Baltimore Votes 2016 Q&A: Mack Clifton

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Mack Clifton is a Democrat Write-In candidate for Baltimore City Mayor

(Additional reporting by Christian Bielski)

 

Q: Background info

I grew up in the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey. My family moved a great deal when I was younger. I’ve been in Baltimore for ten years and eight months, mostly in the northwest part of the city near Reisterstown Plaza Mall. I currently work for the City of Baltimore as a PC (personal computer) support technician, and I have been a City employee for almost eight years.

Q: Do you think there are ‘Two Baltimore’s’? Why or why not? If so, how would you try to reconcile them?

I believe that there is one Baltimore with various aspects, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent. I would not say that there are two Baltimores. Every citizen in this City is one small part of a greater whole, and we need each other in order to survive.
Reconciliation involves compromise and a willingness to meet somewhere in the middle. I am a middle-aged person, and I am willing to be a go-between and a bridge between anyone of any age, ethnic group, gender, or other identifying characteristics in order to achieve a common goal, primarily if that goal involves being successful, productive, and peaceful.

Q: Were you for or against the proposed Red Line? Why or why not?

I am/was for the Red Line. My first reason was/is the creation of much-needed jobs. My second reason was/is convenience and ease of access to different parts of the City from different parts of the region and beyond. The Red Line would have been perfect for part of my plan to end homelessness in Baltimore City, because it would have provided opportunities to the homeless population that are able-bodied and ready and willing to work, as well as provision of jobs for many unemployed and underemployed Baltimoreans, including ex-offenders, recent high school graduates and college students, and others returning to the workforce, for starters.

Q: How would you help improve Baltimore’s transportation system?

I would help improve Baltimore’s transportation system by adding more vehicles to the bus lines, expanding the bus routes to extend into places where citizens have to walk more than half a mile in order to reach the closest bus stops near their homes, and extend bus operation hours to twenty-four hour coverage, for starters. Adding more vehicles and extending bus operation hours have at least a two-fold benefit…it offers riders more service on one end, and it creates jobs on the other, giving MTA an opportunity to hire more drivers. Another thing it does is creates more ridership, which will increase revenues for the agency.

Q: How often would you like to see City agencies audited? Which department do you think is the worst offender in avoiding audits?

I’d like to see audits done at the very least twice a year, and at the most, every quarter. Having a foreseeable deadline creates a goal for employees to strive for and attain. I believe that it may also increase productivity, as well as enforce accountability and transparency. As a Baltimore City employee, I am convinced that the department that is the worst offender in avoiding audits is the Department of Public Works.

Q: How would you propose to make the Charm City Circulator cost effective? Do you agree with the DOT of Baltimore eliminating the Banner and Green lines?

To make the Charm City Circulator cost effective, I would propose the institution of a rider fare, either comparable to the one charged by MTA or reduced price, for example, twenty-five percent less than what MTA charges for a one-way trip or an all-day pass. Since January 2010, when the service began operations, the CCC has been losing more money than it has been generating. On one hand, eliminating the Banner and Green lines will reduce the expenditures necessary to keep buses on those lines. On the other hand, if those lines are kept in operation, and we begin charging rider fares, loss of income can be recouped, and if more buses are added, ridership could increase as well as revenues. Also, the Charm City Calculator could possibly cover new routes that may be proposed that the MTA may not be able to cover, for example, the areas that I mentioned in the question regarding my proposal to improving Baltimore’s transportation system. I believe that if anything is to be eliminated, it should not be done halfway. Either eliminate the entire program, or find a better way for the program to work if it is to be kept in operation, but if no income is generated, or rather, if the income generated from keeping the CCC in operation does not cover its expenses, then it does not do the City of Baltimore any fiduciary favors.

Q: What was going through your mind during the unrest of April 2015?

I found it hard to believe that rioting would ever again rear its ugly head, but history seems to have a way of repeating itself, especially when a group of people has dealt with oppression for such a long time. In this instance, I believe that the youth of the City were the ones that were affected the most, due to several things that occurred that curtailed their growth and development, such as the closing of recreational centers, which helped to give them an outlet for their frustrations, as well as allowed them to interact with their peers and be involved in extracurricular activities.
What was going through my mind was, “You have got to be kidding me!” When I saw the videos of angry citizens throwing baseball-sized rocks at the police, and the police officers throwing them back, it was a wonder that the officers did not open fire, because for all intents and purposes, their lives and safety were being threatened. But their restraint was admirable. The destruction of property made no sense to me. Neither did the looting nor the fires. Lives were changed forever, and Baltimore became famous for no good reason that I could fathom. The other thought that went through my mind was voiced during an interview with Pat Warren of WJZ, two months after I filed my candidacy certificate: “I can’t take this anymore. Someone has got to do something about this.”

Q: Now that the trials of the Baltimore Six are over, and all have been acquitted, how can Baltimore heal?

