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MWIA to Host Forum for Council Candidates

The Mount Washington Improvement Association and League of Women Voters will co-host a candidates forum for the seven Democrats who have filed to run for the open Fifth District City Council seat being vacated by Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector, who announced she will retire after 40 years in office. The event is being held on Sunday, April 10, at the Park Heights Jewish Community Center at 5800 Park Heights Avenue at 3 p.m. -- a little more than two weeks before the April 26 primary and only five days before early voting begins on April 15. (Note that April 5 is the deadline to register to vote or switch a party affiliation.) Head to the Baltimore election site to read up on all the Baltimore City candidates.

In Their Own Words

The MWIA Newsletter asked all candidates to submit a maximum 200-word answer to this question: “What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge facing Mount Washington, and what are your plans and qualifications to address it?” The following responses were submitted.

Christopher Ervin

In my opinion after speaking to community residents and looking at the Mt. Washington Newsletter, it appears that the largest growing concern is, like much of the city, public safety and an uptick in local crime. Though Mt. Washington is not experiencing homicides or assaults as other communities may be, the daytime burglaries and other felonies have picked up.

In my experience as a former infantry Marine as well as having real time experience with street crime, I know that crime needs ignorance and opportunity to proliferate.

Mt. Washington, while having the help of the Northwest Citizens Patrol, would benefit from a much broader city supported Citizens On Patrol program. More citizens being more aware and proactive in their community and supported by their government makes for a much safer community dynamic.

With the majority of the crimes taking place during the day along with the numbers of residents who are available during the day, citizen patrols organized under the guise of “exercise groups” of walkers, runners or other social activities would act to be eyes in and around the community. Knowing the community and having a vested interest in it always makes for best security practices.

Betsy Gardner

For the past 14 years I have been working in City government and been just as frustrated as the residents with the lack of basic delivery of City services, ranging from streets not being plowed, inaccurate water bills, crumbling infrastructure, and a host of other issues. I have spent countless hours calling department heads, all the while standing over water main breaks, crumbling bridge repairs, and countless burglaries.

Now it’s time to take it a step further, If elected to the position of City Council representative for the 5th District, I vow to hold each and every City agency accountable by requiring audits that are transparent.

With my extensive knowledge of how each agency operates, and the relationships that I have formulated not only with agency heads but with a range of City employees, I can take that knowledge and hold hearings to bring forth better solutions facing the residents of the Mt. Washington community. I know I can make City government work better for you. With your support and input we can accomplish great things.

Derrick Lennon

As a member of the Northwest Presidents Forum for over nine years, I have had the opportunity to work with several presidents representing Mt. Washington on a number of issues. Some of the concerns for residents include the Jones Falls Trail, Northwest Park, Transform Baltimore, and paving and repairs of streets and roadways.

Recently two things have become of major concern for residents in Mt. Washington: one is the increase in crime and the other may be plans for building a new high rise along Falls Road which will increase traffic on an already crowded corridor.

As for crime, most of them are burglaries of homes and cars. As a result of this Mt. Washington has implemented a new Citizens on Patrol. I completely support this effort and as the council person will work with the Northern & Northwest District to push for regular patrols of streets and alleys. I will also conduct ridealongs on a regular basis with the police to ensure their support of the new patrol and added presence.

As for the building of the high rise, I would support the community’s plan and fight to bring about your request.

Liz Ryan Martinez

Public safety is the greatest challenge facing Mount Washington. A community cannot thrive without public safety. Residents and visitors must be safe in their homes, safe on city streets, and safe in city parks. Local businesses must be safe and secure for their patrons and owners. Mount Washington needs good, trusted police work and a positive relationship between city police and the community.

I am an attorney for the people of Baltimore in the City Solicitor’s Office, and I am a strong, effective advocate for the people of Baltimore. As a member of the City Council, I will strongly support all community policing efforts and stand up in appreciation of good police work. I will advocate for the hiring of homegrown police officers who live in the city and for incentivizing police officers to live in the communities where they work. I will advocate for the assignment of beat cops to our city neighborhoods, including Mount Washington, to patrol the streets on foot, wearing body cameras and fostering relationships with citizens. I will hold community forums with the police, participate in citizen patrols, disseminate real time information from the police to citizens, and voice concerns from citizens to the police.

Isaac Schleifer

While the economy and education are top priorities, with crime soaring in Mt. Washington the urgent focus must be ensuring the safety of our families, homes and neighborhoods.

Through my volunteer activities with a community safety non-profit, I built a strong relationship with law enforcement and have heard their demands for greater resources to battle crime. For example, I learned that the city’s crime lab was operating with 1970s staffing levels, which prevented the arrest and prosecution of criminals. I initiated a call for hiring more personnel; after the city added 10 more staff, the Mayor commended me for my role. That’s one of many things I did as a community activist; I can do much more as a councilman.

We pay the highest property tax rate in Maryland, but don’t get a return on our investment. As a small business owner with experience balancing budgets and making tough decisions about the allocation of revenues, I know we can put our families’ safety first without raising taxes. As a husband and father who was born and raised in this district, I want to go to City Hall to help protect your families the way I want to protect my own.

Kinji Scott

The biggest challenge facing Mt. Washington is a new recovery program close to your business and residential districts. We all recognize how important these programs are to people living in addiction.

However, these programs place strains on communities. They increase new pedestrian traffic, and bring with them the challenges that come with people in addiction, like larceny. Considering Mt. Washington is already seeing an uptick in crimes of larceny, this would not be in the best interest of the community.

My solution is brownfield redevelopments as new space opportunities for human service programs like recovery programs. Baltimore is rich in brownfield redevelopment opportunities. Environmentally, brownfield redevelopment eliminates blight and creates new green space opportunities. It provides relief to communities by placing much needed services in a space away from residential communities and businesses. Many of Baltimore’s brownfield redevelopment opportunities are accessible to public transportation, which is essential to many people in recovery.

I have done research on brownfield redevelopment when I was studying for my Masters in City Planning at Morgan State University.