A constitutional law professor, a former local TV news anchor, a former State Department official, and a financial services and policy analyst are among the candidates crowding the field to succeed Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.
Nine Democrats, five Republicans and four third-party candidates are seeking Van Hollen’s seat, though the third-party candidates are for the General Election only. The names of the Democrats and Republicans who hope to win their party’s nomination will appear on the ballot for the April 26 primary.
Van Hollen, a Democrat, has served as the representative for District 8, which includes parts of Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties, since 2003. He is pursuing a bid to replace Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Democrat who is retiring.
Washington Jewish Week contacted the candidates with questions of interest to the Jewish community. Here are their responses.
Do you support using public funds to provide tax credits or vouchers to parents who enroll their children in private Jewish schools?
David Anderson (D), nonprofit executive: No
Kumar Barve (D), state delegate: Taxpayer federal education funding must be directed to our nation’s public schools with a focus on addressing the achievement gap in our education system and the career readiness of our nation’s young people. On a local level, however, there are public health, transportation and environmental issues associated with attendance at private schools that needs that to be examined.
Daniel Cox (R), small businessman: Yes, I am a strong advocate of both tax credits and/or vouchers for use in private education, whether religious or otherwise.
I have spent over 20 years advocating for private religious educational institutions and the rights of parents to determine their children’s education. The first time I testified before the Maryland General Assembly on behalf of parents’ right to private religious instruction I was only about 14 years old. Ten years ago I graduated from the pro-Israel private university dedicated to advance constitutional freedoms in the use of tax dollars for improving education in the United States, and one of my professors was an esteemed Jewish constitutional expert and Supreme Court lawyer with an Israel law office.
The law is clear, it is entirely constitutional to utilize tax credits or dollars for a parent’s decision to send their child where they prefer. There is no violation of the separation of church and state because the actor is the parent, not the state. The tax credits or vouchers follow the child and the instruction is under parental decision, thus allowing for religious instruction.
We must be willing to recognize that our education system can be improved greatly with the freedom of parents, who know what is best for their own children, to determine what school to use their taxes for in that child’s education.
Elizabeth Croydon (Green), comedienne: I strongly oppose the dissolution of public schools and the privatization of education. The best educational experience is guaranteed by the democratic empowerment of organized students, their parents and communities along with organized teachers, and exposure to diversity of backgrounds and culture.
The United States Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of religion. I affirm the right of each individual to the exercise of conscience and religion, while maintaining the constitutionally mandated separation of government and religion. I believe that federal, state, and local governments must remain neutral regarding religion.
I do not support vouchers for public money to be used for enrollment in any religious schools.
Charles T. Galloway III (Green), strategic planner: All parents have the responsibility to provide for their children, and to ensure that they are receiving the best education that they can provide or have access to. For communities, such as Jewish communities and others based on religious, ethnic, or ideological formations have the right to educate their children in the best way they see fit.
Currently all citizens pay into the tax system, which then finances the public education system, causing many parents and social organizations to pay doubly for education. In my opinion, exemptions from the tax burden, or credits to those under that burden, should be offered to special needs families, and other communities and groups where parents are paying out of pocket cost for alternatives to public education.
Tax paying parents that are not using the public school system should either not be charged for the public service, or they should be given relief from the dual burden that their families face.
Fortunately or unfortunately, this question brings up the more glaring issues of tax reform and education reform.
Ana Sol Gutierrez (D), state delegate: No. I am a strong supporter of funding public schools as they serve all students in our communities more equitably. Vouchers and tax credits take away much-needed public funds that educate all our children.
William Jawando (D), former Obama aide: No, I believe public funds should be for public schools. I am in favor of tax deductible donations and tax credits to non-profits that provide religious education options for families. I worked in the Dept. of Education where I helped fund head start and increased Pell Grants for students. We need to reform high stakes testing while maintaining high educational standards and provide universal early childhood education for all families.
Jeffrey Jones (R), pastor: Some school districts and metropolitan areas are exploring the issues of vouchers for sectarian school systems, and for the sake of common sense for the common good, encouraging a good education benefits the whole community. Our taxes are already going to help public schools, so a similar, to be fair across the board, could be considered. School costs are increasing tremendously, so we must continue to find good alternatives and proposals that keep that in mind.
Liz Matory (R), business consultant: I am a believer in school choice. Parents should not have to pay for their children’s education twice. Children should have equal access to quality education, regardless of their financial standings, and if a family believes that parochial or private schooling is best for their children, then they should have the ability to offer the choice to their children.
Kathleen Matthews (D), former TV news anchor: While I support federal funding of the DC Opportunity Scholarship because it places additional federal dollars into K-12 education, I do not support any program that could jeopardize funding of our local K-12 schools.
Jamie Raskin (D), constitutional law professor: Private schools generally, and Jewish day schools specifically, play a positive role not only in the lives of their students but in the flourishing of the broader community. There are, therefore, numerous secular public benefits that can legitimately be offered to private schools and their students beginning with basic services such as police protection, fire safety and rescue, water, and so on.
Beyond such essential infrastructural goods, many private Jewish schools today need public funding for additional security measures because we are living in an age of threats and vandalism. All students in America, regardless of whether they attend a public or private school, a secular or religious school, deserve to be safe from security threats, harassment and violence. Constitutionally speaking, it is a universal and secular public good to offer security training and assistance to school personnel and students across America. Thus, I support making U.S. Department of Homeland Security grants available for security improvements at all public and private schools in Maryland, including Jewish schools, to protect against terrorism and violence.
However, for both constitutional and policy reasons, I have been far more skeptical of diverting funding from public schools to private schools for educational and curricular purposes through various kinds of tax expenditure and voucher proposals. Public values and restrictions must follow public resources, and this is not always the most advantageous course for private institutions to take if they want to maintain their educational and institutional independence.
In general, I favor using public resources for strengthening and improving public institutions and staying clear of the Jeffersonian wall of separation between church and state.
Joel Rubin (D), former State Department official: I have a teaching certificate from Brandeis University and taught in the Peace Corps, as well as come from a family of public educators. My two oldest daughters are in the Montgomery County public school system and the third is on her way next year, and they also attend Hebrew school at our synagogue.
I firmly believe that education is the gateway to vibrant communities and a stronger economy, and because of this, I do not support any action that takes critical funds away from our public education system. We are very fortunate that Maryland is consistently ranked in the top three states for its public education because we invest in our public schools, and we must maintain this commitment.
Because of this, the consistent attempts by Republicans in Congress to undermine support for our public schools must be confronted. In reality, these efforts not only negatively impact low-income and disadvantaged communities, leading to an even larger disparity in educational opportunity and outcomes, but they also undermine the fabric of our crucial public education system. We are already grappling with an unacceptable achievement gap between high-income and low-income communities, harming the overall strength of our communities in the process. We need to address this by strengthening, not weakening our public education system. In Congress, I will do just that, by fighting against any attempts to abandon public education.
Aryeh Shudofsky (R), financial services and policy analyst: I support the same access and support for private school students as I do for public school students. No child should be deprived of a quality education because his or her family lacks the resources to send him or her to the appropriate school.
I also believe parents should have the final say on what is best for their children’s education. All taxpayers should have the same opportunity to use tax dollars to send their children to the school of their choosing — be it private or public.
