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?
Kim: In general I support TIF’s where needed. A TIF is recommended if it can pass the “but for” test, i.e., “But for this TIF, the land would not be developed”. I do not support the TIF for Downtown Columbia because it did not pass the “but for” test. Land in Downtown Columbia is highly sought after by developers and if Howard Hughes did not have the funds to develop their land then they should have sold it to a developer who did. Giving away $90 million dollars plus interest of taxpayer money to aid a developer who is having funding issues is not responsible representation of us or responsible stewardship of our tax dollars. We are now witnessing the issues that are surfacing surrounding this TIF (not being used for the parking garage and being used for roads) making it all the more obvious that this was the wrong thing to do. If the Village Centers can organically pass the “but for” test then I will be happy to review a TIF for them. Giving away tax dollars is not something I take lightly and all requests for funding will be thoroughly reviewed.
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?
Kim: The safety of our children in school is the priority and the goal. For now, I support officers in schools to act as a deterrent and to be there for quick responses, if needed. I do not support pat-downs or clear back packs. I see the cost of metal detectors as a wasted expense as we can put that money to better use. Moving forward we need to use technology. We have ways to make our kids safer, and we have to do those things. I would like to see us employ some of the equipment used in what is praised as the safest school in America. Some of what they do is they have cameras with a direct feed to the police so the police know where the perpetrator is in the building, teachers wear panic buttons which sets off a school-wide alarm and notifies local law enforcement. Moreover, a device in each classroom allows for a teacher to tell law enforcement their classroom is safe or signal they need medical aid or ask for help if they’ve seen the perpetrator. Lastly, there are smoke cannons in hallways used to blind and disorient the perpetrator. The cost to implement these strategies in all Howard County schools is $40 million dollars. We have a $1.4 billion dollar budget and we can find $40 million dollars in that large budget. It will come down to priority.
Are there any county government services that should be privatized to save money and improve efficiency?
Kim: Yes, there are ways we can save money on government services by furthering our partnerships with private sector non-profits and for-profit businesses. There are over 200 different county and local government services that are privatized across the nation and if it is done right it can boost the efficiency and quality of remaining government activities, reduce taxes, and shrink the size of government. I will explore our options for privatizing what makes sense for us to privatize here in Howard County as we have many places where we can use the money that will be saved.
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?
Kim: No, it is not responsible. If the schools are overcrowded, they are overcrowded. If the services and roads are maxed out then the services and roads are maxed out. Whether or not new residents come from a market rate unit or a subsidized unit has no bearing on use of roads, services and schools. This is another game played by our elected officials against us in favor of developers.
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?
Kim: Howard County is not a so-called “sanctuary county”. This question fails to distinguish the difference between the role of the Howard County Police Department and the role of the Howard County Detention Center. The County Police has never reported illegal immigrants to the federal authorities and that is not their job. It is their job to respond to and investigate crimes or other calls for service regardless of the immigration status of the victim or suspects. The Detention Center’s role is to house suspects that are charged with crimes or inmates sentenced for a crime. The Detention Center is not enrolled in the 287(g) program and does not actively report detainees to the federal authorities. However, they will abide by detainers lodged by the federal authorities for an inmate at the Detention Center. This strikes a balance between abiding by the laws of the federal government but also not actively seeking to have any inmate reported for immigration issues.
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?
Kim: Since the flood great progress has been made. 94% of businesses have reopened, $1.5 million of grant funds have been distributed and 72% of displaced residents have returned. An analysis of the flood yielded 18 recommended flood mitigation projects and 4 of the recommendations are being worked on currently. They are the Tiber, New Cut Branch, Hudson Branch and the Frederick Road conveyance where the pipe will be enlarged and a sister pipe will be installed to move the water from the street. There are 5 reasons why we had a flood. 1. Development and land stripping. 2. There are only 64 storm water ponds in the entire watershed. 3. There are pinch points in the streams where they hit culverts to go under the roads, at these pinch points the water jumped the streams and flowed down Main Street. 4. There was a failure at Burgess Mill where a sand trap blew out and the water flowed down the street. 5. Several inches of rain fell in a short time and mimicked a 100 year flood. The objective for this variable is to use conveyances to take it down to a 10 year flood which is manageable and much less destructive. The fixes must be a priority and we must pay close attention to approving development moving forward. Additionally, we have to get every single federal grant and state grant we can for these mitigation projects and look to prioritizing our budget to ensure these projects get done.
How would you respond to the opiod overdose epidemic? Should Howard expedite construction of an in-patient drug treatment center?
Kim: Yes, we need to expedite a cutting edge treatment facility and we need to get funding from big pharma. Big pharma and their over prescribing doctors are the cause of this second heroin epidemic and they need to pay for it. Whatever it takes to make it happen and I will task our county attorneys to get to work on it. There will understandably be push back from certain communities about having these inpatient treatment facilities “in their backyard” but there are numerous areas throughout Howard County where an appropriate facility can be placed without interference with residential neighborhoods.
Has the county invested enough in public transportation projects, including the regional bus network and BikeHoward program?
Kim: We have invested enough for the goals we set for ourselves some time ago however, the needs are changing and the goals need to change as well. We need bus lines that go within and throughout the entire county enabling all of our residents to reach all areas inside Howard County. We can ensure county residents are able to work at county businesses if they can reach their areas of employment by public transportation. The bus lines will need to run in a more timely fashion. Right now residents can wait up to an hour for a bus and cutting that down to 30 minutes or even 15 minutes between buses will be helpful and make using public transportation less cumbersome and useful on a daily basis. Waiting for an hour or more for a bus to arrive is not an efficient method of transportation on a daily basis for work. The County Executive has begun to explore shorter wait times. We can look to cities that have successful public transportation for ideas so we are not wasting time reinventing the wheel. Once we have a bus system that truly serves our needs and is inclusive of the entire county I think we will see better use of, more use of and the desired use of the BikeHoward program. As it stands now, many of us have to drive our cars to the bike stations.
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?
Kim: I wholeheartedly support zero-based budgeting as I do not support the concept of growing government costs for the sake of growing government costs. Zero-based budgeting formulates a budget from scratch each year instead of basing it on what happened the previous year. Right now we just continuously add year after year and never make cuts. This will help us to lessen government waste as department heads will not have to adhere to the attitude of use it or lose it. The constant yield tax rate will aid the state in reducing government cost as the revenue will remain constant and will force the state to prioritize spending while adhering to cost saving measures.