Maryland Votes 2018 Q&A: Rushern Baker

 

1. Talk about where you were born, your life, where you currently live in Maryland.. a short biography so to speak.

I was raised in a military family. My father was a Green Beret who served multiple tours in Vietnam. As a kid, I struggled with reading, but through dedicated parents and teachers I became the first in my family to graduate college.

My first job is caring for my family. At home, I am the primary caregiver for my wife, Christa, who suffers from early-onset dementia. My wife and I have raised three children in Cheverly, Maryland. All three of our children graduated from Maryland public schools. Like many families, we’ve had their share of challenges, but we have overcome them through the power of love and community.

2. Why did you decide to run for Governor of Maryland?

I’ve seen firsthand how education can save lives. I’ve learned as a caregiver for my wife why having affordable healthcare is so important for every Marylander. I’ve seen what transforming neighborhoods and finding a good job means to families that are struggling.

When I became County Executive, Prince George’s County was leading the state in foreclosures, homicides had increased, there was no Economic Development going on and there was a major ethics scandal. Eight years later, we lead the state in job creation, we have the fastest rising home values in the state, we have attracted $9 billion in private investment, and homicide rates have been cut by more than half to 50-year lows.

To me, these issues are personal. I’m the one candidate with experience passing laws at the state level and running one of the most complex governments in the state. I have a proven record of delivering results.

It is critical that our next governor has not only a strong vision for our state, but has proven they can get things done. What we did in Prince George’s County worked. I will bring the leadership and ideas that made us successful in Prince George’s County to the entire state.

3. What experience will you bring to the table if elected Governor?

As County Executive, I led the second largest county in the state. I faced tough challenges – corruption, crime, failing schools, foreclosures – but I never did what was best for my political career – I did what was best for my community.

As a result, we created the fastest growing economy in Maryland, cut crime in half and raised home values without displacing people. We did it by proactively transforming neighborhoods, implementing mandatory bias training for police officers, lowering dropout rates, and getting more jobs for returning citizens.

I have been endorsed by the Washington Post, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Congressman Steny Hoyer, Attorney General Brian Frosh and dozens of other Maryland elected officials because of my record of success and progressive ideas for the state. I believe we have the vision and experience necessary to make our plans for Maryland a reality. It would be an honor to serve as your next governor.

4. What are FIVE (5) legislative priorities for your administration if elected Governor?

Education: As governor, my top funding priority will be to fully fund education. I know that education can change lives because it changed mine. If it weren’t for my loving parents and dedicated teachers, I would not have had the opportunity to be the first in my family to graduate college.

As County Executive, I have consistently fought for increases in school funding for higher teacher salaries; dual-enrollment programs; expanded universal pre-k and full-day kindergarten.

I know that fully funding schools is the first step to ensuring that every student in our state has the same opportunities I had. Our public schools are the heart of our communities — they have the ability to provide students with a lifetime of opportunity and are a signal to families and businesses that this is a place they should move to and invest.

Transportation: If you want to bring jobs and economic development to Maryland, you start by investing in mass transit projects. Baltimore, which has been historically underserved with transit options, deserves the kind of economic prosperity and improved quality of life that mass transit projects like the Red Line can provide.

We need 21st century solutions to our transit problems that will not only connect more people to jobs and take cars off the road, but also spur economic development in the communities they serve.

Criminal Justice Reform: In the County, we were able to achieve historic reductions in crime in part because we had a partner in Governor O’Malley. That support is no longer there for counties.

The recidivism rate in Baltimore City is staggering – estimates by DPSCS place it at 70%. Public Safety Compact, an innovative public-private partnership, has worked in Maryland. The recidivism rate for the program after three years was less than 10 percent and saved $2.5 million. Governor Hogan stopped the program. I would reinstate immediately. Investing in these programs not only saves money, it makes communities safer.

We will look at ways to address the systemic issues that perpetuate crime including poverty, lack of jobs and poor education. We will work to reduce prison populations, address racial disparity, and eliminate barriers for formerly incarcerated individuals to return to their communities. Investing in long term solutions that address the root causes of crime and reforming our criminal justice system will be a top funding priority of mine.

Environment: The Baker Greenprint for Maryland is the most progressive and innovative plan to make Maryland the first state in the country to achieve 100% clean energy and zero waste. The Baker Greenprint also includes provisions to build resilient communities, restore the Chesapeake Bay, and improve Maryland’s air quality.

My proposal was put together by his Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC), which is chaired by Governor Parris Glendening and includes eight additional prominent members of Maryland’s environmental community including Governor Parris Glendening, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, and former Secretary of Maryland Department of Natural Resources, John Griffin and Elizabeth Embry, Rushern Baker’s running mate.

