Richard Bruno

Richard Bruno
  • Democrat
  • Age: 38
  • Residence: Baltimore

About Richard Bruno


Little Rock School District (K-12), Princeton University (Bachelor’s), Oregon Health and Science University (Medical Degree), John’s Hopkins University (Master’s in Public Health)


In high school, I volunteered at a camp for disabled children. After graduating from Princeton, I worked in medical labs all over the country and played music in an indie band for several years. It was in Florida that I met my wife Mary. After we settled down in Portland, I decided to fulfill my lifelong dream of going to medical school. In medical school, I really cut my teeth as an activist, protesting the greed of the health insurance companies while the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was being drafted. I moved to Baltimore to fulfill my residency training in Family & Preventive Medicine in a joint program with MedStar Franklin Square Medical Center and the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. During my residency I joined several labor union campaigns, testified on legislation in front of the General Assembly and the City Council, and even got arrested in Washington protesting attempts to repeal Obamacare. I work at the Baltimore Medical System’s clinic in Bel-Air Edison, a federally qualified health clinic providing care to the uninsured. I am also the Chair of Medchi’s Public Health Committee, and I sit on the board of Physicians for a National Health Program.


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?
Bruno: With the Kirwan reforms, we will fulfill the promise of Thornton and honor the state’s constitutional requirement to adequately educate all our children. The reforms which are most exciting to me include implementing a Finnish-style “master teacher” program, reforming the funding formula to acknowledge concentrated poverty, expanding community schools, and universal pre-K. Politicians who won’t acknowledge the obvious are cowards: if we want to fix our public schools, we will need to raise taxes. Maryland has the most millionaires per capita of any state. We should be taxing millionaires again. Governor O’Malley’s temporary tax on income over $1 million, which was in place from 2007 to 2010, netted about $120 million, despite being a measly 0.75% higher than the state’s tax on income over $500,000 (at 6.25% vs. 5.5%). We should explore a steeper progressive income tax with more brackets (at $10 million, $100 million, etc.). The narrative that the millionaire tax drove out taxpayers is simply a false one: some millionaires left the state during the recession but were already returning by 2010 (when the tax was still in place, but the economy was rebounding). I will also fight for universal free tuition for all programs at state colleges and universities, all the way up to MDs and PhDs. As Vice President Joe Biden liked to say, “Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.” We’re a wealthy state. We can afford a fair, world-class education system.
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?
Bruno: Ask people at any bus stop in Baltimore City, especially outside of “the white L,” whether they are pleased with BaltimoreLink. They will tell you, resoundingly, “No.” If it takes a person longer to get to work, church, and school, that is time that person cannot spend doing other things—and time, for an hourly worker, is money. The cancellation of the Red Line and the curtailment of many bus routes which has been disguised by the euphemism of “reform”—accompanied by the Governor’s push for expanding the highways—is nothing short of a tax on working Baltimoreans to provide a subsidy for suburbanites. We need to make expanding public transportation a high priority for several reasons: carbon pollution (transportation is the leading cause of US greenhouse gas emissions), particulate pollution (Baltimore has the deadliest air in America according to a 2013 study from MIT), quality of life (Maryland has some of the longest commutes in the country, averaging over 30 minutes), keeping young people in the city (a 2017 Politico survey of American mayors found that inadequate public transportation was the #2 barrier to retaining millennials), and economic equity (working-class and unemployed people are far more likely to use public transportation). Let’s go beyond the Red Line: let’s build the six lines of the Baltimore Regional Rail System Plan. Let’s follow Montgomery County’s example and fund bus rapid transit across the state. Let’s pass a state-wide complete streets initiative to make our communities safer, healthier, greener, easier, and better places to live.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Bruno: As a doctor who recommends medical cannabis to my patients, I am glad to see our state’s long-delayed program finally implemented. I am encouraged by studies showing that medical cannabis laws reduce opioid overdoses. I support placing recreational legalization on the ballot to let Maryland decide—but given my public health background, I am not comfortable mandating legalization without the people’s informed consent. I am similarly reticent about legalizing sports betting or relaxing regulations on craft brewing. The state should not make it easier for companies to profit off of addiction. We do not yet definitively know how recreational cannabis legalization impacts rates of teen usage, let alone how cannabis influences the developing brain. We do not yet know how legalization affects traffic fatalities. We do not know which states’ models of legalization are most effective, both from the public health standpoint, and in terms of ensuring small businesspeople rather than Big Tobacco and Big Liquor companies reap the benefits. I will fight for racial equity in the permitting process for dispensaries. I support raising the threshold for decriminalization (Maryland, for example, decriminalizes possession of up to 10 grams, a lower limit even than Mississippi, at 30 grams). I will fight for nonviolent marijuana offenders to be released from state prisons. To me, it is a higher priority that we reduce policing of nonviolent crimes like sex work and drug trafficking, and work toward providing economic opportunities for marginalized communities, than that we create legal markets for possibly harmful illicit activities.
