Greg Jennings

Greg Jennings
  • Democrat
  • Age: 37
  • Residence: Laurel

About Greg Jennings

Education

Bachelor of Science in Government and Politics, University of Maryland- College Park Juris Doctor from Catholic University, Columbus School of Law Master of Laws in International and Comparative Law, University of Maryland, Francis King Carey School of Law

Background

Since serving as a volunteer in the Clinton-Gore White House, I have always been passionate about public service. As a current prosecutor, former legislative aide in Annapolis, and longtime Democratic activist, I have the experience necessary to achieve meaningful legislative action on the County Council. Working in juvenile justice in Baltimore City, I have seen countless shattered lives. I have witnessed young men and women who grew up with multiple generations of family members whose lives were predominated by periods of unemployment and incarceration, or punctuated by untimely deaths. These experiences have helped shape my desire for criminal justice reform. Elected to the Howard County Democratic Central Committee in 2014, I have partnered with others to help support real change to our community, including fighting to bring public financing to elections. As a member of the committee, I have voted in support of legislation banning conversion therapy. During my tenure as a legislative aide in Annapolis, I have had responsibility over a diverse legislative portfolio, from beginning the process of implementing phased retirement to reducing exposure to lead. If selected to serve on the Howard County Council, my experience shepherding legislation, working with stakeholders, bill drafters, and members of the community will help make me ready to serve on day one.

