Blogs from Center MD - Center Maryland - Maryland’s leading source of aggregated and original news and opinion on government, politics, business and more. Tue, 11 Dec 2018 16:51:28 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Towson is Stronger Than in 2010, But Key Challenges Remain - County Councilman David Marks In 2010, I was elected to the Baltimore County Council from the Fifth District. Towson is the westernmost region of the Fifth District—a center for law, government, medicine, and higher education, with some of the most stable and desirable neighborhoods in central Maryland. Despite all these enviable characteristics, Downtown Towson was a major concern.
In 2010, vast tracts of land were rotting away in Downtown Towson. The movie theatres at Towson Commons were on the verge of closing, and the remaining retail space was largely vacant. The deterioration of Downtown Towson was a blight on an otherwise strong region.

Today, no one talks about how we need to jumpstart the revitalization of Downtown Towson—it is already underway. Whole blocks of Downtown Towson have been revitalized, and construction cranes are in the air.

I attribute our success in Downtown Towson to three key factors.

First and most importantly, entrepreneurs have invested in Downtown Towson.

Second, there was a tone for redevelopment set by former County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, current County Executive Don Mohler, and the County Council. The past seven budgets have invested in school renovations along with transportation improvements such as the resurfacing of Bosley Avenue and Stevenson Lane. Three new parks are finished or under construction throughout Towson.

Third, relations have greatly improved between Towson University and Goucher College and their residential neighbors. In 2010, those relations were frayed as neighborhoods experienced the impact of students renting more and more homes farther away from campus. Since that time, Towson University and Goucher College have opened more dormitories, and the social host ordinance has eased relations between our college students and long-term neighbors.

Moving forward, it seems clear to me that there are a few fundamental initiatives that can advance our work in Downtown Towson and its residential neighbors.

First, we need to implement a Towson circulator—already planned by the state—to ease mobility throughout Downtown Towson.
Second, the county government must identify a guaranteed source of funding to support the care and maintenance of Downtown Towson. Right now, this urban area competes for resources with communities across Baltimore County—and, in fact, in most counties Towson would be its own municipalities. The Towson Chamber of Commerce does excellent work cleaning the streets and beautifying parts of Downtown Towson, but Baltimore County must do more as this area develops.
Baltimore County’s single biggest capital priority in Towson must be a new high school. Already, the population at this aging school has swelled due to demographic changes. The reconstruction of Towson High School must be timed with the reengineering the nearby Herring Run to eliminate chronic flooding.
Towson is stronger than it was in 2010. Many people deserve the credit, and they will all need to work together to advance solutions in the future.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Wed, 26 Sep 2018 21:50:10 -0400
Chris West: Single-Payer Healthcare – Another View On August 6, my good friend, State Delegate Kirill Reznik, posted a blog on Center Maryland (“Single Payer Healthcare”) in which he took aim at a Baltimore Sun analysis of Ben Jealous’s proposed single-payer healthcare plan. Delegate Reznik criticized the Baltimore Sun and launched a pretty bitter partisan attack on Governor Hogan and all Maryland Republicans because they are not swooning at the prospect of socialized medicine in Maryland. As a member of the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission, I would like to advance several points in response.

First, the analysis relied upon by the Sun reporter was a non-partisan analysis produced by the General Assembly’s Department of Legislative Services, an organization run by Senate President Mike Miller’s former Chief of Staff. The last time I checked, Senator Miller is not a Republican.

Second, the analysis stated that a single-payer plan would cost the State of Maryland $24 billion a year (the entire annual budget of Maryland is currently only $44 billion). To pay for the Jealous replacement healthcare system, Maryland would have to levy a ten percent payroll tax against every single business in Maryland and to boot increase personal income taxes by $2,800 per year on every man, woman and child in the State ($11,200 per year for a family of four). Since many families pay either no State income taxes or pay minimal taxes, the reality is that Maryland families that currently pay taxes would see their annual tax bills rise by closer to $20,000 a year.