However, I do not support a model where this system would force an increase in taxes on an already overtaxed population.
Shelly Skolnick (R), attorney: No as to federal funds. State and local governments are primarily responsible for K to 12 education; and they can decide whether to use their public funds for tax credits or vouchers.
David Trone (D), businessman: I support private Jewish schools and think they are very important. I know firsthand the value of religious education. My four children went to Hebrew school at Temple Beth Ami for many years. But, I don’t think our limited public resources should go towards exclusively for funding religious schools. We have great public schools in this district, and we should continue to support them.
Nancy Wallace (Green), government IT contractor: I support the separation of religion and government, and providing excellent public schools; religious schooling is a personal religious choice that should not have a cost to taxpayers and indirectly to our public schools.
Jasen Wunder (Libertarian), critical-care paramedic: No. I do not support public funding for anyone’s education.
What is your position on the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement?
Anderson: This effort is misguided at best and anti-Semitic at worst. I am completely opposed to singling out Israel for BDS. I will use all of my power as a member of Congress to oppose this effort.
Barve: I am firmly opposed to the BDS movement and am a strong supporter of Israel and its right to exist. I support public efforts to disavow the BDS movement as not only anti-Israel but anti-Semitic.
Dan Bolling (D), former Indiana congressional candidate: I have friends who support BDS. I tell them, go to Israel, as I did. Or at least, read Start-Up Nation (by Dan Senor and Saul Singer) — one of the most compelling and important books I’ve ever read. It’s not just about Israelis’ incredible successes in innovation, but also the essential character, the almost-genetic trait of speaking truth to power, and the tremendous ethnic diversity of Israel, perhaps unmatched in any other country. Then, let’s talk.
Look, Israelis aren’t perfect or blameless in the mess with Palestinians (among whom I have many friends, myself, both in the 8th District, and the West Bank). And yes, we are liable for holding Israel to a higher standard. But because there is some truth to the stereotypes — we all know Jews have a high average level of education; Nobel Prizes out the you-know-what — we should expect them to reach more nearly to perfection as a Nation than they do. But they will always be flawed, like the rest of us.
Look, Israelis are tough. They can take your criticisms. But what can we learn from them? In Start-Up Nation, if we’ll put your criticism on hold for a minute, Israel teaches us:
- How a flatter, less hierarchical military like the IDF is more effective and could save us billions.
- How our arid West can meet its water challenges through innovative technologies.
- and, from certain joint Arab/Palestinian-Jewish partnerships, believe it or not (notwithstanding the exact opposite impression in the media) we can even learn from the Israelis and their Palestinian partners, innovative ways to lessen our own divisions right here in America.
Cox: I had the privilege to volunteer at Georgetown University for CUFI in a counter-BDS, pro-Israel event where my teenagers and myself held pro-Israel signs and Israeli flags up and directed attendees and students to our event in support of Israel. I have supported a movement called Stop BDS, which is a positive outreach for campus youth to be trained in stopping cold the bigotry and misinformation about Israel, and to counter the false stigmatization. Get info at www.stopbds.com. We must defend Israel in the halls of higher education, as well as in business, trade, economic freedom and its right to not only exist but defend itself from its adversaries.
Croydon: I join the Jewish Voice for Peace and endorse the call for boycott, divestment and sanctions. It is a time-honored, effective, non-violent tactic I would endorse. Freedom, justice and equality for all people requires loving encouragement. This method of non-violent resistance stopped apartheid in South Africa. I support the BDS movement in carefully measured application to protect human rights for all world citizens.
Galloway: I am in favor of organizations of citizens embarking in peaceful methods to exact change, in order to promote equality and correction of injustice. I support any organization that is willing to work with political and social opposition in peaceful methods to resolve conflict and promote justice. I do not support any organization that uses bribes or unethical means to promote their causes.
I am running to be a representative of Maryland’s 8th District. I am not running to convince people to stop their boycotting or protest, as this is a foundational aspect of our society, and is the hallmark of freedom.
Gutierrez: Regardless of one’s view about the merits of the BDS movement, boycotts are constitutionally protected under the U.S. First Amendment. I believe that attempts to restrict boycotts against Israel or the settlements in the West Bank run afoul of constitutionally protected free speech. (As a state legislator, I will not support any type of resolution on the BDS movement as this is not a state public policy matter.)
Jawando: I do not support this movement.
Jones: Economic sanctions are a backbone of our culture. We have used bus boycotts for racial equality, grape boycotts for migrant workers, efforts for making changes in South Africa, etc. All of which have been used to persuade a change in policy or process or treatment of others. We don’t like it if it goes against us however, so the challenge is to recognize that the efforts related to boycotts, divestments and sanctions are used reasonably. It should be used to protect, to elevate, to bring a common good effect to the situation.
Matory: I appreciate the sentiment behind the movement, I believe that economic hardships impact the most vulnerable communities first. I support other peace-building, collaborative and grassroots means that better serve both the Israeli and Palestinian people.
Matthews: I cannot support any policy that threatens Israel’s very existence. The BDS movement isn’t going to lead to peace in the Middle East, and is damaging Israel’s economy and hurting our important ally.
Raskin: I strongly oppose BDS. The BDS strategy with which I am most familiar is the campaign to cut off Israeli professors, universities and cultural performers from contact with their counterparts in America and other countries.
Speaking as a constitutional law professor at American University for a quarter-century, this strategy of intellectual isolation and academic boycott of another society — especially a democracy — is something anathema to me. I have opposed it and will reject any efforts to shut down international academic exchange, discourse and collaboration with Israeli universities and professors. Refusing academic contacts with a people in order to punish its government is a total affront to free thought and intellectual progress.
Having just visited relatives in Israel in December, I am hoping to return there for a week or two this summer to teach at Haifa University where my law school has had a summer program on human rights and the rule of law. We have a lot more to gain from exchange and dialogue than isolation and boycott.
Generally speaking, the BDS movement begins with a false premise — that the problems facing Israelis and Palestinians in 2016 are analogous to those of South African apartheid in the 1980s — and then proceeds to a false policy conclusion, which is that political and social conditions will improve with the economic, political, and academic isolation of Israel. In fact, the BDS agenda can serve only to further polarize, embitter and divide peoples and communities searching for practical answers in the Middle East, a region which is wrestling with some of the most intractable and complex problems on earth, including state-sponsored terrorism, authoritarianism and religious fanaticism.
The people of Israel should not be isolated and vilified but bolstered in all efforts to defend democratic and pluralistic values, human rights, and the rule of law, all of which are under attack there. Progress between Israel and the Palestinian Authority will come with greater dialogue and cooperation, not more hatred and isolation.
As I understand it, a key plank in the BDS movement is rejection of a two-state solution. But I am fully committed to a two-state solution, which is not only the American, Israel, Palestinian and dominant international position, but the hope for concrete progress on the ground for both Israeli and Palestinian societies. This is something that was emphasized to me in Jerusalem in December by retired generals and intelligence officials, members of the Knesset, and Israeli and Arab citizens. Abandonment of a two-state solution is abandonment of hope for real progress.
Rubin: I have lived in Israel for a year of my life and visited 10 times. My family has deep connections to Israel, including many cousins – both sabras and those who made aliyah. I also studied there during college when I was an undergraduate at Brandeis University, led a high school teen tour there, and lived on a kibbutz for a summer. I am deeply committed to Israel’s long-term security and survival as a Jewish state with a vibrant democracy.
