Q & A with District 11 City Council Candidate Dea Thomas

| 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 Dea Thomas:

Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born and raised in Baltimore, graduated from Howard University and earned a Masters in Health Systems Management from the University of Baltimore. During my time at Howard, I volunteered for then Congressman Cardin and served on his Senate staff after graduation. His support of my candidacy is a testament to my great work addressing constituent concerns and health care policy. I have also managed grants for 1199SEIU, and currently serve as a health systems administrator at Johns Hopkins Home Care Group.

My service as a mentor to children in Sharp-Leadenhall has been my most fulfilling work. Like too many Baltimore children, they are not privileged to opportunities that are critical to their success. I take special pride in helping them to be their best selves despite difficulties they may face at home or at school. As a member of council, I hope to aid in the creation of more community schools that offer services that will allow children like the ones that I mentor to flourish.

View More: http://irisimannings.pass.us/deathomasWhat do you love about South Baltimore?

I love the myriad of possibilities facing South Baltimore and the diversity of its residents, businesses, and culture. This is my home, and I am proud to tell everyone that I was raised in South Baltimore. My parents purchased and renovated a home in Otterbein. I learned how to ride my bike on Sharp, Charles, and Hanover streets, and for 20 years I have never missed opening day at Camden Yards. Although growing up in this community should not be considered a prerequisite for representing it on city council, being an astute native provides an innate knowledge critical for successful leadership. In addition to knowing the history of this community through experience, I understand the personalities that continue to shape its dynamic future.

What made you want to run for City Council?

The aftermath of last year’s unrest has cast a sullen cloud over many of Baltimore’s youth. They understand cuts in education through closed schools and overcrowded classrooms. They experience cuts in human services through closed recreation centers and diminished summer enrichment opportunities. They witness increases in government spending in their communities through increased law enforcement and not the enforcement of building codes that prevent homes in their neighborhoods from crumbling. They have matured into adulthood with an adversarial view of their government. At best, they are indifferent to civic participation, rather than understanding the power of civic involvement to improve their lives.

Many of our local elected officials have proven incapable of providing the vision, courage, and creativity needed to move Baltimore forward. Baltimore requires progressive leadership committed to thankless work and structural change. I have learned that expressing a positive and energetic attitude towards creating opportunities is more effective than offering platitudes and providing oblique vision statements. I have listened to thousands of residents and learned their desires to have immediate, pressing needs met; and leaders they trust to bring unwavering enthusiasm and innovation to City Hall.

After carefully evaluating the appointed incumbent’s leadership and being encouraged by community leaders I would have otherwise supported for city council, I have chosen to run for City Council in the 11th District.

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

  •   Education – expanding community schools and after school programs
  •   Creating community partnerships and implementing community policing
    methods to reduce crimes
  •   Developing an environment conducive to small business growth
  •   Ensuring transparency at city hall that will keep our government officials
    accountable

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

Baltimore City’s real property tax rate is more than double the rates of surrounding counties: 2.248%, compared to Anne Arundel County’s 0.923% and 1.1% in Baltimore County. We continue to run the risk of losing homeowners who seek less onerous property taxes relative to the quality of services they receive from the city. I support efforts by our delegation to the General Assembly to reform Baltimore property tax policies like allowing home owners to carryover homestead credits, and evaluating the nearly 30% of Baltimore properties that are tax exempt. I believe council should explore measures that allow for targeted property tax relief that benefits older residents on fixed incomes.

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?

We have done a great job attracting and growing small businesses in South Baltimore and in the Eleventh District. Continuing this requires making improvements to infrastructure like establishing broadband in the city, so that our businesses and entrepreneurs have the same high-speed access that is provided in Baltimore County and neighboring cities. Special attention must be given to ending the penalize-first approach of Baltimore’s tax and regulatory culture. For example, business should be allowed more time and deference when addressing graffiti and snow removal. It is also crucial that we make investments in our workforce. We can attract better jobs with a completive workforce that is better trained and possesses relevant certifications.

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

Baltimore spends much more per capita on public safety than peer cities, and to improve our return on investment it would behoove us to change the way we address crime. We
need to continue our developing commitment to moving toward a comprehensive community-policing model. There must be a concerted effort to build trust between those who maintain public safety and the public. Police who demonstrate corruption and unnecessary violence should be removed from the department. De-escalation training should also be improved.

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?

To attract and keep new residents, especially those with young families, we have to improve schools. My experience mentoring young public school students has made it clear that we will not be able to retain as many young families as we need to keep Baltimore vibrant if we do not have public schools that can compete with other schools in our region.

Why are you the right choice for District 11?

The events of this past year have made it clear that Baltimore needs to be turned around. We cannot expect substantive change to occur when we continue with leadership that has presided over some of our more distressing moments in public administration. This has included poorly conceived TIFs that have disrupted our school funding formula, a continued lack of timely investment in our youth through the adequate funding of community schools and afterschool programs, and a continued lack of transparency that has allowed for too many decisions to be made without public input. Baltimore needs forward looking leadership committed to making it a first tier city that is able to attract business and development without being forced to provide generous subsidies and credits. Not only do I have significant experience performing the core roles of a member of city council, I understand the big picture concerns of Baltimore’s residents. There is a deeply felt desire for equity in the provision of public goods, and a hope that tomorrow’s Baltimore will provide more opportunity than what is being offered today.

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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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