A Plan of Action for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District
Maryland’s 7th Congressional District—encompassing Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and Howard County—has its best days ahead of it. Building on many existing assets—such as culturally diverse residents, world class universities and hospitals, a compelling history, waterfront access with a bustling port, gorgeous and unique housing stock, a beautiful natural environment, and easy commuting distance to major cities on the eastern seaboard—we can foster sustainable environments and be a region where all residents are economically secure, connected and engaged, and healthy and safe. To achieve this vision, we must work together to advance a HOPE agenda for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. HOPE uses targeted and universal approaches for addressing major regional challenges. This is our Baltimore region and all of our residents deserve to prosper and thrive.
The components of HOPE are Healthy and safe communities; Opportunities for Youth; Prosperous families; and Equitable development:
- I have stood for a universal, single-payer national health plan for twenty years. Although the Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, its promise as a pathway to universal healthcare was damaged when the original bill failed to include a public option and by subsequent Republican regulatory and legal challenges that have stripped away critical components. We can and should do better. And, we should do it not over decades of incremental measures, but in relatively short order and in a comprehensive fashion that meets the public need. I believe that a universal, single-payer national health plan should give all people an opportunity to receive affordable healthcare that includes dental and vision, preventative services, addiction treatment, and reproductive and mental health services.
- The opioid crisis has devastated families and communities and is wiping out a generation of people, leaving grandparents to care for grandchildren or children to the mercy of the foster care system. In 2019, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Resources Emergency (CARE) Act, the first-ever comprehensive approach to treating addiction as a national emergency similar to the Ryan White CARE Act of the 1990s. If elected, I will co-sponsor this legislation, work to turn it into law, and then collaborate to ensure it is properly implemented at the state and local levels.
- With murder rates at an unacceptable high, gun violence is a major problem in our region. Gun laws need to be strengthened by banning automatic assault weapons, closing gun show loop holes, and cracking down on illegal firearms among other measures. But our region’s gun violence, which primarily involves individuals shooting other individuals to resolve disputes or for economic gain, is also crying out for a public health approach that interrupts the cycle of violence. I would leverage federal policy to advance trauma-informed programming in schools and communities that provides counseling and supports for children, youth, teens, and adults; trainings that teach people how to resolve differences without using violence; and, evidence-based interventions targeting people who have committed or are at risk for committing violence. I would also seek to expand jobs and opportunities for disaffected people so that they have more and better options for making a living.
- Women’s health is both overlooked and under threat. Not enough attention is being paid to finding cures for diseases and conditions—such as breast cancer, fibroids, and alopecia—that disproportionately burden women. At the same time, women’s reproductive health is undermined by conservative policies and legal challenges that prevent women from receiving the care and services they need. And, violence against and trafficking of women continues to be a major problem across the country. I will: work to expand a women-focused research agenda at the National Institutes of Health; stand against efforts to deny women access to comprehensive reproductive care services; and stand for liberal measures to protect women from violence and trafficking.
- Undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. desire safety and prosperity for their families but live in constant fear, under the shadow of arrest, deportation, and economic exploitation. The human rights of immigrants seeking asylum at the border are regularly violated by U.S. border agents who separate families and place them into cages and makeshift detention facilities where they are incarcerated indefinitely. I will stand for a comprehensive immigration reform plan that provides a fair pathway to citizenship for those already in the U.S. and a clear and fair method for asylum seekers to apply for and obtain entry.
- Since Donald J. Trump’s election, hate crimes in Maryland have risen sharply. Communities, schools, places of worship, and workplaces have been hit by acts of hate and incivility. We are better than this. The nature of the threat to the safety of District 7 residents is so great, that I pledge to work with leaders at every level of government and across public and private sectors to formulate an appropriate response. In Congress, I would support hate crime prevention bills like the Disarm Hate Act, the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act, the No HATE Act, the Hate Crimes Victims Assistance Act and other bills that have been introduced to deal with this threat. Because domestic terrorism is also threat to our nation’s security, I would also push for a national emergency preparedness initiative to combat hate crimes. This initiative would convene federal, state, and local hate crime prevention councils and provide guidelines and resources to states, localities, and families on how to prevent and respond to hate crimes.
- A growing number of our nation’s public school children are dependent upon free and reduced breakfast and lunch to meet their daily nutritional needs. The Trump Administration recently proposed rules to reduce student access to free and reduced meals at school. This rule is a direct threat to families in the 7th Congressional District. I will fight Donald Trump’s mean-spirited policies and work tirelessly to ensure essential nutrition programs—including SNAP—are protected and strengthened. I will also stand for universally free breakfast and lunch programs in our nation’s public schools.
