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?
McIntire: The report is not final, so I won’t commit to write a blank check to fund its conclusions. Voters should be very suspicious of any pol who does. Although the commission seems designed to justify a multi-billion state tax increase, the draft suggests it will also generate some useful insights. Sadly, it will also overlooking large problems with the status-quo. One good idea- early childhood education is a wise investment, though it should be done in a manner that builds on successful institutions rather than adding a new pre-K grade level to an already failing school. What is missing- the report won’t address major problems in school governance we are seeing Baltimore County. We need an INDEPENDENT EXTERNAL AUDIT to reevaluate the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of tech contracts Dance signed. We now KNOW these decisions were not entered into for the benefit of the children, and certainly not with regard to County taxpayers. My opponent Del. Lafferty killed this common sense bill (HB-428). There is a reason status-quo interests don’t want people looking at these contracts- there are huge red flags with leasing laptops for $1200+, through a middleman. The report won’t address systemic failure in the City school system that fails underprivileged kids and drives middle class residents out of the city. It doesn’t appear to address issues of school environment, the deliberate elimination of disciplinary standards and mainstreaming chronically violent, disruptive students- there is no amount of money that can fix a policy that foolish.
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?
McIntire: I think the current balance is roughly appropriate and the state has adequate resources. Although I support public transit, the Red Line was a poorly designed project justified by 40 year old assumptions. High speed intercity rail has the potential to truly revolutionize Baltimore and should be a focus of transit policy for the region.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
McIntire: Yes. I have two young children and certainly don’t want them to become potheads. The current prohibition policy won’t keep that from happening (if anything, it just creates a “forbidden fruit”. But I really don’t want them facing prison or a criminal record because they made a mistake or hung out with the wrong crowd. Despite a trillion dollars and criminalizing millions of Americans for victimless crimes, prohibition has failed in reducing usage. Prohibition is a battle against human nature. And the drug war is a war against US citizens, the costs of which fall disproportionately on the least advantaged members of society. This has created injustices and reduced respect for the law. Tax revenue from legalization should be directed to funding education and addiction treatment.
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?
McIntire: MD has a long history of environmental stewardship, driven by the wonderful resource of the Chesapeake Bay. We need to continue making incremental progress. I believe that major new policy initiatives should be subject to an enhanced cost-benefit analysis by a neutral body, most likely the Office of Legislative Services. This would allow legislators to focus policy on solutions that deliver the biggest bang for the buck. Critics of cost/benefit analysis see it as a barrier to regulations, when it is really a way to prioritize resources on the best regulations. For example, current policy focuses excessively on limiting development in rural areas served by septic systems which is a relatively minor source of run-off, while doing too little to address the major problem: manure produced by agriculture.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
McIntire: The core problem with America’s health system is its superinflationary, out-of-control cost trajectory. The ACA did not do enough to address this core problem, while creating new problems. Unless you get a subsidy, the product offered by state exchanges costs far too much and then offers little coverage until meeting a huge deductible. Pharma pricing scams, where profiteers use rigid FDA regulations to extract incredible price increases for established drugs or combinations of established drugs are another example of this problem. Although unfortunately a comprehensive solution requires federal action here too, state regulators should make every effort to drive these costs out of the system, and align incentives between providers and patients. I support expanding managed care for high-cost populations in state-supported healthcare plans. This would reduce cost while providing a consistent standard of care for chronic problems like diabetes. I also support innovative consumer options like allowing associations to offer insurance to members on terms similar to employer provided plans.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
