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?
GS: I often walk, bike, or use public transit to get around the City. I consider myself to be a cyclist and have completed two century (100 mile) rides. As someone who rides my bike in the streets of Baltimore, I believe strongly that we should be doing more to make our City more bikeable. This includes improvements to our streets as well as investing in an effective Bikeshare program. As Councilman, I would work with public and private partners to share the cost of the Bikeshare program as well as fight for funding to implement the Complete Streets model.
What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?
GS: I believe that getting residents out of their cars and encouraging alternative means of transportation is critical. Walking and biking decrease air pollution and traffic congestion, improve physical health and mental health, and result in neighbors being more observant and attentive to what is happening in their communities. It is critical that Baltimore City make the necessary investments to ensure that our streets are more walkable and bikeable.
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?
GS: I am a strong believer in the Complete Streets model and making our City more walkable and bikeable. I believe in the benefits of walking and biking and I am confident that I can articulate those benefits along with a broader vision for reducing the use of single occupant vehicles to residents. It’s important that we promote these projects as an investment in the future of the City. I believe that once our streets are more biker and pedestrian friendly, along with much needed investments in public transportation projects, we will see fewer cars on the road with less traffic and parking issues. I believe in that strategy, I’m prepared to articulate the benefits of it, and I’m ready to be an advocate for it.
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?
GS: Ensuring the accountability of City agencies and the efficient use of our tax dollars is among my top priorities. I am a strong believer in the CitiStat model as a tool for improving performance and will advocate strongly that the next Mayoral administration revive the CitiStat program. The Department of Transportation published the 2015 Bike Master Plan that created a vision for improving the City’s Biking infrastructure. As Councilman, I will advocate to ensure that DOT remains committed to the Master Plan and, if necessary, will hold hearings to demand that targets be met.
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?
GS: I would rate the City’s current investment as poor. The City should prioritize funds to implement the Complete Streets model in order to make our City more bikeable and walkable. An effective Bikeshare program is also long overdue and should be funded. With regard to public transit, I believe the City can make incredibly cost-effective investments in traffic management technology, such as signal priority for busses, traffic sensors for light timing, and GPS transmitters for any new Circulator.
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?
GS: The majority of low income residents are relying on the MTA bus system to commute to work. Higher income residents don’t ride the MTA for a very simple and practical reason—it is unreliable. As Councilman I would advocate that the MTA pilot new initiates and technologies here in the City. Accurate GPS transmitters on busses, for instance, are an important technology that MTA is looking to implement statewide. These systems allow them to create accurate mobile apps for riders and to more effectively manage bus routes. I believe that we can also do more to promote biking and increase access to bikes for low income residents. We need to bring stakeholders to the table to determine how to pilot these important initiates here in the City quickly. City leadership needs to be a driving force for these changes and I will be a strong advocate as Councilman.
What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?
GS: I’ve spent my career working on Anti-poverty issues on the City and State levels. I am also the President of the Locust Point Civic Association and have fought tirelessly on behalf of my own thriving neighborhood. I believe I bring a unique and balanced perspective to the challenges facing our City. I consider myself a professional advocate and I’m ready to represent the 11th District.