Do you support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education? Are you committed to funding associated reforms, and if so, how?
Schlakman: We agree with the Commission’s recommendations that public school funding be distributed according to the needs of disadvantaged students, that less funding be distributed to wealthier school districts, and that funding should be weighted toward students who are living in poverty. We need to examine the historical circumstances that have created disparities in all measurable outcomes, including health and education. Success in business and development must come because we have eliminated disparities in the way Marylanders are educated, not despite those disparities. We must make it clear that we are willing to cut investment in development projects (especially private development projects aided by public subsidies) and re-invest those funds in the basic task of educating students. We will thrive in business and development only after each student is funded to their full potential, and until that goal is reached the state cannot defend spending on huge private development projects.
Is Maryland's transportation spending appropriately balanced between roads and transit? Does the state have the resources to meet its transportation needs? With the cancellation of the Red Line and the advent of BaltimoreLink, is the Baltimore region adequately served by transit?
Schlakman: Maryland’s transportation infrastructure is unbalanced, with an emphasis on car transportation on roads and a neglect of mass transit on rails and other means, such as walking and bicycle paths. Road construction and maintenance expenses should be decreased and shifted to new rail construction. The District of Columbia and Baltimore should be connected efficiently by expanding and connecting both cities’ mass transit system. The BaltimoreLink system has not sufficiently expanded Baltimore’s public transit infrastructure. The Baltimore Metro and Light Rail systems should be expanded to provide more access to workplaces, dense housing areas and entertainment and tourist destinations. Cities should be encouraged to develop dedicated bicycle lanes and establish downtown car-free zones. Once funding is shifted from new road construction and expensive upkeep of existing roads to mass transit and green transit systems, sufficient funds will exist to establish a balanced, effective transportation infrastructure.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Schlakman: Yes. We must end the failed “War on Drugs” by legalizing marijuana and decriminalizing the use of other drugs. Drug abuse and addiction must be treated as a public health crisis, not a criminal activity. Treatment must be emphasized over arrest and imprisonment. Ending arrests for marijuana sales will drastically decrease street violence. Legalizing and taxing marijuana sales will create a huge influx of new public money, as has happened in Colorado and other jurisdictions. There is no reason to continue the failed war on marijuana, and there are many benefits to legalizing it for recreational purposes. It’s important to recognize that many millionaires seem to want to cash in on the gold rush of legal taxed and regulated cannabis. Yet former sellers who were caught and served their time are not able to raise the funds to sell it legally. We must not ignore the damage done by illegal cannabis, and the war on black, brown and poor people that have come from it. The law must serve those that were selling it illegally that now want to be become entrepreneurs and sell it legally. We must expunge the records of those that were charged previously. We must work to release those currently in the criminal justice system for marijuana related charges. That is remediation, and while it is necessary it is not enough. We need reparations using proceeds from legally taxed cannabis to invest in those that were criminalized and most directly targeted by the war on drugs.
At a time when the federal government's commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration is questionable, what new steps should Maryland take to protect this resource?
Schlakman: We must prioritize the safety of Maryland’s natural resources and people over the corporate bottom line. One of the largest threats to the Chesapeake Bay are under-regulated agricultural industries, particularly the chicken industry. We must demand and enforce real restrictions on pollution, runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus, and other damaging agricultural practices. We need to be ready to implement real enforcement mechanisms on polluting companies, including the revocation of corporate charters of companies that refuse to prioritize the health of the Bay over their profits. We must permanently ban natural gas drilling in or near the Chesapeake Bay, and we must defend the ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Maryland. We can power every Maryland home and business with clean, renewable energy - and put tens of thousands of Marylanders to work - if we commit to building an energy infrastructure of 100% renewable energy and dump gas and oil extraction plans.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Schlakman: We have to abandon efforts to tinker with the private health insurance system and put private insurance companies out of business. Maryland can and should implement a universal, single-payer health care system under which every Marylander is provided health care coverage beginning at birth. Similarly to how all Americans over a certain age are entitled to Medicare coverage that provides a basic level of coverage, state governments can ensure that their residents are entitled to a basic level of coverage regardless of their age, employment, or ability to pay out of pocket. Maryland has several world-renowned hospitals, and Marylanders should be entitled to an adequate level of care at any of them regardless of their wealth. Activists from every state have worked for decades on creating a universal, single-payer system (also called “Medicare-for-All”) and we can utilize this knowledge and experience to develop an affordable system that can work for Maryland.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Schlakman: We believe that many violent crimes are a reaction to conditions of hopelessness and despair. We will work to address hopelessness and despair by working toward justice wherever possible. We will work for environmental justice by targeting polluting industries and companies who have turned once-thriving neighborhoods in Baltimore into waste dumps. We will work to create health justice by promoting universal, single-payer health care for all Marylanders, so no one has to act out of desperation of being sick and unable to afford care. We will work for economic justice by establishing a universal basic income so that every Marylander can afford basic housing, food, and necessities regardless of their employment. We will work for economic justice by challenging corporations that look to exploit communities by taking their land, homes, and resources in search of profits. We will work for economic justice by protecting and expanding affordable public housing. We will end the threats many communities perceive against them by ending the failed “War on Drugs” and redirecting state resources toward treatment of drug abuse and addiction.