Chesapeake Bay
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?
Bruno: We need to restore funding to the Maryland Department of the Environment so that it can do its job properly, especially now that we know the EPA is in the polluters’ pockets. We need to provide more funding to Baltimore and other local governments for stormwater management (including fixing Baltimore’s sewers). I support the Poultry Litter Management Act, which would force corporations, rather than the public, to pay the costs of cleaning up excess manure. I also support strengthening the Forest Conservation Act, because forests are a key safeguard to toxic runoff entering the Bay. It is not a commonly understood fact that air pollution actually contaminates our waterways as well, especially pollution from coal plants. The renewable energy transformation we need—I support the 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act—would not only reduce contaminants in the Bay, but also improve air quality and mitigate climate change. Climate change itself will also have a negative impact on the bay, as ocean acidification reduces crab and oyster yields (higher-acidity water makes it harder for these animals to create their shells)—and as increasing salinity from sea level rise makes it impossible for many kinds of animals to live in the Bay at all. Moving at breakneck speed to 100% renewable energy, increasing housing density and public transportation, taking combustion engines off the road, improving farming practices, increasing energy efficiency across sectors, establishing a carbon tax, etc.—climate change is a massively complicated and important issue, and will require a broad set of reforms.
Health Care
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Bruno: I lost a close friend to a brain tumor that probably would not have killed him or bankrupted his family if he had simply had health insurance. My life experience, my values, and the uninsured people I have gotten to know in clinic have made me a strong believer in a single-payer healthcare system. I am a strong supporter of the Healthy Maryland Act. Maryland, with its all-payer system for hospitals, is best poised to be the first state to implement single-payer. We could lead the nation, like Massachusetts’s reforms laid the groundwork for the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). Last October, I was invited to join Senator Bernie Sanders on his tour of the Canadian healthcare system. People in Canada do not go bankrupt because of medical expenses, but they lack adequate prescription drug coverage. Maryland is the first state to pass an anti–price-gouging bill for generic drugs. We need to expand our efforts against price-gouging to cover name-brand drugs and mandate cost transparency. The care I provide does little good if my patients cannot afford to fill the prescriptions I write for them. Likewise, my clinical effectiveness is impeded when my patients cannot access healthy food. Maryland’s Fresh Food Financing Initiative is a good program but doesn’t begin to approach the requisite scale. Nutrition, like healthcare, should be recognized as a human right, and if we approached the issue from that perspective, I have no doubt we would be putting more resources into making healthy food accessible and affordable.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Bruno: Violent crime is an issue with long-run causes, but short-run, tragic consequences. In the long-run, we must commit to ending racialized poverty in Baltimore. However, poverty is not the only cause of violent crime. Baltimore had more murders than New York last year. New York’s population is 14-times larger than Baltimore; Baltimore does not, however, have a 14-times greater poverty rate than New York. It is not only Baltimore’s poverty, but our long-running addiction problems, our mistrusted and corrupt police department, our massive abandoned housing stock, our failing schools, etc., that contribute to the violence. Most of these problems cannot be solved overnight. However, we are not powerless here. The state should stop doubling down on policies we know do not work, like mandatory minimums. I promise, I will vote against any bill which enhances mandatory minimums. We should fund the policies that we know actually work, like violence interruption. We need to provide counselors in high-violence neighborhood schools to help children cope with trauma. We need to get lead paint and pipes out of our communities, because lead poisoning is a known contributor to brain damage and violent behavior. Ultimately, one of the main contributing factors to our violent crime crisis in Baltimore is that the relationship of trust between the Baltimore Police Department and the community has completely broken down. A major step for real change would be restoring Baltimore’s control of the BPD so that Baltimoreans can establish civilian oversight and community policing according to our needs.
