Q&A with Bill Romani, Candidate for District 46 Delegate

| June 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bill Romani, a resident of Federal Hill/South Baltimore, is a Democrat candidate for District 46 (map here) Delegate (3 seats available). The primary election will be held on June 24th and the general election will be held on November 4th.

Tell us a little about yourself and why the areas of the 46th District are important to you?

Head Shot April 14My parents were both school teachers and great role models for service and hard work. Their example is reflected in my professional and personal roles as a physical therapist, educator and nonprofit and community leader. One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most in all of these roles is working with neighbors, elected officials, and community leaders with good ideas and the energy to find solutions to improve our communities. Primarily those solutions have been to make sure that our neighbors have access to quality health care, live in strong diverse communities, and can send their kids to outstanding schools.

I’m very enthusiastic about the future of the 46th District and the progress that we’ve made to make it and Maryland a safer more inclusive state. But I also know that for as much progress that we’ve made there is also a lot of work left to do. In our communities in south and southeast Baltimore, that also includes making sure that the transformational developments in Fells Point, Pemco, the Inner Harbor, and Horseshoe Casino allow for sustainable growth that complements the character of our existing communities.

I’m running for the House of Delegates because I want to continue to use the experiences and lessons from the successes that I’ve had at the local level to find solutions that will make that same type of impact on our district and the state.

Why are you motivated to run for office and potentially serve this district?

I have lived in South Baltimore and been actively engaged and working in communities throughout the 46th district for over 15 years. During that time I’ve had the opportunity to experience and play a role in some of the changes and growth within the district, particularly in the area of health care, elementary and college education, and community development. In all of these areas, I have developed solutions to the problems that our neighbors face everyday including:

  • Funding a bilingual outreach worker and translator through the MammoJam Music Festival that enrolls almost 300 women / year into an existing breast and cervical cancer screening program
  • Engaging our network of 350 senior aged mentors make sure that the 8000 Pre-K-3rd students children attend school consistently, are ready to learn by kindergarten, read at grade level by 3rd grade.
  • Starting one of the first micro lending programs in the state with Federal Hill Main Street” to provide small business loans to businesses struggling through the Great Recession
  • I am a founding board member of “One House at a Time”, a nonprofit that acts as an agent of the courts to get over 300 vacant nuisance properties per year into the hands of responsible developers who renovate them and get them back on the tax roles.

Most of these programs provide the framework for similar successful programs statewide. I’m motivated to run for the House of Delegates because I want bring my perspective as a community organizer and advocate and proven track record of success to the important conversations and decision making that creates solutions for our districts most pressing problems.

What are some ways the state can help the City of Baltimore continue to grow and move in the right direction?

In order for Baltimore to continue growing we need to find ways to keep the students and young professionals who come here for their first job to stay here and buy their first house and raise a family and then choose to stay and retire to enjoy their senior years. To do that we need to address what we know are the factors that will make staying in the city an attractive option.

  • Continue funding for outstanding schools with expanded Pre-K instruction and gifted and talented programming
  • Recreation centers and activities that prepare our students for a job and provide an alternative to using crime as means to earn a living
  • Continue to grow the tax base and reduce property taxes so families who need to move to a bigger home can choose to do so within the city.
  • Continue to explore ways to provide affordable housing for our working and middle class families and seniors including an expanded use of receivership to convert vacant nuisance properties into affordable homes and developer tax credits tied to providing market rate affordable housing to and state or municipal financing incentives or tax breaks
  • Provide a city-wide integrated transportation system that includes the Red Line.

Many polls have rated Baltimore as an extremely unfriendly business state. What can be done to improve the business climate for all Maryland businesses?

The Greater Baltimore Committee has advocated for a series of steps to make Maryland a more friendly business state. This year’s establishment of a commission to study the economic competitiveness of the state is a good start. Other strategies that the state may consider to improve the business climate in the state include:

  • Reform Maryland’s Tax Structure to find potential revenue neutral ways to make the tax structure and fiscal appropriations more competitive
  • Strategic revenue neutral adjustments in the tax structure coupled with efficiency in government spending to improve Maryland’s competitiveness (similar to “Simpson-Bowles”)
  • Restructuring of the individual tax rates of individuals owning businesses
  • Review and make regulatory processes more streamlined and less cumbersome to improve stability and predictability while still providing protections for the public good

Efforts have been in place to lower property taxes in Baltimore City, but much work is needed to make the city competitive with the surrounding counties, as well as the neighboring cities of Washington, DC and Philadelphia. How can the city and state work together to solve this problem?

