The Baltimore County Progressive Democrats sent out a questionnaire to all of the candidates for District 42A Delegate in order to determine where they stood on our priority issues. Henry Callegary, Cathi Forbes, and Jessica Klaitman returned the questionnaire, and their answers are below in alphabetical order. We appreciate the time that they took to educate us on their views on these critical questions. We sent this questionnaire to Cheryl Gottlieb, but she never filled it out. Some answers have been lightly edited for length (150 word maximum), formatting, and small typos.
- What are your qualifications for this position?
Henry Callegary (HC): I am qualified to serve District 42A as its delegate due to my experience, relationships, and passion. For the last several years I have served as President of the Baltimore County Young Democrats. In that role, I have worked closely with the Baltimore County House and Senate delegations, members of the County Council, and the County Executive. Additionally, in 2018 I served a North and Central County Coordinator for Johnny Olszewski’s campaign for County Executive. I also serve as Campus Hills Community Association President, and as a Delegate to the Towson Communities Alliance. Those experiences and relationships will allow me to hit the ground running upon my appointment as Delegate. Additionally, I will bring a new energy to Annapolis as a young Democrat. Taken together, these qualifications will allow me to continue Delegate Lafferty’s legacy, while also providing an important new perspective to the House of Delegates.
Cathi Forbes (CF): I have spent the past 20 years advocating for my community, working with local and state officials to improve our education system, and promote a better quality of life in Baltimore County. I have experience navigating both community issues and state and local government. I have learned how to build consensus when none appears possible, form coalitions, and argue my points without being argumentative. I do extensive research into issues, and have been successful through a careful and persistent presentation of facts. I have a wide network of community support from every neighborhood in the district. I have a history of championing bills in Annapolis, including marriage equality, the repeal of the death penalty, the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 and the hybrid school board bill.
Jessica Klaitman (JK): I’m a social worker, activist and adult educator, with 30 years of experience advocating for causes and people. As a social worker, I specialize in community organizing, group, and individual work. These skills translate perfectly to the coalition building, teamwork and constituent service for which a delegate is responsible. I have been relationship building and doing communal work for years. As a teacher trainer, I am uniquely skilled in bringing adults along to a common goal. I’m also an activist for progressive causes, including gun violence prevention, eliminating the political gender gap, and reproductive justice. I live, work, and have kids in school in 42A. I have canvassed here often and know the issues that are important to the community, including education, the environment, and the impact of development. The well-being of this community is essential. I have the passion, determination and skill to serve our district, county, and state.
- Given that Baltimore County is among the most segregated jurisdictions in Maryland, what will you do to help integrate our neighborhoods?
HC: The deep segregation of Baltimore County is one of the most important, yet difficult, challenges facing our community. There are several necessary steps that must be taken at the state level to integrate our County. First among them is fair housing. Ending discrimination and expanding public housing are solid starts. But fair housing is not enough. The State of Maryland must take action to ensure that all County residents have access to quality, public transportation to allow them to travel from their homes to work, as well as the availability to access quality services. Greater funding for public transportation, as well as the creation of a Baltimore Regional Transportation Authority will go a long way in reducing the segregation of our County along racial and economic lines.
CF: I lobbied County Council members for passage of the HOME Act in 2016. In those meetings I explained the bill and debunked myths around housing vouchers. I know the benefit of reducing the concentration of poverty in schools and neighborhoods. I support the new HOME Act in Baltimore County that will be introduced this fall by the Administration. Should it fail to pass, I would reintroduce Delegate Lafferty’s Fair Housing Opportunities Act from 2019. I will advocate for expanded public transportation options like the now-defunct Red Line to allow people to travel throughout our county/city. The Red Line was an example of collaboration of City and County entities, and public and private funding, to make progress on a problem that is obvious. Until we begin to solve our transportation issues, our ability to integrate racially and economically is hampered. I would be a supporter of comprehensive public transportation projects.
