Council candidates share solutions to crime, education, and transportation

Written by on March 29, 2016 in Featured, Uncategorized - No comments
Zeke Cohen, Liz Copeland, Mark Edelson, Sean Flanagan, Scott Goldman, Ed Marcinko, Matt McDaniel, and Mark Parker. Photo by Gianna DeCarlo.

Zeke Cohen, Liz Copeland, Mark Edelson, Sean Flanagan, Scott Goldman, Ed Marcinko, Matt McDaniel, and Mark Parker. Photo by Gianna DeCarlo.

On Wednesday, March 23, the League of Women Voters hosted a forum between eight of the candidates running for City Council.

Each candidate answered pre-determined questions focusing on issues such as transportation, education, and public safety.

The first topic was population growth and the lack of affordable housing options available for new residents looking to move into the district.

Sean Flanagan (D) said that the 1st district should be an example to other parts of the city. Calling the Southeast the “economic engine” of the city, Flanagan said he will push for more investments in challenged neighborhoods.

Matt McDaniel (R) and Liz Copeland (R) said that property taxes should be lowered. McDaniel said that the City Council should partner with federal and state agencies to create more housing opportunities for potential renters and homeowners.

“I want people to be able to own because that’s how we begin to transform the economy,” he said.

Zeke Cohen (D) spoke about holding developers accountable and ensuring they create housing and jobs for the community as they grow.

“We are not going to move forward if we continue to privilege a select few developers at the expense of people who are struggling,” said Cohen.

The following issue was public safety and what City Council could do to reduce crime and regulate policing.

Scott Goldman (D) said that the police department should transition to a community policing style where officers learn de-escalation tactics and are equipped with more up-to-date technology. He described this as a “culture shift” that would change the way the city polices.

Ed Marcinko (D) called for treating the addictions and mental health issues that often lead people to crime. He also said there needs to be better education for officers in handling conflict and for community members about protecting themselves.

Copeland said she would start an early intervention program for first-time offenders.

“We need to approach crime with a realistic solution, we need to hold our police officers accountable. They need to get out of their cars,” she said.

Cohen pointed out that more government money is spent on policing than on education, which can help prevent people from turning to crime.

“We had a breakdown in trust and communication between our community and the officers. We’re all in this together. Our safety is a collective effort of all of us as residents and our officers side-by-side,” said Mark Parker (D).

Parker also called for police officers on bicycles to respond to crime scenes more quickly.

Mark Edelson (D) believes that legislation needs to be created so that more officers are encouraged to join the force.

McDaniel said that the councilperson should act as a liaison between the community and the police who will relay issues and concerns.

“It’s not my role to tell them how to police. It’s my role to pinpoint where the issues in our district are and how can we partner and resolve these issues,” said Flanagan, who added that recruitment initiatives to bring new officers into the city should be created.

One of the most prominent hot button issues of this election season has been managing traffic and improving public transportation.

The candidates’ solutions varied.

“We need rail in this city,” said Cohen who believes in a comprehensive multi-modal transit system.

Edelson promoted utilizing the water taxi and connecting modes of transportation together through transit hubs. He said the City Council can work with businesses to create transportation options for their employees.

“What we can do is negotiate with those agreements that it’s going to include transportation infrastructure, that’s where the money comes from,” he said.

Goldman said that a long-term solution would include reducing the focus on cars and instead making the MTA buses run more effectively and adding options like bus tracking and a universal fare system.

“Smart development should encourage transportation,” said Marcinko.

“There is no car-dependent, car-focused future for us here in Southeast Baltimore,” said Parker who advocated for a rail system since the district does not have enough parking and room for more vehicles.

Copeland disagreed and said that there is room for more parking garages, possibly underground, and that the city should consider expanding the Charm City Circulator or using trolleys.

McDaniel said that while CityLink, a comprehensive bus reroute, was a good start, the Council needs to work with the governor to find a larger-scale solution.

The final question was focused on improving educational options in the district.

Marcinko said large companies like Exxelon and Legg Mason should give back to the community by investing in neighborhood schools.

Edelson called for more quality community schools and a balancing of the educational system’s budget.

Copeland called for public refinancing, more public charter school, and private school vouchers.

“Let’s give our parents real educational choice,” she said.

“We don’t have a teacher problem in Baltimore, we have a bureaucrat problem,” said McDaniel who added that City Schools should be audited more frequently.

Flanagan referenced the success of Hampstead Hill Academy and that good schools like that will encourage families to stay in the City because they know their children will receive the best education.

“The most important thing we can do for schools is to make sure that the city council is providing oversight,” said Goldman, calling for more accountability and transparency from City Schools.

By Gianna DeCarlo

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