Baltimore Votes 2016 Q&A: Matt McDaniel


Matt McDaniel is a Republican candidate for City Council – District 1

(Additional reporting by Christian Bielski)


Q: Background info

I’m currently an attorney, that represents small businesses. I’m originally from Frederick, Maryland. I’ve lived in the city for about ten years now.


Q: Do you think there are two Baltimore’s? Why or why not? How would you try to reconcile them?

I’d say rather than two, there are probably twenty or thirty. Look at the difference between Canton and Federal Hill. You can break it down on race, economic disparity. There are a whole host of different issues. I compare it to New York. You can go blocks and blocks without things changing. If you go all the way up Charles St. to the train station, and walk three blocks over, that’s where a murder could happen.

You want to go at this as a councilman, and not as a statistician. My goal is for people to be able to buy a house, get a job. I think the economic model of success is color blind. Once properties are more affordable, I think that’s how you can start reconciling the twenty or thirty different slivers of the city.

Q: Were you for or against the proposed Red line, why or why not?

I was against the Red Line, and continue to be against any resurrection of the Red Line. When it was proposed in 1999, under Governor Glendening, it might have been different. I understand people need transportation..the problem is the line as it was would have significantly disrupted Fells Point. I’m not opposed to innovative for ideas, but it wasn’t innovative for 2016.


Q: How would you like to see the transportation improved?

I have to look at this as what a City councilman can do. I can sit here and promise you the world. The City can’t afford to do this, heck, they can barely afford to fix pot holes. I would love to have a partnership with the state to put together a comprehensive plan. I think the Baltimore Link plan is a step in the right direction.


Q: How often would you like to see city agencies audited?

::laughs:: Some haven’t even been audited once, so I would say one is a good answer. When that one is completed, you move on to the next one. When the Transportation budget was audited, they had to create the numbers to audit them. It’s a joke.

Baltimore COULD be an innovator in many different aspects. I’ve asked a few IT people while knocking doors “How easy would it be to have a searchable system where once a check is cashed from the General Fund, we know where it’s going?” It’s very easy to do. Why not do that? If I’m on the City Council, I’ll ask them “What are they afraid of? What is the public going to find out?”


Q: How would you make the Charm City Circulator cost effective?

That’s a cast where we would have to work with our state partners. The Circulator isn’t just transit, it’s a benefit to the visitors of the city. I want to keep it free. It’s original function was to be a tourist vehicle, so I feel the state should help in any way it can to promote the service, which in turn supports Baltimore.

I would extend a line into Canton, but I’m not sure if I would want it in Fells Point. It might add to the congestion. However, if there were a study that said it could take 1200 cars off the road, I might be open to it.


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

There’s a question of embarrassment of Baltimore. There’s a feeling of sadness by the mainly minority owned businesses that were destroyed. I was upset with the national coverage painted the entire city as being on fire. It was realistically only a few neighborhoods. As a property owner, I was fearful.

The day after, we were really able to assess everything. Baltimore was a tinderbox. The Freddie Gray incident was just the spark. Living in Baltimore, we know this boils down to decades of conflict between people and police, and also mistrust. The saddest part is that you have some of the same communities effected in 1968, were the same ones effected in 2015. This gets to one of my concerns about people voting for the same party every four years. In one way, I blame the Republican party for not putting up strong candidates who are able to articulate a message. On the other, people aren’t standing up to the other party after decades of rule, and not asking why things aren’t getting better.


Q: Now that the Baltimore Six have been acquitted, how can Baltimore heal?

I do appreciate the DOJ report. Some of the stuff in there isn’t shocking, we all knew it was coming. Some of it is shocking. I don’t..envy our police. As I said before, I don’t want to politicize our police department, unlike some others in City government. I trust that leadership will implement the DOJ report. It’s also a question of getting police the resources they’re asking for. If the major wants more officers, let’s get him more officers. Our police commanders need to feel that the City Council and Mayors Office are on their side.