JK: Living in Baltimore County, I have been thinking about this for years, talking with neighbors, figuratively ripping my hair out over it. A few thoughts: make Low Income Tax Credits more available for multi-family housing, pass the Home Act, make sure racist/exclusionary community covenants are changed, and ensure new development includes mixed income residences. We need to disperse housing opportunities, not just to integrate neighborhoods but also to end the cycle of poverty by getting kids in to safer neighborhoods and better schools. We also need to make schools better and neighborhoods safer in neglected primarily minority neighborhoods. I am interested in exploring ways to lure businesses owned by people of color to areas throughout the county. We need to support immigrants and also support expanded transportation solutions. We should be creating inclusive and diverse coalitions of people to work on this, as community input is essential for success.
- What legislation or approaches would you work on to ensure that all Marylanders have high quality health insurance?
HC: To better ensure high quality, affordable health care for all Marylanders, the General Assembly should strengthen the Prescription Drug Affordability Board that was created last session. Better allowing our state to control the price of prescription drugs, while further empowering the Attorney General to go after price-gouging, will greatly help hundreds of thousands of Marylanders afford necessary and lifesaving medication. Of course, we must also continue to protect the Affordable Care Act from attacks by the health insurance industry and the radical right. Another important health related policy I support is paid family leave. Passing leave legislation will allow thousands of working parents to better take care of their sick and loved ones, especially people with disabilities who fall through the cracks of the current paid sick leave law. Finally, we should also expand access to community health and drug treatment centers to fight the opioid epidemic.
CF: I often ask defenders of our current health insurance system to give me an example of a country where free market health care works for everyone. The legislation passed last session that created the Healthcare Drug Affordability Board is a step in the right direction, but will need to be strengthened, particularly in how it dealt with employees in the state retirement program. I will fight for more access to mental health services and drug treatment on demand. I am passionate about the issue of mental health parity. Even with “good” employee-based healthcare benefits, the maze of getting a loved one an appointment with a mental health professional is complex and cumbersome. I would support legislation that makes mental healthcare more accessible.
JK: With the attacks that the Affordable Care Act is facing on a national level, we are fortunate in Maryland to have strong protections. I support and will encourage implementation of the recently passed Maryland Easy Enrollment Health Program that allows people to automatically enroll for Medicaid, if eligible, or be contacted to enroll in private coverage simply by checking a box on their taxes. I also support the all-payer hospital system and am interested in any legislation to slow the growth of health care costs. I want to listen to experts and consumers about what more we can do to make health insurance accessible for all. There is a larger, national question here: Health care for all works in every other industrialized nation, why not here? We can make it work in Maryland!
- Do you support fully funding the Kirwan Commission recommendations, and how would you aim to provide funding?
HC: We have a moral obligation to ensure that every student has access to high-quality, pre-k through college education. Maryland must not shy away from fully funding the Kirwan Commission’s recommendations, first by using casino funding and other revenue currently available. Beyond that, I believe we should look for creative revenue streams such as tax on marijuana, along with a fairer corporate tax structure, which will provide much needed funding. Currently, many national corporations pay next to nothing in taxes in Maryland. Reforming our tax code to require big businesses to pay their fair share will not only raise crucial revenue for public schools, but it will also level the playing field and help local small businesses compete. Finally, Maryland should also do more to make polluters pay, with those funds earmarked for public education.
CF: To fully fund Kirwan, we will have to raise taxes. I’m following news from the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Workgroup examining all possible revenue sources and devising creative proposals to fund Kirwan. The recommendations are too important, and as a matter of equity must be implemented. While the passage of the Lock Box bill in the last legislative session is an initial down payment, the real work in keeping the promise of Kirwan will be decided in the next legislative sessions. It is clear there are forces trying to undermine them prematurely, and that may lead us into a situation like when Stormwater Management became the “Rain Tax.” I fully support the recommendations and will fight for full funding and implementation.
JK: I support fully funding the Kirwan commission recommendations. The current phase–in plan allows 10-12 years for full implementation. Recommendations can be prioritized so the most essential ones can happen first, with money that may come from a gambling tax, further legalizing marijuana, and evaluating current spending on education and tax credits for efficacy and possible better use of funds. Communities can only thrive when education is prioritized, in all ways, from facilities to teacher salaries to special needs services. In addition, we can only claim to achieve educational justice if schools that have a majority of children of color receive equitable resources as mostly white-populated schools; that does not happen now. I plan to listen to every possible suggestion and make the hard choices. I’m going with Johnny Olszewski here, who says, “Leadership is about finding ways to do what’s possible and needed.” (The Sun, 8/19/19).
