Tony Christian, Candidate for City Council-2nd 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?

TC: I utilize public transportation at least several times a month and I utilize my bike mostly in the warm months (April – September). My experience on public transportation has been very mixed as I have experienced everything from irate drivers to late buses to a good conversation with a fellow passenger and on time bus service. As for biking, I have had mixed experiences as well. I notice that there are no bike lanes available in various parts of Northeast Baltimore where my family resides. So we all usually have to resort to riding on the sidewalk to avoid possibly being in an accident. Overall, I think that the city should prioritize resources to bringing better, modern, technically advanced public transit (i.e. bike lanes, improve sidewalks, reliable bus benches, clean, well-lit bus shelters, and building bike kiosks) for the city.

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

TC: Biking and walking have always played a helpful part in creating a safe, healthier and more livable Baltimore. Biking is great exercise and with many of the exciting trails there are always some new and fun sights to see. Also, walking has proven to be helpful to one’s mood and overall health. As a fellow bike rider and a regular participant in the Baltimore Bike Party, I think that Baltimore should be aiming to increase bike riding in the local transportation regime. Baltimore should do more to give bike riders their own designated lanes and promote more citizens riding bikes. I would like to introduce a “bike share” program to Baltimore, in which citizens can rent bikes at a kiosk at a reduced price. This would help to promote physical wellness and bring an additional revenue stream to Baltimore. Bike riding is not only fun but also a healthy way to exercise that can be enjoyed by citizens of all ages. Today a lot of our crosswalks in the city are not clearly marked. In my vision for a better local transportation system, I would recommend that Baltimore invest in updating all faded crosswalks and as well as updating the crosswalk signals at every intersection. Also, I would recommend that Baltimore introduce an initiative in which all traffic would stop briefly in all directions while pedestrians cross the streets. This initiative has worked well in major cities such as Boston and New York; it has helped to greatly reduce pedestrian involved motor vehicle accidents.

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?

TC: The biggest thing is “transparency”. In talking to constituents many have stressed the importance of just being informed. The best way that I would manage public expectations during project implementation would be inform residents before the project gets underway. Within the 6-12 month of the project implementation, I would schedule informative town hall meetings, send direct mail and e-mails to all stakeholders (i.e. residents, business owners) about the impending project and the changes associated with the project. Like all city projects, one has to expect and prepare for backlash, that why this town hall is so important. At the town hall meetings I would address the concerns of the changes and open the meeting up to suggestions as to how we can better prepare for the impending changes. Constituents must be informed at all times of the changes and the possible challenges that may exist.

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?

TC: Audits have been heavily debated in City Hall lately. This action of auditing helps greatly to bring transparency and accountability to all city agencies especially the Department of Transportation. As a City Councilman, I will work tirelessly to ensure that the performance is improved through the increase of customer service and transparency throughout all city agencies namely the Department of Transportation.

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?

TC: The rating of the city’s current investment in sustainable transportation solution would have to be “below average”. While I do believe that they have addressed some issues, I think that the issues have only been addressed partially. As a City Councilman, I would be in support of using some of Baltimore City’s general funds to improve transit. In order to improve transportation, Baltimore as a city must make an investment to bring better, modern, technically advanced public transit to the city. My spending priorities would be to create more bike lanes, improve sidewalks, obtain reliable bus benches, clean, well-lit bus shelters, and building bike kiosks. Currently, only 0.7% of all workers 16 and older in Baltimore City commute to work via bicycle (2014 U.S. Census Bureau). In an effort to increase this statistic, I would dedicate resources on raising awareness on the benefits of using bikes and other low energy transit options.

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?

TC: Improving transportation and finding ways to reduce commute times for our residents has been an issue for many years. The best plan to address this issue is to increase the commuting options available to residents. I would propose the utilization of more commuter buses and the introduction of shuttle buses. For commuter buses, I would review the demographic areas that workers live and work, in an effort to build commuter bus routes that coincide with those areas. The shuttle buses would be scheduled during those higher frequency times when residents are commuting to and from work. Also, I would propose that we reconfigure our current bus schedules to emphasize higher frequency to include better night and weekend service, and direct lines through high-employment corridors.

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

TC: My candidacy is not just about me as I am just one person, but this about the stakeholders (the constituents) of the 2nd district. I love this City and I want to make Baltimore the best Baltimore that it can be. As a product of Baltimore and proud homeowner in the 2nd District who has the life and professional experiences of a true public servant, I know that I am the one best equipped to be a Councilman. My grandfather always told me "success starts with falling in love with your work." My heart is where my home is and that is in the 2nd District. As a resident of the 2nd District, I have talked to many citizens who are tired of the double talk, political machines and empty promises. Residents want new ideas, new energy and a better now for their community. I have the new ideas and the new energy that will ensure that our communities and district is stronger and focused on moving forward. My experience as a Chief Financial Officer allows me to see an issue, develop a plan and execute it. I will bring that same strategy and transparency to the City Council as I serve the 2nd District.