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?
Thomas: Yes. We have to funds within our budget that could be better spent in this area.
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?
Thomas: I think the Hogan administration has placed too much emphasis on widening major highways rather than improving public transportation. The cancellation of the Red line was a huge disappointment and a missed opportunity to create more revenue while expanding access to thousands of Marylanders. The state needs to find additional ways of connecting Baltimore to the rest of the Washington Metropolitan area aside from the MARC and AMTRAK.
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?
Thomas: As a state we can’t sit back and wait on the Trump administration to do what is right to protect the environment. The Chesapeake Bay is the crown jewel of our state and we must be willing to take the lead on improving the Chesapeake Bay. First, we must make sure that we provide adequate funding in the state budget to the organizations and agencies that are charged with the responsibility of carrying out this restoration effort. Secondly, as residents of the state of Maryland we must all find ways to protect the bay in our own individual ways. For example, we can plant trees, refrain from pouring hazardous substances into storm drains and adapt landscaping techniques that are considered Bay-friendly which reduces pollutants from harming the Chesapeake Bay.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Thomas: Maryland needs to seriously consider the single payer healthcare system, which would ensure that all of our residents are covered and will decrease administrative costs. The Trump administration has made it very clear that they are committed to either repealing the Affordable Care Act and/or weakening it at the very least and therefore, we as a state must be proactive in establishing universal healthcare for our residents.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Thomas: The state should play a substantial role in helping Baltimore address violent crime. A few months ago, I wrote a piece discussing the Hogan administration’s lack of commitment to providing funding for the Safe Streets program, a Baltimore area program that utilizes felons to go out into the community and engage in conflict resolution to reduce violence. The city of Baltimore has many issues to address and having assistance from the state and strong support from our governor could make a huge difference.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Thomas: Maryland’s business climate has an incredible amount of potential but according to a recent report submitted by the Augustine Commission, there are some concerns that need to be addressed in order to make the state more business friendly and thus, to open up more opportunities for job growth.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Thomas: There are certain aspects of the LEOBR that I am not in favor of such as the 10 day waiting period before an officer accused of using excessive force can be interrogated by a superior and the fact that officers go before a committee of their peers rather than a citizen review board. I am a supporter of our nation’s law enforcement officers however, we must understand that the only way to try and repair the strained relationship between law enforcement and the public is to promote and practice transparency and equal protections under the law. We can’t continue to witness these examples of police brutality across the nation and simply ignore these actions just as much as we can’t continue to sit by and ignore the crimes being committed by members of the public without implementing new crime reduction procedures.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Thomas: The opioid addiction and overdose crisis has grown to astronomical numbers. First, we have to focus more on rehabilitation of these individuals rather than just incarcerating them and thinking that they will change their ways upon release. We have to make sure that we are providing adequate funding to our public health agencies that are responsible for combating this growing epidemic.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Thomas: A recent study showed that it takes 2.5 jobs just for a resident of Maryland to live somewhat comfortably in our state. That issue alone creates a problem before you begin breaking the issue down by demographic. There is a desperate need for job growth in our state and we must keep in mind the statistic mentioned previously because it means that either we need to increase the minimum wage and/or drastically increase the creation of new jobs or else income inequality will just continue to become more prevalent as the years go by. One way to address income inequality is to provide incentives to local businesses who agree to and demonstrate a commitment to hiring individuals who belong to groups that have historically suffered forms of employment discrimination like women and ex-convicts.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Thomas: I don’t think these laws go far enough in promoting transparency and/or making it easier for everyday Marylanders to engage in oversight of their government. I believe that the current scandal surrounding the Prince George’s County Public School system is a prime example of why it is extremely important for the general public to have more oversight power.