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?
Pate: I support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education and see the recommendations as a first step, and we need to hold ourselves accountable to them and then take the recommendations even further. We must re-prioritize our budgeting process so that we can make pre-school before age 3 available to our families in need. It has been consistently shown that creating an enriching educational environment for children and their families before they are three years old results in dramatically improved outcomes as adults with better economic and educational outcomes, better health and much reduced criminal justice involvement. We currently spend billions addressing issues that are a result of a lack of investment in an enhanced early education and equitable elementary and secondary education systems. We must re-examine the money we spend on prisons and establish comprehensive community diversion programs so that we dramatically decrease our reliance on high cost incarceration that many times results from untreated mental health and addiction issues. With less reliance on high cost prisons, we can divert these savings toward early education and create more positive early environments for our children with the result of creating even less need for high cost spending down the road.
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?
Pate: The recent shift to roads funding over mass transit is a mistake. We have the funds but are spending them in the wrong place. The billions that are budgeted to lessen road congestion would be better spent on enhancing mass transit options in our urban centers and their surrounding areas which result in less road congestion and greater economic opportunities. We should begin with a comprehensive community needs assessment to understand the gaps in our transit system. We must restructure our transportation systems to ensure that mass transit connects to the economic centers of our state in an efficient manner. The BaltimoreLink has not addressed the transit needs of Baltimore and was an inadequate and superficial response to cancelling the Red Line. We should fully fund and restart the Red Line and use our transit dollars to expand light rail statewide. I support the transit proposals created by Baltimore Transit Equity.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Pate: Yes. We should create a system of taxation that directs all cannabis taxes to support education. I also support the decriminalization of other drugs. We must stop thinking addiction as a legal problem and allow greater and quicker access to the evidence-based treatment models for those who are addicted. If we focus on treatment over jails and prisons, we will diminish the number of our neighbors who are incarcerated.
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?
Pate: Since the restoration and survival of the Chesapeake Bay is dependent on the actions of many other states, we must develop and implement multi-state agreements on pollution and emission reduction with specific reduction targets. We must solve this problem outside of the Federal Government. Maryland should lead the way in addressing the “climate chaos” that has resulted from global warming. We’ve already seen many of our own communities devastated by extreme weather patterns, and we must do our part by legislating toward a goal of 100% renewable energy over the next 25 years as well as creating carbon-based taxes and exchanges as we move toward our goals. We must create renewable energy initiatives specifically developed for cities. I believe that we should fully implement and hold ourselves accountable to the principles and goals for both the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement and the Clean Water Blueprint.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Pate: Anyone who has worked in the health care system as long as I have knows that it is broken. Given that health care is the largest state expenditure, we must re-examine what we are getting for our money and set higher standards for treatments and outcomes in institutional and community health care with a result of potential significant savings while ensuring all Marylanders have equal access and opportunity to outcome-driven health care. We should re-prioritize and re-examine the current total health care expenditures, both public and private, in Maryland and redirect that money into a health care plan for all citizens. We must create centers of health excellence in our neighborhoods and ask those health systems that greatly benefit from our state dollars to have a direct role in improving the health of our communities. We should also set higher standards for the care delivered to our residents by establishing requirements that every level of health care in our state offers evidence-based treatment to Marylanders, and we must hold health care providers accountable to the outcomes of those in their care.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Pate: The state should support Baltimore in creating a comprehensive approach to violence and crime in our city specifically by supporting access to treatment for those suffering from addiction and by eliminating the cash bail system. Currently 1 in 3 individuals who are incarcerated in Maryland are from Baltimore City (and we are just 1 in 10 of the state’s population) and this is a dramatic over representation of incarceration that creates a cycle of violence and arrests that traps many of us in the justice system and removes opportunity for productive contributions to our city. The state can also support Baltimore by implementing and ensuring access to comprehensive community diversion programs for those who were arrested for minor or addiction-related crimes. Creating comprehensive diversion programs to allow these individuals to contribute to our city and to maintain their positions as productive citizens will allow us to directly break the cycles of violence that continue to impact Baltimore. The state should also support greater community engagement and oversight of public safety to build stronger, more trusting relationships between the police and the community and to focus on creating community policing initiatives that fit the needs of our neighborhoods. We must also ask the state to support Baltimore in growing its job base to enhance access to economic opportunity so that we can create an environment that improves all our citizens lives and results in less violence and crime.