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?
Weaver: Yes, we in Maryland can do better. According to the Commission’s Preliminary report, Maryland could achieve much progress with a 10% increase in school funding, which could come from casino revenue if the amendment to that effect is passed. Investment in education pays off in the long term. Productivity, reduction in crime and enhanced quality of life all are made possible by better schools.
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?
Weaver: The cancellation of the Red Line was a terrible blunder. It would have decreased average commute times and cut down on pollution. Turning down federal money designed to help our region made no sense. It would be difficult for any state to fully fund such a project without federal help. By most accounts, BaltimoreLink is only a small upgrade to existing bus service. Until funds are found to replicate the Red Line, the state should continue to upgrade bus service and add lines so that Marylanders will see the bus as a reliable and pleasant alternative to the automobile. This upgrade would help even when the Red Line is built in future. Funds could be found in the recent increase in state revenue, a modest gas tax increase, or a “millionaire’s tax.”
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Weaver: The prohibition of marijuana has been a failure. It has funded organized crime and subjected too many young people to imprisonment and the lifetime handicaps that follow. Marijuana should be regulated like alcohol. In a perfect world, no one would use either drug. In our imperfect world, however, we should control its ill effects as best we can and use the revenue it produces for the common good.
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?
Weaver: We should require a higher percentage of clean, renewable energy production in Maryland. This would lower nitrogen and mercury levels in the bay and make progress towards slowing the global problem of climate change. Baltimore City faces a major upgrade to its sewer system and deserves more help from the state in that endeavor. An upgraded system would decrease the levels of raw or partially treated sewage that creates “dead zones” in our bay. We should also continue to require poultry growers and processors to take responsibility for the waste their animals produce and help them find better ways to use it.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Weaver: A national single payer system is the best solution. The savings for all would be enormous and breaking the link between employment and insurance would stimulate job creation. Until we get there, we in Maryland can move toward a state wide single payer system. Politically, that would be very tough, potentially setting off a political “tax war.” Some experts like Vincert DeMarco, reject the idea. Another way to get there is to build on our current system. Maryland currently regulates rates charged by hospitals, a policy that has saved hundreds of millions. If that kind of regulation was expanded to include doctors, clinics and drug suppliers, we could get many of the benefits of single payer without turning our system upside down. Some European countries have used this method to provide affordable health care for their people.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Weaver: I support the Commission to Restore Trust in Policing, set up to investigate recent corruption allegations. A balanced look at this will help restore public trust and public cooperation with law enforcement. Past that, violent crime is both a short-term and a long-term problem. One measure to help enforcement would be an expansion of security cameras in the city. I support the increased penalties for witness intimidation that just passed and some increased sentences for adult, repeat violent offenders. Another positive measure would be the legalization of recreational marijuana (see above.) Expanded addiction treatment is vital, not only for the city, but for the whole state. We need to make mental health a priority so that people currently on the margins can be a productive part of our society. This applies, of course, to those in Maryland prisons. Most inmates are eventually released. Lets give them treatment as needed, plus education and/or training to help them live a productive life. In the longer term, education is the key to opportunity. We need to give public school kids the means to reach at least the lower rungs of the economic ladder and fair chance to climb higher.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Weaver: Maryland is a prosperous state where business can thrive. Part of the reason for this is the good services that our local and state government provides. This does mean higher taxes than some states, but the “high road” economy is good for business and the public. Some states take the “low road” approach, with low taxes, poor schools and bad infrastructure. Kansas and Oklahoma are struggling with the consequences of that low road now. I support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, indexed to inflation, so that a full time worker can afford to live. Expanded sick leave is a good policy. Prosperous, healthy citizens make good employees and good customers.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Weaver: . I do support fair districts. The best solution is a national solution. I hope that the federal courts continue to address this in a positive way. Most gerrymandering favors Republicans in America. In fact, if you count all votes for the House of Representatives, a clear majority are Democratic. Only gerrymandering created the current Republican majority in the U.S. House. Having said that, I support districts in Maryland that reflect the will of the voters more accurately. Our current system fosters cynicism, which is poison to democracy.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Weaver: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights gives police a higher degree of protection than the general public. Police deserve protection from unfair prosecution, since they do such a difficult and necessary job. However, the LEOBR has, in practice, impeded some investigations of police misconduct. I think that police conduct should be judged fairly, by the department, by the courts and by the public. This judgment should be tempered by the awareness that the police do an impossible job under tough conditions. No one is perfect. We need to give police fair consideration when it comes to honest errors made in the heat of the moment. That fair judgment can only come about when all the facts are known. The bill of rights at times made that discovery harder to achieve, so it should be revised. Revisions should be studied and recommended by legal experts with the goal of bringing all relevant facts to light while treating officers in a fair manner. Public trust in the system is vital.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Weaver: Addiction is a deep problem in our society that will take time to address. Law enforcement needs to play its part, hopefully reducing supply and taking dealers out of circulation. We also need expanded treatment opportunities to help addicts find their way out of addiction. Methadone treatment is suitable for many. This is one area where expanded mental health care could save lives. After a person is revived by Narcan, they should be given access to treatment right away, while still close to death. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet, but we need to keep studying the problem and working to fix it.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Weaver: Income inequality in bad for a democracy. When “we the people” becomes ‘me the person,” it undermines our ability to work together. The government can do some thing to make it better. One is to increase the minimum wage; so all workers can have some degree of prosperity. Better access to health care and education, regardless of income (see above), also will help to bring us together. A progressive income tax is a good tool to fund government that also has the effect of bringing us closer economically.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Weaver: Marylanders have good access to public meetings generally, although they don’t use that access nearly enough. Two changes could help. One is better notice of upcoming meetings so more people know about them. The other would be to have more meetings in the evening and on weekends, so working folks can come.