during the 2016 Comprehensive Zoning Map Process. Baltimore County has been successful in preserving over 65,000 acres of agricultural land, forests and open space. Preservation of our prime and productive agricultural land is imperative to ensure that the farming industry, which is a large part of the County’s economy, remains viable and continues to thrive. It is also important to note that one million central Maryland citizens rely on public water from the three reservoirs in Baltimore County. In order to protect the quality of the drinking water, the URDL and Master Plan calls for significant limitations on development. Zoning decisions outside the URDL must reflect the importance of these issues. During the 2016 CZMP, I preserved nearly 1,500 acres in the rural areas and existing suburban communities.
Is Baltimore County's support for cultural institutions in Baltimore City too little, too much or just right?
Kach: The County support of these institutions should reflect the uses of them by Baltimore County residents and schools. Since budgets are tight and there are many other priorities that must have the necessary funding, specifically, this is a very difficult question to definitively answer.
Is Baltimore County adequately served by mass transit?
Kach: In my lifetime, mass transit in the Baltimore-Metropolitan area has never kept up with the need. First and foremost, existing mass transit must be user-friendly and dependable. For example, express service should become a crucial part of the Light Rail in order to increase ridership. The Light Rail is the least successful mass transit system in the State of Maryland. Because mass transit is operated by the State of Maryland, the Administration and County Delegation to the State Legislature must push for a comprehensive study regarding the mass transit needs of our county. Public input into this process is critical.