Cindy Walsh, Democratic Candidate for Mayor

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? 

CW: I have been committed to using public transportation for decades starting from my time living in Seattle, WA. I only use a car if I cannot reach a destination or I have parcels which necessitate a vehicle. Baltimore City Hall is controlled by a very corporate power structure and has never valued public transportation. The Baltimore MTA has been historically underfunded, its management, oversight, and accountability dismantled and as such the service is gravely unreliable. Regardless of MTA driver commitment, the industrial engineering of routes and time schedules have been allowed to be dysfunctional. Routes and transit types do not connect ie, bus connections to other routes and bus connections with light rail for example. I emphasize that the movement in Baltimore this past decade is privatization of all public transportation. The State of Maryland and Baltimore are known to raid our Transportation Trust for other projects so we must secure funds already designated; we must do so as well for all Federal public transit funding that is now being directed into private transportation infrastructure. Partnering with corporations by encouraging annual MTA public transit passes for employees as part of wage and benefit increases revenue and ridership. It is essential to increase the number of buses on routes to move from the density during rush-hour. No one is going to change from driving when people are packed like sardines into buses and light rail. So, we must bolster traditional public transportation as we grow other venues like bike paths and pedestrian walkways. Seattle promotes kayaking to work.....can you imagine folks living in Fells Point or Federal Hill avoiding the traffic congestion around Key Highway and Camden Yards by jumping into a kayak or a bolstered water taxi?

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

CW: Baltimore must have more green space and not simply the temporary privately owned space made into temporary community gardens.  The move today is to privatize much Baltimore public park real estate while telling citizens the corporate campus landscaping will be our parks.  This is the wrong development plan and we must grow real public green space and it starts with tying it to our main road arteries so citizens will want to walk into downtown or to work in other communities.  It is easy to do----it must be public space to ensure it is permanent infrastructure.  Baltimore development is also tied to growing city density taking the likes of Manhattan and concrete jungle of global corporate campuses as its goal.  This is the opposite of what most in Baltimore want.  We can make Baltimore a city with skyline as they like to say growing density without all of these global corporate campuses.  If you believe in a more livable Baltimore we need to move away from a Master Plan that models International Economic Zones overseas complete with the environmental devastation brought by global factories and make the development plan about rebuilding Baltimore with a local, domestic economy with small manufacturing  and businesses.  As well, I promote development of all communities building a large public green space central to the local food economy.  A great public greenhouse is infrastructure that stays unlike small non-profit community gardens so we need both.  This great public green space will also promote small animal husbandry having a barn and corral.  Building a real local fresh food economy in every community means growers and harvesters, butchers and dairy producers, distributors, and small fresh food stores.  All of this creates that healthier, green, walkable space we all want.

Are you supportive of the city’s plan to implement bike share in 2016? If so, what do you believe to be the critical components of success?

CW:We saw right away with a test case of this that poverty in Baltimore will see vandalism and theft----it is inevitable.  Baltimore loses a billion dollars a year in corporate fraud, waste, corruption, mismanagement and building oversight and accountability into all Baltimore City agencies will allow almost double a city budget.  So, imaging we make available lots of bike ownership in underserved communities?  Public schools with bike inventory that allows parents and students to 'check-out' bikes?  Imagine a MotoX course for dirt bikes where youth can do their extreme sporting tricks?  If we do all of that with revenue we have then building out this bike share plan for commuters will be a success and will see little vandalism.  I think we need these plain vanilla bikes inside ATM-sized spaces that are entered with key-card that could follow the same location path as ZIP CARS.  Everyone is familiar with growing ZIP CAR locations all involving zoning changes.  I am supportive of this policy and think my plan of execution will be most successful.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?