- How would you work to make higher education more accessible in Maryland?
HC: Higher education is a proven path to the middle class. But the burden of ever-rising tuition and student debt is a barrier to many. The first step in addressing this challenge is to expand our universal community college program, which relies on students applying for access to the program and does not cover additional costs like books, lodging, and transportation. Covering those costs and better publicizing the program is an investment that will pay for itself. We must also expand job training and apprenticeship programs for students who do not want a traditional two or four-year degree. Maryland should take steps to support our HBCU’s by providing greater aid to students enrolled in those schools. Finally, we must support our public schools to ensure more students have the academic success to go to college in the first place.
CF: The County and State have tuition free programs for community college and I applaud what the Olszewski administration did in expanding this program. I would continue to support the expansion of free community college. This resource meets students and professionals where they are, and provides opportunities for education retraining and professional development. I would vote for increased funding to our 2- and 4-year state universities and greater tuition remission for low-income students.
The economic vitality of Maryland is dependent on expanding educational opportunity. But to make higher education more accessible we have to fix the inequities in our PreK-12 schools and implement the Kirwan recommendations. Along with high quality early childhood education, Kirwan calls for significant investment in schools with high concentrations of students in poverty, at risk students, and students requiring special education. We have to make sure early education prepares students to be successful in higher education.
JK: As a start, we should commit to fully funding state higher education budgets, and prioritize community colleges and state schools. Removing stigma around community college and promoting connections between community and four-year colleges will help give many more people access to higher education. In addition, state schools should be required to justify the use of the SAT/ACT as tools – they are barriers to access for four-year colleges, and can prevent low income students from gaining admission. We should pay adjunct professors a fair wage, since schools are relying on them heavily for labor (less of an access issue and more of a justice issue). Reducing student loan debt and creating programs in which loans can be paid off through community investment are also steps in the right direction.
- What types of legislation would you sponsor or support in order to combat climate change?
HC: Climate change is the great crisis of our time, and one that my generation will face the damage of unless directly and aggressively confronted. That is why I support moving Maryland towards 100% clean, green, and renewable energy sources by 2035. That would not only make our state a leader in the fight against climate change, but also create thousands of good paying jobs in the process. At the local level, greater tax incentives for home-owners and businesses to install solar panels and other pollution-reducing energy sources is a common-sense solution. Greater support for public transportation and bicycling will also reduce pollution, as will crafting a plan to close and replace Baltimore City’s trash incinerator and removing pollutants from the definition of “renewable” energy.
CF: Steve Lafferty’s work on the environment is legendary. I would consult with him first on any work left undone. I would sponsor legislation that supports sustainable agriculture. I would also support legislation that strengthens the Maryland extension service and agricultural education so new generations of farmers learn to farm sustainably. I would do whatever I could to ban Chlorpyrifos as it is toxic and devastating to the bee population. Partnering with our local government, I would support legislation to pilot a program that promotes composting, as that is one of the easiest ways to reduce waste and enrich farmland. I will sponsor and support legislation that encourages wind and solar energy including tax credits and incentives. The health of our Bay is directly affected by climate change. It is imperative we support progress on oyster sanctuaries. I would also support legislation that expands and protects the Clean Air Act.
JK: Climate change needs to be addressed with both individual and communal responses. On a national level, I support the elements of the Green New Deal. I support innovation and options like promoting hybrid vehicles, helping businesses and developers be green, creating sustainable energy projects, and protecting the bay and waterways. We need to make solar power more accessible for homes, investigate community solar, incentivize alternative transportation methods and highlight public transportation (which must be more far ranging and more reliable). On a personal level, we can cut down on eating meat and on purchasing new things and when we do buy, we can buy with less packaging. We can plant more trees and insulate our homes. I am interested in exploring a plastic bag ban, similar to the Styrofoam ban, and reducing car emissions. Government needs to create policy that encourages behavioral change on a massive scale.
