Q & A with District 11 City Council Candidate Curtis Johnson

| April 25, 2016 | 0 Comments
District 11 Map

District 11 Map

Five Democrat candidates are running for the District 11 City Council seat which holds its primary on April 26th. District 11 encompasses the South Baltimore Peninsula along with Downtown, Ridgely’s Delight, Mount Vernon, Midtown-Belvedere, Seton Hill, Heritage Crossing, Upton, Madison Park, Bolton Hill, and Druid Heights.  The candidates include: incumbent Eric Costello of Federal Hill, Curtis Johnson of Madison Park South, Harry Preston V of Upton, Greg Sileo of Locust Point, and Dea Thomas of Otterbein.

SouthBMore.com conducted a Q & A with the candidates. Meet Curtis Johnson:

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Tell us a little about yourself.

My mother was a high school social worker for 40 years. She not only instilled in me a strong work ethic, but ignited my passion for public service. She told me if I were to be successful, when everyone else is working 24/7, I needed to work 25/8. That mantra guided me through college and grad school, working on Capitol Hill, the Obama Administration, overseas for the State Department in Indonesia as well as the Maryland Department of Transportation where I have helped the city secure over $11 million in federal funding for projects that have reduced truck traffic in neighborhoods around Broening Highway as well as monies dedicated to the forthcoming improvements of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial (Hanover Street) Bridge.

My biggest accomplishments, however, are my family. My wife, 2 year old son, as well as my daughter, due in July.

What do you love about South Baltimore?

South Baltimore’s greatest natural resource are its people. The history of South Baltimore is well known and should continue to be protected. From Sharp Leadenhall and its importance to  Baltimore African American history; to Locust Point and its importance to the port economy and the eastern seaboard, it is our responsibility to weave our stories into those from the past.

I am a big supporter of the small businesses in the peninsula, in particular the food. LP Steamers is my go to crab spot when guests are in town, you have to stop by Harry’s if there’s a wait. Sweet Caroline’s is one of my favorite lounges (try the fried avocado) rivaled only by Bar Licorice in Riverside. Jeff, the owner, has always been extremely kind to me and a great neighbor to the folks in Riverside.

What made you want to run for City Council?

My work ethic is a gift from my parents as is my dedication to service. I commit to you now, that I’ll work with you, not the establishment, to build a future that offers opportunities for all Baltimoreans; not the biggest campaign donors.

I see my job as your representative as one that empowers you, the constituent, to use your voice, to tell the city what makes sense for you, your family and your neighborhood. Working together we can find solutions for the entire 11th district, for every neighborhood, for every street.

What are some key issues you plan to focus on if elected?

A major concern for the entire district is public safety and officer deployment. I believe officers need to be assigned to locations based on need, rather than appearance. Everyone deserves to feel safe in their homes and communities. I want my children to learn and play in communities that are safe. I want the same thing for all South Baltimore families and will work tirelessly to make that a reality.

Another issue is transportation and parking in particular. By trade, I’m a transportation expert and in talking to many residents whether it be the lack of parking, the lack of traffic calming solutions, the 11th District deserves representation that understands the complete process of transportation build and design and is focused on making sure it works for all neighborhoods.

I would introduce legislation that would mandate all transportation projects adhere to city standards as opposed to the archaic standards that favor cars. In doing so, we would increase the livability of every community in the District as well as the city.

What are your thoughts on Baltimore’s property tax rate? Do you have any proposals for how to lower it?

Mayor Richard J. Daley once said, “if we are going to keep taxing folks, the least we can do is show them what they are paying for.” I completely agree. We taxpayers are not seeing nor feeling the “bang” for our buck. The forthcoming audits are a good first step. Everyone believes the City is mismanaging money, but we need representation that knows what to do after the audits.

As a home-owner, I too feel the pain of the property taxes in Baltimore. As a parent, I share the concern of tax-breaks going to companies with no incentives going to our kids.  We all know there are tax-breaks going to those that benefit a few but are hurting the many and I believe our current representation is supported by people who are profiting from the status quo.

We need to start having a real honest dialogue about what we want for the future of our city and look for long-term solutions to these tax issues.

South Baltimore and District 11 have a lot of small businesses. How do you plan on making sure it remains an area where businesses open, stay, and grow?

I grew up in a family that ran a small business. I know firsthand the toll excessive government oversight and intervention takes on a business and a family. One of the reasons I love this city so much is at it’s core, it is a small, local business town. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 percent of restaurants in the downtown corridor/peninsula qualify as a small and local business, so we must do whatever we can to ensure they are viable.

I believe that starts with reforming our permitting code. We have an archaic code that hurts creativity and stifles growth of small businesses. I believe our current council has not been as forward thinking as needed to grow our economic base. I also think that continuing to plan, on a transportation design level, standards that favor cities and alternative forms of transportation leads to greater foot traffic in our local businesses.

How can you help make sure District 11 and the rest of the city are as safe as possible?

Every morning, my wife and I see the same drug dealer on our corner. With three schools in a four block radius from our home, there is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing children have to walk through open air drug deals to get to school.

As mentioned earlier, officers need to be assigned based on need rather than appearance. True community policing can be achieved through increased foot patrols. Based on the current allocation of resources, there are dozens of officers conducting administrative services on a daily basis. I propose we take them from the desk to the street and recruit highly vetted, highly trained Baltimore residents to do the administrative work. This is true community policing, creating jobs while increasing police presence on our streets. I would also press the police department to ensure the sensitivity and cultural awareness training they are currently receiving continues on an annual basis.

This district attracts a lot of new residents and young families. How can you help make sure this is an area they want to stay in?

As mentioned previously, my family’s future is Baltimore’s future. As the most well travelled candidate, I understand all too well what it means to be in a new city, to learn new areas and regions and people. I also know what it means to have high quality schools that give all of our children a chance at success.

I do believe setting anchors, like our school system up for success is paramount to gaining and recruiting more families. In addition to my mother’s professional experience and owning her own Montessori school, I’ve personally taught 3-5 year olds as well as autistic children. I know education from multiple angles. I know that we need to provide wrap around services for our students, much like the Promise Heights that provides social services to families in Upton. It is also why I’m so proud to see all of the Fed Hill Prep signs in South Baltimore. It shows the community making a concerted effort to build and sustain a quality community school.

Why are you the right choice for District 11?

I’m running to be elected not selected. The 11th district deserves representation that’s accountable to neighborhoods equally, not those individuals that placed them in power. We deserve candidates that don’t feel entitled to the seat just because it was given to them or because they were born here. The 11th District’s representative needs to lead by crafting ideas and solutions on how we improve quality of life across the board. I come to the table with “solutions based” policy that will work to help improve the quality of life for each neighbor as well as the city.

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About the Author:

Creator of SouthBmore.com and resident of SoBo. Graduate of Towson University and owner of Incept Multimedia, a full service video production company. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover and "bar food" foodie. Email me at Kevin@InceptMM.com and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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