In order to reach 100% clean energy and zero waste, I will 1) make Baltimore the nation’s clean energy manufacturing capital of the country; 2) invest in infrastructure for a statewide recycling and composting system to reduce waste in landfills, create green jobs and save taxpayer money; 3) institute a statewide ban on styrofoam and plastic bags; and 4) invest in renewable clean energy infrastructure in order to transition away from fossil fuels and coal-fired power plants.

The Baker Greenprint will make Baltimore the country’s clean energy manufacturing capital, by incentivizing clean energy companies, including wind and solar, to develop in or relocate to Baltimore in order to revitalize the city’s industrial sector, create an economic engine and make Baltimore the clean energy capital of the country. I will also create a statewide program to provide work-based learning and training in solar, wind and energy efficiency, modeled after successful programs in the county.

5. Why is Elizabeth Embry your pick for Lt. Governor?

Elizabeth is a former Baltimore prosecutor and division chief in the Maryland Attorney General’s office, Elizabeth Embry, as his running mate for the Maryland gubernatorial race.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Elizabeth Embry has dedicated her life to making communities safer and reforming our broken criminal justice system. After law school, she moved back to Baltimore and became the Deputy State’s Attorney. She oversaw one of the most dramatic reductions in violent crime in the history of Baltimore and led an audit of sexual assault investigations. Most recently, Ms. Embry served as the Chief of the Criminal Division at the Maryland Attorney General’s office.

Elizabeth and I share a common vision for our state and I am especially impressed with her dedication to improving Baltimore City.

6. I live in Baltimore, as do most my readers. What is your plan for Baltimore?

I recently released my “Uplift Baltimore,” a proposed City-State partnership to identify and customize programs to help targeted Baltimore City communities hardest hit by crime, health, housing and employment challenges. Uplift Baltimore, the first comprehensive Baltimore City plan put forward by a candidate for governor, will lay the foundation for an efficient, cost-effective, collaborative effort between the State and the City to proactively transform communities, empower individuals, and incentivize population and job growth while also reversing some of the anti-Baltimore decisions of the Hogan Administration.

Baltimore City is the economic center of the state. Every Marylander should be rooting for Baltimore’s success because her success benefits all of us. We need to make sure that every corner of every block is thriving. Under my plan, collaborative efforts will not only include working with City officials, but with individuals in the community to ensure that policies to transform neighborhoods serve to improve the quality of life of current residents, not to displace them.

As part of this plan, we will expand the County Executive’s successful TNI program statewide by starting with a pilot partnership between the State and the City of Baltimore. Working with the city to determine targeted neighborhoods and areas of focus, my administration will collaborate with city leadership and residents to consistently and efficiently be proactive and results-focused in delivering wraparound services. Cabinet appointees from my administration will meet regularly with stakeholders in the community, while also tracking results and monitoring trends.

7. Why should Democrats vote for you in June?

I have served in the Maryland House of Delegates from 1994 to 2003. Most recently, I served as Prince George’s County Executive for two terms. In a talented field of candidates, I have by far the most government experience and I am the only candidate with experience running a government.

At a time when it is increasingly popular to be a political outsider, I know firsthand how critical it is to have experience running a government. Whether it’s balancing a budget or making tough choices about funding, executive experience will be an invaluable asset as our next Governor.

But experience alone is not reason alone to vote for a candidate. They must have a track record of success in their leadership role. When I took office, Prince George’s was leading the state in all the wrong categories. We had the highest rate of foreclosure, our education system was in tatters, and the government was mired in scandal. As Prince George’s County Executive, I brought in a record $8 billion in outside investment, cut crime by 55 percent, and instituted the toughest ethics laws in the state. Today, the County is leading the state in job creation — more than the next 3 counties combined. Prince George’s County is now also leading the state in rising per capita income.

8. In your opinion, what has been the most devastating policy enacted by President Trump thus far?

There is no question that President Trump has instituted harmful and dangerous policies during his time as President. However, more than any one policy, I believe the most damaging effect of his presidency has been to degrade the highest office in our country. To me, public officials should be held to a higher standard of conduct.

Yet President Trump has defended white nationalists and Nazis while calling NFL players peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights “sons of bitches.”

He has banned men and women risking their lives for their country because of their sexual orientation.

He has repeatedly stated that he does not acknowledge the scientific consensus of our world’s top scientists, all of whom agree that action must be taken quickly to avoid damaging and irreversible effects. He has gone so far as to remove mentions of climate change from government websites and appoint a man who denies it to head the EPA.

We need leaders who will repair the damage done to the public discourse and return dignity to public offices.

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