- There is a large racial wealth gap that drives inequality in the Baltimore region. This wealth gap is due to historic and contemporary public policies and private sector practices that have marginalized black and brown communities. In Congress, I would support the American Opportunity Accounts Act (aka “baby bonds”), which deposits $1K into an interest-bearing savings account for every child at birth then makes additional deposits each year based on the child’s household income. Account proceeds would be made available to teens upon reaching age 18 and can be used for specific purposes like education and home ownership. My support for baby bond would be among other targeted measures designed to address wealth and income inequality.
- The federal government makes sizeable investments in pre-K through 21 education through reauthorization vehicles such as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), Head Start Act, the Higher Education Act, and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act. I would leverage these and other federal vehicles to support educational investments and enhancements that complement Kirwan Commission school improvement strategies being implemented at the state level. Because of the violence plaguing the Baltimore region, I support the Trauma-informed Schools Act, which would amend the ESEA to provide expanded support for trauma-informed programming in schools that have the potential to interrupt the cycle of violence. I believe that we need to expand career and technical education options that lead young people to work in living wage jobs or to start sustainable businesses. I support the 21st Century Youth Entrepreneurship Act, which expands entrepreneurship training and financial literacy programs in schools and a host of bills that help students obtain apprenticeships, industry-approved certifications, and other work-based learning programs. I am also a strong proponent of the community schools model with wrap-around social services and will work to secure the investments needed to ensure its success in the Baltimore region.
- The cost of higher education has become prohibitively expensive for too many students, causing them to exit college deeply indebted. The problem is compounded for those who do not secure high paying jobs after graduation. As a result, graduates spend most, if not all, or their working careers paying a heavy debt load, which deters too many from purchasing homes or saving adequately for retirement among other tradeoffs. Because debt-free college should be the goal, I applaud states that are making community colleges tuition-free and are covering the costs of books. In Congress, I would support the Debt Free College Act, a federal-state partnership that incentivizes four-year colleges to reduce costs and help students cover the complete cost of college without taking on debt. I would also support the expansion of Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, federal work-study subsidies, low-interest rate loan guarantees, and debt forgiveness programs for graduates working in public benefit sectors.
- The Baltimore region would benefit greatly from expanded federal investments in out of school time (after school, weekend and summer) opportunities for children, youths, and teens. From arts and entertainment to recreation and jobs, there is a great need to engage young people in supplemental learning and training opportunities that enrich their lives and enhance their in-school experiences. I support the expansion of 21st Century Community Learning Centers which provides grants for recreation centers, parks, and other entities providing local community-based education programs for kids. I would also introduce a House companion bill for Senator Cardin’s Youth Summer Jobs and Public Service Act among other measures.
- Social Security is an essential public insurance program that provides economic security for workers and their families in the event of retirement, disability, or death. But Social Security benefits are modest and need to be expanded to meet the needs of 21st century families. At the same time, Social Security is expected to experience a shortfall of approximately 25 cents for every dollar of promised benefits by 2035. For this reason, I support the Social Security 2100 Act, which would increase the annual Social Security cost of living adjustment and provide a two percent overall increase in monthly benefits. It would also extend the solvency of the trust funds for 75 years by gradually increasing worker and employer payroll contributions and requiring that earnings above $400K be subject to the payroll tax.
- Now that the Fight for $15 is being waged successfully in states and localities across the country, it’s time for the federal minimum wage of $7.25 to be increased. I stand for raising the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and for benchmarking annual increases to changes in the cost of living. Because a $15 minimum is just a start, I also support the adoption of living wage standards across the country.
- It’s hard for working families to get ahead when the tax code is stacked against them. It is unethical to force middle class families to subsidize the wealth of high-income earners through backend tax transfers like those in Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill. I stand for fair tax policies that make high net worth individuals and wealthy corporations pay their fair share of taxes while making it easier for low, moderate and middle-income families to build assets and achieve economic security.
- Caregiving is a major issue but federal policy solutions are largely absent. Parents of children are strapped by the high cost of childcare. Families caring for disabled adults and seniors are severely disadvantaged with few affordable options. Long term care is insufficient for the need. The caregiving workforce is overworked and severely underpaid. And, despite passage of the Family and Medical Leave Act, too many Americans are forced to take unpaid leave from work to care for sick family members. Our nation is not doing enough to resolve its caregiving crisis. For this reason, I stand for Universal Family Care, a social insurance-based approach to caregiving supports that would require workers and employers to pay into a fund that workers would then use to cover or subsidize the cost of care when needed over a lifetime. I will work to create a federal UFC that helps reduce the economic and emotional stress that typically caregiving process while also establishing standards for improving working conditions for caregiving professionals.