Third, Maryland has forged a unique relationship with the federal government memorialized in a recently-signed Medicare waiver agreement. This waiver agreement ensures an annual $2 billion infusion of federal money into Maryland’s healthcare system. But the waiver agreement explicitly states that it will be voided if Maryland adopts a single-payer system. So kiss goodbye to $2 billion if the Jealous plan should be adopted.

Actually, Maryland is not the only state in which Democrats have been seduced by the siren call of socialized medicine. Under Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin, Vermont walked right up to the edge of adopting a state-run single-payer healthcare system. At the last minute, Governor Shumlin pulled the plug on his plan, telling Vermont residents that the costs of the new system would be “staggering”.

Beyond the stratospheric costs of a single-payer healthcare system, the fundamental premise of any such system is that the State government would take complete and overall responsibility for the healthcare of Maryland citizens. But when the government pays all of the bills, the government necessarily controls everything. We have a pretty good model of how such a government-run healthcare system would work. It’s called the Veterans’ Administration healthcare system. Unfortunately, the VA system is synonymous with “bureaucratic”, “slow”, “inefficient” and “inadequate”. Under no circumstances will I stand before my constituents and tell them that I want to give government bureaucrats total control over their healthcare.

Finally, Delegate Reznik takes aim at increased premiums in the individual healthcare market (“Obamacare”), which only insures about 6% of Marylanders. Last year, a bi-partisan group of legislators worked very diligently to find a way to curtail the annual huge premium increases that have plagued Obamacare in Maryland since its inception eight years ago. Both Delegate Reznik and I were members of that group, known as the Maryland Health Insurance Coverage Protection Commission. We developed a consensus plan to institute a reinsurance pool to take the pressure off of higher premiums. Our bill overwhelmingly passed in both the House of Delegates and the State Senate (with both Delegate Reznik and me voting for it), and the Governor, Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch proudly signed it into law, hailing it as a wonderful bi-partisan achievement. Delegate Reznik’s recounting of the history of this bill, suggesting that it constituted a partisan battle between a recalcitrant Governor Hogan and a virtuous General Assembly, is simply not accurate.

We need to continue down the path of bi-partisan cooperation in order to improve Maryland’s healthcare system, not to embrace the Jealous plan to deep-six our existing system in favor of a risky, budget-busting socialist alternative.

Chris West is a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, representing District 42B in Baltimore County. He is a candidate for the Maryland Senate.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 07 Aug 2018 19:31:45 -0400
Kirill Reznik: Single Payer Healthcare There’s a lot of controversy over a Baltimore Sun article that says single-payer healthcare costs $24 billion, and Larry Hogan is having a field day with that misinformation.  This is what happens when you Govern by polls and slogans.  But the truth is not scary, and in fact, quite commonplace.

If you read beyond the headline, you would have see $24 billion does NOT represent the cost to Marylanders, but is the cost of all private pay healthcare in the State.  This number also includes insurance profits, commissions, inflated pharmaceuticals, and the expense that medical providers incur arguing with insurers. 

Last year I crafted a single-payer health care plan that could be implemented in Maryland.  That bill would eliminate all of those costs, provide for a single payroll tax REPLACING the costs and burdens to employers, and cover every Marylander. Businesses in Maryland pay an almost $7,000 for individual coverage, and almost $19,000 a family plan.  With a 10% payroll tax instead, businesses whose individual plan employees’ salaries average less than $70,000 or whose family plan employees’ salaries average less than $190,000 WILL SAVE MONEY.  In addition, those businesses will also avoid commissions and save on administering health plans.

This plan will decrease costs.  More importantly, everyone will get healthcare.  Not based on your ability to pay, or your individual health, age, or race.  And no one risks going to a doctor and becoming bankrupt. 

