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?
Howard: I support the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. I am a firm believer in the value of education and the Kirwan Commission has provided many great ideas. For instance, a program to allow students to complete an associate’s degree in high school would allow many students a head start. I, myself, through a similar program, completed 57 credits before graduating high school, and that set my education, career, and life on a trajectory I could not have otherwise obtained. At the same time, I am concerned about what the Commission does not say. In particular, the Commission does not address the importance of capital improvements to existing facilities and the need for new facilities. Some of our schools are in a horrid state of repair and this is not conducive to learning. If we want our children to learn, we should give them the best we can.
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?
Howard: I spent years doing the long haul up and down I-95. It can take an hour just to cross the Inner Harbor so often, I just plan for it. Baltimore traffic jams are such a common occurrence that ask our phones to route us around them ahead of time, disrupting neighborhoods with increased traffic. Mass transit, designed to move traffic from Baltimore to DC, is no better. Trips into Baltimore are inconveniently timed and don’t go where jobs are. We can’t tell if spending between roads and transit is balanced since neither work very well. Our aging infrastructure is in constant risk of failure. We must improve both through upgrades and increased service and access.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
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?
Howard: The Chesapeake Bay is the lifeblood of our economy, our play, and our lives, in Maryland. There are still risks to the Bay and its use from increased development throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and climate change. To protect the watershed, we must begin looking at runoff holistically and not just considering the impact from development to development. This will allows to focus on both the long term health of the Bay and give us the chance to make sure short term changes to not have outsized effects.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Howard: We are fortunate, in Maryland, to have two top-tier world class medical institutions homed in Baltimore. But that does not help those who cannot afford to walk in the door. The Affordable Care Act was a large step forward to increasing access and protecting the most vulnerable. At the same time, many were still left in the lurch and recent Federal changes have gutted the program, killing its effectiveness. Maryland should embrace single-payer healthcare. This will cut emergency room wait times by allowing individuals to see a primary care physician rather than relying on the fact emergency rooms cannot turn anyone away. This allow those of us who can afford insurance to no longer worry about managing payments, copays, HSAs, and the insurance company. But most importantly, this will give the world class medical care we have to everyone.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Howard: The most important thing the state can do to address violent crime in Baltimore…or anywhere, is constrict the flow of the weapons of violence. Reducing access to assault weapons, expanding background checks, and buybacks. We know these policies work because Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom have all effectively cut gun violence through introducing these controls. We must also cut the motivation to resort to violent crime. Education, business opportunities, and jobs also are linked to reduced gun violence. Like many problems, there isn’t a magic switch to flip. But make many small changes and take the problem apart piece-by-piece.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Howard: Maryland has a long-running reputation for being anti-business. But our state is in the top fifth of states by GDP per capita, beating the national average by roughly 10 percent every year for the last 10 years. Importantly, we also beat Virginia, our only real competitor for business. The anti-business reputation is unearned and undeserved and lives and amenities we have in Maryland show it. Maryland is great for business. Unless you’re a starting a new business. Every business starts small and we have some of highest filing fees in the nation. For a small or microbusiness, annual filing fees can be as much as a tenth of your revenue. I know because I’ve paid them. We can make Maryland startup friendly by cutting filing fees and reducing other barriers to entry across the government. Because Maryland shouldn’t be friendly to just big business.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Howard: Maryland should adopt an independent commission for both Congressional and state redistricting. The commission should be charged to create compact districts approximately equal in population. Finally, the courts should have the power to review, upon challenge, the district maps and the independent judiciary should be able to evaluate if the maps meet the requirements.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Howard: Some parts of the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights are critical. Reaffirming the right of officers to participate in political activities is important. Even limits on interrogations are reasonable. But there’s a problem, not with the law, but with its implementation. The law itself clearly explains that it only applies during administrative investigations, for instance, for violating departmental rules on time cards. The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights does not, by its own words, apply when a law enforcement officer is under investigation for criminal activity. Every time an allegation of excessive force is made, it is not an administrative matter. It is a criminal matter, but it gets handled administratively.. The problem is the implementation. We can see the outcome of this routine mishandling of cases in Baltimore City, where videos of evidence planting are routine and only a Federal prosecutor can stop misconduct.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Howard: This is one of the hardest problem facing policymakers today, and there is no simple solution. There are a great many small steps that will add up to a solution, however. The State must work with physicians, through their licensing boards, to constrain the flow of opioids since many addictions start with prescription. Second, the state must ensure that the prescriptions that are given out, for good reason, do not end up on the blackmarket. Finally, while programs such as NARCAN training are effective in the moment to save a life, they cannot prevent another overdose. The state can address this by also ensuring access to drug treatment and rehabilitation programs.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Howard: Maryland does have an income inequality problem, though ours is less than many East Coast states and the United States overall. As we look at smaller and smaller areas, counties, cities, and even neighborhoods, the inequities are much clearer than Maryland’s Gini coefficient tells. We also know that education, especially higher education. can increase equality. Higher education, three of Maryland public universities, have made it possible for me to move into the middle class. Education provides access to stable jobs with good benefits. Our public universities are expensive and growing in cost well beyond inflation or incomes. Education is the great equalizer, not just in Maryland, or the United States, but everywhere. Providing a complete, affordable, and just education is critical to maintaining a healthy civic structure.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Howard: If properly used, yes. The problem with the open meetings laws, as they are now, is that there is no recourse for an aggrieved party except a strongly worded letter from the Open Meetings Compliance Board. Unless and until governmental entities are given consequences for their actions, there will be gaffes in the Acts.