Baltimore Sun 2022 Voter Guide: John King, candidate for Maryland Governor
5/17/2022 | Baltimore Sun Staff
The Baltimore Sun
Running Mate: Michelle Daugherty Siri
Residence: Silver Spring, Montgomery County
Occupation: Former Secretary of Education under President Obama President and CEO of the Education Trust
Education: B.A. Harvard University, J.D. Yale Law School, Doctor of Education in educational administrative practice at Teachers College, Columbia University
Previous political experience: New York State Commissioner of Education, Deputy US Secretary of Education, Secretary of Education, Founder Strong Future Maryland
Why are you running for office?
I know the transformative difference public institutions can make in people’s lives because public schools saved my life. Both of my parents passed away when I was a kid. As a teenager, I struggled in school as often happens for kids who have experienced trauma and actually got kicked out of high school. It was public schools educators whose care and support – and willingness to give me a second chance – saved me. As an educator, I have always been conscious of how all the systems operating in kids and families’ lives affect their outcomes from housing to healthcare, and from criminal justice to economic opportunity. I believe the next governor of Maryland will be uniquely positioned to work across policy silos to make government a force for good in people’s lives in much the same way public schools were such a powerful force for good in my life.
What is the most pressing issue in Maryland and what are your plans to address it?
The long standing inequalities that exist across our state were only exacerbated by the pandemic and it is imperative that we treat this as a New Deal moment where we rebuild in an equitable way. An equitable recovery means we ensure economic dignity for every Marylander by treating housing as a human right, ensuring a livable wage and universal affordable child care. An equitable recovery means we address our history of racial inequity by creating a state bank that will ensure equitable access to capital, building the Red Line to ensure everyone has reliable transportation to where the jobs are, and ensuring universal health care so no one is denied health care. We must ensure we tackle the climate crisis in an equitable manner that allows us to deal with the generations of environmental injustice that have led to historically black and brown communities facing the brunt of serial polluters.
What should the state do to reduce violent crime in and around Baltimore?
I will take a holistic approach to reducing crime. I will build on last year’s policing reforms to increase trust and accountability between police and communities including more education and training – we currently require more training for barbers and hairstylists than we do for public safety officers. I will focus police on stopping the flow of illegal guns (inc. ghost guns) and investigating violent crime. -However, policing is necessary but not sufficient for public safety. We must reimagine public safety by heavily investing in: Mental health services (inc. trauma response teams that partner police officers with mental health professionals) Addiction treatment -Violence prevention programs (e.g., Safe Streets, ROCA) -Education and job training programs in prisons and re-entry supports to help returning citizens find jobs and housing to successfully transition home -Summer and after school jobs, mentoring programs, and rec centers for teens
What are your top three priorities for transportation in Maryland, and how would you fund them?
My highest public transit priority will be restarting the Red Line project. I will also work to expand rail projects across the state including finishing the Purple Line, building the Southern Maryland Light Rail project, expanding and making more frequent MARC Train service, and dramatically improving the frequency and reliability of bus service. My second priority is making sure our transportation projects are addressing climate change, like using electric buses to reduce emissions. I will also oppose the I-270 private toll lane project, which is irresponsible at a time when we need to lower carbon emissions. My third priority is increasing road and pedestrian safety. There were 129 pedestrian fatalities in Maryland in 2021. We must build walkable communities and center infrastructure on people, not cars. This also includes increasing accessibility for Marylanders with disabilities, like putting appropriate curb cuts on every sidewalk.
What should Maryland schools do differently during the next pandemic?
We saw during the pandemic massive frustration over virtual vs. in-person school that was largely painted as parents versus teachers. This ignored the large structural failure of the state to adequately prepare for pandemic schooling, even after over a year into the pandemic. We must ensure we do everything we can to keep schools open and students learning. As schools struggled with staying open this past winter, we did not have high-quality N95s for every teacher, student and school support staff member, we did not have adequate tests ready to regularly test students and staff for COVID, and we had ventilation systems that were outdated even before the pandemic. We lacked the statewide leadership to plan and prepare. We are still in a pandemic and we know what we need to do to prepare for the next wave, we just need the political will to do it.
What are your plans for the state’s property taxes?
Like our state income tax code, our state’s property taxes are highly regressive and inequitable. Not a single county in Maryland has an equitable property tax structure, meaning across the state, lower value homes are assessed at higher rates than lower value ones. One way to make our property tax code less regressive is to increase the size of the state’s homestead tax credit, which currently limits taxable increases to less than 10% a year for the state property tax. I also would like to expand the Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit, lowering the tax limits for those making under $30,000 in household income. Additionally, while Maryland allows municipalities to tax long-term vacant properties, we should look at the feasibility of taxing habitually vacant properties as a statewide initiative.
How equitably do police officers treat people of color?
There is no denying that there is systemic racism in police departments, and that it absolutely leads to worse outcomes for people of color, frequently fatally. We see it across the state in Maryland, with both Montgomery and Baltimore Counties having huge racial disparities in who is subjected to just more traffic stops. In Baltimore City, white residents who file complaints against police are 61% more likely to see their complaints upheld than when Black residents file ones. Just last summer, unarmed Black teens were tasered by police in Ocean City, who have a disproportionate percentage of use-of-force incidents against Black people. No, police officers do not treat people of color anywhere close to equitably. As Governor, I will work to build on the police accountability reforms adopted by the General Assembly last year to address these disparities.
What would you do to make sure Maryland’s voting system is secure and accurate?
The Maryland board of elections conducted audits after the 2020 primary election, the 2020 general election, the 2018 elections and the 2016 elections using an independent software audit program. All of those audits found that the voting system counted ballots and reported results correctly. The ballot drop boxes introduced in 2020 were under surveillance 24/7, and there is no evidence there have been any security breaches. As governor, I will continue the same level of vigilance Maryland has for years and continue to keep our system running smoothly. Our focus should continue to be on increasing access to the ballot so no one is denied their right to vote. From universal mail in ballots to automatic voter registration, we should be working to create access to the ballot a certainty for every voter.
What are the right goals and deadlines for Maryland to reduce carbon emissions and develop renewable energy sources?
I will get Maryland to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2035, a full ten years before the deadline in the recently enacted Climate Solutions Now Act. I have a 60% greenhouse gas reduction benchmark by 2030, a year before Climate Solutions Now. We will have a carbon-free electricity sector by 2030, transitioning our fossil fuel sector and other dirty energy sources like trash incineration to solar, wind and geothermal. I will cut transportation emissions through my large investments to expand public transit, taking cars off the road, and have a completely electric, clean public vehicle fleet by 2030, with 60% of all Maryland cars and trucks consisting of emission-free vehicles by the same year. While supporting residential homes and commercial buildings to transition to clean electric technologies with in-home consultations and financial incentives, I will get all Maryland public buildings to 100% clean energy power by 2030.
What are Gov. Larry Hogan’s best and worst policies?
There are many policies of Gov. Hogan that I strongly disagree with, including the disastrous decision to cancel the Red Line described above, but his recent “re-fund the police” initiative is particularly problematic. It is first of all dishonest, as the police in Maryland were never defunded, so none of the money he is allocating is actually “re-funding” anyone. Ultimately, doubling down on failed policies of mass incarceration will not make us safer – it is time to reimagine public safety. I agree with Gov. Hogan’s commitment to rural economic development, like earlier this year when he dedicated $50 million to his Rural Economic Development Fund. I will deepen Maryland’s commitment to rural economic development by launching a state bank (to help small businesses access capital) and investing in Main Street improvement initiatives, reliable broadband, and public transportation including MARC expansion.