Rates are skyrocketing, directly as a result of Larry Hogan’s Republican Party, with Donald Trump at the helm.  In Maryland, dozens of proposals were drafted, but the only one Larry Hogan agreed to sign was a $200 million annual payment of taxpayer dollars to insurance companies to “stabilize” the market.  As a thank you, those insurance companies raised rates by 30% four weeks later.

I came to the conclusion that we have no choice because Republicans will NEVER let us fix the system any other way.  Any compromise will be viewed as trying to kill your grandmother that they will dismantle and destroy.

We are the ONLY developed, democratic, capitalist country that hasn’t come to this conclusion.  Rather than some revolutionary plan, it gets us out of the dark ages.  I intend to continue to push my legislation, regardless of who is Governor, and I fully expect Larry Hogan and his surrogates to demonize my plan, Ben Jealous’ plan, or the plan of any Democrat who has the audacity to think that Marylanders deserve to be treated like human beings.  And they will do this while personally enjoying taxpayer-funded government healthcare for themselves.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:31:06 -0400
Cory V. McCray: McFadden's Multiple Residence The responsibilities of an elected state legislator are myriad. There are the official duties: showing up to vote, taking an active role in committee assignments, and attending community and statewide functions, among other responsibilities. But arguably the most important role of a legislator isn’t one that takes place in any official setting. Rather, it’s the time they spend in their district building relationships with constituents and learning the needs of the many communities that make up the district. This duty often isn’t performed in any sort of formal manner. It takes shape when you meet someone new at a grocery store or restaurant you both frequent – or at that person’s front door as you’re canvassing the neighborhood.

These moments are so important because they go on to inform the decisions that are made once you’re sitting in a committee hearing room or getting ready to cast a vote in the House or Senate chamber. It’s important that when the time to be decisive arrives, you understand that the issues presented aren’t just abstract political theory; they’re the same issues being talked about and debated by the voters who elected you to represent them.

It’s fitting then that the final question posed to my colleague, Nathaniel McFadden, at last month’s “No RoFo 45th District Candidate Forum” touched on this very subject. As the forum was concluding, he was prompted to address the fact that instead of living within the 45th District, he actually resides at the The Village of Cross Keys. It was regrettable that McFadden’s response sidestepped the actual issue.

Rather than answer the question, he made thinly veiled racial overtures to argue that a black man in 2018 ought to be able to own multiple residences without it being viewed suspiciously. Of course, this response misses the point entirely. No one is taking umbrage at the fact that McFadden owns more than one piece of real estate. The concern is that the home he lives in day-to-day is outside of the 45th District – the very district he is asking to continue representing in the state legislature. It’s a legitimate concern and the voters of the 45th District are entitled to more than dismissive doubletalk when the issue is raised.

It’s only intuitive that a legislator who resides in his or her district knows a little bit more about the challenges it faces than one who doesn’t. After all, the best way to get a sense of what’s happening in any given place is to spend time there and find out for yourself. Even more than just possessing knowledge of the local neighborhoods and their specific needs, residing in the district you represent feeds the passion you have as an elected legislator because, like them, you also have skin in the game. When you’re walking into meetings about policy matters that impact your respective district, you aren’t talking about what’s happening in some unfamiliar place – or somewhere you used to live – you’re discussing the concerns that you and your neighbors are confronting on a daily basis. 

So it should be fair game to ask a resident of one of the most affluent zip codes in Baltimore City how he can effectively advocate for one of the most economically distressed. To be frank, the issues faced by McFadden and his neighbors aren’t the same as those faced in our communities. That matters.

When an elected representative doesn’t reside in his district, the gas station at the end of the block loses out, as do the local diners and grocery stores. While that person spends the bulk of their time in another part of the city, public safety issues and vacant homes are still rampant in the areas they purport to serve – even if they remain out of sight.

I know that when I have conversations with fellow residents about the conditions of local schools and troubling upticks in crime, we’re having a dialogue about concerns that we share and are jointly experiencing – not ones I leave behind when I go home for the evening.