CW: I answered this in an earlier question but can expand.  When you talk of procurement you are talking about the Baltimore Board of Estimates and that agency is known for needing a complete overhaul.  It starts with changing the Baltimore City Charter and who sits on this Board.  Right now it is structured so the Mayor has complete control with a majority of 3 of 5 board members and she of course appoints people who will do as told.  Then we have a bidding and contract system with guidelines written so vaguely as to allow contract awards to become arbitrary---so we must rewrite contract bidding and procurement guidelines in a way that sends Baltimore City revenue to all communities and looks towards local small businesses first in awards.  This makes oversight and accountability easier as it takes all of the behind-door cloak and dagger of contracts tied to corporate partnerships feeling they can call everything 'confidential'.  This is the greatest problem in procurement and contract bidding and it effects what you want in public transportation development.

What impact do you see increasing rates of biking and walking in Baltimore having on the public health and safety of our residents? In what ways will your administration invest in the creation of safe places to encourage more people to engage in physical activity?

CW: Baltimore has a long history of communities keeping to themselves; of people keeping to themselves; and little public health initiative. Even today, the public health initiatives are driven by corporate non-profits with a set agenda trying to get citizens to join in activities. People do not like that format. Baltimore must rebuild public community and recreation centers that allow citizens in communities to build their own concept of what public health entails. We must grow inter-community ties ---for example I would like to have a unique public recreation activity in each community-----ie roller skating/ice skating/MotoX/rock climbing/Hampden has great athletic fields -----tennis/dance halls. Then build community competitions in each activity. This creates a venue for each community to attract visitors to small businesses and consumption as well.

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?

CW: The current situation is totally unacceptable. Schools in Baltimore are being used as development tools and closing of public schools in Baltimore has occurred over a few decades as part of the push towards ending concentrated poverty. At the same time underserved communities have been left with absolutely no development whereas if invested these few decades all those communities would have mixed-income housing and population NEEDING a public school in each community. Again, the Master Plan in Baltimore has surrounding communities as global corporate campuses and factories and that is why residential building has not occurred. As stated earlier I am against that Master Plan and want instead to do as I describe above-----rebuild existing communities as mixed-income complete with public schools. Also, Baltimore has a long history in redirected Federal funding for underserved schools, fraud and corruption losing even more of this funding so rebuilding oversight and accountability in education revenue making sure it reaches each school and classroom will see schools are well-funded and resourced with parents wanting their child attending a neighborhood school. That said, this would eliminate the need to transport children all over town to attend a good school.

Often road redesigns that improve the safety for people on bikes or people walking do so in a way that removes priority for single occupancy 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?

CW: Public meetings in Baltimore are not well attended because the history in Baltimore is that Baltimore Development Corporation pays no attention to public comment and that is true. We must rebuild public confidence that their voices will be heard even if that voice is not what we want to hear. The trade-off is citizens will hear all sides of an issue and see these proposals are not the bad policy they may think. I saw one plan that had bike paths between car and sidewalk that did not look like a good idea or bikers or passenger door opening. Off-street parking has been an issue. Space in alleyways allow for only one car. I am told water table limits where underground parking can occur. Ideally, moving to parking on one side of these narrow streets would be the answer. I have not been privy to public discussions on this so I would simply say my comments would go with building public low-rise parking decks central to communities and allow free off-street parking. I bet many people would not mind a short commute to their cars and it would reduce car vandalism.

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

CW: I would invite all to come to my campaign website Cindy Walsh for Mayor of Baltimore to see a platform and public policy discussions that are completely environmentally and public transportation-based. I am the only candidate for mayor that will push public policy with an environmental and public health bent. My degrees in education and medical science have me working in public health much of my career----education all my life. As a boost, I worked through college with United Parcel Service UPS as an Industrial Engineer-----UPS is the best in the world for quality service and efficiency and if anyone can get Baltimore's MTA schedule and operations working -----it will be Cindy Walsh. Remember, Baltimore tends to promote establishment candidates in all elections with polls that only allow those candidates that will keep the status quo given air. Citizens new to Baltimore may not know this but long-time citizens don't place too much on main stream election media. I am widely known through my non-profit Citizens Oversight Maryland having worked in all communities for years and am broadly supported and can easily win with people simply networking.