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?
Sigaty: Yes, because the findings and recommendations of the Commission are clear and demand action. We must ensure that our children will be able to compete in a global world that values creativity, innovation, scientific knowledge, and team work. We must also ensure that all of our children can find a meaningful place in their chosen communities. The Commission’s report recognizes that funding will be needed to accomplish these tasks. It’s premature to look for ways to fund the reforms without having an understanding of the overall costs. What is clear is that success will require investment in time, talent and funds from the State and local jurisdictions, business and community partners and families.
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?
Sigaty: Roads continue to be favored over transit. This transportation funding prioritization adds to congestion and the headache of getting to work in urban and suburban areas of the state. Building new metro and train lines is costly and not necessarily the best use of transportation dollars. Utilizing existing roadways to build bus rapid transit (BRT) is an opportunity that must be explored. Existing roadways supporting BRT would disperse transit into communities at much less cost, thereby creating a greater network of connectivity within the state. Increased connectivity would benefit employers by expanding their hiring area and benefit workers by reducing commuting times.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Sigaty: I do, but the decision about whether to legalize marijuana in Maryland must rest with the voters as it has in other states.
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?
Sigaty: State government should monitor and ensure that local jurisdictions are meeting their watershed implementation and MS4 permit goals. These goals are crafted to utilize each jurisdictions assets and allow each county to determine how to spread the remedies across all sectors. In counties like Howard, where farms abut residential communities, the state through MDE and MDA should be promoting projects like the stream restoration project on the Patrick farm in western Howard County that reduces the impact of local stormwater runoff from Lisbon while limiting the introduction of nutrients from the farm into the waterways. Given that taxpayers currently pay for Bay restoration, government needs to ensure that all property owners are part of the effort.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Sigaty: Maryland lawmakers should maintain the expansion of Medicaid. Also, they should standardize payments for wellness care, preventative screenings, treatment and prescription drugs to ensure that public funds can serve as many enrollees as possible. Additional sources of revenue, such as taxes paid from the medical marijuana industry can support affordable health care.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Sigaty: The State should lend expertise to the City through the Attorney General’s office, the State Police, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. In addition, the State can assist City leaders by working collaboratively to expand employment opportunities. When families have good jobs, they can afford housing and provide food security which positively impacts children. State money could also be spent on summer jobs for youth, youth diversion programs, and gun buybacks.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Sigaty: I’ve been central to improving the business climate in Howard County through zoning, the use of a P3, and economic development. Approaches like this can be valuable in other parts of the state. As I’ve learned, during two tax increment financing decisions, government can demand that private business wanting governmental help can be required pay a living wage and give opportunities to women and minority owned businesses both during construction and after. In addition, This year’s commitment to funding the DC Metro system shows that the State’s commitment to quality transportation is good for business.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Sigaty: I support an independent commission to recommend districts that have a similar population size, include contiguous neighborhoods and are compact. Districts need to ensure ethnic and racial diversity so that no votes are suppressed because all votes should be equal.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Sigaty: I haven’t had experience with this issue, but recently confirmed abuses in Baltimore have exposed the need to review the LEOBR.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Sigaty: A strategy to combat opioid addiction must include: treatment for those struggling with addiction, proactive law enforcement to eliminate the availability of drugs within communities, public education at all levels focusing on the destructive effects of opioids and other addictive drugs, and requiring prescribing doctors to limit quantities of opioids and to carefully monitor their use.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Sigaty: In addition to raising the minimum wage, the State can create jobs through investment in infrastructure, aggressively use Low Income Housing Tax credits to promote housing affordability, commit to affordable high-quality childcare through childcare subsidies and tax credits, partner to create apprenticeships and earn-while-you-learn programs, revise state law to reduce over criminalization and incarceration thereby freeing up funding for education, and ensure equal pay for women.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Sigaty: Yes, I believe they do, because the laws require that the public’s business be done in an open, accessible location with as much notice as possible and provide for broad access to information. They give the public the opportunity to follow government proceedings and get engaged with issues. Technology makes it easier to be engaged as meetings are broadcast and streamed and can be archived for viewing at a later time. Reports are available via websites which helps cut down on the cost to the public for documents. Should Marylanders suspect that they aren’t being served by these laws they can register complaints with the Public Information Act Compliance Board or the Open Meetings Compliance Board.