Questionnaire

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1
TIFs
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?
Jennings: First, I have strong reservations about County Executive Kittleman’s implementation of the Columbia TIF. Rather than seek approval from the County Council, he chose to divert pre-approved funds and abandon public ownership of the parking garage, all without a single public hearing. I do not support his unilateral change. Second, the Columbia TIF will create an increased need for school construction funding. The legislation will increase housing density in the area, resulting in approximately 6,400 housing units, exceeding the original Downtown Columbia Plan. The surrounding schools will need to handle these additional pupils. I am concerned that insufficient resources have been allocated to compensate. Having a thriving downtown helps us all, but we do need to ensure that we develop the extra capacity required to absorb the new residents, employees, and children that change will bring without sacrificing the school system and surrounding services that made Howard County attractive to so many people. Despite these reservations, I believe that TIFs can be a powerful tool. Other jurisdictions like Chicago have had success with their implementation, and they have used their excess revenue from their TIFs to fund public education. Howard County should do the same. I would examine each proposed new TIF, taking an honest look at the cost-benefit analysis, and making sure that it is beneficial to the long-term health of the community, not just the developer. Both the older village centers as well as Route 1 need investments, and TIFs may be part of the solution.
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2
School safety
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?
Jennings: No parent should have to worry if they are sending their child to a school that isn’t safe. On the Council, I will work to support common sense gun reform to ensure safety. As a current prosecutor in Baltimore City, I have seen firsthand the dangers of firearms and I have worked to secure convictions of those who would possess these dangerous weapons illegally. While serving as a legislative director, I worked on legislation banning assault weapons. I support comprehensive, common sense gun control, and I will do everything I can as an elected official and as an advocate to ensure that happens. I support hiring more counselors and school resource officers (SROs), who are police officers trained to work with children. Well-trained SROs often forge a connection with the students and community. Working on site, they can respond quickly if the situation necessitates. I also support efforts to make it easier for law enforcement to access video surveillance from a school system. By providing our first responders with better information, they will be better prepared to resolve these situations. While I support several reforms to help make our students safe, I unequivocally do not support arming teachers. Many of my friends and family who became teachers did so because they wanted to change lives, not be faced with the possibility of ending them. I generally do not support making schools feel more like jails, and I would be reluctant, absent additional information, to enact the other listed reforms.
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3
Privatization
Are there any county government services that should be privatized to save money and improve efficiency?
Jennings: While any government expenditure should be done in the most cost-efficient manner, privatization is not a panacea. I believe that our community benefits when government employees are trained, and we rely less on contractors to function. While contracting out may be necessary, excessive outsourcing of essential government services is not advantageous in the long run. I do support procurement reform to ensure that government expenditures reflect our values and that services are delivered on time and on budget. I also believe that our tax dollars should go to companies that support their workers and pay their fair share. As Chief of Staff for Senator Victor Ramirez in 2014, I worked to help pass legislation which allowed the State to consider bidders’ past labor and tax violations when awarding a State contract. I would support such legislation in Howard County.
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4
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?
Jennings: I support a smart growth approach to development, which creates communities where everyone can live affordably, securely, and in harmony with nature. I oppose irresponsible sprawl development, and the lasting damage it does to our environment, the gridlock it creates, and the burden it places on our first responders. We need to make sure that we are building a community that works for working families through our development policies. To properly serve as stewards of Howard County, we must make an investment in our public infrastructure. The profit motives of developers cannot be prioritized above the common good. To ensure the county’s public infrastructure resources, I have supported including high schools in the school capacity tests, support efforts to impose reasonable utilization tests for elementary and middle schools, and support efforts to increase studying intersections and other traffic needs as part of the legislative solution. Additionally, I support a more regular and orderly process in the future. I support efforts by Councilmembers Terrasa, Ball, and Weinstein to revisit APFO following the County’s comprehensive general plan revision. When the current round of revisions began three years ago, it had been over a decade since such an examination had taken place. Howard County does need more affordable housing, especially for seniors and younger workers. While I do not want to undercut the reforms on APFO that have been achieved this year, I believe the flexibility provided by the exception is warranted.
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5
Sanctuary county
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?
Jennings: I support Law Enforcement TRUST Acts. I believe that local police should be focused on enforcing the laws of our state and community, rather than responding to an unfunded federal obligation. I have worked on this issue on both a state and local level. As a member of the Democratic Central Committee, I fought for a resolution supporting TRUST legislation in Howard County, even when Democratic elected officials were on the fence or in opposition. I know that many people are concerned that enacting such changes will make our communities unsafe. My experience as a prosecutor has confirmed to me that this will not happen. As a prosecutor, I have secured convictions against violent offenders who may now face possible deportation as a collateral consequence. Enacting Law Enforcement TRUST Acts, either statewide or in Howard County, will not prevent dangerous, violent criminals from facing the consequences of their actions. Our immigrant communities, however, will not live in fear. They will be more likely to report crimes, more likely to come forward to testify, and more likely to feel part of the wonderful welcoming community that we want Howard County to be.
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6
Ellicott City
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?
Jennings: The Ellicott City Master Plan, implemented following the catastrophic flooding in 2016, sought to combat flooding. While this was a good first step, there are still flaws within the plan, leading some residents to lose faith that effective water management practices will ever be enacted. Creating stormwater retention ponds, underground conveyances, and pipe farms are critical in combating flooding in Ellicott City. I would support efforts to this end. Unfortunately, the Ellicott City Master Plan currently does not provide for any additional limitations on development of the western part of the county located upstream from the city. As a result, further development of this rural part of the county combined with a lack of additional runoff management solutions means many of the same risks remain. We need to act to fix these problems too. I support effective stormwater management policies. It is among the most significant source of water pollution in the nation, and the continuing failure to properly control such erosion and stormwater runoff can have dire consequences, especially to the Chesapeake Bay. I support programs akin to Rainscapes, a tax credit program used in portions of Montgomery County, which encourages local property owners to retrofit their lands to better manage stormwater. By encouraging private actors to adopt conservation landscaping’s principles and utilize rain gardens, rain barrels, and permeable pavement alternatives, Howard County can see a dramatic improvement in its water quality and a dramatic decrease in pollution.
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7
Opioids
How would you respond to the opiod overdose epidemic? Should Howard expedite construction of an in-patient drug treatment center?
Jennings: As a prosecutor, I know the scope of the opioid epidemic is staggering. I strongly support strengthening our diversion and drug education programs. Additionally, I support the efforts that make Narcan, a drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose, available in all county buildings, and the training programs provided to County residents on how to administer it. These programs will save lives, and as a councilman, I would look for ways to expand and support this initiative. As a county councilman I would work towards improving rehabilitation efforts within the county, including support for an in-patient drug treatment center. I would support building the facility as fast as our budget constraints permit.
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8
Public transportation
Has the county invested enough in public transportation projects, including the regional bus network and BikeHoward program?
Jennings: As a councilman for Howard County, I believe long-term investment in mass transit is crucial to the viability of my county, my State, and my country. We need creative and innovative transportation, applying new technology to help interconnectivity and improve our quality of life. Like many Howard County residents, I have fought through the increasing traffic on our roads. For many who moved to Howard County from other areas suffering from high congestion, they know our next Council must ensure that we come up with both near-term solutions to lessen current congestion and long-term plans that keep our County on the right path. By building mass transit, we can create jobs, boost domestic production of transportation equipment, reduce carbon emissions, and enhance the options available for commuters. Howard County needs a mass-transit system that is comfortable and convenient. We need to attract riders to reduce congestion on our roads and to absorb future growth. I would support adding additional routes as indicated by data on ridership rates. I support a plurality of mass transit options, especially making improvements to our existing bus system which is currently inadequate to support the needs of our flourishing community. Howard County has not invested enough to make our community walkable and bikeable. We invest a pittance compared to our neighboring counties. I would support efforts to increase funding for the Howard County Bicycle Master Plan, and I hope that we can fully fund the endeavor when fiscally appropriate.
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9
Taxes
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?
Jennings: The State offers counties flexibility in setting their own constant yield property tax rate. The proposed rate is a significant reduction from the current rate of 1.15%, and the lower revenue would pose a problem for serving the needs of our residents. As the county with the State’s fasting growing school system, I do not believe we can undertake such an action. I would support keeping the current property tax rate to ensure that we have the revenue necessary to keep our commitment to Howard County’s students and their parents. I would not support adopting zero-based budgeting. Starting from scratch each year would simply be repeating the work of past Councils, wasting valuable time where the Council can tackle other problems. As an unabashed policy wonk who is always looking for new ideas, I believe zero-based budget would limit our ability to restore Howard County to being a hub for bold ideas.
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