Business Climate
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Bruno: Maryland is a wealthy state, which is also home to a lot of poor people. I believe in bottom-up and not top-down economic development. We should be investing in our communities (excellent schools, affordable housing, quality transit, universal healthcare)—not in luxury developments and giveaways to corporate behemoths. I would have voted against the incentive package for Amazon’s second headquarters, and if Amazon does accept Maryland’s bid, as a legislator, I will fight to ensure that $8+ billion giveaway never comes to pass. We should be leveling the playing field for workers by enhancing their ability to bargain collective and raising the minimum wage. When workers have more income, they spend that income in their communities, lifting up local businesses. We should be taking burdens off the shoulders of our small businesspeople by providing healthcare as a human right. When entrepreneurs don’t have to worry about healthcare inflation, they can focus on growing their businesses. I realize that there are some who believe that cutting taxes and cutting regulations will help businesses create more jobs, and thereby to reduce poverty—but growth which comes at the expense of workers’ protections, our infrastructure, and our environment is not sustainable. Maryland does have way too much red tape, however, and we need to make it easier for people to start a business. I will fight corporate influence on our regulations which tilts the playing field against competition. I will shine a light on state contracts and ensure small business get a fair shake.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Bruno: Voters should pick their politicians, not politicians their voters. I support removing redistricting from political influence. I also support public financing of elections (Montgomery County’s law provides a model for the state), making it easier for third parties to attain ballot access, opening Maryland’s primaries to independents, implementing special elections for legislative vacancies, and expanding early voting. Voter participation in the last state election was 44.5%; that’s abysmal, and it reflects a lack of faith in the ability of our political system to translate the democratic will of the people. Gerrymandering is a major problem, but not the only problem, which our democracy faces. In addition to these common sense reforms, it is time to start discussing more radical ones, such as top-two primaries (like in California), ranked choice voting (like in Minneapolis), the all-mail ballot (like in Oregon), and participatory budgeting (like in Jackson). If ever there were a time to worry for the health of our democracy, it is during the Trump presidency. We can and must deepen our democracy, and in fact, it is probably only in deepening democracy that we can save it.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Bruno: I honor our police officers. They put their lives on the line every day. Police deserve to be our heroes. I know, from talking to thousands of people across our city, that Baltimoreans do not hate the police. They want the police to be able to do their jobs, and they know policing can be done without violating people’s rights. Even worse than police misconduct is the effect that misconduct has on community-police relations. Officers do not work well in communities where they feel they are hated—and civilians do not cooperate with police that they fear are outside the law. We need a functioning police department, and police misconduct with impunity makes that impossible. Maryland should repeal the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights. Even in states without laws like the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights (which has been passed in 14 states), it is often too difficult to punish police misconduct. The complicated relationship between prosecutors and police, as is well known, makes it difficult for prosecutors to go after police misconduct, for fear of reduced police cooperation in future cases. I would therefore strongly support a law mandating special prosecutors, at the very least in cases of fatal officer-involved shootings. The days of impunity for bad apples must come to an end. Special prosecutors in cases of police misconduct could go a long way towards restoring the trust of the people of Baltimore in their police department. Restoring that relationship should be our number one objective.