- Union membership has steeply declined over the past half century even though it is positively associated with higher wages, better working conditions, and a more secure retirement for those who belong. As the daughter of a former federal civil servant who belonged to a union and the beneficiary of labor market practices that unions have championed, I stand for strengthening unions, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to organize.
- The unfair gender pay inequities that are prevalent in the U.S. labor market shortchange women and contribute to their economic insecurity over a lifetime of work and into their retirement years. We can and should do better. To combat the gender pay gap, I stand for the Paycheck Fairness Act that has already passed the House. But I would also explore how companies of a certain size could accelerate closing the gap through new uses of technology and additional federal reporting requirements.
- The #MeToo movement has placed a spotlight on the problem of sexual exploitation and harassment in the labor market. The economic security of workers is threatened when their jobs or pay depend not on performance tied to their formal job descriptions but on their willingness to acquiesce to expectations of sexual favors. The federal government has a role in protecting workers from sexual harassment or exploitation stemming from unequal power dynamics in the workplace. I will work to strengthen regulations in this area so that workers can be free to earn without illicit pressure.
- People who have been imprisoned are returning to neighborhoods across the region in record numbers. Yet, the challenges of successfully reintegrating into family, community and work life remain high for many. The primary challenges are two-fold: evidence-based prisoner reentry programs are underfunded and there are too many legal and social barriers to re-employment of the formerly incarcerated. I will work to create a new federal funding stream to support quality prisoner reentry programs that successfully reintegrate men and women back into society. I will also work to expand employment opportunities for the formerly incarcerated.
- Climate change is real and is already having negative consequences for the Baltimore region. From increased flooding to shifting weather patterns, our district is not immune to the devastating effects of climate change. That is why I stand for smart growth development and green and clean infrastructure that uses sustainable solutions—such as plant, soil or permeable surface systems to manage storm water— to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change as well as for clean energy buildings, transportation, and electricity that reduce the carbon emissions exacerbating the climate crisis. The Green New Deal is a non-binding resolution that provides a sense of the Congress for resolving the crisis. I support it because it helps build the political will to address the crisis. I will also advance specific legislative proposals that move our district, state, and nation toward a carbon-neutral and net-zero energy future.
- The Baltimore region needs a large-scale public infrastructure investment program that revitalizes houses, repairs roads and bridges, universalizes Wifi and broadband access, creates jobs, and uses public transit to efficiently transport people to jobs and opportunity. This can be accomplished as a part of a national public infrastructure investment program with targeted local training and hiring requirements.
- Transit is the key to moving people to jobs and opportunities across the region and state and transit-oriented development promotes job creation while creating efficiencies in commuter travel. As such, transit is also a good way to reduce carbon emissions and help the environment. That is why I will work to secure federal investments to make regional and statewide transit systems a reality in Maryland.
- Like many metropolitan areas, affordable housing is of increasing concern across the 7th Congressional District. Unlike many metropolitan areas, our region can solve the problem by restoring and incentivizing occupation of the surplus of abandoned houses in Baltimore City. Toward this goal, I will work to leverage federal policies and resources to promote affordable housing by: 1) providing renovation subsidies for abandoned residential housing and older homes; 2) supporting a federal home buying program for distressed areas; 3) providing renovation and beautification assistance for older commercial corridors; 4) incentivizing businesses—especially supermarkets–to locate in older commercial corridors; and 5) incentivizing the creation of impact investment funds that can underwrite loans and grants that allow existing homeowners seeking to repair/renovate their homes. Although elements of several of these proposals exist in federal statute and regulation, they are poorly written, uncoordinated, and/or ineffectively implemented. Furthermore, federal urban revitalization programs have historically not required that the disproportionate share of economic beneficiaries from federal revitalization dollars are the residents who live in the eligible designated urban revitalization areas. My proposals would ensure that the majority of affordable homeownership and rental housing opportunities and job creation generated by federally-supported distressed community revitalization programs flow to long-term residents of our region, particularly lower- and moderate-income households. Additionally, investors and developers will be required achieve specific community benefits, rather than simply establish goals, in order to receive federal development funding. The success of this initiative will be measured by the extent to which the economic wellbeing of long-term residents is improved, rather than solely the physical conditions of neighborhoods.
- I believe that access to shelter is a human right. One person or family without a roof over their head is one too many. Yet, there are thousands of people are homeless in the Baltimore region. In Congress, I would explore, introduce, and support legislation to establish permanent housing solutions for those who are homeless.
- Because many of the necessities of modern life largely depend on internet access, I am committed to deploying federal policy to advance community Wifi solutions that make the internet universally available to residents. With different technologies and strategies for sharing access becoming available, now is the time for the federal government to promote workable community access strategies.
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