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?
Thomas: Yes, I support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. Yes, I am committed to funding associated reforms. I would champion efforts to bring student performance up to meet global competition. I would advocate for increased spending in economically disadvantaged communities. According to the commission, Maryland spends 5% more on wealthy districts than those that are underserved. Students who come from uniquely impoverished circumstances deserve better. Increased public education funding would promote smaller class sizes. Classroom size in Baltimore is non-negotiable. However, other states like Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California have negotiable class size. We should have the right to have flexible class sizes. This would result having the proper population in a classroom so students can receive the attention they deserve.
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?
Thomas: Maryland’s transportation spending is not appropriately balanced. Maryland needs to invest more funds for transit to benefit a greater number of citizens. The Red Line would have been a tremendous boost to Baltimore’s transit infrastructure, but the General Assembly and the governor failed to secure a deal. Lower income residents were hurt the most by the loss of the Red Line. Many believe the Baltimore Link was a poor compromise and their voices were drowned out during the decision making process. As Delegate, I would make sure my constituents were not only informed when major decisions were being adjudicated, but I would invite them to public hearings to ensure their testimonies are and recorded. Finally, I believe it valuable to review all innovative transit plans to help Maryland residents remain competitive in the regional job market. Transit ideas such as the Loop underground rail plan, designed by the Boring Company should be reviewed. The privately funded public-private transit model could ease traffic congestion and limit development along the Baltimore-Washington corridor.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Thomas: Yes, I do support the legalization of recreational marijuana. Maryland will save millions from not incarcerating users for possession of small amounts of marijuana and have the ability to regulate its responsible use.
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?
Thomas: The federal government remains an important partner in Chesapeake Bay restoration. Several agencies have commitments to maintain the progress made in restoring the Bay. Additional funds for restoration and clean up can come from tourism dollars and taxes on plastics. Coordination of restoration activities with the states that comprise the Chesapeake Watershed will be critically important during the rollback of regulations and support from the current presidential administration.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Thomas: I have long supported a single payer system. Single payer will help lower costs and provide better health care coverage for Marylanders. Overall economic growth could be enhanced because small businesses could grow at a greater rate from reduced health care payments, similar to Canada and the UK.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Thomas: The role the State should not play is return to failed “war on crime” strategies of the 80s and 90s like mandatory minimums. Crime in Baltimore is linked to poverty and a lack of job and entrepreneurial opportunities. As a lifelong resident of Baltimore City, I am committed to starting a family in the City and promoting its renewal. The State should assist Baltimore to create an enabling environment for economic growth with jobs, financing for micro and small business enterprise and attracting new industries. The State can also help to build community center/libraries in different parts of the city similar to what Washington, DC has done. Police-civilian programs such as Safe Neighborhoods, Police Athletic Leagues and reintroducing neighborhood councils could help keep crime rates down.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Thomas: Maryland’s business climate is improving, but more progress needs to be made to erase the perception that the state is business unfriendly. Businesses in the Baltimore area complain of worker/skills shortages for their companies. The state and the private sector must confer with one another to coordinate curriculum and skills training with job opportunities. This means offering college prep, internships, and apprenticeships to respond to the needs of employers for economic growth.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Thomas: Yes, I support a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional districts. This is the surest way to instill fairness in the process and avoid gerrymandered districts favoring one party over the other.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Thomas: The Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights does not adequately provide enough protection for the public, nor does it instill trust between the community and police. The public believes the police need to be held accountable for their actions, attitudes and behavior. At this time, I do not believe the bill adequately addresses community fears.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Thomas: There needs to be more drug awareness and treatment facilities. Also, naloxone should be made available in more public places. Funds should be provided to train local police officers, bus drivers, and transit officials. I support the new anti-opioid prescription drug public service announcements public television has been running. It is good to warn doctors and their patients to avoid unnecessary pain prescriptions that can lead to addiction or death.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Thomas: Emphasis should be placed on early childhood education as the first step to close the education gap. Improvements must be made in teacher training, facility and curriculum upgrades in poor performing schools in lower income areas. Also, I would promote living wage and equal pay policies to prevent workers from being shortchanged and so they can live in areas near employment.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Thomas: Elected officials must serve as local advocates and true representatives of the people. The Public Information Act and Open Meetings Law is a good start, but in today’s information technology age government officials have additional resources at their disposal to better inform the public. As Delegate, I would work to make sure technological resources are deployed to disseminate information as best we can.