- What legislation would you sponsor or support to significantly reduce gun violence in Maryland?
HC: Fighting gun violence, whether it stems from mass shootings or the daily violence in Baltimore City, must be a top priority for the Governor and General Assembly in 2020. Closing the long-gun loophole, which does not require background checks on the private sales of rifles and shotguns, is the clear first-step. There is simply no reason why someone with a felony should be able to purchase a lethal weapon; no exceptions. The General Assembly must also pass legislation strengthening the requirements for the safe storage of firearms to prevent children from accessing weapons in the home, and close the loophole allowing the sale and possession of certain versions of the infamous AR-15 assault rifle. The General Assembly must also devote additional resources to the enforcement of our current gun laws, with a focus on getting illegally owned firearms out of the hands of violent criminals in Baltimore City.
CF: I’m hoping my first vote in the House of Delegates is to override Governor Hogan’s veto of legislation that eliminated the Handgun Permit Review Board. Introduced in 2018 and passed in 2019, this common-sense bill determines the appeals process when the state police decide someone should not receive a handgun permit or someone’s permit should be revoked. I prefer Administrative Law Judges to inconsistent community volunteers.
Unfortunately, in the last legislative session the Child Access Prevention and Safe Storage legislation did not pass. The bill was intended to strengthen existing safe storage requirements of firearms. I would fully support this legislation in the 2020 session.
I would also introduce legislation to close the loophole that allows convicted stalkers to purchase guns. Had this loophole been closed earlier, the shooter of the Capital Gazette would not have been able to purchase guns after having been found guilty of stalking.
JK: One of the ongoing priorities in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement is to plug loopholes in existing laws. Part of making us safer in Maryland is incentivizing states around us to have sensible gun legislation. Years ago, Chris Van Hollen had a plan for this that I think should be revisited (granted, this would be beyond my purview as delegate but I think it is too important to neglect). For Maryland specifically, I expect this session to have a focus on GVP research, child access prevention, and the long gun bill that did not pass in 2019. We need to treat gun violence like the public health emergency it is. To do so, we need to deal with the issues that create conditions for violence, like poverty, lack of access to jobs and decent living conditions, lack of access to opportunity, the opioid crisis, deep-seated institutional racism and more.
- What is one piece of legislation that you would particularly champion in your first session?
HC: My top priority in the 2020 session would be the passage of the Build to Learn Act which will provide crucial school construction funding for Baltimore County. Thankfully, this is a popular bill that will be championed by the leadership. My top issue, besides school construction, will be passage of a paid family leave program. I support Delegate Ariana Kelly’s proposal to create a Family and Medical Leave Insurance Program to provide up to 12 weeks of benefits to workers taking time off to care for their family members or themselves. Several other states have created similar plans, which are particularly beneficial to families with two wage-earners. Paid family leave is also proven to help reduce the gender wage gap and will be crucially beneficial to working families who cannot easily afford to take time off to care for their loved ones.
CF: It is too important not to fight for all the recommendations. I would also reintroduce HB83, “Action for Change of Name – Minors – Prohibition of Publication Requirement.” As you may know, Maryland requires minors who change their name to have consent from both parents and have a notice published in the local newspaper publicly declaring their current name and proposed new name. This law violates the privacy of minors. It also creates a permanent, public record of minors’ name changes, and often makes evident name changes that are associated with gender identities. This creates the possibility of targeted harassment for these minors. If legislation can make life easier for minors who are dealing with gender issues, then we should enact it – quickly.
JK: One area you did not ask about is reproductive justice. Reproductive health, rights and access are critical to a just and free society. As a category that requires lots of change to happen, I plan to champion the work for reproductive justice. There are many pieces of legislation that we can expect to see in 2020, including paid family leave, the right to pump, support for students who are new parents, reproductive health access for pregnant women who are incarcerated, and allowing providers other than doctors to perform abortions, all of which I support. This legislation will benefit women and families in my own district, as well as county and state-wide. We need to create societal change about how we view reproductive freedom and parenthood, and understand that raising healthy children and families is a communal responsibility (which, of course, includes funding education and schools too!).