The healing process has to take place by choice and mutual understanding. Also, I believe that part of that healing can take place by the individuals that believe that the system is broken and needs desperate repair to become part of the system, with the desire to see that system overhauled for the benefit of everyone involved. True change for the better is possible, but only by acting on it, with everyone who stand to benefit from it working together to achieve it. I believe that by becoming this City’s next mayor, that I will be able to inspire all Baltimoreans to work together with me so that we can have a better place to live, work, grow, and play. Baltimore City may have a great deal of businesses operating within its boundaries, small, medium, and great, but I do not intend to treat Baltimore as a business, as one of my opponents said that it is many months ago…I intend to treat the citizens of Baltimore as my family, with love, concern, and compassion.

Q: Do you support the Port Covington TIF? Why or why not? What did you think of BUILD’s concerns about the TIF? Do you agree with Councilman Stokes measure to delay the approval of the TIF?

The reason that I do not support the Port Covington TIF is that what it seems to promise to deliver may be at the expense of the City, if I have properly read the information concerning it. In addition to that, there are things that are being proposed for building that are not crucial to the City’s financial infrastructure, for example, $139.8 million to go to parks (which may be constructed in the immediate area), $273 million for a new street grid (I fail to understand the need for this, when there are blighted areas in the City that could stand to benefit from such a staggering dollar amount), or $52 million to go towards an internal rail circulator and a pedestrian swing bridge connecting Port Covington to Westport (something else that I fail to understand a need for, other than for convenience and aesthetic purposes). Sagamore also proposed to spend $165 million in state funds for a light rail spur, $362.2 million, which includes $199 million, for modifications to Interstate 95. I am wondering if those modifications would involve an exit from the highway which goes directly into Port Covington and the area proposed. This deal seems to have a benefit on the tail end, when there are more pressing needs that must be addressed at the moment. And I do agree with Councilman Stokes in regard to delaying approving this TIF. The entire thing may sound good in theory, but the application may have long-term negative consequences and does not address immediate concerns that the City now faces.

Q: Light City was a huge success for Baltimore this past year. How would you help cultivate the Arts & Entertainment districts around the city?

I would like to institute community art gardens and/or public areas throughout the City, which will give Baltimoreans an opportunity to display their artistic talents. They would be built and maintained by the residents in the areas where the gardens will reside. Anything from sculptures to paintings made to withstand extreme weather conditions where the artwork will be displayed outside, to secured library cabinets where local authors can allow neighbors to borrow copies of their books and return them when they have finished reading them.
At the present, I am working on putting together an event called the BMore See More Local Artists Event, where Baltimoreans that have artistic talents can come together and network with each other to gain exposure. Any visual, performing, culinary, recording, and literary artist would be welcome not only to participate in the event, but would also have an opportunity to market their craft to the general public.

Q: There is a $15 minimum wage bill coming before the City Council. Do you support it, why or why not? If not, what wage would you support?

I definitely support a $15 minimum wage. What I don’t agree with, and which makes no sense whatsoever, is to wait another six years in order to achieve that minimum wage, when it is needed immediately for many working class Baltimoreans that are struggling to make ends meet. Since August of last year, I had been advocating a raise of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, even more so after discovering that in 2007, an investigation conducted by then-Mayor Sheila A. Dixon and the City Council concluded that there was and is a correlation between poverty and crime, and that Article 11, Paragraph 1-2, subsection (b)(1) and (b)(2) clearly states that ”Accordingly, it is the declared policy of the Mayor and City Council that such conditions be eliminated as rapidly as practicable without substantially curtailing opportunities for employment or earning power. To that end, legislation is necessary in the public interest in order to end these conditions so inimical to the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Baltimore, to establish minimum wage standards for all employees as herein defined at a level consistent with their health, welfare, and general well-being.”

The unfortunate aspect of this is that there has not been a minimum wage standard established that would even come close to being near a level consistent with the health, welfare, and general well-being of the citizens of Baltimore City. This is something that I would like to remedy as soon as humanly possible. Waiting until 2022 will be too late, and I fear that there will be many more death, much more crime, increased homelessness, and overall desperation and despair of the likes that Baltimore has ever seen.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in Baltimore?

The biggest challenge is being able to survive in an economy that does not afford many of the citizens an opportunity to pull themselves out of the rut that they may happen to be in; with crime practically knocking on your door or trying to force itself onto you and convince you to adopt its way of life; dealing with a government that does not seem to have your best interests in mind or at heart and only seeks to deprive you of your dwelling, your belongings, and in some cases, your freedom; long story short, I feel that the biggest challenge is to be a Baltimorean that wants a better way of life, with current prospects of having that way of life looking very, very bleak for many individuals in this city.

Q: What is ONE core issue you will fight for if elected?

Gaining the transparency that many citizens are seeking in regard to their municipal government’s operation. People need to know that they can trust the elected officials that they helped to put in their positions, and that their interests and needs are being addressed.

Q: Why should people vote for you?

I believe that people should vote for me because I know what it means to struggle. It’s difficult to tell someone how to get through something if you haven’t been through anything. I was asked earlier today why I was running for mayor, and the answer I gave was a simple one, because I don’t believe in giving boilerplate responses: “Because I love people and I want to see them do better.” I would think that that’s what any elected official in any office would want, instead of seeing their constituents as a means to an end. No one person in a position of authority or power should rise to said position by stepping on the necks and backs of other people in order to get what they desire. I believe in working side by side with people so that we can all move forward together.

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