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?
Adams: I continue to be a strong supporter of the work of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence (The Kirwan Commission). It is building on the visionary work of the Commission on Education Finance Equity and Excellence (The Thornton Commission). I support the 9 drivers or building blocks on which the Commission’s recommendations are based. The Kirwan Commission, like the Thornton Commission, has broad support across the state across party, race, and geography, and has the potential, with proper innovation, accountability and funding, to move Maryland back to number one in national educational performance rankings. The task before us is urgent and we must move decisively to provide high quality education for the approximately 900,000 public school students in our 24 school systems. We must address the adequacy funding gap that is impacting 20 of 24 of our school districts. Funding for public education has been relatively flat since 2009, notwithstanding the Thornton Formula. An important ingredient in achieving this objective is state and local leadership that can build the political consensus that will be required to gain passage of the Commission’s recommendations. I will work to ensure that there is equal access to high quality programs and services, adequate and equitable funding for public education with innovation and strict and systemic accountability. I take seriously the requirement of the Maryland Constitution that: “The General Assembly…shall by Law establish throughout the State a thorough and efficient System of Free Public Schools; and shall provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance.
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?
Adams: Transportation is essential to ensuring opportunity for the working poor (BaltimoreLink) and making sure that our State is prepared for future economic growth. The State has nearly a $4 Billion transportation budget. The updated Consolidated Transportation Plan (CTP) starting in FY18 focuses on structurally deficient bridges. We need a data-driven process however to help the State prioritize funding for projects that will yield the greatest public benefit. Baltimore has specific needs for example around improving the Howard Street Bridge. The success of this project impacts the future prospects of the Baltimore Port - it’s directly related to the port’s capacity for accommodating stacked shipping containers. If the Port can’t accommodate these shipping containers, then business opportunities will go elsewhere. We are fortunate in Maryland to have one of the lowest rates of structurally deficient bridges. Only 67 out nearly 2,600 bridges are deemed deficient in Maryland. By statue Baltimore receives about 80 percent of Highway User Revenue (HUR) and an additional $5 Million for capital needs. It’s not quite enough to fully update MTA’s fleet of buses and light rail. We need an infrastructure bill, one that combines federal and state resources, to help address regional transit and road needs. The State received a $10 Million TIGER grant from the US Department of Transportation to support BaltimoreLink – it’s a start and an example of a promising state-federal partnership.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Adams: I support the further study of this issue. We need “smart-on-crime” approaches that pushes back on the failed, draconian war on drugs approach that have locked away too many citizens.
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?
Adams: I would need to do further research on this issue, but I do value the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s a staple part of Maryland, and we cannot continue to allow the marine life to suffer as it has.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Adams: We should continue to look at ways to support the establishment of reinsurance pools to help control costs for insurers and to stabilize the insurance market place.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Adams: I believe the state first needs to understand the history of Baltimore. A task force should do a 30+ year historical assessment of violent crime (or use those already done by sociologists and other social science PhD’s as Baltimore has been a frequent case study), focusing on the communities most affected by violent crime and understanding the sources and underlying causes. Once assessed, there needs to be a focus on key target areas of economic investment and holistic community outreach/development through some of the following channels: school investment, housing developments, and especially counseling/mental health centers as many individuals involved in violent crime have suffered from their own forms of trauma that went unnoticed and unassisted or are coming from situations that most individuals cannot comprehend. I believe violent crime is a symptom of a much greater issue. I will work to make sure that the state helps usher in an era of smart on crime approaches that invest in schools, in economically distressed communities, and that provides an evidenced-based blueprint for support offenders. I will work at the state level to help find a better way for formerly incarcerated Baltimore citizens to lead a productive, economic life after prison as well to decrease recidivism which also leads to crime as many individuals are barred from all aspects of civilian life after incarceration.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Adams: Overall, a strong business climate right now. I believe from surveys and research I’ve been able to look at, our economy is well positioned moving forward into the future. I believe we need to do continual increases in technology and STEM based jobs and continue to focus on growing our cyber security as the leader of it in the nation. I also believe, we need to look at and embrace the minimum wage increases to a living wage. We also need to invest in entrepreneurs around the entire state.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Adams: Yes. We have one of the most gerrymandered districts in the United States in Maryland’s Congressional Third District. I support the creation of a non-partisan or equally bi-partisan, body to draw the legislative and congressional district maps after each census if they are first fully aware of how the drawing of legislative and district maps have been used historically to gerrymander communities of color and other marginalized groups and vow against this practice. I believe prior to the legislative maps being finalized that they should even be brought before a non-partisan, diverse body of constituents, to ensure that the redistricting is fair to those most vulnerable to unfair redistricting practices. There should be community representatives that are part of this approval system to ensure voices are heard and thorough vetting of all possible ways to map out territories.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Adams: I believe that the Officers Bill of Rights needs to be reviewed thoroughly because it is a broad bill, as we have to maintain accountability of those that are called to serve the community are transparent in their interactions with the community they are serving. We need clear practices of accountability to ensure all actions of law enforcement are being reviewed to ensure they are living up to their commitment to serve the public, especially in communities of color. It does need to be changed to ensure people are both protected, but more importantly, know that the police have their best interest at heart. We have to rebuild trust that has been broken for decades due to a lack of transparency, swift communication, care, and compassion. We have to ensure that the law protects the people as much as it protects officers. These issues are too important to continue to fall by the way-side.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Adams: We need to understand how this became a crisis and remind ourselves that people don’t want to be addicted to opioids as we work this out.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Adams: As the next state Senator from the 23rd District, I will be a strong supporter of initiatives that are designed to remove all barriers to income equality between men and women. Unequal pay based on gender affects not only the woman, but their families and the communities in which they live. It affects their quality of life during the working period and retirement. I support the Equal Pay Act (EPA), which requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. I support the administrative and judicial remedies that extend from the Act and empower individuals harmed by unequal pay. I will support the aggressive enforcement of Title VII, which makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. I will also be a strong voice for the enforcement of non-discrimination provisions of Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA, which prohibit compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. The enforcement initiatives must go hand-in-hand with programs that are designed to ensure that female students have access to equal high quality professional and vocational education and training in diverse fields that lead to highly compensated employment positions. I am pleased to see the sea change that is occurring in our culture (the Me-Too movement) that is helping empower women in all segments of our society, especially in the workplace involving the integrity of working environment.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Adams: It’s important to review the fees charged particularly how we handle public longitudinal data systems center. We need to strike a balance of openness to the public but protection for individuals.