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?
McBrearty: I am not only committed to acting upon the findings of the Commission, I believe they should be taken even further—providing free Pre-K and after school programs for all students. The proposal to offer Associate’s Degree programs in high schools is an excellent start but to truly compete globally we need tuition free public universities. Funding will be a very contentious issue but the very future of Maryland is at stake here. We simply must treat all districts equitably and ensure that every student in Maryland has access to all the tools they need to succeed in an ever changing world.
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?
McBrearty: Representing western Maryland, I believe we need to drastically increase our infrastructure and transportation investments with an eye towards a different future. Our innerstate highways are a nightmare of congestion and endless construction projects that can’t keep up with ever increasing demand. Whenever I’m headed to Baltimore or Washington , I pull off the road and catch a train as soon as possible. Imagine if those trains were available in Frederick and Hagerstown, perhaps even Cumberland, imagine the opportunities that would open up to the often forgotten panhandle! We need alternatives for all of Maryland.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
McBrearty: Absolutely! Not only that, I believe all drugs should be decriminalized and our focus turned to treatment programs and saving lives rather than destroying them through incarceration. Recreational marijuana would be a big step in the right direction, drastically reducing our prison population and the related costs and freeing law enforcement resources for more important duties while opening up new business opportunities and revenue streams for the state and local governments.
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?
McBrearty: Given the direction of the current administration, slashing environmental protection funds, cutting regulations and making outlandish proposals for offshore oil drilling in the Atlantic, we have to be prepared to stand alone without federal assistance. To protect the gains we have already made in reducing pollutants and restoring wildlife populations we will need to redouble our own efforts while partnering with neighboring states to make up for Washington’s absence and resist their efforts to hamper our progress in the name of short term profits.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
McBrearty: Our health care system in this country is an absolute travesty. Assuming no ground will be gained in the fight towards a single payer national system like those of the rest of the world under the current administration, I will support any effort to expand coverage at the state level. Raising the income cap to expand medicare eligibility would be a start but universal coverage must be our ultimate goal. Healthcare is a human right.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
McBrearty: Instead of spending millions trying to combat crime directly, we ought to be addressing the root causes of the problem. The state can play a role by expanding social services, equitably funding education in poor neighborhoods, providing job training and even picking up the slack in the effort to turn Baltimore’s vacant lots and blighted buildings into beautiful green spaces. A little bit of green has been proven to considerably improve mental health. Essentially, our focus should be on prevention and improving our communities rather than increasing enforcement to military levels.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
McBrearty: With its strategic location and variety of incentives for new businesses Maryland has a very attractive business climate. To carry us into the future, we should focus on attracting investment in green jobs and alternative energy. Education can also play an immense role by ensuring our state has the talent pool to fill the jobs of tomorrow.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
McBrearty: This is absolutely essential to restore some semblance of fairness to our democracy. Incumbent politicians should never be allowed to choose their voters. Rampant gerrymandering is the number one reason so many Maryland legislators are running unopposed or would be running unopposed if so many Green Party candidates like myself had not stepped in after the primaries. Districts should be based solely upon population and geography, not party registration.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
McBrearty: Maryland’s LEOBoR was enacted more than forty years ago and could certainly benefit from a bit of review. The ten day waiting period is seen by many as an impediment as far as finding the truth and the fact that officers accused of misconduct are investigated by their fellow officers raises questions of accountability. This subject absolutely merits some new discussion in Annapolis. At the very least, I would propose the addition of neutral civilians to the review board and reduce the amount of time before accused officers are compelled to make a statement. Accountability is an essential aspect of public trust in our police and that trust is at an all time low. The status quo simply won’t do.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
McBrearty: The opioid crisis should be viewed first and foremost as a public health crisis rather than a criminal one. I would work to expand and increase access to government funded treatment programs, going as far as to provide safe places for addicts to use staffed by counselors and medical professionals ready to stop an overdose. Addicts should be treated with dignity as human beings with a serious illness and we should do everything we can to encourage them to stay alive and get the help they need.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
McBrearty: Income inequality is a serious and ever-worsening issue in this country. I firmly believe in increasing our minimum wage to a livable level, be that the oft-proposed $15 per hour or perhaps even higher. Beyond that, I believe a universal basic income for all residents providing for the bare necessities of life is an attractive alternative to existing welfare programs, saving money in the long run by improving public health, combating homelessness and reducing crime. Furthermore, it grants people the freedom to leave a bad job, to pursue retraining, to follow their dreams without putting their survival into jeopardy. Most importantly, universal basic income would eliminate any question of welfare fraud with everyone receiving the same simple cash benefit.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
McBrearty: These laws do provide good tools for the public but they still allow for a fair amount of privileged information to stay under lock and key. A democratic government ought to be fully transparent in every conceivable way that doesn’t violate any individual rights such as attorney-client privilege. While the open meetings act does provide for ample public notice of any given government meeting, as a general rule government meetings should also be scheduled at a time when a reasonable majority of citizens would have the opportunity to attend especially on the local level.