David Marks is the Republican candidate for Baltimore County's 5th Councilmanic District. The incumbent, Vincent Gardinia is retiring – with a pension on the County's dime of his entire current salary ($54,000). The open seat has attracted 3 Democrats as well, so Marks' general election opponent is still not known. Marks has a background in public policy; his Masters' thesis was written on “how to pay for growth in Maryland’s fast-growing counties .”Marks has worked heavily in the transportation field, specifically in the Maryland State Highway Administration, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, and from 2003 to 2007, he was the Chief of Staff at the Maryland Department of Transportation. He's been incredibly active in the community – with impressive work across party lines. I contacted Marks to see if he was interested in an email-based interview and received a very quick response. What follows are his answers to my questions.
Matthew R. Newman: What made you decide to run for County Council?
David Marks: For 15 years, I have worked across party lines to improve Baltimore County’s communities: getting a new library built in Perry Hall, working to preserve historic landmarks, and solving important neighborhood issues. County Council seats do not become “open” very often, and I didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to run for this position. Not only do I think my community experience is important, but we desperately need a two-party system in Baltimore County. I’m a community-oriented Republican who can win this seat.
MRN: What do you feel is the most pressing issue facing Baltimore County?
DM: The most immediate challenge is steering Baltimore County through the end of the national recession in a way that avoids raising taxes and making cutbacks to critical services, especially public safety. Over the next two or three years when funding is limited, the county should concentrate on initiatives that require relatively little money but set the stage for future progress and economic growth. My three priorities during this time will include:
• Reforming county government to make it more accessible, transparent, and bipartisan. Many citizens have lost confidence in their elected officials, and the County Council can implement several relatively inexpensive policies that instill a greater sense of public confidence in the governing process. These include moving work sessions to a more convenient time, requiring nighttime hearings for major developments, eliminating perks for County Councilmembers, and appointing qualified men and women of both political parties to boards and commissions.
• Strengthening our neighborhoods. Baltimore County’s police do an outstanding job, and I will support giving our law enforcement officials the tools they need to maintain public safety. There are other ways to strengthen our neighborhoods as well. All county agencies must work to enhance public safety and support the efforts of the Baltimore County Police Department. There must be a stronger emphasis on code enforcement, on addressing basic quality of life concerns, and on the redevelopment of aging commercial areas throughout the district.
• Planning for the future. Baltimore County’s leaders must develop benchmarks for spending revenue wisely once the county emerges from the recession. I believe there should be two capital priorities—school modernization and transportation.
MRN: How do you feel your background help uniquely qualify you for the role of member of the County Council?
DM: Of the four candidates, I’m the only one who has consistently worked on issues across the entire district. As the nine-term President of the Perry Hall Improvement Association, I worked to get a new public library built in Perry Hall, preserve land for six new parks, start a community concert series, and extend Honeygo Boulevard. I worked to preserve historic landmarks such as Loch Raven Elementary School and Long Island Farm in the Cromwell Valley. As Chief of Staff at the Maryland Department of Transportation, I worked to restart the planning process for the Towson Shuttle.
I worked for 14 years in the transportation industry. We’ve had plenty of lawyers on the County Council, but no one with my experience in transportation and planning.
MRN: What are your thoughts on incumbent Councilman Vincent J. Gardina?
DM: I’m not focusing on Vince Gardina in this campaign. He produced some very important accomplishments early in his tenure, such as the Honeygo Plan, which established design guidelines for new development in northeastern Perry Hall. I would never have served as long as he did in office, and I would have been far less partisan and polarizing.
MRN: On your website, you mention that you want to reform the County Council by working "...to make government more efficient, convenient, and transparent." What legislative items would you propose to achieve this goal?
DM: I would such moving legislative work sessions to a more convenient time (they are currently held on Tuesday afternoons); requiring nighttime hearings for developments of a certain size; reforming County Council pensions; amending the county charter to establish a three term limit for Councilmembers; eliminating county cars for Councilmembers; and amending the county charter to create an independently elected Auditor.
MRN: On your website, you mention that you want to be a "hands-on Councilman" who would like to "...spur private reinvestment in underperforming commercial areas." What would you propose to help spur private investment in the County?
DM: I would support giving developers a greater degree of flexibility to redevelop aging shopping centers, as long as certain standards for pedestrian access and design are met. In other words, there are some deteriorating shopping centers (such as the Perry Hall Square Shopping Center) where the community has expressed support for mixed-use development, such as a blend of housing and commercial uses.
MRN: What are your thoughts on the recently passed pension reform bill drafted by Kevin Kamenetz?
DM: I support a 401K style pension system, and don’t think the Kamenetz bill went far enough.
MRN: What is your opinion on the speed cameras recently passed / installed throughout the county?
DM: I would have opposed the bill. I prefer other measures, such as a stronger police presence and traffic calming to reduce speed in neighborhoods. I have been endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, and look forward a productive relationship with the police as County Councilman.
MRN: What is your thoughts on the controversy surrounding District 5 Democratic candidate Gordon Harden and his tax history?
DM: These are legitimate issues. Our elected officials need to follow the rules. I was a federal employee who was required by law to quit his job to run for office. I followed the rules, and so should every other candidate.
MRN: In closing, what is one thing you want to ensure potential voters know about your candidacy?
DM: This is a very important County Council district. It stretches from Towson to Perry Hall, and includes older neighborhoods, growing communities, and some of the last patches of farmland in southern Baltimore County. It needs a independent-minded County Councilman with a strong community background—one who is not attached to the same political machine that has run Baltimore County for 16 years.
I thank Mr. Marks for his time and willingness to participate in this interview. His opponent will be decided by the Democratic primary on Tuesday. If you are interested in learning more, check out his official website here.
Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant