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?
ME: Prior to my office moving locations, I use to ride the #10 bus almost every day to and from work. When in areas of the City that connect via the Circulator/Water Taxi, I use both. Until recently I also used to use my bicycle to get around the City as well but unfortunately it was stolen.
I believe Baltimore should prioritize the creation of transit hubs, the expansion of bike lanes and the extension of the Charm City Circulator to East Baltimore, saw well as expanded Water Taxi routes for commuter transportation. I envision Baltimore as a first-class city for transportation, with modern, multiplatform hubs that give residents access to bike shares, buses and ZipCars. The Charm City Bike Share must also be a priority throughout our city, allowing Baltimoreans to easily get from one place to another, with ought getting into a car.
What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?
ME: By making improvements to our biking and walking infrastructure, we can significantly improve the quality of life for all of our Baltimore residents. Both options will eliminate pollution and traffic, which could lead to less stress and improved overall health. Waling and biking also give residents a different sense of responsibility for the city itself--when a person is walking down the sidewalk or pedaling down the street, it's easier to get to know neighbors and build community. Of course, they are both great forms of exercise and set an example for our city's children that movement is important. Both modes of transportation also result in increased activity to local shopping and entertainment districts as well as increased interactions among pedestrians leading to a more interconnected and vibrant city.
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?
ME: As a city, we must make a commitment to safe, healthy and modern transportation options. Over the past year, I've talked with countless residents who have all expressed the same sentiment: that our city's traffic issues are ongoing source of stress. As a city council member, I'd work to show residents that these frustrations could be eased, if we commit more resources to public transportation and bike lanes while slowly changing our cultural expectations away from single occupant vehicles as the primary mode of transportation.
Given my professional experience with mediation and creative problem-solving, I am confident I could successfully convey to all residents the importance of increased transportation options. Commuting via single occupant vehicles is a thing of the past, and anyone who has traversed our city via rush hour knows the problems it causes. No amount of ugly, overbearing parking garages will ease our traffic problems. On the contrary, most social science research shows that increased parking options only make this worse.
In fact, this has been and continues to be the primary focus of my campaign and frankly has been met with an overwhelming positive response from the residents of District 1. Giving over space to walkers and bikers will benefit Baltimore in the long run. I would not that it should also be tied to the innovative and transit-focused provisions of Transform Baltimore. Particularly those the look to reinvigorate our neighborhoods through Neighborhood-Commercial options and the Rowhouse-Mixed Use overlay while removing harmful parking requirements.
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?
ME: The ongoing delays to the city's bicycle infrastructure are unacceptable. As a new leader in Baltimore and a bike enthusiast, I will advocate for more transparency in our government and its agencies. The Council also possesses its little used subpoena power. As an attorney, I will ensure that our Council holds department heads accountable. Additionally, while portals like Citistat and Open Baltimore are good places to start digging into data, but there must be greater accountability for our agencies. As a city council member, I would work to ensure agencies are regularly checking in with the council, especially with urgent projects, like updating our outdated transportation infrastructure.
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?
ME: Currently, the city's commitment to sustainable transportation solutions is a B-. The Charm City Circulator and the Water Taxi must be expanded, to accommodate more commuting residents. I also support the continued expansion of dedicated bike lanes and bike shares across the city.
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?
ME: Our residents shouldn't have to take a string of buses to get to their jobs. Expanding the Charm City Circulator to East Baltimore and creating transit hubs across the city are critical to ensuring our city's most vulnerable residents are able to get to and from their jobs. I have experience advocating for the underserved in our city and will continue to do so if elected to city council, particularly in the area of connecting our residents, efficiently and effectively, to opportunities for personal, education, and professional growth.
What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?
ME: I am running for City Council because Baltimore needs new leadership. As an immigrant from South Africa, who arrived in America with my parents, my sister, and a dream of a better future, I have a unique background and ability to connect with the many diverse, vibrant, communities that call Baltimore home. I am a Canton homeowner, a community organizer, a University of Maryland School of Law graduAte, and a small business manager. I love this city and thanks to the mentors and leaders that have guided my life, I am proud to be a highly active and effective member of our community. In addition to being a lawyer at Goldman and Goldman, I've been involved with many non-profit groups and organizations to help make our community better. I serve on the board of the Baltimore Jewish Council and the Associated, and am a race-day wingman with Athletes Serving Athletes, a group that works with athletes with disabilities. I also work with the Jewish Legal Services Clinic to provide free legal and intake services to those in need regardless of their religious or ethnic background. I have committed myself to serving our community and intend to simnifically expand upon and enhance that service as a Councilman. I look forward to working hand in hand with you in thee crucial endeavors.