Liz Copeland, Candidate for City Council-1st 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?

LZ: Unfortunately, I do not use other modes of transportation as frequently as I would like. However, the City should invest in improving resources for transportation in an effort to reduce vehicular traffic and ease congestion. I support prioritizing resources to expand the Circulator bus routes to locations such as Canton Crossing and through Patterson Park. If we reform the Circulator, we should charge a nominal fee and stop this program from operating inefficiently with a deficit, as it is currently. I also would advocate for an introduction of a bike sharing program with rental locations strategically placed throughout the District. Areas to focus may include points of interest often traversed by car such as Patterson Park, Fells Point, Harbor East and Canton.

With an intended goal of increasing access to the district via bicycles, I would advocate for a strategic plan to create increased bike lanes. These lanes are ynecessary to provide a dedicated space for people and bikes. Many of the most popular routes attract development and revitalize neighborhoods. Yet gridlock throughout the district especially along Boston St, Fleet St and Eastern Ave requires a serious commitment to improving alternative modes of transportation.

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

LZ: The need for vehicles currently creates headaches and endless delays for many commuters. With more congestion, our major roadways continue to be clogged and it is a burden on productivity and efficiency. When more cars are off the road, harmful emissions from our vehicles are reduced and the quality of life for our neighborhoods improve. Livable and walkable communities are essential for creating and sustaining economic prosperity in our District. But we must also address the issues of public safety in our neighborhoods. When residents feel safe, we will continue to see many families exploring these alternatives.

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?

LZ: I would manage expectations by working with the community from day one. Working with business and civic/community associations and local partners, we would develop a plan of what we can achieve. Our city needs to balance the need for smart investment with modernizing and improving our outdated infrastructure, which was not designed to handle the density and congestion on our roads and busy streets.

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?

LZ: For years, many residents have called for mandated performance and financial audits of city departmental agencies, every year, including DOT. Unfortunately, DOT’s recently-completed performance audit found the agency to be severely lacking in oversight, accountability and internal controls. The City must demonstrate fiscal restraint and accountability of tax dollars. I would introduce legislation to modernize our budgeting process to require zero-based budgeting, mandatory audits of all city agencies including the school board to review spending and performance outcomes, and restructure the Board of Estimates to remove Mayoral appointments. I will exercise my authority as a member of the City Council to ensure DOT’s performance and improve transparency and accountability to the public. These efforts will increase the accountability within City government, and provide a stronger voice for all residents.

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? 

LZ: Our city has had little investment in sustainable transportation and alternatives vehicles. As a Councilmember I would explore initiatives to increase efficiency and wellness in our communities.

 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? 

LZ: In addition to the proposals previously stated and as a Councilmember, I would work directly with our Governor and the MTA Administration to improve the reliability of our buses. It's imperative that buses run on time and provide a clean, safe option of transportation especially for our most vulnerable residents.

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

LZ: I’m running for city council because our city deserves real leadership and an independent voice on the city council. For far too long we’ve accepted the status quo as City Hall has taken more of our hard-earned dollars and in exchange we’ve seen fewer city services and less of the peoples’ business being addressed. It’s unacceptable and I’m running because we can do better.