Bill Henry, Candidate for City Council- 4th District

In an effort to educate voters, we will be posting responses to our candidate questionnaire. Questionnaires were emailed to each candidate running for City Council, President of City Council, and Mayor. Candidates have until March 4th to submit. We are publishing results in the order they are received.

How frequently do you use a mode of transportation other than your car to navigate the city? Based on your experience, where should the city prioritize resources for transportation?

BH: Not nearly as frequently as I used to, or would like. I would like to see a Citywide network of Circulator routes, but in the interim I’m investigating the possibility of using “jitneys” or “neighborhood shuttles” as a precursor; my hope is that the City would provide at least some of the operating funding for these shuttles. On a capital basis, I’m supportive of making more funds available to restripe roads for bike lanes once they’re identified as being part of a City-approved route for bicycle traffic, and requiring DOT planners to add protected bike lanes when resurfacing such roads.

What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?

BH: By their very existence, bicycling and walking improvements would increase the number of people who bicycle and walk; if we build it, we will use it. More people biking and walking creates safer communities by getting more people out onto their streets in a more directly interactive fashion than driving, or even mass transit promotes. More bikers and walkers create healthier and more livable communities because more active people are healthier.

Often road redesigns that improve the safety for people on bikes or people walking do so in a way that removes priority for single occupant vehicles. This can look like removing lanes for travel or decreasing available street parking. Can you describe how you would manage public expectations during project implementation, and handle any backlash from constituents that don’t share in the City’s vision for complete streets?

BH: The key to managing expectations in this case is to be up front with your goals. If you tell people from the beginning of the project that the goal is to resurface the road and improve the street lighting and you spend your first six to nine months of community conversation focusing on those issues, and THEN, when the first renderings are done, someone has to ask "What are those?" when pointing at the bike lanes or refuge're in trouble. You have to make it clear from the beginning that while resurfacing the street is a goal and upgrading the lighting is a goal, providing additional safety for people on bikes or people walking is also a priority.

Recent audits have discovered that the Department of Transportation struggles to measure key performance indicators. The city’s procurement and project management processes have also faced scrutiny. This has led to significant delays of key improvements to bicycle infrastructure in Baltimore. How will you work to improve performance and accountability of city agencies like the Department of Transportation under your leadership?

BH: The City Council is an oversight body; we can shine light on the actions - or inactions - of City agencies, and provide a forum for public discourse or criticism, but at the end of the day, most of our oversight relies on the public at-large to get engaged on an issue and demand change from the one person to whom City agencies actually report. The way our City government is set up, if you don't have the Mayor on board with your program, you need to get a new Mayor.

The percentage of people choosing to take public transit or ride a bike for transportation is increasing in Baltimore, while the percentage of residents without access to a vehicle is over 30%. How would you rate the city’s current investment in sustainable transportation solutions for its residents, and as a council person what would you do to support increased investment?

BH: Not only do I support using general funds to improve mass transit, I have already done so; the expansion of existing Circulator routes to serve more neighborhoods and businesses outside the downtown core is largely being paid for out of general funds approved by the City Council. I believe we could do more though, and I would support doing so.

A recent study by Harvard economists found that the single strongest factor affecting the odds of a child escaping poverty is not the test scores of his or her local schools or the crime in the community; it is the percent of workers in his or her neighborhood who have long commutes. How do you plan to improve transportation options and commute times for our most vulnerable residents?

BH: A better-run, better-designed mass transit system would provide shorter commute times, but so would increasing the number of living wage jobs available here inside the City.

What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?

BH: Before being elected to represent the 4th District, I worked in community development; I was part of a group that took vacant and blighted houses in SE Baltimore and renovated them into homes and small businesses. Prior to that, I was staff in City Hall, first interning in the Mayor’s office while I was an undergraduate at Johns Hopkins and then full time in the City Council President’s office, where I worked my way up from legislative aide to chief of staff. I've been active as a volunteer for over twenty years, which I consider to be a big part of my education in terms of preparing me for service on the Council. I am a former board president at both Citizens Planning and Housing Association and the Strong City Baltimore (back when it was Greater Homewood) and have served on the board of the Radnor-Winston Improvement Association and on the leadership committee for the York Road Partnership. Throughout my career and my civic engagement, my goal has always been to figure out how Baltimore could be better and then help make it happen; I have spent most of my adult life working with individuals and organizations similarly committed to that goal. Whether that effort was focused on individual neighborhoods, commercial corridors, or the City as a whole, all of the experience from those endeavors - along my work on the Council to date - help make me the best candidate to keep representing the 4th District in the Baltimore City Council.