Q & A with District 11 City Council Candidate Eric Costello

| 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 Eric Costello:

What do you love about South Baltimore?

When I moved south to start working for the federal government, I initially lived in northern Virginia. The culture in Northern Virginia was static and generic, and I really didn’t feel at home there. I had a couple of friends who had moved to Baltimore—specifically, the South Baltimore Peninsula. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the City. I moved to Otterbein in 2007 and purchased my home in Federal Hill in 2010.

The South Baltimore community has a rich history and depth of character that rivals any neighborhood in the City. What’s more, South Baltimore is becoming more and more dynamic everyday as revitalization efforts continue and new families mix with long-time residents as neighbors. The anchor institutions like the National Federation for the Blind, Under Armour, and Riverside Park are strong, unique assets here. Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the tight-knit sense of community in South Baltimore that makes everyone feel at home here.

What made you want to run for City Council?

I never imagined a year and a half ago that I would be in this position. Bar none, this has been most rewarding experience of my life. It is a very challenging job and can be wildly frustrating at times especially when the answer is right in front of you and we don’t have the resources or power to fix the problem. I’ve done this job full-time since my first day, resigning from my previous position as an IT Auditor with the US Government Accountability Office the day I was sworn in. It is very humbling to represent the 11 th District and I hope to continue to do so for 4 more years. I genuinely enjoy helping people solve problems and that is why I am running. Prior to taking this job, I worked as a federal auditor in the Government Accountability Office (GAO). I quit this job in order to serve full-time as your city councilman. I’ve been honored to serve as your representative, and I hope to continue to do so for four more years.

DSC_4075 (1)What are some key issues you plan to focus on if elected?

There are several pressing issues in the 11th District which directly impact the South Baltimore Peninsula, including public safety, quality of education, public transportation and access to jobs, and taxes.

Public safety – we need to advance the community policing model. I supported body cameras and will seek further policy changes to ensure effective community policing, more foot patrols, and creative solutions to issues such as package thefts.

Quality of education – we need more community schools. I will continue to work hand-in- hand with Promise Heights in CW Baltimore and work with my State counterparts in the General Assembly to identify funding opportunities for additional community school programming. On the Peninsula, I will continue to work with our local schools and their PTOs to help raise funds, as well as expand the CHOICE Building Trades Career Fair at Digital Harbor High School, which I started in 2015 to provide more opportunities to our youth.

Public transportation and access to jobs – we need a well-integrated public transportation system. I will continue to advocate for reform to MTA, fight for permanent funding for the Circulator and expansion of the system, and push to extend the Circulator Purple Route south from Fort to Wells.

Taxes – we need to provide substantial tax relief for residents and businesses. I will continue to work with the Administration, the Council, and our State counterparts to identify and implement changes aimed at providing substantial tax relief.

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

In order to grow, Baltimore City needs to continue to reduce property taxes. While property taxes have incrementally decreased for principal home owners over the past few years, we need to continue to explore ways to provide substantial tax relief. Having been selected by the Mayor to serve on the Tax Policy Review Group, I’ve gained a better understanding of the many challenges and complexities we face in trying to find solutions that do not cut core services or negatively impact our bond rating. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is that we live in a City built for 1M, yet we have a population of about 630K.

The most significant thing we can do to decrease property taxes is to grow our population. The current Administration and Live Baltimore are pursuing a number of initiatives aimed at both retention and growth, and more can be done.

Many of the issues the Tax Policy Review Group explored have minimal impact on property tax reduction. SDAT reform, which is ongoing and requires General Assembly partnership, would provide for more accurate, fair, and equitable taxation. We need to address revenue loss such as property owners incorrectly receiving the Homestead Tax Credit, uncaptured tax on Air BnB transactions, and inaccurate assessments of commercial properties.

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?

It is such a gift to have the wealth of creativity and innovation that we have here – two traits that come through in our robust small-business community. As a City, we need to foster our small businesses and encourage growth. I plan to continue to make South Baltimore – and the entire 11th District – a mecca for business in the City by rewarding innovation, simplifying the permitting process, and eliminating unnecessary obstacles to entrepreneurship.

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

Baltimore City is pursuing the right strategies to reduce violent crime. BPD is targeting violent offenders with our Federal partners (ATF, Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, US Marshals, and US Secret Service) and working with the States Attorney to get these individuals off the streets. Other strategies aiding the crime fight, include a heavy emphasis on community policing, increased presence of patrolling officers (outside of their vehicles), and the recent body camera pilot program, which is expected to be implemented soon.

I have full faith in Commissioner Davis and was the first Councilmember to publicly support him after he was appointed by the Mayor. He seems to have a better relationship with the officers on the streets, as opposed to his predecessor.

Improving community and police relations is going to be a long process, and should be centered on rebuilding trust. BPD must have the trust of the neighborhoods it serves, and that starts with respect and better communication. During my tenure on the Council, I have focused a large portion of my public safety efforts on facilitating and improving communications between community and business leaders with BPD.

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?

Three things need to occur: safer streets, improved schools, and substantial tax relief.

Why are you the right choice for District 11?

Since joining the Council in October 2014, I have worked every waking moment to improve the quality of life for residents of the 11th District. I have made myself as accessible as possible and continue to learn more about the City and how to more effectively represent my district every day. If rewarded by the voters with a full four year term, I will continue to do my very best and make the voters who elected me proud.

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 [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.