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?
Cochran: Yes. Teacher training, teacher retention, and teacher development are among the important issues addressed by the Kirwan Commission. Career and technical education is also recommended. Prekindergarten for all four year olds and disadvantaged three year olds is important. We could fund the PreK programs by expanding our revenue by collecting online sales tax, and using all the casino income that is for education to boost education funding, rather than a substitute for state funding. Additional revenue for the Kirwan Commission recommendations could be obtained by collecting corporate taxes that are presently being evaded. We could solicit grants for teacher education and development.
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?
Cochran: Maryland’s transportation needs must be met by a combination of roads and mass transit. It was a mistake not to build the red line in Baltimore which would better serve Baltimore in a fast, efficient way to connect residents to jobs. Across the state we need more transit hubs that are collection points for buses and car commuters to change onto trains for longer distances. Transit must be environmentally friendly with use of electricity where feasible. Lowering tolls was a politically expedient thing to do, but it is resulting in loss of money for transportation and raising the toll somewhat should be considered among other ways to raise money.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Cochran: Marijuana should be legalized so that it can be controlled and taxed. Adulteration of marijuana with PCP, or other substances can be very harmful and lead to addiction or death. A system like the control of alcoholic beverages would be the sensible way to go for Maryland
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?
Cochran: Although hampered by loss of federal funds, Maryland can take stronger measures–to control the outpouring of pollution from huge farming operations–the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)–that produce more chicken and pig manure than they can properly handle, resulting in it seeping into the Bay–the State can refuse pipe lines to the LNG port, Cove Point, to which ships from China, etc. bring pollution, including harmful invasive species, up the Bay-. They can induce the other Bay states to do more on their part. More cooperation is needed from states like Pennsylvania whose sediment from the Susquehanna has loaded the Conowingo Dam. They can step up education efforts for Bay-friendly private actions.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Cochran: Ideally, health care would be free to all through an expansion of Medicare. Mini clinics should be established in all areas of the city and underserved rural areas to provide easy access to administer preventive care and care for conditions that can be treated before they become worse or chronic. The CHIP services for children need to be fully financed so we have a healthy population ready to take their places in a happy and productive world.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Cochran: We need more support for law abiding policemen who can take gang leaders off the street. Money for more police could come from the state. At the earliest age, young people need constructive things to do and protection from gangs. Teenagers and young adults need jobs. The state can award grants for jobs and education to prepare young people for jobs. We need to find a way to reduce the number of guns on the street. Requiring registration for all guns may help. Reducing the demand for drugs would help reduce the drug dealers and the turf wars, so state support for drug treatment could help.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Cochran: Maryland’s business climate could be called a B+. The state needs to foster training for high tech jobs and make higher education more affordable. On the secondary level there should be more vocational technology courses in connection with industry and courses to prepare workers for the 21st century jobs. The overall tax structure is not the highest and quality of life is high, attracting businesses who want a good life for their employees.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Cochran: Yes. Gerrymandering is robbing the voters of their voice in choosing their elected officials. An independent commission should be chosen with the responsibility of creating contiguous, compact, and equally populated districts.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Cochran: The LEOBoR is overly protective of police officers. Especially questionable is the provision that there be a 10-day “cooling-off” period before the office is questioned. This can lead to comparing stories and getting the most exculpatory explanation for the action in question. In the Freddie Gray case the delay in investigation and the lack of information for the public certainly did not help “cool off” the great disturbance that followed. I agree with the analyst who said, speaking of the rights to bathroom breaks and breaks for food and water, all suspects should have these rights and it says something about how suspects are treated that the police need to spell these rights out in their case.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Cochran: The unfortunate opioid crisis is a difficult problem that we are struggling to deal with. Loose, careless over prescribing of opioids by physicians should be checked. Alternative methods of pain control need to be available. Police, EMTs and firefighters and parents need to be trained in use of Narcan. We need more treatment centers and follow up for months to reinforce the choice not to use opioids. This is expensive. Insurance plans need to cover treatment. Users need to be helped. Dealers of opioids need to be arrested and if they are addicted, need to undergo detox as a condition of sentencing.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Cochran: The state should have a more progressive tax system including estate taxes for very large estates. Maryland should make education a priority with technical education on several levels, encouraging high paying industries to come because of the skill level of the Maryland worker. The middle class has been maintained largely through the bargaining power of unions, so collective bargaining should be encouraged. It should be unnecessary to induce companies with several billion dollars in tax credits to come to our state.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Cochran: Not entirely. If you know just what information you want specifically, it still entails a delay and a considerable fee to get records from the state. This time and expense could be crucial in overseeing the government. There is constant attention needed to see that government agencies and officials don’t make decisions beyond the sight of the public, as in closed committee meetings, teleconferences, meetings closed without justification, etc. and simply announce them later. Agendas and minutes of meetings are not always readily available to the public in a timely fashion, making oversight of the bodies’ deliberations difficult.