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?
West: Yes, I support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. I am committed to funding associated reforms because strong schools benefit children and their families. When elected I will work to support bills like (House Bill 1415) which will bring Maryland’s schools up to first class status.
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?
West: The performance of Maryland’s transportation system is a critical component in the overall success of our state economy. $5.9 billion in the annual budget (FY 2018) I don’t believe that it is a matter of money, I think it is a matter of accountability and prioritizing. When elected my bill transportation for all will require the State of Maryland to fund accessible transportation in Baltimore City to surrounding places of employment. *Everyone deserves the opportunity to work, but, if you are able to find a job but cannot get there on time; it is the same as not having a job at all. Many residents are unable to venture to other areas for employment due to the unreliable transportation system in Baltimore City. Throughout downtown and popular neighborhoods, there is access to free transportation. In the most adverse neighborhoods affected by the lack of transportation; free transportation services are not being offered. As Delegate, it is my role to give the people a voice, and a resolution.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
West: No I do not support the legalization of recreational marijuana. The state of Maryland should also recognize legalization for what it is: the large-scale commercialization and marketing of an addictive — and therefore highly profitable — substance. In states that have legalized marijuana, youth usage now exceeds the national average, the black market continues to thrive and employers struggle with more drug-impaired workers than before marijuana was legalized. More heavy users of marijuana are reporting to drug treatment, and there have been more school infractions among kids caught with marijuana. Worse still, the only statistically representative national survey on marijuana use found last year that Colorado is the No. 1 state for youth marijuana use in the country. Without action, the marijuana industry is poised to become the next Big Tobacco — a profit-hungry special-interest group looking after profits, not public health. Legislatures in Maryland need to acknowledge that marijuana comes with its own set of health risks, including a strong link to psychosis and schizophrenia, memory loss and low academic achievement.
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?
West: Now is not the time to remove our focus on restoration. Maryland has a responsibility to help restore the Bay. However, the fact remains that we cannot restore this national treasure without the support of the Federal government both financially and with multiple agency technical assistance. We have to clean up Maryland’s waterways, invest in open space preservation, better coordinate resources to address the effects of sea level rise and improve outdoor recreational activities.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
West: There is no shortage of proposed solutions, but the idea that health care needs more competition. In other sectors of the economy, competition improves quality and efficiency, spurs innovation, and drives down costs. Health care should be no exception.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
West: The control of crime is a difficult, complicated task, requiring deep commitment and day-to-day involvement by State government. It seem as if Maryland have not assumed that full role. We must assume that role in the future having involvement, financial resources, geographic spread, and political leadership. Blending, and working together properly; Federal government, State government, and Local government. Most importantly it matters to those who elect us. Crime control in Maryland is in trouble, however its performance is measured. Statistics, public opinion, political leadership, official agencies - our antennae - all tell us that strengthened state action, including new state agency structures and stronger leadership of local efforts, represents the most promising direction for major improvement of crime control in Maryland.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
West: Over the past few years some businesses have found success when opening in Maryland, while others have been forced to shut down due to crime and other factors. From day one, when I decided to run for delegate, my top priority has been how can I help create jobs and opportunity for middle class Maryland families. I have traveled in the district to hear from educators, entrepreneurs, workers, and families about how I can help create jobs and grow the economy. Their thoughts and ideas outlined a series of common sense, bipartisan steps – ranging from doubling down on investments in innovation and job training, to streamlining government programs – that Maryland can take to help small business owners and middle class families achieve their goals.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
West: Yes, I support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census. I think that efforts to reduce elected officials control over the redistricting are to be praised. I really do hope that their efforts would gained far more traction then it has already.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
West: It is far from a fanciful concern that the police will take advantage of all the extra due process they get under Maryland law to concoct an alternative version of events. Currently superiors may not question their officers for 10 days following an incident. Not only are officers entitled to an attorney, union attorneys are usually available to them immediately. There is no need for an additional waiting period. Ten days simply impedes investigation and significantly delays the ability of police departments to communicate effectively with the public about what happened. Several changes are still needed to bring the statute in line and bring balance. We need systemic reform, which will ensure that “bad apples” on any police force are addressed while fostering a culture of trust and accountability that could reduce police abuse overall.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
West: To effectively address the opioid epidemic, Maryland must adopt and Improve opioid addiction treatment, Improve addiction care in the criminal justice system. When we make this investment will not only be able to overcome the current opioid epidemic but also will be in a better position to prevent or face down future drug crises.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
West: If the private market fails to provide enough jobs to achieve full employment, the government must become the employer of last resort. We must support sectoral training, apprenticeships, and earn-while-you-learn programs. another resolution would be to raise the minimum wage to $12/hour by 2020 and raise the overtime salary threshold (beneath which all workers get overtime pay) from $455/week to $970/week and index it to inflation.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
West: No. Whenever a public body meets in open session, the general public is entitled to attend. That means that members of the public may come to a meeting and observe it. With one exception pertaining to the closing of a meeting , it does not mean that they are entitled to speak. The ability to “observe” does not mean that the public body must provide to the audience copies of the documents being reviewed by the members. the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws gives little room for Marylanders’ to exercise oversight of the government.