What do you consider the greatest accomplishments and failings of the Kamenetz administration?
Almond: One of the greatest accomplishments of the Kamenetz administration is the significant investment in school construction projects. When faced with an enormous and daunting task with regards to renovating our schools, the Kamenetz administration forward funded key necessary projects and prioritized education. The greatest failing of the Kamenetz administration was some of the pension decisions made with regards to pension double dipping for certain county officials. I am proud to have passed legislation correcting this and eliminating pension double dipping.
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?
Almond: Before raising taxes Baltimore County must explore creative and alternative sources of revenue. Last year, I passed legislation allocating a portion of our already existing hotel tax into Baltimore County tourism. Studies show that for every $1 a jurisdiction invests in tourism, the return is $25. By redirecting an already existing revenue source to reinvest in our own tourism, we are investing in ourselves and creatively generating new revenue that our County so desperately needs. This is one way to fund important projects such as school construction.
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?
Almond: I believe we have significant housing inequity and poverty concentration in Baltimore County and support the idea that we must address this inequity to solve the County’s increasing poverty levels. I was raised by a single mom, who worked three jobs to keep a roof over our head, and I know first hand the struggles that vulnerable county residents are faced with everyday. I am committed to tackling this inequity head on, with all parties at the table. I am a consensus builder, and when faced with a problem as challenging as Baltimore County’s housing consent decree, I understand that the best way to address it is with all parties at the table to work towards a solution.
Does the county government exercise adequate oversight over the school system?
Almond: As County Executive I will give greater audit power and control to the auditor’s office to grant them oversight on BCPS contracts. With such a significant portion of Baltimore County’s budget being justifiable allocated to our school system, I believe we have a responsibility to tax payers to be sure their money is being spent wisely– this includes BCPS contracts over a designated amount of money.
What role can the county play in assisting in the preservation or revitalization of aging communities?
Almond: Through our planning department and our economic development department, I know Baltimore County can be proactive and effective in preserving and revitalizing our aging communities. As County Executive, I will establish a separate department for economic development to ensure we are being proactive in revitalizing our communities through community grants, while utilizing and expanding our planning department to identify and protect those communities that require greater preservation efforts. I believe strong leadership finds balance, and when it comes to maintaining and protecting Baltimore County’s most sacred treasure, our communities, it is important to invest significant resources to preserve and revitalize them.
How would you characterize the relationship between the Baltimore County police and the communities they serve? Are any reforms necessary?
Almond: I believe the relationship between police and community should be consistently evolving. As a 30 year community activist and volunteer, spending many years volunteering with the Baltimore County Police Department and within the School Resource Officer Program, I have seen first hand the significant impact a positive police relationship and presence has within a community. From serving as mentors, to preventing violence, police officers interfacing with community is a positive. As County Executive, I will work with leadership in our police department to implement community policing and will set a precedent for police to get to know the individual community they serve so they can adjust to the needs and cultures of that community. This will result in the best outcome for our communities and our officers.
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?
Almond: I am a strong advocate for maintaining the URDL, and protecting the rural land outside of the URDL while focusing development and growth in the appropriate areas inside the URDL. In order to have strong communities, Baltimore County must offer residents the amenities they crave, however it is important to focus those amenities in designated areas. I believe that our zoning policies and our Urban-Rural Demarcation Line serve our needs and accomplish those goals when implemented correctly.
Is Baltimore County's support for cultural institutions in Baltimore City too little, too much or just right?
Almond: The cultural institutions in Baltimore City are another part of what makes Baltimore County a great place to live, work and raise a family. These are amenities that the people crave. We certainly do not do too much in this regard. I wish that we could do more. It comes down to balancing competing priorities and not asking the people of Baltimore County to dig too deep in the pockets. Baltimore County has done generally done a good job of balancing these priorities. It is not unlike what we do in our own lives, when we are short on money the first thing that is taken care of are the basic needs; and when we have periods of greater prosperity we spend more money on the wants and amenities. I think we always support these cultural institutions and the level of support will be somewhat dependent on the financial position of the county.
Is Baltimore County adequately served by mass transit?
Almond: No and neither is the entire region. If we want to be less oil dependent as a country, we need 21st Century mass transit systems. If we want to have less traffic congestion, we need a 21st Century system. If we do not want to spend more money acquiring more land for more roads and widening the ones we have, we need a 21st Century system. The biggest failing of State officials over the last 4 years, has been the redirection of money from mass transit to roads and the loss of billions of dollars in Federal funding that other states would die for. These choices by the State will set the State and Baltimore County back decades.