Thursday, February 20, 2014

Columbia Democratic Club Forum Recap

The Columbia Democratic Club offers an under-appreciated opportunity with their candidate forums.  They are well-organized, well-run, and the questions bring out the best (and worst) of our prospective leaders.  In full disclosure, I am seeking the endorsement of the Club, but due to the fact that this endorsement is derived by vote, I don't think my praise will get me too far.  I hope you will mark your calendar for the next, and final, forum addressing County offices on March 12, 7:00 p.m., at the Ridgely Run Community Center on Mission Road in Jessup.

My recap is only going to address my portions of the forum.  I will say that Howard County is, yet again, fortunate to have a slate of well-qualified, smart, engaged, and dedicated candidates.  From top to bottom, these are good people who I would be happy to serve with.


Each candidate had 1 (sternly enforced) minute to introduce themselves.  Understanding the limits of 60 seconds, I decided to do away with the formalities of "born and raised...went to here with my wife and two dogs."  I told the membership that there are two things I would like them to remember about me: I'm an advocate and a team-builder.

I'm an advocate by trade, but also in my community work.  I enjoy the opportunity to put myself in the shoes of someone else and go to bat for them with all I have.  I also enjoy the chance to fight hard to make good things happen.  With every month, I feel we are hearing better and more spectacular things about Inner Arbor.  I would like to think that my advocacy played a role in getting us here. 

Secondly, I am a team-builder.  Although I didn't have a chance to explain this at the forum, I credit this with my 15 collective years serving on the boards of nonprofits.  These are teams, pulled together for their disparate skills and resources to accomplish what often is an impossible goal.  End hunger.  Protect all children from harm.  House the homeless.  Through recognizing the strengths of those around you and, just as importantly, your own inherent weaknesses in relation to those teammates, you can get big things done.  I don't like doing things alone.  I like to be a part of a team.  I like building the teams that get things done.

Question 1: What would you do to help create jobs?

There are many who would reject this question out of hand by saying "Government does not create jobs", but that just isn't true.  The government does create jobs, we just need to make sure they're not the only jobs.

The first thing I would want to do is to pass a large-scale infrastructure bill.  Thankfully, the General Assembly recently passed a transportation bill that lays out a number of pressing road and bridge repairs, which should have secondary effects on the private sector.  We also need infrastructure improvements to take on the environmental challenges incurred by increased development.  I'll say this throughout the election - when you prevent the rain from going into the ground, you've got to make sure it has somewhere to go that doesn't flood your residents out of their homes. It will take a focused effort by our federal, state, and local leaders to take on this problem and help people in places like Ellicott City.

We also need private sector growth, particularly for small and mid-sized businesses, which provide the greatest escalators for class mobility and job growth.  Maryland can, and should, be a better place to start and grow a business.  We need to reexamine the property and income taxes paid by theses businesses.  I firmly believe we can offer tax relief for Maryland businesses by reexamining how our tax scheme treats out-of-state corporations that take their profits elsewhere without paying Maryland for the privilege.  If we want the next Fortune 100 company, we're not going to lure them here with tax cuts.  We're going to have to build them here with a strong foundation for growth.

Question 2: What active or past elected official would you emulate?

I cheated on this one.  I named two.

The first would be Delegate (and hopefully Senator) Guy Guzzone.  He may be the most effective legislator Howard County has seen in my lifetime.  When there is a problem, you won't hear Guy talking about it.  That's because he's already begun to fashion a solution.  I want to be a problem-solver.  I want to be known as someone who gets things done.  I don't care if my name doesn't make the paper or people are oblivious of my accomplishments.  My concern is that your problems are fixed.  I think Guy does that extremely well.

The next is Council-member Calvin Ball.  When I think of a team-builder, I think of Calvin.  He was the one that taught me the importance of a team.  It isn't just a touchy-feely way to operate in government.  It is the most effective way to make lasting policy.  When you make enemies, burn bridges, and ignore the team, you build a foundation on sand.  This goes across all aspects of life.  When you make an enemy, you have created some future harm for yourself or the things you care about.  I want people to think of me as a coalition builder.  For that, there really aren't too many people better than Calvin.

This was a great night and I was proud of the messages I was able to convey.  I hope the Club appreciated what I had to say and look forward to seeing them again on March 12.

That's all for today.  Have a great Thursday doing what you love!