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?
Lisanti: I support the grand vision outlined in the Commission’s report. The challenge we face is how to fund its lofty goals. It is important to recognize that each must have a separate strategy, timeline, and a willingness to work outside of the educational structure that existed for decades. It is important for the Governor and the General Assembly to agree on a path forward and publicly declare its plan to accept and fund the policies, programs and timelines necessary to achieve implementation. I am prepared to support the necessary structural and fiscal changes necessary because I believe that we must prepare all of Maryland’s students for a global economy and a competitive workforce. Maryland should be a national leader in educational outcomes for all students and our teachers should be compensated fairly and have the flexibility and autonomy to create the educational classroom experience customized to the needs of the students needs.
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?
Lisanti: Not yet. During the 2018 Session we made progress by increasing the local governments’ mandated share of the gas tax, however we have not fully refunded the amount owed leaving many jurisdictions without adequate road repair funding. One inequity that should be addressed is that Baltimore City is the only municipality that is required to maintain state roads within its boundaries while all remaining 156 are not. I am a strong advocate for transit project and the cancellation of the Red Line was a mistake. Maryland must plan forward and plan for transportation needs today that will serve populations in future decades. Moving people by car will not likely be the first choice for future generations. Projects like the Maglev train will change commuter habits and consumers will expect the State to have the infrastructure in place to support other modes of transportation. For three Sessions I have introduces legislation to require the Department of Transportation to examine the use of the Chesapeake Bay and its navigable tributaries as our next mode of transit. Moving people quickly across the bay with in a system of low impact high speed water hydrofoils docked in strategic locations among Maryland’s waterfront communities could provide a cost effective alternative to a costly new bridge project. `
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Lisanti: During the 2018 Session I was a co-sponsor of HB-1264, a Constitutional Amendment placing the question of legalization of recreational use, possession, cultivation and sale of limited amounts of cannabis on the ballot. The bill failed, however I believe that this issue is one that is larger than the 188 members of the General Assembly. I don’t subscribe to the argument that Maryland should do it “just because everyone else is, because there are many important aspects such as legal, health, banking, zoning, community, religious and personal reasons to consider. I would like to see this issue publicly debated and let the people decide. The potential revenue is estimated at 225 million dollars annually, which I would designate to open access to drug treatment, which today we simply cannot afford.
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?
Lisanti: Maryland has and should continue to lead the multi-state effort to meet pollution reduction and clean water goals with or without assistance from the federal government. As the former Chairman of the Local Government Advisory Council representing 1,800 units of local government in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, I know first hand that individuals are responsible for cleaning up the waters in their own backward which eventually drain into the Chesapeake Bay. If we engage the 17 million people, in six states who live in the Chesapeake Bay’s 64,000 square mile watershed to simply make good decisions to protect our farms and forests, set clean water goals, minimize stormwater and agricultural runoff, reduce stream pollution, improve sewage treatment plants and septic tanks, the Bay will self restore. Bay restoration is about awareness of cause and effect, local engagement, empowerment and action. As the former City Manager and lifelong resident of Havre de Grace at the birthplace of the Chesapeake Bay I view the stewardship of this most treasured estuary as a sacred responsibility.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Lisanti: As a baseline, I believe that access to quality healthcare is a basic human right. It is completely unconscionable that in the United States of America in 2018, we have not been able to develop a cost-effective, quality healthcare delivery system. I believe the root of the problem revolves around process and that in Maryland, or the US we will not be able to fully address this issue until we conduct a full system analysis. Over the past decade I have spent a great deal of time caring for my aging Mother who over time made her share of trips to a major medical center in Baltimore. Each experience was different, but my experience in organizational development tells me that the systems and process are broken and until they are fixed, the goal will not be achieved. Unfortunately, we tend to look at healthcare in a segments manner and try to address one shortcoming at a time; I believe the state must address our systemic problems head-on. The first thing I would do is establish a set of benchmarks and outcomes for the University of Maryland Medical System as a pilot project since the State provides a sizeable amount of direct funding as a state sponsored institution. This is so that various models of healthcare delivery systems and efficiencies could be tested and evaluated with real time results for more immediate statewide implementation.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Lisanti: It is important to recognize that Baltimore is Maryland’s city and that it is the hub of much of our State’s commerce, social, and recreational activity. If the city fails it impacts surrounding jurisdictions therefore the violent crime is a problem that rests on the backs of City and State leaders to address. The surge in Baltimore’s violent crime rate is an external symptom to an internal systemic problem that is decades in the making. Years of bad public policy, lack of accountability, loss of job opportunities, reduction in public investment and education have left many residents of certain Baltimore neighborhood in despair. Crimes committed go unsolved and justice is served sporadically therefore violence becomes an act of behavior modification to those who must try to survive among a culture of rampant unemployment and addiction. Many neighborhoods have hundreds of boarded up homes and business robbing the community of hope and pride. The Executive and Legislative leadership should join the Mayor and City Council in developing a comprehensive urban redevelopment authority. Much like the stadium authority this quasi-government agency would be charged with the responsibility of working with community, civic and church leaders in re-developing the more than 16,000 abandon homes in key neighborhoods with the goal of improving living conditions, creating jobs, educational opportunities, increasing the tax base and the overall livability and vitality of the neighborhoods and business in Baltimore. Such an act would require State Legislation and financial resources.