How would you characterize Maryland's business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Schlakman: Maryland’s business climate is great - for big business. Governor Hogan’s emphasis is on protecting and promoting the concerns of international, multi-billion dollar conglomerates. He has worked to stall pollution regulations that would have affected Perdue Farms, written Marriott International into his public budget, and is currently dangling $5 billion in incentive packages in front of Amazon. Governor Hogan subscribes to a “corporate headquarters” model that pumps public money into the very top levels of large corporations. We believe in a community wealth-building model. As a small business owner, I understand how small businesses work together to keep our dollars in our communities, not sheltered in off-shore accounts or tax-friendly corporate havens. One way Maryland can promote community wealth building is by creating a requirement for large institutions to consider local businesses when seeking bids on contracts. We know that large institutions tend to consider big businesses first when looking for vendors out of habit and because the Governor likes to promote big businesses. We will always look to build community wealth by investing in small businesses before we offer huge incentive packages to big businesses.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Schlakman: Yes. Governor O’Malley’s shameful defense of drawing Democrat-friendly districts in 2010 is a stain on Maryland’s commitment to free and fair elections that must be remedied. As a technology consultant, I understand how to utilize technological resources to solve organizational problems. There are many technological methods for drawing fair and impartial legislative and Congressional districts, and we can easily do this job without relying on impartial political operatives to play games with our voting districts.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Schlakman: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights goes too far in shielding some members of the police force. As a Baltimorean, it is disturbing to hear about repeated abuses of power by a segment of the police force that has decided that it is not subject to the laws it has sworn to enforce. Police need to be held to the same standards as civilians when they are suspected of having broken the law and are being investigated for a crime. We understand that some activities of the police need to be kept private, just as a civilian working in computer programming or some other pursuit of intellectual property might need to keep aspects of their work secret. This does not mean that basic information about who is being accused of wrongdoing should be withheld, or that a person being accused of a crime should be granted long periods of silence during which they are not required to answer questions from their fellow police officers. We believe that civilian reviews boards are vital to public oversight of the police force, and they ought to be granted further powers to take binding action against police after a thorough, public process is complete. Rebuilding public trust between police and the public is crucial to addressing violent crime on the streets of Baltimore and other cities throughout Maryland, and we cannot rebuild trust as long as some untrustworthy police officers use tools to shield themselves from accountability for their conduct.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Schlakman: The first step to addressing the opioid crisis and fighting addiction is to starting thinking about the drug crisis as a public health problem, not a criminal problem. We have to stop treating people experiencing drug addiction as criminals and start treating them as our neighbors in need of compassion and help. The tools we use to solve criminal problems are not doing the job. Arresting and jailing people isn’t helping them become healthy. Buying more and bigger guns for police to make more and bigger raids is creating a street arms race that puts both civilians and police at risk. Filling prisons with low and mid-level drug offenders is displacing entire communities from their families, creating more desperation, and perpetuating the cycle of crime and violence. We need to create an environment in which people experiencing addiction feel safe admitting their struggles and seeking help. We need to invest less in militarizing police and more in equipping doctors, hospitals, and community health centers with what they need to house and treat people looking to escape addiction. We will re-distribute state funds provided to local police forces (such as the State Aid for Police Protection Fund, which provided over $67 million in state funds to local police forces in 2016) to build a robust program for providing support and treatment for Marylanders experiencing addiction.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Schlakman: I have worked for many years to promote a universal basic income (or basic income guarantee) which is a program designed to provide each citizen within a jurisdiction with a regular liveable income regardless of their age or employment status. All Americans over the age of 67 are already provided a type of universal basic income, which is called Social Security. I want Social Security expanded to all adults in Maryland, and I want everyone to receive the same livable income. Many cities and provinces throughout the world have experimented with a basic income guarantee, and I will work to institute such a guarantee in Maryland. We can ensure that every Marylander is provided enough for a safe place to live, sufficient food to stay healthy, and basic services like electricity and water. Once their basic needs are met, people will have more time and freedom to work to pay for luxuries, go to school if they want to learn new skills, or start a business. We also believe that income equality results from the prioritization of corporate interests over that of communities and individuals. We will no longer allow companies to exploit Maryland’s natural resources, which includes its neighborhoods and people. Simply: corporations are only allowed to do business if their corporate charter is approved and renewed by the state. If we believe that a corporation is no longer working in the best interests of the state, my administration will revoke that corporation’s charter and right to do business.
Do the state's Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylander's ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Schlakman: Maryland’s existing public information and open meetings laws are generally satisfactory for individuals who are motivated to exercise oversight of government, but we believe that full civic engagement requires more of a commitment than simply making meetings and documents available to the public. As a technology consultant, I understand the incredible power technology has to make civic activities more accessible and attractive to Marylanders. We can encourage more people to get involved in decision-making by harnessing the power of streaming video, online discussion tools, and social media. We can make decision-making not only accessible but attractive to a new generation who aren’t excited by quarterly meetings held in high school auditoriums. Our government will function best only when everyone is interested in participating through whatever tools they are comfortable with.