At one of the last Southeast District Community meetings, one of the officers told a story about how he brought some neighborhood kids up to his church in Harford County. They brought them up to do horseback riding and stuff like that. I feel like we’re back to the Freddie Gray incident almost. CNN left as soon as the riots stopped, they didn’t stay for the cleanup. That’s how I feel about the police department. Only the negative, baity stuff is covered, and never the positive.


Q: Do you support the Port Covington TIF, why or why not?

I think the City has a tough time negotiation things and there are parts of the TIF that I would’ve liked to have tweaked. We should’ve had more manufacturing jobs, since Baltimore had tons of them decades ago.

Businesses just aren’t investing here. Under Armour WANTS to be here, and other businesses are watching closely. If the deal had fallen through, those other businesses would’ve been asking “Why would I want to invest in Baltimore?” Baltimore is the only city of it’s size to not have a Fortune 500 company. This could potentially be a catalyst.


Q: Light City was a huge success this past year. How would you help cultivate the Art & Entertainment districts?

This boils down to a City/State partnership, which doesn’t have to be antagonistic. Not to be cliche, but Baltimore IS charming. We have unique festivals every month, the Bicentennial celebration, the Blue Angels every year, Fells Fest, and so on. To be serious for a moment, the permitting process here is a nightmare. I had a bar owner in Fells tell me “if you want to get a permit for something next year, your too late to apply for a permit.”


Q: Will you support the $15 minimum wage?

I do not. If you want to do it state wide, or even country wide, that’s a matter for Annapolis and Washington. If this eventually passes, it will hurt Baltimore businesses. I’ve read the bill, and there are poison pills in that bill for the economy. First off “What is a franchise in Baltimore City?” It’s two or more locations. That’s every business owners dream.If you own that second location, BOOM, you now have to pay your employees minimum wage. The City Council doesn’t even have control, the bill establishes a commission. You’ll have two from labor, two from the community, and one from business. At the start, you’re creating an antagonistic relationship between the business and the community. Having talked with small business owners, most of them agree they CAN pay $15. They’re more concerned about the ancillary costs that are associated with it. Your insurance goes up. If your dish washer wants $15, your cook is going to want more. It’s simple Economics 101. I often wonder if some on our current City Council ever took that course in college.

Look, it sounds great as a slogan. The fact is when businesses see the cost of doing business in Baltimore City versus Baltimore County, they won’t even give the City a second look, and side with the County.


Q: What is the biggest challenge in District 1?

I think it’s the number of competing interests that you have. I don’t think you have anyone that wants to make life worse. A great example is Halloween. The businesses in Fells Point will do gangbusters on and around October 31st..I encourage everyone to go down by the way, it’s a fun time! But then you have the residents who have to deal with the aftermath. You have development versus residents. You have crime..some of the District stands by our police, while other parts feel they’ve been let down by police. As a Councilman, you’ll need to come at it as a neutral perspective as possible. I wouldn’t want to come in and say I would only favor one type of person or entity. I would be open minded. Coming in I would be the ONLY Republican on the council..let’s be real. I would have to compromise immediately in all aspects of the job.


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

Opposing the $15 minimum wage bill..because YES, it’s coming back with wings attached in December. I would oppose it for the citizens of Baltimore City and business owners. Long term, we should lower property taxes and be more transparent. If someone is subpoenaed to appear in front of me as a City Councilman, the lawyer in me will come out in front of FOX 45, WJZ, The Sun, or whoever is there. I won’t be afraid to stand up to anyone, whether it be a police chief, or DPW, or the Health Department.


Q: Why should people vote for you?

People deserve a choice. People deserve to make an informed decision. We’ve had one party rule in Baltimore for seventy five years. I’m not blaming people for voting Democrat, because there hasn’t been strong opponents for them to vote for. I’m committed to work with Annapolis, committed to work across the aisle, and with businesses and the community. I think people in this district are open minded, generally well educated. I think they’re looking for something different.


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