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?
Smith: Yes. I am the product of public education and my son is a future Baltimore public school student. Better funded and performing schools are central to combating Baltimore’s population decline. Adequate school funding is needed to ensure Baltimore City youth are ready for kindergarten and our high school graduates can successfully obtain a post-secondary credential. Due to historic and enduring social/economic inequities, nearly 90 percent of Baltimore students live in poverty. This is why I am fully committed to enhancing school funding to meet the challenges of districts with high rates of poverty. In order to achieve necessary funding reforms, I support increased taxes on tobacco products, using gaming revenue to supplement not supplant school funding, and increasing the inheritance tax for millionaires.
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?
Smith: The cancellation of the Red Line was a generational miss for Baltimore. Nearly 1⁄3 of Baltimore households do not have regular access to a vehicle and neighborhoods with the highest rates of unemployment often have some of the longest commute times to job centers around the perimeter of the City. Improved investments in light rail and metro will increase the competitiveness of the Baltimore region and the state overall. We must use all resources available to improve our transit system. We must also aggressively pursue federal transportation support whenever possible.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Smith: While I’m still studying the impact of full legalization in other states, I am not opposed to full legalization. For too long, disproportionate amounts of Baltimore residents have faced criminal prosecution for marijuana possession. These marijuana-related criminal records have impeded the ability for residents to obtain jobs or receive student aid in pursuit of higher education. Full legalization should be explored to assess the impact on state revenue to support priorities around education, transportation, and workforce/small business development.
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?
Smith: I’ve spent my entire life in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and know that this important natural resource is a vital part of Maryland’s natural heritage and economy. With uncertain commitments from the U.S. Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), it is critical for Maryland to aggressively clean up local waterways that feed into the Bay. The health of the Bay is continuously compromised by nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution. That is why I support Maryland closing any bay protection/restoration funding gap that results from federal cuts.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Smith: I support researching the feasibility of implementing single-payer health care on the state level. Passing single payer would require a coordinated education campaign with advocacy allies. It would also be critical to learn lessons from other recent failed efforts to adopt a single payer system. California is one important example to unpack and analyze. I’m intrigued by the funding strategy outlined by California Representative Pete Stark entitled AmeriCare that would cover all children from birth and allow employers to buy into the plan to keep costs down. Employers would cover 80 percent of the premiums and workers 20 percent. The system would eventually yield a situation where most people would be covered by Medicare or Americare.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Smith: While publicly viewed as a municipal law enforcement agency, the Baltimore Police Department (BPD) is a state agency. As the BPD navigates addressing systemic abuses uncovered in the U.S. Department of Justice report and the recent criminal prosecution of the Gun Trace Taskforce, the limits of municipal oversight are significant. That’s why Maryland should be supportive of transferring municipal control over to the City of Baltimore so that City Council and our Mayor are more fully empowered to shape BPD policy. One of the most challenging populations to support in combating violent crime are Opportunity Youth. Disconnected or Opportunity Youth (defined as young people ages 16-24 who are not enrolled in school or employed) are more likely to live in poverty, have limited social bonds and are vulnerable to the temptations of crime. Creating an environment where Opportunity Youth can reconnect is essential to improving community safety and well-being. I support: -Increasing state funding for localities to scale evidence-based violence interruption programs like “Safe Streets” -Establishing a state fund for programs that target employment and education pathways for Opportunity Youth -Establishing tax incentives and state procurement preference for companies that hire and support the development of Opportunity Youth
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Smith: We have a moderately welcoming business environment. Strengths include our location along the Eastern seaboard, higher education network, and port. However, our rising cost of living, limited transportation network (particularly in the Baltimore region), and tax rate decrease the perception of business “friendliness.” While the courting of mega businesses like Amazon attracts a ton of media coverage, smaller businesses drive our state’s economy and are key to neighborhood revival. That’s why it’s important to think about how we can better support community-based businesses access capital. Additionally, 1 out of 5 residents of the Greater Baltimore region have criminal records that hamper their employment mobility. It’s critical for workers with a criminal record to be able to earn a living wage in order to have more stable and sustainable consumer markets that in turn support small/large businesses.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Smith: No. There should be more opportunities for civilian oversight and transparency in police misconduct files.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Smith: I support making overdose-reversal drugs more accessible in public places, expanding training on proper use, enhancing addiction treatment for inmates, and expanding alternatives to incarceration for low-level drug offenses.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Smith: Pass a state minimum wage of at least $15 per hour.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Smith: Improved enforcement of these laws are critical to enhancing public trust.