And as J Street’s founding political and government affairs director, I firmly believe that a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is in the direct interest of Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans. I believe that we American Jews have a crucial role to play in securing this outcome. Because of this, I oppose the global BDS movement, as it does not share in those fundamental principles.
However, as someone who has spent much of my life advocating for peace in the Middle East through active American diplomacy — as a congressional staffer, an officer with J Street, and as a top official at the State Department handling the House of Representatives — I vigorously oppose any attempts to blur the physical line between Israel and Israeli settlements. The West Bank is not Israel. It is disputed international territory — and successive bipartisan U.S. presidents have stood by this view, as well as current Israeli law, as Israel has not annexed the West Bank.
Only through a final diplomatic agreement forged by Israel and the Palestinians will the status of this territory be resolved. Until then, because of the current reality, I strongly oppose any legislation, such as that spearheaded by Rep. Pete Roskam (R-IL), that seeks to legitimate Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank by punishing our European allies, who distinguish between products made in Israel and those made in the West Bank.
Congress should not take any action that seeks to blur the line between settlement products and products made in Israel proper. Doing so makes it harder to oppose the global BDS movement, as then any Israeli product could be viewed as made in the settlements. Worse, it undermines the actual goal of not only U.S., but also Israeli and Palestinian policy, which is to achieve a two-state solution. It does so by ensuring that West Bank settlements are treated as part of Israel, thereby predetermining an outcome for the West Bank that should be resolved by the parties at the negotiating table.
Rather than catering to an intransigent settlement ideology that sustains the status quo and undermines peaceful compromise, we must be bold in our support of Israel and honest in our mutual friendship. Rather than sanctioning our allies in Europe for seeking a peaceful resolution, we should oppose the BDS movement as well as the settlements that stand in the way of peace. And we should not allow Congress to blur the lines between the West Bank and Israel.
Shudofsky: The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is a global effort to delegitimize the State of Israel and undermine its right to exist as a democratic Jewish state. BDS promotes hate, intolerance, and violence against the Jewish people.
It is imperative for the United States to actively oppose this type of discriminatory movement. Several states across the country have passed legislation to condemn BDS. Some have gone so far as to require state pension funds to divest from companies that support BDS, a step that would speak volumes if introduced and passed at the federal level. We must oppose the BDS movement with the full weight of the American government, and ensure that we are using our financial prowess to cripple the movement.
Skolnick: I oppose the BDS movement.
Trone: I condemn the BDS movement. It is a threat to Israel and a threat to universities. If Palestine wants to be taken seriously as a participant in peace talks, they need to find more productive ways to continue the conversation.
Wallace: I do not support the BDS movement as it will not work, hardens the positions on both sides, and diverts our attention from the more complex work of building peaceful coexistence, with women leading the cultures away from their spiral of violence and territoriality.
Wunder: No opinion
What would be your next step to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
Anderson: That is a difficult question to answer, as it seems to assume that the next step towards solving the conflict lies with the United States government. Peace will not occur until both sides are ready for it. Israel has offered the Palestinians generous peace terms at least twice in recent years, including in 2000 when Yasser Arafat rejected Prime Minister Barak’s offer and again in 2008 when Mahmoud Abbas rejected Ehud Olmert’s offer. Until the parties are each ready for peace, I will continue supporting Israel’s right to protect its people from outside aggression and terror, and encourage talks between the parties to resolve the conflict.
Another problem with the conflict is the increasing security pressure put on Israel because of the Iran nuclear deal. The fact that Iran will now have access to $100 billion to fund Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations as well as a go ahead to have a full scale nuclear program in 15 years makes it very difficult for Israel to make security concessions to the Palestinians. This is one of the many reasons that I oppose the deal. I am the only candidate in the race who has done so.
Barve: I support the State of Israel, and continue to support a two-state solution and peaceful diplomatic negotiations to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bolling: Pessimism is tempting to some who see the tragedy in Gaza, knifings in Jerusalem, radical young Palestinian (and radical young Israeli) men, and the decades of unfulfilled expectations of peace and normalcy in both communities. The news of conflict dominates so completely our perceptions of Israeli-Palestinian relations, that most Americans would be astonished to learn of an extensive and growing infrastructure of Israeli-Palestinian collaborations, quietly building pockets of partnership and trust. These are so important, because trust is an indispensable ingredient for progress. Just a few of these scores of impressive partnerships are : Middle East Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow ( MEET ); Valley of Peace Initiative; Seeds of Peace; Israel Palestine Cooperative For Economic Expansion; The Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce ( IPCC ); The YMCA Jerusalem Youth Chorus. The list goes on and on and on.
The U.S. is already supporting MEET. We should support more. Building trust is essential. These organizations do so.
John Kerry’s recently flawed effort to drive a relatively quick and completed two-state agreement calls to mind these observations : 1) scholarship on the durability of international peace agreements imposed by outside third-parties, is not encouraging. The central parties in the conflict MUST be the authors of any agreement that is to endure; and 2) George Mitchell’s success facilitating the peace accord in Northern Ireland, is often attributed to his calming — not bellicose — influence. His listening skills are legendary. Aggrieved parties are rarely happy to move to resolution without first being heard. And heard again. And again.
Cox: I begin with the recognition that we are all Jews, we are all Israel. When I traveled Eastern Europe for two months some time back as a young man, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau and Auschwitz III, as well as other Holocaust sites. I had already determined to always support Israel prior to going to those sites, but something cemented in me at those places where I understood to a new degree that though the world may forget, we must never forget and never allow this to happen again.
My Baltimore law office location is next to the Holocaust Memorial, which stands as a train depot in silent testimony to the terror of ripping families apart on the train platform, never to be seen again. I will always fight against such evil. To strongly advance the agenda and methodology of the State of Israel against its adversaries such that she is defended, and peace is obtained through strength, would be my approach.
I would do at least five things in Congress to support Israel. 1) Iran must be stopped from building a nuclear weapon and from its influence in funding terrorism, as it is constantly attempting to de-stabilize Israel and the region through Hezbollah. 2) Hamas is a terrorist group and I would work to eliminate its funding through Iran and Saudi Arabia by seeking to pass legislation that would freeze any such assets used to launder money to Hamas. 3) The arms being shipped to the Palestinians from Iran must be cut off and I would pressure the White House to use its power and influence to work with Israel to intercept suspected arms shipments. 4) I would work to unite leaders in both the Western and Middle Eastern nations against any attack on Israel, whether in words of disparagement or through terror. 5) To accomplish Israeli-Palestinian peace, we must require recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and its right to have Jerusalem as its eternal capital. Any entity which defies that right must be opposed, and if they utilize terror or violence, be destroyed.
Croydon: My next step to support the end of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to support Jill Stein’s resolve to establish a Palestine and Israel Truth and Reconciliation Commission to shift from an era of human rights violations to one uniting all parties to seek solutions together respecting the rights of all involved.
I support the Israeli political party Meretz calling for a return to 1967 borders. I support a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem. Like Jill Stein I appreciate the Meretz political party supporting the 2002 Arab Peace Proposal .