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Pate: Our current business climate is good. When you look at the results of the overall business climate we see the Maryland has a high average income and in general a good economy. However, these “average” numbers don’t reflect the ongoing disparities that exist in access to our economy and jobs. I believe we can enhance the Maryland economy by ensuring that we improve our mass transit system, so all Baltimore residents have access to family supporting jobs across the region. We can also improve access to family supporting jobs by increasing our minimum-wage to $15 per hour and by establishing paid family leave. To help secure our state’s future success, we must ensure that our children are given access to the most updated, modern education and Baltimore schools are equitably funded. We must also offer a wide range of apprenticeships, entrepreneur development and work training programs which will expand economic access across the city.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Pate: I support a non-partisan approach to redistricting that removes all politicians from the redistricting process. We need to focus on creating districts which allow many diverse voices to be heard rather than creating districts that perpetuate the status quo and political incumbents. Districts created to be politically safe for incumbents or particular parties result in voters who feel powerless.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Pate: I would support aligning the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights with the same rights offered to any citizen in Baltimore who is accused of wrongdoing so that we can ensure that there is balance in the protections for our police officers and our citizens. We must create greater transparency within the police department so that our community can begin to re-establish broader and deeper levels of trust with the police department. I do not support provisions in the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights which place an unreasonable time limit on a citizen’s right to file a complaint or provide unreasonable delays before interviewing officers accused of wrongdoing. As the grandson of a police officer, I understand the dedication that sustains most officers in their day-to-day work but creating a more transparent system will allow advancement of mutual respect between officers and the citizens they serve which is the foundation of successful community policing.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Pate: This is an area that I have a significant experience given my professional background. There are many challenges in our current approach to opioid addiction and the overdose crisis. The first one is our approach to the crisis as a legal problem with solutions sought in the justice system rather than in the health care system. We must have a formalized assessment and referral system for those who were arrested for issues related to addiction. Our current haphazard approach to diverting those with addiction issues into treatment rather than jails and prisons is unacceptable. We must also broaden access to treatment services within every neighborhood by creating more local treatment programs while requiring those programs to offer evidence-based or best practice approaches in their treatment models. We must hold organizations that provide treatment accountable for their outcomes and the type of care they are delivering while simultaneously broadening the access to treatment and decriminalizing our approach to opioid use.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Pate: We can start by implementing a $15/hour minimum wage with annual cost of living increases to begin to address the decades of decline in real wages. In addition to establishing a reasonable hourly wage, we must also support and enhance job security by expanding the rights of workers to unionize and collectively advocate for themselves. We can also improve income inequality and job security for families by ensuring that we all have access to paid sick leave and family leave so that a personal or family medical crisis do not jeopardize employment. A longer-term solution to addressing income inequality involves a commitment to early education and a equitably funded Baltimore City public education system which serves the needs of all of our citizens by offering education on the most technologically advanced skills and entrepreneurship for future job creation as well as job training and apprentice opportunities.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Pate: I believe the recent updates to the Public Information Act and its establishment of an ombudsperson to mediate and review information request disputes is a good step in the right direction. I do believe that we should continue to advance transparency in government by using advances in technology so that public information can be requested and responded to electronically in a timelier manner. I would also support the elimination of all fees related to public information requests given that the information being requested is already owned by the public, and its release should not result in additional fees for individuals requesting that information. I would also support advancing our process on open meetings to ensure that there is live streaming of official meetings and a defined timeline of public notice that meetings will occur prior to the meeting so that all interested citizens can participate. I would also support the addition of a required public comment period for all meetings covered by the open meeting laws.