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Bruno: In January, I wrote an editorial for the Sun, entitled “Opioid Makers Should Pay for Anti-Addiction Efforts,” which spells out some of the ways I would address the opioid crisis. Firstly, as with the tobacco companies, we should hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable for their deceptive advertising of opioid painkillers—and sue to ensure that they pay as much of the costs as possible for solving the crisis. The opioid epidemic is officially the worst drug epidemic in our country’s history, killing more people in 2017 than traffic collisions and firearms combined. We can stem the tide upstream, by reducing the number and duration of prescriptions and ensuring patients have access to non-addictive pain treatments like physical therapy; midstream, by increasing funding for rehabilitative services, diverting addicts away from incarceration and into treatment, and taking bold new steps like establishing supervised injection facilities; and downstream, by ensuring that naloxone is widely available at an affordable price. In most of the country, including in Maryland, the opioid epidemic shows no signs of abating, which is why we should be keen to learn from places that are having an impact. Vermont’s “hub-and-spoke” system, for example, has fostered coordination among providers and drastically reduced wait times for addicts seeking treatment. There is not a single supervised injection facility in the United States, despite the decades of evidence that these programs save lives, reduce infections, and get people into treatment. We can only solve the opioid crisis by combining compassion with evidence-based policy.
Income inequality
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Bruno: Rising income inequality has two components: increasing costs of life’s necessities and wage growth stagnation. Policies I’ve mentioned above, like single-payer healthcare, lowering prescription drug prices, expanding public transportation, making public universities free, and improving our public schools would all work to keep money in working families’ pockets. Affordable housing is another requirement for income equality. I support an “all of the above” housing strategy, including: supporting, expanding, and protecting existing public housing; providing funding to start up community land trusts across the state (and making it easier to wrest ownership of vacant properties from delinquent title-holders); requiring new developments to contain a higher proportion of affordable units; establishing limited rent control and enhancing tenants’ rights against eviction, including legal aid for rent court cases; and enhanced anti-discrimination enforcement in housing. On wages, I support raising the minimum wage to a cost-of-living–adjusted $15/hour. Since discrimination remains a major contributor to inequality, companies should have to be transparent about how they pay their employees, broken down by gender and ethnicity. The state should also work to protect workers’ rights to form unions, including in the “gig economy” (e.g., dependent contractors like Uber drivers) and the service sector, but especially in the public sector (where graduate students, community college employees, and student athletes are not awarded the same labor protections as other government workers) and in firms receiving state contracts (through project labor agreements, labor peace agreements, and prevailing wage agreements). Unionized workers are paid more without any need for government regulation.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Bruno: In 2015, the Center for Public Integrity gave Maryland a “D” for State Integrity. This rating was given before the implementation of the 2014 reform to the Public Information Act, but many of the same issues remain. We need to further lower the fees for information requests, beef up enforcement for agencies who violate transparency laws, and reduce the number of exemptions to the Public Information Act. As for the Open Meetings Act, which was reformed in 2013—again, the enforcement is just not where it needs to be, and often lacks sufficient teeth. The State Open Meetings Law Compliance Board has no authority to enforce its rulings, unlike the State Ethics Commission, and even when a fine is levied by the circuit court for an Open Meetings Act violation, the fines are typically measly. The Public Integrity Act, passed in 2017, should also be strengthened to further limit the “revolving door” problem, where former government employees go to work for lobbying firms and use their old political connections to further corporate interests. The Public Integrity Act imposes a moratorium on lobbying for former executive and legislative branch employees, for one year after they leave state employment. One year is not enough “cool out” time when you’re talking about potential corruption. The saga of Senator Nathaniel Oaks, who recently resigned, has dominated this cycle’s elections in District 41. People are crying out for transparency and accountability. We have made a lot of progress, but we have a long way to go.

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