Galloway: I affirm the right of self-determination for both Palestinians and Israelis, which precludes the self-determination of one at the expense of the other. I recognize the historical and contemporary cultural diversity of Israeli-Palestinian society, including the religious heritage of Jews, Christians, Muslims and others. This is a significant part of the rich cultural legacy of all these peoples and it must be respected. To ensure this, I support equality before international law rather than appeals to religious faith as the fair basis on which claims to the land of Palestine-Israel are resolved.
Gutierrez: A resolution to the conflict cannot be achieved until the occupation of the Palestinian territories ends, and full democracy, equality, human rights and security are provided for everyone who lives in Israel-Palestine.
Jawando: I believe we need to empower moderate and young voices on both sides of the conflict and try to forge common ground. We need to ensure the protection of Israel and put an end to the violence while maintaining dialogue between both sides so we can move towards a peaceful solution.
Jones: Sitting down at a table and talking about the issue is still the best way to resolve differences. It’s more complex than a family network, or marriage breaking up issue. Conflicts are resolved by being present and understanding of the causes, and beginning to move towards a healthy compromise with common sense and for the bigger picture common good. It requires that the effected persons are included in that discussion, counseling, negation effort.
Matory: The best solutions come from within, not outside, which is why I would do what I can to support the efforts of organizations within Israel that are using innovative and community-focused solutions to ensure lasting peace for future generations. We owe it to the next generations to leave peace as our legacy, but I do respect the sovereignty of Israel, and believe that she remains our strongest ally.
Matthews: I believe that the U.S. must play a leading role in helping to facilitate discussions resulting in a two-state solution with an internationally recognized border between Israel and an independent Palestinian state. I strongly believe that this can only be accomplished with bilateral talks between both parties and unilateral action will not lead to lasting peace.
To that end, the U.S. must support and strengthen moderate Palestinian leadership that will allow both sides to work together to forge a lasting peace deal to improve the lives of all residents. At the same time, the U.S. must continue to urge Israeli leadership to stop settlement activity in the West Bank so that major changes in the status quo do not continue to undermine negotiations before they have a chance to begin.
Raskin: Surely our goal today must be a two-state solution that not only protects the inviolable security and safety of our historic partner Israel as a democratic Jewish state, but recognizes the just demands of the Palestinian population to a safe and secure homeland of its own that is based on human rights, democratic self-government, and the rule of law. To get there, we will likely need direct, honest and thoroughgoing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, without preconditions and political games, which then lead to a comprehensive regional approach to a workable two-state solution.
America has been a steadfast strategic and political ally to Israel and a key actor in prior peace agreements; we must redouble our efforts not only to guarantee Israeli security against terror but to assist in accomplishment of a comprehensive settlement for peace, security, human rights, and the rule of law for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Rubin: Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are at an impasse, and it’s crucial that the United States not pull back from the process, lest the situation descend into further violence. Therefore, the U.S. should publicly share its vision of what a final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could look like. This would be based upon what both parties have already agreed to, and would be done in order to engage the broader public about the physical nature of a two-state solution. Time for peace is running out, and the information needed for a productive public debate that provides political space for the hard decisions to be made about the endgame is long overdue.
As a member of Congress, I would work actively with advocates for peace to create public support for this vision. And I would work tirelessly to press the White House and the State Department to develop a comprehensive set of parameters for negotiation and benchmarks to be met by all the parties that would drive the negotiation process towards this vision. Doing so would galvanize advocates for peace in Israel, amongst the Palestinians, and in the broader Arab world as well — key ingredients to ensuring that those most directly affected by this conflict are empowered to resolve it. And lastly, doing so would set a new baseline for the next administration, helping to facilitate peacemaking, rather than starting back at square one with a new president.
Shudofsky: It’s important to remember that the Middle East conflict cannot be solved by forcing unwilling parties to the negotiating table.
But America can do a lot to encourage progress. Congress and the administration should insist that all terrorist entities renounce and relinquish their terrorist activities. A legitimate peace agreement will not be possible until groups like Hamas lay down their arms and the Palestinian Authority rejects these violent groups and their beliefs. It is also necessary for the Palestinian Authority to publicly accept the legitimacy of Israel and vow to defend her right to exist.
If it becomes necessary, the United States should make foreign aid to the Palestinian Authority contingent upon sweeping renunciation of terrorist activities and the acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. The U.S. should also encourage its allies to do the same.
Skolnick: Encourage the rapid economic development of the West Bank with the assistance of Israel, Europe and the United States, to show the benefits of peaceful coexistence.
Trone: I think that reasonable people from all political viewpoints can agree that we need a two-state solution that ensures security for Israelis and sovereignty for Palestinians. Unfortunately, there’s no quick and easy answer for how to accomplish this. But one thing we can do to get the process started, is to start to rebuild trust between the two communities. There’s no reason why we can’t have small trust-building measures. For example, we can work to integrate Israel’s Palestinian citizens into Israeli society and the economy. We know that many diplomats are working with moderate Palestinians, and that’s a good step to solve the conflict.
Wallace: I would put women’s rights at the center of American advocacy, as a deep cultural shift is needed on both sides to change the values and strategic goals to a fundamental respect for human rights and dignity in all people including our most vulnerable people, women and girls. Any situation so gender-imbalanced as the dominant, territorially oriented conflict-focused cultures on both sides has little historical chance of resolution. The most peaceful societies historically and today have an equal or dominant role by women in the home and public affairs. The first step is respect for human life regardless of ideology, which means the U.S. should encourage, train and support women to make that a reality at all levels and deal with women leaders locally.
Wunder: This is an issue between Israel and Palestine. The United States should not be involved. I support a peaceful resolution to any and all conflicts.
If elected, what would you do to improve the Metro system in order to make it more user-friendly, cost-effective and efficient? Also, what would you do to alleviate traffic congestion on Maryland roads and highways?
Anderson: There are four main problems with Metro. The first is finances. The system is under-financed and this is projected to increase in the future. The solution is a combination of fare increases and increased funding. The second issue is repairs. Right now, we want a world class subway that is accessible late at night and on weekends. But that means that we simply don’t have enough time for repairs. Single tracking during the day isn’t a viable long term solution. We should consider limiting hours on the weekends and evenings in order to ensure less disruptions during the day. The third problem is the culture of the workforce. Numerous news reports have commented that there is a toxic culture that leads to dangerous conditions for riders. I support a top-down review of the staff from an outside and independent consultant to recommend fixes. Finally, there are service issues that need to be addressed for the Red Line. For example, all Red Line trains should go to Shady Grove instead of many of them stopping at Grosvenor. This is a huge issue for those in upper Montgomery county as well as an increasing number of riders who drive in from Frederick county.
Barve: As Chairman of the Maryland House Environment and Transportation Committee, I am leading efforts to improve our public transit and roads. Metro requires regional cooperation and a long term regional prioritization plan as well as increased and more targeted funding. The new Metro General Manager, Paul Wiedefeld, recently testified before me, and I support his focus on safety, communication and reliability. The political leadership needs to recognize the importance of Metro as the region’s economic engine and coalesce behind a regional solution. I am a long time supporter of the Purple Line, not only as a needed public transit option but as an essential economic development project. I also support the introduction of Bus Rapid Transit to our region as well as key projects such as the Corridor Cities Transitway.
