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?
Medinger: Yes, I support the Commission’s findings. The Commission has documented specific areas of improvement for Maryland and we need to invest in those for the good of our children and for our future economic growth. Our students are preparing to participate in a global economy. All of our children deserve the opportunity to achieve their full potential. I am especially committed to helping children who are now under served by our education system. We need to implement a Pre-K program and to help children who come from economically disadvantaged homes and neighborhoods. We need to improve teacher recruitment and retention programs. The revenues from casinos must be allocated to fund education, as was promised. In addition, the casinos can pay a larger portion of their profits to the education fund. Also, savings from current state expenses can be redirected to help our schools. For example, the state utility expense is millions of dollars and an investment in renewable technology will free up funds for education. There are also opportunities for new partnerships with the business community. As a member of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, I have explored collaboration with career and technical internships. Implementing the Commission’s recommendations will be a major activity of the legislature and I look forward to helping shape education policy and finding funding sources that will impact the next generation.
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?
Medinger: The clog of traffic is harmful to business, the environment and to individuals who waste too much time stuck in their cars. A successful transportation system for the future must be designed that reduces the number of cars on the road. It is clear that simply expanding roads will not be sufficient as our communities grow. We need investments in transit systems that are efficient, effective, affordable and safe. Cancellation of the Red Line was a set back that hopefully will be temporary. The Red Line would have been an important link in a transit system that would grow incrementally. Maryland needs a comprehensive transportation plan that reflects the way that people will want to live, work and play in the future. Many millennials are not interested in long commutes from the suburbs and they don’t want to be dominated by car transportation to their work places. Seniors are also interested in options that get them to appointments and recreation without the responsibility of car ownership. Housing patterns, the work force and lifestyles are changing and our transit systems needs to evolve, too. Maryland needs the equivalent of a “Kirwan Commission” to develop a transportation strategy for the future.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Medinger: I have knocked on more than 5,000 doors in my area and I have heard from many people that it’s time to legalize recreational marijuana. Other states have taken this step and Maryland should, too. Legalization will be of help to law enforcement and also provide an additional source of tax revenue.
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?
Medinger: The Bay is a national treasure and it deserves protection as a great environmental resource. The Bay is also important to the Maryland economy. Personally, I have participated in Oyster Restoration programs. We should expand these programs as soon as possible. I also will fight for full implementation of The Forest Conservation Act. We need to protect contiguous forests that provide intact forest ecosystems. We also must improve replanting formulas and existing mitigation systems such as forest banking. We also need to develop a broader communication strategy to help all Marylanders understand how they are personally connected to the Bay and what they should be doing to protect it.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Medinger: Having quality health care is a right of all people and we need to encourage universal participation to create an affordable health care system. Massachusetts created a system that is working. Maryland should adopt a simiar program. We need to move toward a single-payer system that requires Maryland residents to obtain a minimum level of insurance coverage.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Medinger: The state should be actively involved in addressing violent crime in the city. Baltimore is Maryland’s signature community. Its health and reputation is important nationally and globally. Baltimore has so much to be proud of and we need to invest in making its charms – economic, cultural, artistic and historic – shine. Addressing violent crime requires a two track system. First, the state should provide resources for law enforcement to actively reduce violent crime. Working with city leaders, the state should offer personnel and technology to root out organized gangs and violent offenders. A closer working relationship between law enforcement and the citizens is essential for stemming violence in the city. Second, more needs to be done to reverse the root causes of crime. Growing and supporting neighborhood associations will stabilize communities. Expanding youth recreational activities and after school programs is also important. Community schools that involve parents, teachers, school based staff, residents and other stakeholders offer hope for growing stronger neighborhoods.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Medinger: Maryland’s business climate is improving and can continue to get better. The location of our state provides many advantages. The close proximity to Washington means that we have many federal workers. We also have international institutions related to education, health care and finance. However, more needs to be done to grow our industrial and commercial base. As a small business owner, I have started companies and created jobs. As a board member of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, I am mindful that nearly 80 percent of its members have 25 employees or less. They need support from the state by minimizing regulations and offering incentives for new job creation. We need to encourage entrepreneurs to develop their ideas here and to stay here as their firms grow.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Medinger: I oppose gerrymandering. Public offices do not belong to political parties. They belong to the people. Drawing district boundaries is a civic process, not a political process. Eliminating gerrymandering is an important “good government” reform. Yes, I support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional boundaries. These districts should be compact, contiguous and follow natural boundaries. They should be drawn without information about voters, voter registration or where current elected officials live.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Medinger: In light of recent issues related to police activity in Baltimore City, I believe that the LEOBR should be reviewed. Clearly, we want our police to have the resources to do their job. However, we have a number of cases that indicate an over reach. Formation of civilian review boards would be a good step. In addition to providing protection to both the police and the public, these citizen review boards would help to re-establish trust between the police and the people they are sworn to protect and serve.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Medinger: The opioid epidemic needs to be addressed vigorously on several levels. First, we need to stem the flow by working with doctors to reduce the number of prescriptions for pain. We need doctors to use prescription drug monitoring programs. Second, we need more treatment facilities, including beds, to treat those already addicted. Third, pharmaceutical companies must take responsibility for the opioid epidemic. We need them to step up and offer their profits and resources to reverse this epidemic.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Medinger: Income inequality is a major issue. If it is not addressed, it will continue to tear our society apart. We need to provide livable wages and that means we should move to a minimum wage of $15 as soon as possible. Also, the minimum wage should be indexed so increases do not require legislative approval. A livable wage should not be a political football. Indexing is good for workers and it’s also good for business that needs to be able to plan expenses. The tax code should be more progressive. The recent federal tax cuts that provided 50% of the savings to the top 1% added to income inequality.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Medinger: As a former journalist, I favor sunshine laws and open meetings laws. As a board member of the Maryland Delaware-DC Press Association, I was proud of our vigilance to keep government open and accessible to the press and to people. More needs to be done to make records available, digitally and online. Costs for accessing records should be reduced. QR codes can make information about public works projects available onsite. With technology (and its relatively inexpensive application), government actions, activity and records should be more widely and easily available.