Ryan Nawrocki is a Republican candidate in a Councilmanic District ripe for the taking - a conservative leaning district being currently represented by a conservative Democrat...who's not running for reelection. Nawrocki is a younger, father of one who is a lifetime resident of Baltimore County. He was a spokesperson in the Ehrlich administration, the youngest person appointed to a post, and currently serves as a spokesperson for LifeBridge Health, one of Baltimore’s largest health care providers. Previously, Nawrocki had worked for Delegates Joe Boteler and John Cluster in Annapolis. I asked Nawrocki to give me some of his thoughts on the issues. His answers to my questions are as follows.
Matthew Newman: What made you decide to run for Baltimore County Council?
Ryan Nawrocki: I live in Rosedale with my family. Lauren and I have a 3 year old daughter, Emily, who is our world. Several months ago, I began to hear more and more dire news about the state of our Country, State, and County in terms of economic recession.
As I began to look into the fiscal management of Baltimore County, I became concerned. Baltimore County this past fiscal year ran an over $150 million dollar deficit - the largest in the County's history.
I also looked at the state of education in my area. For example, the middle school, where my daughter would attend, posted a 33% passing rate in mathematics. This number is more indicative of one of the failing Baltimore City schools and not Baltimore County.
I even was shocked to learn that the elected officials in Baltimore County, who oversaw this fiscal and educational mess, also decided to give themselves a sweetheart deal in terms of salary, perks, and golden parachute pensions.
There were several other factors, but the underlying thread among all concerns was how this County would be left for my daughter and for my daughter's children and grandchildren. This is why I entered the race and why I am committed to bringing common sense governance back to Baltimore County. In rough economic times, hard working families are forced to tighten their belts; why shouldn't the government be required to do the same?
MRN: If elected, what would be the first item you would propose before the Baltimore County Council?
RN There are so many items that the citizens of Baltimore County want to see enacted that it makes it difficult to choose just one. So as not to place one issue over another, I have pledged the following in my first couple of months on the Council:
. Enactment of term limits on County Councilmen;
. Enactment of an immediate moratorium on the constant yield, which is the dirty little secret in property tax assessments. The State sets the assessment of property values, and current Council members use this fact as a convenient excuse as to why it cannot change the property tax problems in the County. However, the value of my home, which was purchased 3 years ago, has dropped by approximately $40,000, yet my property tax rate goes up each y. Along with the moratorium on the constant yield, offer a charter amendment to cap the future use of the constant yield at 2%. The purpose of the charter amendment is to safeguard taxpayers from any future effort to increase the constant yield because any amendment to the charter will need a referendum vote from the voters; and
. Offer a bill to eliminate the golden parachute pension and other perks provided to Council members.
MRN: What experiences makes you feel that you are qualified to serve on the County Council?
RN: As for practical experience, I have worked in both the private sector and in government. I understand what it takes to work through the red tape of bureaucracy, as well as what it means to meet a budget. I have been an active community volunteer and leader in Eastern Baltimore County, where I have spent my entire life. But most importantly, I understand the role of a public servant, who believes that such service is a public trust and not an opportunity for personal gain. I am a father who has the interests of our future generations in mind with each decision made.
MRN: What do you feel is going to be the most important issue facing the County Council beginning in the 2011 legislative session?
RN: I believe that our first order is to reign in out of control spending. We need to categorize projects as either wants or needs. The County cannot afford wants at this time, and it cannot afford to do without its needs. Focus should be placed on public safety, education, and infrastructure, such as our roads.
More importantly, we need to address the looming deficit confronting the citizens of Baltimore County. If we stay on the course our present Council has created, we will continue to rob Peter to pay Paul, and eventually, Peter is going to run out of money.
My opponent states that the County is fiscally sound; that it actually is running a surplus of $84 million dollars. Well, if I have a budget of $1000 and have only $800 in my account, am I fiscally responsible? Moreover, if I take $500 from my daughter's bank account and add it to my account, do I really have a surplus of $300 once my budget is satisfied? Of course not, but this is the shell game currently being played, and it needs to stop.
MRN: What is your opinion on 6th District incumbent and former 2010 Baltimore County Executive candidate Joseph Bartenfelder (D)?
RN: Joe Bartenfelder is a good man who did good things for the 6th District. He was the first (and only) Councilman to have an educational liaison as a member of his staff. He is a strong fiscal conservative, who constantly tried to hold the line on out of control spending and taxes. I also know him to be a great father and family man.
MRN: In 2006, the Republican candidate in the 6th District garnered 33% of the vote. How do you feel the dynamics of the 2010 election and the 6th District being an open seat will impact the November general election?
RN: The Republican in the 6th District race undoubtedly received a low percentage of the vote because a majority of Republicans also supported Joe Bartenfelder. Joe is not in the 2010 race for County Council, nor is George Bush in the White House. I firmly believe that the national mood was very anti-Republican in 2006, and I don't see that trend extending into 2010. The 6th District is 2:1 Democrats to Republicans, but the voters in the district have proven themselves to not be mere sheep. They have continually come out to support the individual that they believed were best for the job, not on the candidate's party affiliation, but on the candidate's character, integrity, and ideas for moving Eastern Baltimore County forward.