Bolling: Two of the important roles Congress can play relate to the no-longer-so-futuristic implementation of on-demand, self-driving vehicles, and to telecommuting. Congress should not be a hindrance, but a facilitator of the complex, and not-so-far-off need to integrate automated cars and buses into our traffic. Simultaneously, we need to plan far in advance for retraining any drivers who might be displaced, into other similar good-paying public employment (there is a surfeit, still, of unmet public needs in infrastructure, early childhood education, extended school years for some, where employees lost from transport could find new, remunerative careers.) Too futuristic ? OK, here’s the other, much more immediate priority: More telecommuting.
The federal Government has been a leader, but it can do more to keep more workers off the roads, and productively on-the-job, in, or near, their own homes. Research consistently confirms telecommuters are more productive at home than in the office, in part because they save 1-2 hours of drive time daily. Congress should support research on telecommuting’s benefits, and scaled-up implementation, and play an even more forward-leaning role in expanding this win-win-win (family time/productivity/green) trend.
Cox: We live in the region of one of the greatest cities on earth, yet millions have to fight for hours each day just to get to work and home again. If elected, I will bring immediate pressure to fully fund and promptly build the Purple Line, as well as seriously work for funding for a Metro line extending from Shady Grove north to Frederick with multiple stops to be more user-friendly.
Costs can be alleviated through a joint effort with Maryland and the federal government to appropriate sufficient revenue, to follow Governor Hogan’s plans for cost-effective measures in those submitting bids, and with recouping the costs over time through Metro ticket sales.
Furthermore, I support an immediate funding for and widening of I-270, and potentially additional parts of the Capital Beltway, to ensure the constitutional mandate of adequate construction and maintenance of roads and highways is met. It is unacceptable that the budget of the United States does not more adequately address the traffic congestion in the area of its seat of government and I will work to change that promptly if elected.
Croydon: I would halt hiking fares without improving service. My father, like many Americans, faces a challenging disability when it comes to mobility. I would encourage priority be given to maintaining handicap accessible entrances and exits. I would encourage the improvement of cellular service. Where it is applicable I encourage solar power to maintain lighted walk ways and parking lots. I would apply eco-friendly solutions to fuel and power issues. Low income, seniors, students and folks with crippling disabilities would enjoy deeper discounts. I would empower stations to better handle peak flows . Expansion would involve the care and planning to include cost effective eco-friendly solutions including alternative fuel for buses.
What would I do to to alleviate traffic congestion on Marylands roads and highways? The first action I would take to avoid traffic congestion in Maryland is to encourage further mass transit, walking and biking. There are still stretches of road in Maryland where the sidewalk abruptly ends making it difficult for people both with and without disabilities to traverse. I would utilize a carbon tax that would encourage alternative fuels and make mass transit the affordable alternative. I would dedicate more lanes to cycling. Reduce energy intensive transportation. Give subsidies to commuters that cycle, walk, car pool, take mass transit. Fund buy back programs to reduce vehicles that cause the most pollution. Design green streets. Encourage railways over trucks to ship freight. Further encourage safety regulations that make cycling and walking friendlier while increasing HOV lanes.
Galloway: I have always loved traveling on the Metro, and I have frequently over the last 25 years of my life. I’ve had the experience of comparing the D.C. Metro to that of Germany’s, Paris’, and London’s and I must say with resolve that our D.C. Metro does rank amongst the best in design and effectiveness. I admit, however, that there is ALWAYS room to improve efficiencies and user friendliness. Your question has three parts: user-friendliness, cost effectiveness, and efficiency. Oftentimes it is difficult for administrators and leadership to choose the correct combination of intangibles to focus on, which causes the overall success rating (by the people who use the transit lines) to vary between different peoples. Below is what I would focus on in order to encourage a balanced approach.
- User Friendliness –
• The Metro system is due for a technological update. The current Android and Apple applications receive high ratings for the newest version. The app solves many of the problems that commuters had previously experienced, but it is in need of a GUI update. The app also is not terribly accurate for all user of smart phones, however that could be due to the smartphone of the user. The most logical and enriching item that the application needs is a way for users to purchase Metro tickets, or to have a direct pay via smartphone. Not only would the Metro system function more optimally for commuters, but this would also relieve bus and train commuters if the technology proves effective.
• I agree and support the recent decision to fund the acquisition of new rail cars. The next series of rails cars (7000 series) will be a step in the right direction and proves that the WMATA are listening to commuters’ concerns and comfort.
• I will support “Free Metro” Days where non-commuters are given the opportunity to ride the Metro for a few days a year. This would also increase tourism in and around D.C., and would also show people how easy it is to navigate the rails. I view this initiative as a marketing and exposure tool.
• I will be an advocate for WMATA partnerships with car sharing and taxiing corporations so as to give the commuters extra options for travel and work.
- Cost Effectiveness –
• I will be a proud supporter of any research that seeks to solve the Metro Rail’s power outages.
• I will support and promote research into renewable energies, solar, and other methods of power generation to power the Metro.
- Efficiency –
• I will resolve that the WMATA should have a vested interest in creating a lasting technological system that allows users to pay via apps. This would decrease wait times, give commuters more margin of error between Metro times, and would decrease the cost of paper, machines, and meters. By eliminating items that require frequent maintenance and create waste, it would be wise for the WMATA to develop technologies that make our nation more green. If this one idea were instituted the Metro would be able to charge advertising services to companies on the Metro as well as the smart phone applications, it would decrease the maintenance cost of the machines that keep consumers purchasing the rail tickets, and it would optimize the time of the travelers.
One of the most aggravating components of living in the D.C. metro area is the traffic congestion on the roads. In conjunction with outrages commute times Americans have to deal with familial strain, fatigue, high stress, and unhealthy lifestyles that are, in some part, blamed on long commute times. This is a very big issue in the 8th District that encompasses parts of 270, 495, and 70, as well as many main arteries around the district.
To fix this problem I will promote a 3 point plan to lower traffic in our district, and the rest of Maryland.
- Promote teleworking with corporate incentives
• I will promote teleworking policies, and work with Maryland state representatives to create statewide corporate incentives, awards and rewards, for those companies who institute aggressive teleworking policies.
• I will support and encourage input and suggestions from the local residents on ideas for teleworking and corporate incentives.
- Promote workplace “Satellite Office Shares” in metropolitan suburbs and Community Digital & Electronic Sites (Collaborative worksites)
• I will promote Corporate “Office Shares” where employees can maintain a desk closer to their home locations, by which companies can pay for leased space for their employees. This will cut traffic times, gas and oil use, and will decrease road congestion.
• I will promote, free to the community, digital and electronic sites where everyone can use Internet access, printers, and other office tools. I would promote these to be offered in tandem to libraries, community centers, and I would seek organizations to offer/fund them to the community at large.
- Extending Metro Line from MoCo to Frederick Counties, Stafford County, and to BWI (2020+)
• I will be an advocate in extending the Metro lines upwards to BWI and also into Frederick City, albeit on a schedule conducive to monetary efficiency. I don’t think this will be initiated by 2019, but by 2020 the amount of growth in Maryland will certainly warrant Metro extensions to both Frederick, MD and Stafford, VA which are two places slammed the hardest by rush hour traffic.
Gutierrez: We must improve management of overall Metro system — operations, fiscal management, safety, maintenance. Fares must be maintained at current levels until customer service and satisfaction are improved. Call on independent transit experts to audit and recommend corrective actions.
