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?
SC: Like so many people, how much I use my car depends on my job. When I first moved to Baltimore seven years ago, I commuted every day to Washington, D.C., and I rode the #11 Bus to Penn Station and then took the MARC. During that year, I drove my car no more than once a week. (It was great.) But when I began my service in the Army, there were no adequate public transportation solutions for me between my home and the military installations where I was assigned – Fort Detrick and Fort Meade. So I drove every day, about an hour each way. (It was a pain.) Now, as a candidate for City Council, I have enjoyed giving up my car many days again. I walk daily to meetings and campaign activities here in Southeast Baltimore. I am also the primary caregiver for our nine-month-old son two days a week, so I enjoy taking him for a stroll or walk as much as the weather allows. In the long term, the city must prioritize its resources to get more cars off the road. We are a City built for a million people, but even with just 630,000 people now, we endure terrible traffic because we have prioritized driving as our main form of transportation. The roads are simply insufficient for as many cars as we have. The first steps, which I describe more below, are to work with the State to improve the MTA and bus system while making it easier and safer for people to walk and bike in livable neighborhoods.
What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?
SC: One of the things I love most about living in the First District, especially with a young family, is that we walk and stroll everywhere. So as we develop and reform our local and regional transportation system, bikes and pedestrians have to be at the center of making our transportation effective. This City once had nearly a million people in it, and it worked. Can you imagine what it would be like today with a million residents? To create a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore, I support protected bike lanes on less-trafficked, one-way streets. I support taking away obstacles and fees to people who want to improve bike infrastructure and add bike racks. We need traffic calming measures in our historic neighborhoods and better use of the waterfront to make it more pedestrian friendly. I would also open up parts of the waterfront promenade to bikes and widen it where possible to make it more bike and pedestrian friendly. And it’s not just about bike lanes; we’ve got to also make sure drivers are aware and safe around bikes and pedestrians. I’ve heard from too many bike riders and would-be riders who tell me that they would ride more if there were real traffic enforcement against distracted drivers who are texting or driving recklessly. Not everyone can bike or walk to work and play, but we should make it easier for those who would but are discouraged by the understandable safety and space issues. We can do all this in Southeast and throughout the City without making it impossible for residents to park and drive from their homes.
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?
SC: Most important is to make sure I communicate the process and that there are no surprises from my office or City agencies. I will not support changes if the residents of the First District have no voice or visibility over decision-making because backlash is so often the consequence of poor communication. I believe that if First District residents, business leaders, and community leaders are included in the discussion, and that planning follows evidence-based analysis of road design, we will be able to redesign our roads with a net-benefit to our City’s future. Where expectations cannot be met, I will use my experience in negotiating alternative solutions as an attorney and an Army officer. It was always my mission help soldiers and commanders “get to Yes” or find a reasonable alternative, and I can bring those skills to advance our District and City.
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?
SC: DOT’s dysfunction is the tip of the iceberg of the larger dysfunction in our City government. To state the obvious, our City deserves better, and getting things done to make our government work for the First District and the City is my first priority. I come at this effort with my experience as an attorney and Army officer. When I deployed to Afghanistan, I built and led a team of more than a dozen advisors who worked across five provinces in Southeast Afghanistan to track and advance the prosecutions of more than 700 cases in Afghan criminal courts. And throughout my Army career, I conducted investigations and oversight over units ranging from a handful of Soldiers to thousands, with financial consequences from the thousands to millions. I will use those skills and experiences to help revive the oversight role of the City Council and make sure the DOT and other departments are held accountable for their spending and quality of service. I’ll use the oversight power I can gather through public hearings, influence I can bring in the press, and direct interaction with agency managers, to reform DOT and other agencies.
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?
SC: Overall, the city’s investment in sustainable transportation solutions is lacking, but the funds we need to make a real dent in our transportation problems and the agencies that control that funding are at the State and Federal levels. As a City, we could spend all the general funds we have on transportation and still not build the modern transportation infrastructure we need. I know in Southeast Baltimore, we need a Plan B to the Red Line and something that deals with the increasing traffic between Harbor East and I-95. Only State and Federal money can address problems at that scale in Southeast and all over the City. Furthermore, we have such a weak picture of what money is available in the budget now without real audits, and there are so many urgent needs. All that said, I think there is transportation revenue we are not yet collecting but could. First, I am advocating rolling traffic impact fees for developers that get reassessed five and ten years after the completion of a development. Right now, we assess these fees only once, and they seem to always be inadequate to meet the costs in traffic and transportation needs.
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?
SC: Many of our most vulnerable residents rely on buses to commute, and so as a member of the City Council, I will be persistent and smart about lobbying the State to make the MTA responsive to the City’s needs. Our State legislators are doing incredible oversight and reform work; and I strongly support Delegate Brooke Lierman’s efforts to transition MTA’s governance toward more regional control, similar to Washington, D.C.’s, WMATA board. Of course, the Governor has the new B-Link proposal; let’s shape it to work for Baltimore. And, simply put, we need to get on the bus ourselves so that we know what riders are demanding. As I mentioned before, when I worked in Washington, D.C., for a year, I rode the bus and MARC back and forth every day. It all worked well for me, but I was a choice rider on a relatively direct route with a monthly pass paid for by my Federal employer. We’ve got to make the MTA as seamless for every rider. And there are so many obvious fixes to the MTA – universal use of the Charm Card or a unified farecard, real-time movement tracking, and eliminating duplicative routes – that this is somewhere the Council can actually exert its influence and advocate for something better.
What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?
SC: I will serve you the First District and City the way I served my soldiers and commanders in the Army: I will put mission first. This is not about politics for me. When a soldier asked me for help or a commander gave me an order, I didn’t worry about who gets the credit or the blame; I just got it done. I found out the information I needed, I brought together the people who needed to know it, and together we came up with solutions to advance the mission. That’s what I’m going to do for you. And I will make being Councilman my full-time job, working to improve our lives in this District and our City every day.