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?
Berkowitz: I think schools should be the foundation of our society and strongly support the education reforms of the Commission. Children, parents, and educators should have everything they need to thrive. My initial ideas are to fund these reforms with new taxes on items like recreational cannabis, employers who automate their workplaces, and polluting corporations. However, if I were part of the team of legislators implementing the plan, I would want to research funding mechanisms much more thoroughly.
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?
Berkowitz: For some people, public transport is a convenience in addition or instead of a vehicle. Yet for many other Marylanders, it is a necessity, and our state has not focused on investing in public transit the way it should. Not only do many individuals suffer as a result of the kinks in our system, we also all suffer on a larger scale since we miss out on an opportunity to unite different regions of our state, which many could benefit from. We have the resources, but we need the political will to bring back the Red Line, properly serve Baltimore’s residents, and expand public transit in all areas of the state.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Berkowitz: I support the legalization of recreational marijuana for many reasons. First as a civil liberty issue, a criminal justice issue, and as a moral issue. The “War on Drugs” has devastated communities of color and done little to stop crime. Meanwhile, states like Colorado and Washington have been thriving and collecting millions in taxes on their upstart cannabis industries. In Maryland, we can use this tax revenue to improve education, rebuild roads, and support the transition to clean, 21st century energy technologies.
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?
Berkowitz: We need to guarantee that funding for the Bay is protected at the state level, but we can do more. We can also transition to green energy, work to lessen the amount of excess nutrients in our water, promote oyster sanctuaries, and ensure that polluting corporations pay their fair share to preserve our environment.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Berkowitz: I am absolutely in support of any legislative efforts that will expand healthcare access and affordability for my neighbors. Ideally, the United States will move towards a universal single-payer healthcare system. In the meantime, I would be thrilled to support single-payer within our state or expand Medicaid to people of modest incomes. We could also look at creative legislative solutions - such as an incentive for employers to provide it for their employees or offer a subsidy to individuals who need it - if the funding can be secured. If we have the political will, there is a way!
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Berkowitz: While doing research assistance at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, I worked closely with the Safe Streets program. In that time, it was incredible to see effective this program is. Our legislators can provide support for programs like Safe Streets and other evidence-based solutions that lower crime and save lives. Additionally, it is my firm belief that we should be looking to the root issues of violent crime (which I believe to be systematic issues like poverty and lack of affordable housing.) Our legislature should NOT work to implement tough on crime legislation that will exacerbate the problem and worsen our state and people.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Berkowitz: To be honest, I do not know much about Maryland’s business climate. I am still working full time so in the time I have allocated to researching possible policy solutions, I have focused on areas like education and the environment. I think this would be a good place to acknowledge that I am a person who knows her limitations, believes in science, scientists, and researchers, and gladly relies on experts so she can make informed decisions. I will never pretend to know something I don’t.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Berkowitz: I absolutely support the creation of an independent body to draw legislative and congressional maps. This should be a fair and scientific process. Maps should be fair, no matter the map maker.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Berkowitz: We are not unique in being knee deep in the pursuit of trying to restore the relationship between police officers and community members here in Maryland. From what I have read, the Bill was created in the 1970s and could use update in several areas, such as the excessive force complaint making process, a chief’s ability to discipline an officer, and the waiting period an officer has after an incident before they’re required to be questioned. I have several close friends and colleagues who have served in jobs which put their lives on the line and I have the utmost respect for anyone who has chosen such a path of service. Yet, officers’ needs must be balanced with the dignity of community members and the injustices so many are experiencing on a daily basis. It seems to me that more can be done. Again, in truth, this is not an issue I am very experienced with, so if elected and working on relevant legislation, I would call in experts to help create the most well informed, and just, changes possible.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Berkowitz: One legislative change which could be a “game changer,” is safe consumption sites. While allowing people to freely consume illegal substances in a given area sounds counter-intuitive, this initiative has taken place in cities as close as Philadelphia. These sites have been found to bring down the number of deaths as a result of less overdoses. These sites usually are accompanied by access to resources like counselors and public health staff. Additionally, initiatives like this could actually save the taxpayer money in the long run as a result of less incursion of associated overdose costs (ER visits, ambulance trips, etc.) I also support Dr. Leana Wen’s lead in Baltimore City. I think NarCan (the life saving medicine that is easily transported and given out) should be available to all public service officials and also over the counter without a prescription. It also seems wise to invest more in substantial treatment options.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Berkowitz: I believe wealth inequity to be the defining issue of our time. Our state should remain deeply committed to progressive tax policies, investments into education, “smart on crime” policies (such as Safe Streets and getting formerly incarcerated individuals to reintegrate into society smoothly), infrastructure renovations to help reduce the burden on - and give good jobs to - our working families. We absolutely should follow through in 2019’s legislative session on raising the minimum wage to a livable one and work towards tuition-free higher education and universal healthcare as well. Lastly, we need to protect our safety nets since they are constantly being attacked on the federal level by individuals like my US House Representative, Andy Harris. Programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, the EITC, and housing assistance help people meet their basic human needs. Our great state should resist the urge to enact time or work requirements. These have been found to be ineffective and put even more burden on people living in poverty. Instead, we should help them lift themselves up.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Berkowitz: From what I’ve read, we could be doing more to ensure that the information received as a results of these laws is properly given consideration. As this is not an area I am overly familiar with, I would need to review more information to have an informed opinion. However, as with almost any issue, I’m open to reviewing and discussing it.