We must commit to significant investment and expansion of transit throughout the region; implement proven congestion reduction practices at key intersections during rush hours; establish quick response standards and services to clear accidents on roads and highways quickly.
Jawando: I support the Purple Line which should alleviate some traffic that Metro receives, helping make it more efficient for passengers to get to and from work on time. In terms of alleviating traffic congestion we need to invest in repairing our roads and bridges, but you’re not going to pave your way out of traffic congestion. We need multi-modal traffic options to get cars off the road. That means improving the Metro, building the Purple Line, and expanding rapid-bus transit and dedicated bus lanes that serve all communities.
Jones: We have to continue to support Metro’s efforts to modernize the system. We can applaud the progress being made on security systems and the monitoring of the whole network. Expanding the Metro to more places, like extending the Red Line past Shady Grove to reach more of the upper county and closer to Frederick and Carroll counties would help provide some transportation help to the 8th District. We need to continue to develop the Purple Line so travel can be easier east to west. We need a campaign that will convince more people to use commuter services, ride sharing, buses, etc. The challenge is people want flexibility if they need to leave earlier than the ride. Support for Uber rides and other alternative forms of transportation must be encouraged.
Matory: It is clear that with our population growth and community needs, we must reinvest in our public transportation network. Though WMATA has its own hierarchy, I would support streamlining procedures to ensure that the system is running in the most cost-effective and efficient way to best serve our region. Because of the importance and interconnectedness of the Baltimore and D.C. metropolitan region, I would work with the regional representatives for investment in major thoroughfares and investigate whether we can invest in light rail and the like.
Matthews: Keeping Metro safe and running will be a top priority of mine in Congress as thousands of 8th district residents rely on the system everyday. As a radio editorial director, I advocated building Metro 40 years ago, and as a reporter, I covered Metro accidents. We must continue to invest in this critical mass transit system.
To begin with, the federal government needs to properly fund the Metro, not slash funding like many Republicans have proposed. At the same time I would also look to work with stakeholders in all three board represented jurisdictions to find a better management and administrative structure.
I will also look to expand the system so it reaches more people so we can get more cars off the road. This is why I support the creation of the Purple Line which will increase capacity and accessibility to mass transit across Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties.
Raskin: My wife Sarah and I decided long ago to live near the Metro and we are ardent advocates and users of public transportation in our area. If elected, I would be able to ride the Metro to work on Capitol Hill, door-to-door, within 40 minutes — but only if the system is running on time!
In order to improve our badly ailing Metro system, we need the new leadership there to bring a laser-like focus on improving safety, on-time performance and the rider’s overall experience. When I was a kid, I looked forward to riding Metro as a swift, smooth and space-age style adventure. Today, riding the Metro is far too often crowded, plagued by escalator breakdowns and track closures, and even dangerous to life and limb. The management needs to get its act together, to invest meaningfully in the Metro infrastructure, the rider’s experience and the recruitment and retention of the best possible workforce.
The paramount objective must be to dramatically improve the safety culture within Metro’s management and workforce. Specifically, we need to make long-overdue improvements to the badly flawed Rail-Operation Control Center, which is the nerve center of the whole system. We need to arrive at a reliable and continuous funding stream to make these changes possible and to provide for serious and effective long-term planning.
As a member of Congress devoted to efficient mass transit, I would work to secure the stable funding stream and to press for the passenger safety, anti-crime, on-time arrival, and stable funding goals necessary to restore Metro to its once-and-future glory. As a Metro rider I would personally monitor changes in different areas of need and insist upon building the most beautiful and efficient system in the world.
I have been an effective legislative champion of the Purple Line, which will open a critical east-west transit possibility for hundreds of thousands of people and relieve traffic congestion. I have also fought successfully for numerous policy and design reforms to promote bicycle lanes, bike safety and more pedestrian-friendly development. I have been a leading champion and principal sponsor of anti-drunk driving legislation, such as the ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers, and have had some important successes in improving road safety.
As a member of Congress from Montgomery, Frederick and Carroll Counties, I would make it my responsibility to bring maximum federal support and funding for the transportation projects, whether highway, road or transit, that Maryland and our counties decide are necessary in conjunction with regional partners. I will also champion and press hard with my friend Congressman John Sarbanes for more telecommuting programs within the federal workforce to relieve traffic congestion and improve work performance.
I will also be an advocate for innovative use of phone apps and other technologies to predict, monitor, stagger and redirect the flow of traffic.
Rubin: I believe transportation is a quality of life issue that affects everyone, whether you take public transportation, ride your bike, or drive a car. I’ve lived in the 8th District for over ten years with my family, and before I decided to run for Congress, I would take the Red Line to work nearly every day — for nearly 20 years. I personally understand the frustrations that many have with our public transit system and congestion on our roads and highways. We need to move toward a transportation network that is safe, predictable, and environmentally sound.
If elected, I would support legislation like the GROW AMERICA Act that invests $170 billion more than the transportation bill that Congress passed not long ago. Overall, this bill invests $478 billion over six years to help rebuild our highways, bridges, transit, and rail systems. Of that, $115 billion goes to public transportation alone, making it easier for people to get to work, school, and to be connected to their communities, such as via the Purple Line. It would provide more regional rail opportunities for people living in high traffic routes between cities and towns, like in the 8th District, cutting down on traffic and pollution. And it would promote innovation to get better results from the money we currently invest.
Budget context for this effort matters as well, and I will also fight every day to ensure that we get our overall spending priorities right. We must lift the budget caps on non-defense spending that are crippling our ability to innovate and invest. I will work tirelessly to lift these caps, as well as to ensure that we stop wasting tens of billions of dollars on weapons systems that don’t defeat current terrorist threats, such as our over bloated nuclear weapons infrastructure. We must act boldly to improve and innovate our public transportation system and need the resources to do so in order to alleviate the terrible congestion we deal with on a daily basis.
Shudofsky: These two issues are interconnected. The more people take public transportation, the more efficient the system becomes, and the more cars are removed from our roads. There are many things preventing this shift, including cost. Currently, federal tax policy makes driving to work more affordable for some than taking mass transit. Public and private sector employers have tried to incentivize the use of public transportation via Metro benefits. Unfortunately, favorable tax treatment does nothing to address an even larger problem — access.
With many people living off the main arteries of our transportation systems, many commuters are left with little or no choice but to opt for private transportation. Effective investment in our transportation systems, including the new Purple Line, will go a long way toward relieving the congestion that so many people in Maryland face every day by opening the accessibility of public transportation to many more D.C. metro-area commuters.
Skolnick: In my campaign, I have proposed federal grants to (a) construct bus rider buildings at Metrorail stations to increase use of commuter and local buses, and (b) support a pilot program of 50% hush hour fares immediately before and after revised weekday rush hours to reduce congestion. Also, I have proposed bus lane tolls on the far left lane of interstate highways to reduce congestion, generate revenue for transportation projects and increase use of commuter buses.
Trone: We do not need a rocket scientist to tell us we need to repair our infrastructure now. Voters know it; politicians know it. The problem is how we fund our infrastructure. We need an Infrastructure Bank that is independent of Congress so that our infrastructure isn’t held hostage to partisan bickering. Legislation like Congressman John Delaney’s Infrastructure Bill is a good example of innovative governance we can use to repair our roads and rails now.