The series of bills proposed and passed this year to make the Homestead Tax Credit portable, add tax assessors, require a one-time certification that nonprofit buildings are being used for nonprofit purposes, and investigate the potential of changing the Homestead Tax Credit rate a good start to the city and state working together to close the gap between the property tax rate in Baltimore and the rest of the state and other mid-Atlantic cities. We also have a percentage of the revenue from the casinos targeted towards property tax reduction. That said, reducing the rates is only one part of a potential solution. The other is to expand the base of people paying property taxes by increasing the population of the city and providing opportunities for more city residents to own homes. To do this we need tp create a climate in the city that makes our young professionals, families, and retirees more likely to stay in the city (see #2).

How should the city and state proceed with the proposed Red Line? What future transportation or infrastructure projects are important to this area?

The Red Line is nearing final funding decision this month from the Federal Government that will provide $900 million towards its construction. This is a source of funding that is both rare and, despite contentions from opponents of the project, quite fragile. Its also a source of funding that is quite likely given the projects high priority rating and allocation in the President’s budget proposal. The Red Line proposal and design are not perfect. None ever are, but it is an opportunity that the city and state should proceed with to make Baltimore a vibrant 21st century city.

Traditionally, Maryland has invested the majority of its transportation dollars in infrastructure for cars. Automobiles contribute significantly to air pollution; nitrogen pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, our rivers, and lakes; and to global warming. Transit projects such as such as Metro, light rail, advanced bus systems, bike and pedestrian improvements, and other transportation demand management programs have been successful in reducing single-occupancy vehicle use, revitalizing existing cities and towns, and reducing air pollution.

In addition to the Red Line itself, there are also many opportunities to build good neighborhoods centered on transit stations. Indeed, all future development could fit around 1⁄2 mile of existing transit stops. Most of our growth in the coming decade should be walkable and bikeable, mixed-use development with easy access to mass transit. As a result it will be important to:

  • Support businesses temporarily displaced or diminished due to Red Line construction
  • Continue work with nonprofits such as One House at a Time and the Citizens Planning and Housing Association to provide outreach to communities so they are prepared for and in a position to take advantage of transit oriented development (TOD) in footprints in immediate and concentric proximity to stations a development
  • Work to leverage existing educational, business development, and recreational resources to help emerging TOD areas prosper.
  • Encourage the development of other non-automotive means of transportation including the water taxi and bikes (“bike share”) and bike paths.
  • Together, these strategies will promote integrated regional public transportation and transit oriented development to decrease the reliance on automobile ownership and use and enhance the walkability of communities.

How can Baltimore City schools and recreations facilities continue to improve?

Through my work with Experience Corps I have seen many successful, and some no so successful, models and best practices in our city schools. If we want Baltimore’s Schools to continue to improve we need to provide the following:

  • Strong leadership from the principal and a dedicated faculty of teachers. We need to continue to grow the pool of outstanding principals and continue to provide incentives to bring the brightest and most talented teachers to our district.
  • Continue funding for gifted and talented programs like the IB program so that all of our students have the opportunity to be challenged and to succeed at the highest level
  • Create schools that serve the entire community through comprehensive wrap around services:o includes mental health and social support services
  • Identify barriers to academic success by providing assistance to students o Engage parents and families in the educational process.

Why should people vote for you?

As a delegate my perspective of representation and legislation will be through the lens of the community organizations that I’ve worked side by side with in zoning and liquor hearings, to find funding for projects and programs, and support our small businesses. People should vote for me because of my proven track record and over 15 years of experience finding solutions and fighting for the neighborhoods in south and southeast Baltimore. That experience and record is not limited to one or two issues, but several that impact our resident’s quality of life everyday; healthcare, education, and housing and community development.

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. 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.
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