McIntire: Baltimore City’s violent crime problem is out-of-control, with a murder rate over 10 times the County. The state needs to help fund the cost of addressing the City’s violent crime problem. There is no silver bullet, though policy response should include 1) stronger penalties for violent gun crimes, 2) community interventions to deescalate violence (like counseling gun-shot victims in the hospital before they seek revenge) and 3) ending a failed policy of coddling violent, anti-social behavior in public schools. One overlooked factor contributing to escalating violence is a lack of school discipline. Many victims and perpetrators of gun violence are tragically young. Since 2011, Baltimore City Schools have been deliberately reducing disciplinary consequences for violent and chronically disruptive students, with the goal of eliminating out-of-school suspension. The advocates of this policy claim that school suspension created a “school to prison” pipeline. They are completely wrong- teaching kids that there is no real consequence for violent, anti-social behavior encourages violence and victimization. This policy was imposed based on a false premise- that discrimination is to blame anytime there is a disparate outcome in discipline for different racial groups. The advocates foolishly believe that by eliminating discipline, they are eliminating discrimination. The sad truth is this policy harms everyone, ignoring the rights of victims while sending kids with behavioral problems on an actual school-to-prison pipeline. But it disproportionately harms poor, minority kids in tough neighborhoods.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
McIntire: MD’s business climate is mediocre, though certainly better thanks to Governor Hogan. O’Malley put us on a very negative trajectory with consistently higher taxes funding consistently more intrusive government bureaucracy. Despite improvement, we are one bad governor away from becoming CA or NY, where sky high-taxes and ill-conceived regulations drive business and economic opportunity away. Very few of our legislators have any private sector experience (working at a law firm part-time doesn’t count). They generally view private business as a cow to be milked for tax revenue.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
McIntire: Yes to an Independent Commission! Gerrymandering undermines democracy, increasing the power of special interests, fringe pressure groups and party bosses. It encourages rampant partisanship and discourages bipartisan solutions. Senate District 42 is actually case study in gerrymandering- it was created by O’Malley to punish Democratic Sen. Brochin for being too independent and bi-partisan. But then to my opponent, Delegate Lafferty, a loyal machine partisan, they let him carve out a single member sub-district. Since that gerrymandering, Del. Lafferty began pushing a much more extreme agenda that doesn’t serve Towson’s residents- sponsoring the Home Act (forcing more Section 8 & handing power over Towson to an unaccountable, anti-democratic regional quasi-government) or killing common sense measures to audit Dallas Dance’s tech contracts. The job of Delegate is to actually represent the interests of your constituents, not partisan agendas or special interests. Gerrymandering makes it possible to not focus on your constituents, and still get reelected.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
McIntire: Law enforcement, along with other public sector workers, deserve protection from politically motivated witch hunts, incompetent personnel decisions, or grandstanding prosecutions like what we saw from Marilyn Mosby in the wake of Freddie Gray. At the same time, those protections can go too far and insulate incompetent or malevolent behavior. The story of the Gun Trace Task Force was a truly alarming violation of basic civil rights. I am open to considering changes where appropriate.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
McIntire: We need to address this as a public health crisis, and first do whatever it takes to keep addicts from killing themselves before they can undertake long-run treatment. We should fund more addiction treatment with the proceeds from legalized marijuana.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
McIntire: The state can address income inequality by focusing on its core responsibility- providing a world-class education and fostering the conditions for robust economic opportunity. We have systemic failure in the City school system. It is an astounding failure that in some half a dozen city high schools, serving thousands of kids, there is not a single person who tests proficient. With a failure this extreme, there is something more going on than deep poverty, teacher quality, lack of resources (when we spend nearly $17k per pupil). MD is worst in the US for charter school. Parents who live in the catchment of persistently failing dangerous schools deserve a real choice.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
McIntire: No. One case study where I’ve used the PIA: right now, Baltimore County is the target of the largest HUD sponsored relocation program in the US. This has been carried out in deliberate secrecy, imposed through litigation before federal and state agencies that do not make their records public. Kamenetz’s settlement of the ACLU/PJC/NAACP suit in March 2016 was negotiated in secret. The entire record of this litigation is non-public. Although I have received a couple thousand pages, there are over 10,000 pages relating to the Baltimore County suit alone that are still being hidden from the public. The extreme ideologically motivated interest groups that sued Baltimore County are doing this in secret for a reason- they seek an incredible amount of completely unaccountable power for themselves. And the arguments they make to justify taking this power from democratic institutions would not withstand the slightest public scrutiny. Specific changes to the PIA Act- matters of public import need to be made available free of charge. Special interests shouldn’t be able to try imposing policy through secret litigation, and then claim every document thereafter is exempt from disclosure because it is a “settlement negotiation”. Transparency & accountability are at the core of democracy.