We need the Purple Line so people who live in Silver Spring do not have to go around the entire District to get to Shady Grove. That’s absurd. There are already good ideas out there for improving our transportation system. The rapid bus line on Rockville Pike is a good first step. It not only gives buses a priority lane, but it will encourage people to take the bus instead of their cars.
Wallace: I would reduce Metro fares significantly, with savings from efficiency initiatives mandated by Congress in DoD, where I worked on logistics and acquisition efficiency for four-and-a-half years. There is much promise in DoD’s budget to maintain a strong, and even more capable defense by increasing accountability and trimming waste, with upwards of $10 billion that can be saved per year. To relieve traffic congestion, we need to refocus our local economic development on quality of life instead of number of people, shifting to a local, decentralized, neighborhood friendly economic prosperity model. This would also involve quick rollout of bus rapid transit, and completing a safe bicycle/pedestrian grid throughout the D.C. area.
Wunder: Privatization. Private companies will cut costs and provide a more efficient means of transportation. All this while eliminating the tax payer burden.
How would you handle homelessness and affordable housing in the 8th district?
Anderson: This is a complex problem that requires a multi-disiplinary solution. We need to coordinate efforts in mental health, drug addiction, transitional and permanent housing, employment opportunities with living wage jobs, veterans services, and other social services.
Barve: The 8th District is a vast area stretching from the D.C. to the Pennsylvania border. Much of Frederick County has taken on characteristics of northern Montgomery County. We need to continue to promote smart growth around transit centers but also incorporate affordable housing units in areas where residents have access to service oriented employment opportunities. We need need to improve access to mental heath services and combat our heroin and opiate crisis which is often linked to homelessness.
Cox: I believe strongly, just like the heroin epidemic, homelessness is a solvable issue on the local level. I would work to use funds saved from waste in the Department of Housing and Development (HUD) and author legislation to direct some of those funds to private, local and state actors, including faith-based organizations involved in alleviating this problem, as grants to reduce homelessness.
Additionally, the district’s housing is unaffordable for so many because of high property taxes and excessive regulation placed on builders and home purchasers. I would propose a dollar for dollar tax credit for landlords who rent their homes at below-market rates to indigents and low-income residents. I also believe that taxes must be reduced, and county governments should be incentivized to reduce the property tax burdens on our residents. Our citizens simply cannot afford the rising costs of owning a home whose tax payment is bigger than their parents’ entire house payment used to be just thirty years ago. This is unacceptable.
As congressman, I will work to provide a dollar for dollar funding to county governments which reduce the property taxes of residents by at least 50% or eliminate them altogether like several states that are successfully encouraging private home ownership. The American dream of home ownership is at stake in Washington’s backyard. We must make housing affordable.
Croydon: I would continue Van Hollen’s dedication to finding housing for homeless veterans and their families. I would initiate and encourage programs that end homelessness before it begins including raising the minimum wage and inventing eco-friendly sustainable jobs. Access to housing should be free from discrimination, including, but not limited to, ethnicity, race, cultural background, language, class, income, age, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, religion, political or other opinion, ability, health, status, or other personal characteristic or circumstance. Undocumented homeless people need new creative programs to help them end their office cycle of homelessness by allowing them entry into programs that give them the ability to return to a documented existence.
I would explore working relationships with banks to invent creative solutions for homeless families utilizing empty foreclosed homes. Low income housing would be made as green and self sustaining as possible. I would encourage new innovative and effective programs to provide people with the infrastructure of mental health and life skills. Gardening alternative solutions to utilities such as solar power will be employed. Subsidize private developers that include affordable housing in their plans.
Galloway: I know quite a few people who have been homeless in the past, and frankly I have faced the doom of possible homelessness as well. I was very fortunate to have loving family members who supported me with support, and a warm embrace. So, to say the least, homelessness is a critical issue facing our country, but there are things that we can do to improve our efforts to give people other options.
Before I answer this question with a list of things that I would do, and things that I believe people would support in order to fight homelessness. I would like to explain a stance that I have on building communities, living sustainably, and leveraging technology to increase the standard of living in the U.S.
I am an advocate of the Tiny House movement, where people leave behind large homes and mortgages in exchange for a minimalist (of material things) lifestyle. I am also an advocate of sustainable building methods, sustainable agriculture, sustainable energy, and the building of sustainability operating communities. I believe that a combination of smaller footprints, smaller homes, the movement away from mortgages, and toward living within one’s means is the way of a successful future for many who would otherwise fall into debt and strife. I also feel strongly that residents should be given free public instruction (via volunteers or supporting organizations) on sustainable farming, permaculture, and other methods of growing their own food.
By instituting a new way of viewing living standards, I believe that homeless residents, as well as those facing possible homelessness, would find a lifestyle much more suitable for financial challenges.
I will be a strong support of organizations that seek to build a few green communities that would offer homeless residents a place to live and grow their own gardens, while looking for viable work. I would promote all of those sustainable principles stated previously in order to help the homeless get back on their feet. I will be a supporter of volunteer organizations that seek to help homeless residents find full time employment, suitable work clothes, as well as free drug addiction treatment and counseling.
One of the key struggles of our homeless, especially those who have served in the military, is the ability to find work. After ensuring that our friends are well fed, properly hydrated, housed, and have basic health needs met, it is essential that we help them gain the confidence that they need to get back on their feet. By supporting them in finding jobs we will be effectively empowering the community, making it stronger and more resilient. The most impressive outcome of helping the homeless and impoverished will be the establishment of strong communities where all residents understand that there are others who are willing to help.
These are a list of things that I am personally committed to doing within the next 10 years whether I am elected or not. However, if elected I will have the opportunity to commit myself to helping our mankind in this way much sooner.
- I will support the funding of the Nation House Trust Fund, created by congress in 2008, which could create up to 1 million affordable homes in 10 years. For a reference, please see: nlihc.org/issues/nhtf.
- Personally commit to fundraising for homeless supporting organizations that have a higher than 90% allocation of funds to homeless projects.
- Personally commit to furthering tiny house projects for the homeless, as well as locating lands that the homeless can have their tiny houses on.
- I will be an advocate of sustainable agriculture, permaculture, and gardening methods so that families and communities can grow food, both for the homeless and themselves.
- I will be an advocate for the use and re-purposing of abandoned homes and city/state owned houses for the purpose of homeless care.
- I will be a supporter of prevention and stability counseling for district residents.
- I will seek community partners to build a homelessness task force, who would discuss and implement methods to combat nationwide homeless, and I would personally introduce a bill in the House to further those suggestions.
Gutierrez: We must officially commit to maintaining current levels of affordable housing (zero reduction of available affordable units in MoCo); must increase incentives and investment of public funds to create more affordable housing, e.g., the housing first movement for the homeless, a very promising D.C. government initiative.
Jawando: One place to start is by increasing federal funding we dedicate towards affordable housing and homelessness grants which has been in decline for the past decade. We need to reverse the sequestration which hurt HUD’s ability to serve and stably provide low-income families with housing options. I also think we need to provide more support to the VA’s efforts in ending veteran homelessness.