MRN: On your website, you mention that you want to "Enact measures to increase police and fire protection throughout the district and reduce the crime in high risk areas." What specific measures would you support to achieve this goal, if elected?
RN: I believe there are several measures that can be introduced at minimal costto the taxpayer that will help increase safety in Eastern Baltimore County. First, I would introduce the concept of police officers taking home their service vehicles to the extent practical. Having police cars present in the community is an immediate deterrent to crime and costs the taxpayer very little, if at all. This method will also cut maintenance costs, as an officer will likely take better care of their vehicles. I would also explore tax incentives to make it possible for police officers living in Baltimore County to move into risk areas, which will further increase the police presence without having to increase the force or the frequency of shifts.
As for fire safety, Baltimore County is blessed with a fine volunteer fire fighter system. The use of volunteers significantly cuts down on cost to the taxpayer, while at the same time continues to deliver quality service to the community. I would explore funding sources to the volunteer fire departments in order to assist them in expanding their effectiveness.
Although not specifically a police or fire measure, I firmly believe that educational reforms in Eastern Baltimore County will allow those students who would otherwise become victims of their situations to obtain a path to success through education. The County is desperately in need of more vocational opportunities for its students. If a child can find a way out of poverty and crime through the learning of a trade, they can become productive members of the community.
Finally, I will sponsor a bill to enact 287G, the Fredrick County law that allows County police to become deputized as Federal law enforcement with respect to the detention and removal of illegal immigrants. Much of the crime problem in Baltimore County stems from groups such as MS13, which is largely comprised of illegal immigrants. Our County needs to be a place of laws and not a sanctuary County.
MRN: In the issues section of your site, you mention that you want to reform the pension system to put County Council members on par with the average citizen. What specific measures would you propose and how significantly would you cut their pensions?
RN: Is eliminating the Council pensions significant enough? I have never understood how an individual, who works 45 days per year under the County Charter, could walk away with 100% of his or her salary after serving 20 years. That amounts to a handful of years of work for the average worker in Baltimore County pulling a 40 to 60 hour per week job. I believe that Councilmen are no better than those who go to work in an investment firm, a retail shop, a manufacturing facility, or any other countless private industry occupations. Councilmen can participate in a defined contribution plan like the rest of us. I believe that a 401(k) plan, if good enough for the hard working families in the County, should be good enough for its public servants.
MRN: In a follow-up to the previous question, what are your thoughts on the recently passed pension reform legislation put forward by Ken Kamenetz?
RN: When Councilman Kamenetz introduced his version of pension reform, it was not the only one on the table. Councilman Bartenfelder also had a proposal, but unfortunately, it died for lack of a second. Councilman Kamenetz's bill only affected incoming Council members but did nothing to those individuals serving presently on the Council. Moreover and unlike Councilman Bartenfelder's bill, the Kamenetz bill still allowed Council members to collect their pension, as well as collecting other County pensions for which he may have qualified along the way. For example, County Executive Jim Smith will walk away from County government with over $150,000 as a result of 3 separate pensions: County Council, County Executive, and Circuit Court Judge. The Circuit Court pension is a State pension, but the other two should have offset each other.
MRN: On your website you mention that you want to help revitalize eastern Baltimore County through preparation of updated community plans. How would you begin this process and ensure that members of the community were involved in the process?
RN: Some communities in Baltimore County have community plans that are over 20 or 30 years old. Clearly these are outdated and need to be addressed. However, there are many other communities that have never had a community plan, and this too must be addressed if a revitalization of Eastern Baltimore County is to occur. As for community involvement, this really is at the heart of a community plan. Moving forward, the enactment of the plan, which typically includes zoning hearings, must be accessible to the community affected. This means more transparency in County government and accessibility to these hearings. One idea is to hold such zoning meetings in the evening to ensure maximum participation after work hours; another is to bring the zoning hearing into the community.
MRN: Our Constitution requires us to hold a referendum regarding a Constitutional Convention at specific intervals, 2010 is one of those years. Would you support holding a statewide Constitutional Convention?
RN: Absolutely, but I believe that your average citizen needs to be included in the process. It does us no good to have the same old politicians in Annapolis, who have given us the 4th highest amount of taxes in the Country, an opportunity to rig the State Constitution to further their agenda and not that of the people.
MRN: In closing, what is one thing you want to ensure potential voters know about your candidacy?
RN: I am not a career politician. I believe in the words written by George Mason in 1788, "Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens."
I am a family man and a father. I am not an elite, who believes that public service is an opportunity for personal benefit. I am dedicated to bringing common sense back to Baltimore County government and to leaving the County in a better state for my daughter than it was for me.
If given the opportunity to serve the citizens of the 6th District, I pledge to give it my all and to be accountable to those that have entrusted me with this important responsibility.
I thank Mr. Nawrocki for his time. I feel this is a winnable district and Nawrocki is just the right candidate. I wish him luck in his campaign. If you are interested in learning more, check out his official website here and consider a donation to his campaign.
Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant