In 1999 I received a MPH in Urban Health Administration from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ where I also completed my training in the Advanced Life Support Practitioner Program. I then went on to complete an Advanced Trauma Management and Flight Medicine Subspecialty Fellowship at the New York Medical College- Westchester Medical Center. I am currently a Disaster Epidemiology Ph.D. candidate at the Naval Postgraduate School.
As a public safety professional, I have served in many capacities. During college, while working for a police agency, I helped to negotiate the surrender of an armed hostage taker. I later managed a regional 911 communications center where I directed the emergency response to an attempted airliner bombing. During my tenure, I was awarded a Gubernatorial citation for my perseverance in uncovering a plan for mass poisoning. Currently, I work as a Sergeant for the Washington DC Fire and EMS Department with my four-legged german shepherd partner Kylie. Trained in explosive and human remains detection, Kylie works alongside me during natural and man-made disasters. Before my current role, I was responsible for evaluating and improving the provision of emergency medical services system-wide. As an elected member of my local board of education, I was responsible for managing millions of dollars in taxpayer revenue while ensuring high-quality public education. I was ultimately appointed to serve on the NJ Commission for Special Education where I championed the needs of our most vulnerable children. While serving as a municipal zoning official, I was proud of my accomplishments towards smart growth which included preserving hundreds of acres of green space at no cost to the community. As a member of the Howard County Alcohol Beverage Hearing Board, nominated by Councilwoman Jen Terrasa and approved by County Executive Kittleman, I have been able to increase economic opportunities while establishing a fundamental standard for public safety. My work on the current HCPSS Superintendent’s Advisory Committee has helped create a strategic plan to identify and dismantle special education inequity within the Howard County Public School System.
What are your views on the use of tax-increment financing as an incentive for private building and redevelopment projects, including remodeling blighted village centers in Columbia?
Ryan: TIFs are intended to incentivize the development of areas where builder interest is limited. When used appropriately, TIFs can achieve a more significant benefit. As an Independent, I hear the concerns of my community without first filtering it through a political boss. Creating an affordable Howard County means crafting a TIF policy which benefits everyone in our community. Despite being the second most affluent county in Maryland, capital improvements have fallen decades behind. Part of this failure is because we continue to do things the way we always have. Primarily funding critical needs on the backs of taxpayers is unacceptable. This type of outdated funding approach will lead to a community where nobody can afford to live. Revising APFO and zoning regulations means irresponsible development will stop. As a result, developers will need more variances to build. Leveraging those needs and partnering with developers, will achieve growth that benefits both builders and existing residents alike. Relationships like 3P reduce the cost of infrastructure improvements and create transparent accountability. Desperately needed schools can be built much quicker and at a fraction of the current price. TIFs can be used ultimately to reduce taxes and speed up overdue improvements. My skill as a zoning board official, coupled with my experience in school construction and managing multi-million dollar budgets, demonstrates my ability to create innovative community solutions. There is no room for on the job training when taxpayer money is at stake. I understand developer relationships in terms other than campaign contributions.
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With rising concern over school safety, should county police officers or sheriff’s deputies be assigned to all public schools, along with additional screening methods, such as metal detectors, student pat-downs and clear backpacks?
Ryan: Gun violence has been an epidemic long before Parkland and long before Columbine. Gun violence is everywhere; a nightclub in Florida, a movie theater in Colorado, a bible study in Texas. Such horrific violence represents the endpoint in a cascade of failures. As a public safety servant for nearly two decades, I have worked on the streets in some of the most violent cities in Amerca. I have looked into the eyes of dead boys and girls who were shot and killed as they walked to the store, or waited for a bus, or played on a swingset. While most people cite statistics and opinion, I offer real-world experience. One evening over three decades ago, I went out for Sunday dinner with my family. As I walked across the parking lot, a man pulled out a gun and began to shoot. I was 12 years old when a stranger tried to kill me because he was angry at the world. If we expect police officers in schools to be the thing that keeps our children safe, we have failed miserably. Early identification and intervention is the key. Working with children to help them understand better ways to solve problems, providing accessible psychological support, insisting on universal background checks for gun owners; by implementing these and other early intervention strategies, we will no longer need police in schools. However, until that time, communities must do what is necessary to keep kids safe.
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Are there any county government services that should be privatized to save money and improve efficiency?
Ryan: My top priorities on day one include quality schools, public safety, and affordable living. While most candidates agree on these priorities, almost none have the experience to see it through. As an Independent, I will ignore the partisan noise that divides us, and I will find real solutions like I always have. The simple reality is that government must be efficient and effective if we are to enjoy a community that is inclusive and affordable. Asking the hard questions and reviewing current practices will help to clarify the efficiency of Howard County government. Do we have clear policies for giving preference to Howard County residents and business owners when awarding government contracts? Do we use taxpayer funding as a last resort? What percentage of spending originates from grants and other sources like the casino impact fund? School construction costs have increased 300% over a short period, and taxpayers have had to pick up the bill. We have accepted that truth and have only sought more state funding. There are better solutions for funding capital improvements. In some cases, privatization is a result of failing to innovate. By reimagining how we spend taxpayer dollars, we can envision new ways to build partnerships and achieve more affordable projects. This form of fiscal management is not an all or nothing proposition. The question should not be county government versus private enterprise, but instead, it should be about how can we can work together to create best practices that benefit our entire community.
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Adequate public facilities
Is a provision in the county’s recently adopted Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance that allows developers to build affordable housing in areas where a building moratorium is in place a responsible approach?
Ryan: The recent APFO review process was protracted and lacked transparency at times. The failure of leadership to insist on openness and equity was alarming and will hopefully be a wake-up call about political party influence during this election cycle. In 2017 Howard County had 41 homes available in the Moderate Income Housing Unit Program. In a county with over 300,000 residents stretching 200 square miles, only 41 MIHU homes were available for sale. The need for affordable housing is transparent. APFO regulations help to limit overgrowth, but they also provide a statement on the historical failure of our partisan officials to meet the infrastructure needs of residents. It would be irresponsible to allow traffic congestions to spiral or pack school children into unsafe trailers simply in the name of achieving more affordable housing units. Life in Howard County is about quality and not quantity. What kind of benefit do we provide to anyone when our community lacks appropriate flood controls, or adequate school buildings, or safe roadways? As an Independent council person, my responsibility is to be an architect of noteworthy policy. My role is to protect the high standards which define Howard County. There is an urgency to get things done, and I will work with my fellow council members to develop pioneering solutions, just as I have done in the past.
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Is it appropriate for Howard to be a “sanctuary county” and prohibit county police from reporting detainees in the county detention center to federal authorities?
Ryan: Partisan fighting has resulted in fear-mongering and divisiveness within our community. As an Independent representative, I am committed to stopping this by working together to identify the things that connect us all. I believe equality is a fundamental human right without further qualification. I do not support deputizing local law enforcement officers as federal immigration agents. I also do not advocate an end run around our national laws. Sovereign citizenry has no place in Howard County. Picking which rules we follow is not an option. Civility is our core value because we understand the way to unite people is through understanding. Allowing local police to notify ICE before releasing a person targeted for deportation is reasonable. Immediate deportation applies to people with violent criminal convictions. Our community deserves to understand how severing relations with ICE will impact us all. ICE is responsible not only for immigration, but also for human trafficking, pharmaceutical smuggling, and counterfeit product law enforcement. One person dies every six days in Howard County by overdosing. ICE is one of the federal agencies tasked with stopping the opioid epidemic. Declaring Howard County a sanctuary county will jeopardize support from federal law enforcement and will compromise our efforts to prevent needless deaths. MS-13 is a multinational terror organization responsible for human sex trafficking and is located right here in Maryland. Refusing to work with ICE means we compromise our ability to protect young girls and stop human trafficking.
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What efforts, if any, should Howard County take to install more flood-control systems in and around Ellicott City, and how many tax dollars should be involved?
Ryan: County leaders have the ultimate responsibility to keep Howard County residents safe. Historically, elected officials have focused on after the fact disaster relief, and have not prioritized infrastructure improvements to prevent catastrophes. Growth in Howard County has been allowed to outpace critical capital improvements. During my decades of catastrophe response experience, I have traveled around the world to save lives following disasters. Nearly all of the tragedies share a single commonality; the loss of life was preventable. Taxpayer money, even when used responsibly, sometimes doesn’t stretch far enough. Recognizing that problem, I founded a nonprofit public charity which directly supports local first responders and has delivered thousands of dollars in training scholarships and disaster response equipment to local departments. Our organization focuses on reducing risk through proactive preparation. The Howard County Hazard Identification and Risk Assesment report identifies flooding as the highest risk natural disaster threat facing our community. Nearly 75% of Howard County lies within the Patuxent watershed. Major population centers such as Ellicott City, Elkridge, and Allview are all in low-lying areas. Howard County has an increased likelihood of future flooding due to our aging dams. I support a threat assessment plan that prioritizes critical infrastructure improvements. I do not recommend a wait and see approach. Historically, I have collaborated with agencies such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to achieve substantial improvements. Using my knowledge of modern funding and nonpartisan solutions will help minimize the need for local tax dollars.
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How would you respond to the opiod overdose epidemic? Should Howard expedite construction of an in-patient drug treatment center?
Ryan: Overdose deaths claim one life every six days in Howard County. Nonfatal overdoses occur nearly once per day. While there is little debate that our community is in crisis, there is much debate about what has caused the problem and how best to move forward. I support a strategy focused on providing meaningful relief. Howard County currently has the 4th highest number of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities out of all counties in Maryland. During the course of my career providing pre-hospital advanced life support, I have resuscitated thousands of overdose victims, some more than once. Addiction can be a complicated issue involving both medicine and psychiatry. I fully support a research-based best practices approach for addressing this epidemic. However, I am not aware of a needs assessment which justifies the construction of a taxpayer-funded inpatient drug treatment facility. Millions of tax dollars should not be spent so that we can say we did something. The actions we take to address this challenge must be meaningful and based on a comprehensive plan. Being a real leader means making the hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. How best to address addiction is one of those hard decisions. Howard County residents deserve more than political pandering and unfulfilled promises. This is the time for serious people with real experience and commitment to chart a course forward. As a councilman, I will bring the skills, knowledge, and abilities necessary to help this community navigate our next best steps forward together.
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Has the county invested enough in public transportation projects, including the regional bus network and BikeHoward program?
Ryan: Ensuring that Howard County has a high-quality multimodal transportation system is key to the quality of life we all want. The Columbia Association (CA) currently maintains 95 miles of walking, jogging and biking pathways in Howard County. I am deeply troubled by the Association’s recent proposal to reduce services and eliminate the majority of neighborhood centers. I am even more concerned with the lack of transparency and openness surrounding the announcement. As an Independent, I can find ways to build relationships without partisan politicals. CA is our partner in maintaining core elements of the Howard County infrastructure. As the District 3 councilperson, I will identify the challenges facing CA and help find solutions that preserve our community’s access to vital assets. Instead of focusing on the things that divide us, I will work to identify those things which connect us all. The coordinated efforts of citizen advisory groups have helped to identify best practices for transportation within our County. Two weeks ago, the County Executive transmitted a priority project letter to the Maryland Department of Transportation detailing 25 different priority transportation projects for Howard County, including the expansion of mass transit, physical street improvements, and the upgrading and creation of bike paths. Working with the Maryland Department of Transportation will allow Howard County to improve infrastructure without raising taxes. I support initiatives that will enable residents to participate meaningfully in the future of Howard County and use local taxpayer dollars as a last resort.
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The state is recommending a constant yield property tax rate of 99 cents for the budget year ahead, below the current tax rate. Do you support reducing the tax rate to the constant yield level and adopting zero-based budgeting?
Ryan: Growing up in a small middle-class town, my parents ingrained in me the core value of living within one’s means. As a father to four young children, I want to provide my family with the best of everything. Living within my means has meant finding creative ways to accomplish my goal. When I was hired to evaluate the quality of government services in DC, I found rampant dysfunction which was not only wasting taxpayer dollars but in some cases, was costing people their lives. Instead of keeping quiet and collecting a good salary, I stood up to powerful political appointees and blew the whistle on corruption, waste, and fraud. As a result, taxpayer funding went back to where it was intended, and the community learned to trust public servants again. Confronting waste and mismanagement took a significant toll on me personally and professionally. Doing the right thing can be very unpopular in politics. Speaking out almost bankrupted me and the heartache it caused my family will last a lifetime. Despite all of the ugliness, I would do it again because the needs of those I serve will always come before those of my own. As the custodian of taxpayer dollars, our elected leaders must be skilled at minimizing expenses while delivering high quality of government services. I support methodology which rewards responsible government by reducing taxation. Setting a predetermined tax base without understanding the actual cost of services creates false expectations and can potentially over or underfund government.