Jones: We could use legislation and funding to allow for transition of old churches, schools, shopping centers, office spaces into housing for homeless and low income units. We are seeing some of this in the District by some churches restyling their buildings for this purpose. Housing costs in some parts of District 8 are extremely high and we will have to make provision for that. It will also involve good transportation systems to enable people from the housing units to get to work opportunities. Portable and modular housing units are being developed and we might be able to work at improving zoning laws to make that happen. Should they be developed where there is room to grow.
Matory: Homelessness is an issue from Silver Spring to Westminster. Even though there is great affluence, we also have great need. Many residents who find themselves homeless could get back on their feet if they had stable work and home situations. There are many non-profit and government agencies who are hard at work to help, particularly, women, families, and veterans stability. I would work to support the programs, but also, focus on rebuilding our economy to stop the cycle of poverty and economic insecurity.
Matthews: Ensuring a quality supply of affordable housing is the only way to ensure that the 8th can grow and attract younger workers and families. Many of the policies that will ensure a quality housing stock are state and local issues, but in general I am a strong advocate of transit-focused development. To that end, in Congress I will work to ensure that the Purple Line becomes a reality and work to make sure that we properly fund transit in the district and develop affordable housing near transit stops.
As a reporter, I covered some of the early advocates for serving the needs of the homeless, and as a member of the Board of Catholic Charities I helped raise money and awareness for the needs of homeless families for more than a decade.
Homelessness continues to be a serious problem in the region, but we are seeing innovative programs around the country that show a real path to ending homelessness. Utah’s Housing First approach should serve as a model and shows that homelessness is not an intractable problem.
Raskin: I have introduced and pushed numerous pieces of state legislation that have advanced affordable housing goals, including bills to require that certain numbers of units be set aside in condo conversions for older and disabled tenants to continue renting and that all tenants be apprised of the imminent new price of their units after the condo conversion is complete. This allows for satisfactory personal planning. I also introduced legislation to provide for creation of housing land trusts in the state, an innovation that also protects and preserves the stock of affordable housing.
As a member of the U.S. House, I will champion what I am calling a “Green Deal,” a massive investment in America’s ailing infrastructure in a way that promotes key environmental values and social priorities. A key aspect of this process is to improve the quality and accessibility of housing in our communities through:
- Working for increased funding for programs like HOME and the National Housing Trust Fund to increase, preserve, and improve the stock of affordable housing in order to sustain the Housing First model;
- Supporting the Federal Housing Administration and other federal mortgage financing programs that help make it possible for middle-income Americans to purchase homes;
- Policies to expand the stock of affordable housing for low-income residents by putting unemployed and underemployed people to work in renovating and weatherizing older housing stock;
- Policies to address the mental health and substance abuse and addiction dimensions of the homelessness crisis;
- Maintaining strong federal backing for a vibrant home mortgage market to facilitate home ownership based on responsible lending;
- Continuing to strengthen and adequately fund robust enforcement of our fair housing laws;
- Increasing funding for lead paint eradication and other healthy home initiatives;
- Bolstering credit union, food co-ops, farmers’ markets, benefit corporations, worker-owned enterprises and other institutions within the “cooperative economy” to increase economic participation and membership;
- Preventing homelessness by ensuring that Americans have the opportunity to earn wages that provide an income sufficient to afford decent housing, whether by renting or owning. So I will work for policies of financial inclusion and economic empowerment to increase the minimum wage, revitalize the right to organize, make small business loans more readily available to start-ups, dramatically reduce student loan debt, and generally increase the purchasing power of working families.
Rubin: Tikkun olam, or, repairing the world, has motivated me my entire life. My Jewish faith and experiences in the Peace Corps in Central America taught me that no matter what the circumstances, all people are equal and are inherently deserving of dignity and respect. I personally view ending homelessness and poverty as a moral duty, but it’s clear that many in Congress see things differently.
We must first acknowledge that homelessness is not an unsolvable problem, but that Republicans in Congress are making it increasingly difficult to end by continuing to push for funding cuts to programs that directly help low-income communities — early childhood education, food stamps, housing vouchers, and on and on.
For instance, in December, the Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless, as part of a nationwide effort, announced that it had effectively ended homelessness for area veterans and their families. In Congress, I would ensure that organizations focused on homelessness, employment and job training, early childhood education and affordable daycare, mental health and addiction, and local crisis centers get the support they need to do their critical work to achieve the same results. It can be done and we should be assisting, not weakening these efforts.
We must also focus our efforts on ending generational poverty in our communities. Yet last year, Republicans in Congress approved a drastic reduction in the 2016 HOME Investment Partnership Program budget that takes direct aim at this challenge. In Maryland alone, HOME funding would be slashed by over 90 percent, from more than $12 million to $912,408. This is shocking and must be prevented, as we know that more and more children do not have a stable home, and that housing vouchers that allow families to move to lower-poverty neighborhoods reduces recurring homelessness, improves educational outcomes, and increases economic stability.
I would fight hard to put funds back into critical federal and community programs that directly impact the long-term economic stability of families across the 8th District, so that we truly can help to repair the world.
Shudofsky: The best thing we can do to help the homeless and low- and middle-income families is to make sure we create good paying jobs. Too many middle-class workers are still searching for jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet to support their families.
We can change course by enacting policies that encourage job creation instead of stifling it. We need to incentivize entrepreneurship by lowering regulatory barriers that keep small businesses from starting and growing. We also should be offering tax credits to start-ups that create jobs locally and tax incentives to companies to invest in locally sourced innovation.
We must also address other root causes of homelessness — investing in job retraining programs for those whose industries have disappeared, and in health programs for those dealing with mental illness. This will help get many who are struggling back on their feet and able to fill the new jobs our economy creates.
Skolnick: I need to obtain more information to develop proposed action by Congress on this matter.
Trone: I support public-private partnerships to alleviate homelessness and make housing more affordable. For affordable housing, we need public-private partnerships to build good, affordable housing. The government can work with the private sector to build more cost effective homes in areas where families need them most. We also need to be flexible, since affordable housing is such a local issue. I also believe in a housing first approach to combat homelessness. Warehousing the homeless is not a long-term solution. Many have mental health issues. Many have physical health issues. Many have substance abuse issues. Many have financial issues. We’re not going to solve the issue of homelessness if we don’t recognize that the causes of homelessness are complex and are much more than finding shelter for people who do not have them.
Wallace: Economic homelessness, often a “hidden” homelessness, is one of the symptoms of a dangerously warped economic system favoring the wealthy, through government policy and “soft corruption” of politics. This requires a restoration of the middle class including at least the same minimum wage as Congress passed in 1964, pegged to inflation, which means today’s minimum wage should be $17 per hour which I support. Other major changes to the tax, investment, and capital accumulation policies must be a starting point to return Americans to owning their homes and having decent paying jobs.
For homelessness caused by mental health, a multi-level program led by a national single payer health care system would provide free mental health services, tailored to the homeless community’s unique transience needs; and ensure welcoming shelters in partnership with community organizations. A refocusing of our economic development on local communities’ stability and local jobs, instead of a constant increase in housing demand, would support the market moving away from constantly higher priced housing towards affordable housing matched to the local demand.
Wunder: Eliminate taxes regulations and fees on all housing. Anyone would be able to buy and build their homes how they see fit. Cutting regulatory burdens will naturally lower cost. I would also eliminate corporate tax and regulations so companies can afford to hire and pay their employees more. The effect over time would be more sustainable jobs.