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Lisanti: Having served on the House Economic Matters Committee for four years and visited many of Maryland’s businesses I can attest that our business climate is favorable and growing at a rate above the national average. The consensus among business and industry leaders is that in addition to our location and access to transportation, Maryland’s is credited for the investment we have made in education, healthcare and quality of life aspects like recreation and access to the Chesapeake Bay. Our policy decisions like investment in the Port of Baltimore, making it the largest next to New York on the East Coast makes large-scale development projects such as Cove Point and Trade Point Atlantic possible, and mandating paid sick leave sends a message that Maryland cares about our working families and companies like Amazon have responded favorably.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Lisanti: Yes, a non-partisan, independent body to obtain the most objective outcome possible should review legislative and congressional district lines. The challenge is how to appoint such a body that is not beholden to the appointing elected official. . 2010 as a Member of the Harford County Council I was responsible for redrawing the Councilmanic district lines. Each County Council member was permitted to appoint a person to the redistricting commission who met independently and developed a redistricting plan that was presented to the Council for approval. The criteria was simple, each precinct must be contiguous, similar in size; therefore each resulting district must have about the same number of registered voters. Once the plan was presented I tried to fix my district to make it more compact, not more Democratic (actually it would have been more Republican). My goal was to keep school districts and communities together but I simply could not make the boundaries balance. I was completely frustrated and my old Councilmanic district remains oddly shaped with a major part of a community separated. I believe the answer lies in the following: at the beginning of all redistricting processes we must first dissolve all precinct assignments, therefore all invisible “fake boundaries” disappear”, secondly establish a set of guiding principles that result in more diverse districts. My district is one of the few that has a nearly equally proportioned amount of voters with various philosophies which makes for engaging dialogue among my constituents at district meetings.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Lisanti: The roots of the LEOBR stem from the mid 1970’s when law enforcement personnel standards were not uniform across agencies and procedures to report brutality, investigate claims and discipline officers varied by agency. The Legislature established the LEOBR as a framework for police employee discipline based upon a constitutional process. The codified language established a clear path for police employee discipline through the investigation of a complaint, review board and final decision by the Chief of Police. One shortcoming of the law is that it is a one-size fits all. It is applied to agencies of two officers to agencies of thousands. I am probably one of the few sitting legislators that have any direct experience with the implementation of the LEOBR. During my tenure as the City Manager I was the immediate supervisor of the Chief of Police. While I did not participate in the investigation or disciplinary proceeding I was responsible for the proper administration of the process and protection of complainants and the officer in questions rights. Two changes I would make are as follows: Involve the City Manager, Administrator or Human Resources Manager in the final decision because they are an out of department independent reviewer of facts and personnel policy. Depending upon the chain of command and structure of the government that varied among agencies roles and responsibilities, not all Chiefs of Police are trained in Human resources and personnel related matters. The outcome of the LEOBR is only accepted by the community if the integrity of the law enforcement agency is not questionable. Secondly, I would require an executive summary report be prepared that would be made available to the public that stated the complaint, the process of investigation, and the findings, who participated, if there was a hearing board that was on it and, who made the final decision and what was the outcome of the complaint. This would hold everyone in the process accountable for his or her actions.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Lisanti: The opioid crisis is complex. There are two types of addicts, one who knowingly sought the drug for pleasure, and the innocent unsuspecting individual who has sustained an injury and sought prescription pain relief from a licensed physician and subsequently became addicted to the drug. No matter the gateway, both have problems that like other addictive narcotics need to be treated as an addiction. Poverty, unemployment, depression and other underlying socio-economic issues are all contributing factors to the misuse and epidemic level of deaths resulting from opioid addiction. While we have taken steps to monitor and lessen access to prescription opioids, I fear that we may have just relocated the problem to another drug of choice. Until we focus on the major health and socio-economic issues I don’t think we will be able to address this crisis in a formidable way. Like many other issues I have outlined above, there are crossover benefits to re-investing in our communities with opportunities to learn, live, work and grow in safe and health neighborhoods throughout our state if we step back and rethink our programs and policies. I’m not afraid to fix what is broken and end polices that simply don’t work to invest in ideas that do.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Lisanti: The state could increase our job training programs and diversify our skilled workforce. This would be a positive step toward the state could take along with the private sector to assist low and under waged employees. I am working on developing a partnership program between Harford Community College and various skilled trade unions that operate training schools. We are outlining a 6 year program that includes 2 years of college, 4 years of occupational training and 2 years of job placement with local employers willing to particpate in the program.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Lisanti: Maryland’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws provide a basic process for the general public to access information about matters related to general government matters, however all to often it is difficult for the average citizen to know what information is available, how and where to request it, therefore I believe improvements are necessary. Additionally, I am not aware of any state agency that provides the opportunity to request public information documents on-line or receive them in a digital format. During the 2018 Session I filed two bills to increase public notice for changes to municipal charters HB 615 that passed and will be signed into law, and HB 1540 to enhance public notice upon the proposed closing or downsizing of a healthcare facility. Unfortunately, this bill did not receive a vote as it faced stern opposition from the Maryland Hospital Association.