One of the reasons I am running for State Senate in the 45th Legislative District is that I believe it’s important to have a clear intention to sleep every night in the district you want to represent. Yes, I too am a black man with multiple properties, but let me be clear that each and every one of them is in the 45th Legislative District. It’s a place that I’m proud my family and I can call home and one that I would be honored to represent as your next State Senator.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Mon, 25 Jun 2018 00:25:09 -0400
Aaron Tomarchio: How Kevin Kamenetz Steered Sparrows Point Toward The Future In 2010, during his first campaign for Baltimore County Executive, Kevin Kamenetz said something about Sparrows Point that seemed politically risky at the time: Maybe it’s time to think about a future beyond steel production.

His words seemed prescient two years later when, after cycling through five owners in a decade, the steel mill closed, putting 2,200 men and women out of work. At that time, most of Maryland’s political leaders promised that they would work to find a new steel company to take over production – although, in retrospect, that outcome was not possible.

County Executive Kamenetz had the foresight and courage to say something different. He said, the steel mill isn’t coming back, but let’s figure out how to bring new jobs to Sparrows Point.

This wasn’t an easy leap for many people to make. For generations, Sparrows Point represented the power of American industry. But by 2012, much of the 3,100-acre former Bethlehem Steel steel mill laid in ruins. The huge waterfront site where 30,000 men and women once reported to work daily was a polluted ghost town.

Kamenetz realized it would take leadership to begin to implement a new vision for Sparrow’s Point’s future – and the county government would have to play an active role. So he pulled together business, government and community leaders to form the Sparrows Point Partnership, and charged them with coming up with a plan to clean up the site and put the Point back to work – with state-of-the-art manufacturing, maritime, and distribution and logistics companies.

Six years later, our team at Tradepoint Atlantic is putting that plan into action. With our state and federal partners, we are cleaning up Sparrows Point after a century of steelmaking.

Just as envisioned, we’re taking advantage of our prime Mid-Atlantic location with deepwater berths, and access to I-695, I-95 and I-70 – plus CSX and Norfolk Southern railroads.

We have worked with County Executive Kamenetz and his team to bring in exactly the type of tenants envisioned by the Sparrows Point Partnership – including household names like Under Armour, FedEx and Amazon.

And contrary to the politically polarized times in which we live, Governor Hogan and County Executive Kamenetz – and their teams – have quietly worked together with Tradepoint Atlantic to transform Sparrows Point from an industrial wasteland into North America’s premier industrial gateway.

Even while they were running against each other for governor, the County Executive and the Governor put bringing jobs to Baltimore County first. Both men were working to take Sparrows Point to the next level by working toward a public-private partnership to build the modern infrastructure needed to support 21st century employers. In fact, the revitalization of Sparrows Point shows what is possible when everyone works toward a common purpose from the White House, to the Congress, to the Statehouse, to the Old Courthouse in Towson.

The Tradepoint Atlantic project, which started as a contrary opinion from Kevin Kamenetz, a man who was never afraid to speak his mind, is now on track to employ 3,500 people by next year – over a thousand more jobs than during the steel mill’s final years. The well-known economist Anirban Basu projects that Sparrows Point will be home to 17,000 jobs when our project is built out.

Sadly, Kevin Kamenetz did not live to see his vision of thousands of people arriving to work at Sparrows Point each morning. But he was right. We could work together to honor Sparrows Point’s past, while giving the community a better future.

Today, the people of Maryland and Baltimore County are in the process of overcoming a devastating blow to our economy – the end of steelmaking at Sparrows Point. Working with County Executive Kamenetz’s successor – his longtime Chief of Staff Don Mohler – and Governor Hogan and county and state legislators of both parties, we will finish the job he started.

Aaron Tomarchio is Senior Vice President for Administration and Corporate Affairs for Tradepoint Atlantic.

info [AT] centermaryland [DOT] com (Center MD) Blog Tue, 29 May 2018 01:22:05 -0400