City Council candidates go head-to-head on the issues at public forum

Written by on February 23, 2016 in Featured - No comments

On Thursday, February 19, seven of the candidates vying for the 1st district City Council seat addressed a crowded room at a public forum in Patterson Park.

The forum began with opening statements.

Zeke Cohen, Liz Copeland, Mark Edelson, Scott Goldman, Ed Marcinko, Matt McDaniel, Mark Parker and the forum’s moderator, Delegate Brooke Lierman. | Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

Zeke Cohen, Liz Copeland, Mark Edelson, Scott Goldman, Ed Marcinko, Matt McDaniel, Mark Parker and the forum’s moderator, Delegate Brooke Lierman. | Photo by Gianna DeCarlo

 

Zeke Cohen, a Democrat, said he would use the skills and knowledge he acquired as the director of a non-profit to promote changes within the city.

“I believe I am the candidate with the proven track record to identify problems, bring people together, and come up with solutions right here in Baltimore,” he said.

Liz Copeland, one of three Republicans running, said that she had a track record of public service by acting as the Deputy Director for the Department of Social Services and as a former liquor board commissioner.

“I believe there are a lot of issues that remain unresolved in Baltimore City. We have been accepting the status quo for far too long,” she said.

Mark Edelson, a Democrat and lawyer, said that as councilman he would strive for better public transportation, community investments, and increased educational options.

Democrat Scott Goldman, a lawyer and Army veteran, called for significant changes to the city’s political structure. “The dysfunction of our city government is the greatest challenge we face. It’s the reason people feel like no matter what we do, nothing is going to change.”

Retired DEA agent Ed Marcinko cited his experience as a community association president and said that he has fought several problem bars in the district and worked to establish alley-gating programs.

“I know the issues, I fought the issues,” said Marcinko.

One of the other Republicans running, lawyer Matt McDaniel, said that Baltimore is facing insolvency due to a lack of economic and population growth.

“People are upset, people are angry, people don’t feel like they’re being heard. They feel like the status quo isn’t working,” he said.

Democrat Mark Parker, a Lutheran pastor, said that his six years of working with and attending to the needs of the community has helped him understand what the residents want out of their elected officials.

“Public service is about trust. Everybody up here is trying to earn your trust, but I believe I already have it from you,” Parker said.

Each candidate was asked what they thought were the three biggest issues facing the district.

Parker: education, transportation, support and integration of new immigrant community.

McDaniel: crime, lowering property taxes, holding the government accountable.

Marcinko: education, development, and crime.

Goldman: public safety, education, smart development.

Edelson: crime, public trasnportation, education.

Copeland: crime, transportation, education.

Cohen: schools, fiscal accountability, crime.

Following introductions, heated issues, such as education, public safety, and public transportation, dominated the forum.

On education reform, opinions varied. For example, Cohen called for universal free pre-k that he believes will close the academic achievement gap. Copeland promoted funding for charter schools and expanding high-performing public schools.

Marcinko said that the city government should work on establishing a balance between incentivizing development and securing state funds for schools.

“The two keys things here are transparency and full support of all our students,” said Parker who advocated for increased funding and community involvement to help students overcome educational barriers.

The cancelation of the Red Line and a push for better and more comprehensive transportation reform was also a topic of discussion.

Edelson called for a bike share program and better utilization of the Baltimore Water Taxi and expanded Circulator routes.

McDaniel said that a mass transit overhaul won’t happen without support from the state.

“We need to be able to work bipartisanly together to go down and get the funding that we need. There can’t be a partisan bickering in Annapolis that decides our mass transit,” he said.

Public safety, policing, and crime, was a uniting topic that all candidates agreed needed to be addressed.

“If we’ve seen nothing else over the past year, it’s that police/community relationships is at one of its lowest points in the history of our state. It’s like scabs were ripped off and we’ve been bleeding this year, literally and figuratively,” said Parker. He said there needs to be anti-racism and mediation training for officers as well as increased foot patrols.

Goldman said that the city needs to transition into community policing and encourage the officers to live in the neighborhoods they are patrolling.

McDaniel said that the level of trust between the residents and the police department needs to be built back up to end the surge of crime the city has seen.

“To reduce crime, I think we should hold criminals accountable the first time they commit a crime,” said Copeland. She said that the councilperson should combine the powers of the state and city governments to punish criminals and prevent repeat offenses.

Several candidates said the city needs to be audited more often for more transparency about where money is going and what agencies are being favored.

“Why are we in a city that hasn’t done consistent audits in 40 years? That’s unacceptable given the taxes that we are paying,” said Cohen.

Goldman added that the city’s problems are all connected to an overall lack of communication and coordination from the government. He said he would form a council that will provide oversight and act as a voice for the people.

The final question had to do with the councilperson’s seemingly limited power and how the candidates would use their position to make significant and long-lasting changes.

Cohen said he would work with the state’s delegates to organize and put pressure on the mayor and governor.

“This council has been too fractured, too divided and it reflects the deep segregation in our city,” he said.

Copeland said she’ll work with the state and acts as a non-divisive force that will speak to all people, regardless of political orientation.

Edelson will rely on creating “reasonable, pragmatic, solutions” to problems and work to create a balance between growth and potential.

Goldman said he’d be responsive to the needs of the community.

“Someone should know that the pipes should be replaced before they break,” he said. He added that a councilperson needs to have a vision of what they want the city to look like in 20 years.

“It’s all about accountability,” said Marcinko, who added that people in the council need to set an example.

He said he would act as a full-time councilperson who would address every need of the community.

McDaniel said that as a Republican he will provide a different and critical perspective to the highly Democratic Baltimore government.

“I can step out of the machine and I can ask the questions that other people might not ask,” he said.

Parker acknowledged that there was a structural imbalance and limitations within City Council. He wants the council to have more budgetary authority and the ability to move funds around.

“There are still things we can’t do that are worth fighting for,” he said.

By Gianna DeCarlo

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