While all issues are not within the scope of the Mayor’s job definition, they are important to the community to improve the quality of life here..

Issues of Juvenile Justice and Climate Change are impacting Cambridge now and will do so in the future.
Below, I will talk about some of those issues, past, present, and future. It is my intention, if elected, to address as the Mayor these issues and others that follow as they directly impact the lives of our citizens and the quality of life in Cambridge:

Juvenile Justice Reform Act

We need to do more to help the children in this community to be more educated and discover how to be good citizens now and as adults.
Juvenile Justice has been an important and major concern and part of my life’s work. Maryland passed the Juvenile Justice Reform Act that went into effect in June of 2022. I support the purpose of this legislation and want to see that it is implemented here with sufficient resources for the children in our community that are impacted. It provides for altering provisions of law relating to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, the juvenile intake process, and the placement of a certain child in detention or community detention; altering provisions of law relating to the authority of the juvenile court in making a disposition on a certain petition; specifying the authority of the juvenile court to place a child on probation under certain circumstances; and establishing the Commission on Juvenile Justice Reform and Emerging and Best Practices. Finding ways to appropriately divert children from the juvenile court and provide them with effective services is an important part of best practices and the needs of children in our community. A challenge is how the Department of Juvenile Services (DJS) will ensure that those needed services are provided, and what voice the community will have in that process. As cooperation and collaboration among agencies here is often a challenge, and we do not appear to have a sufficient number of service providers here that can begin to address the needs of young children including those truant from school, we need to be at the table as decisions are made. This is an area of the work of juvenile court where other jurisdictions have had significant success. Cambridge and Dorchester County need more advocates to address these issues more informally and outside of the court, especially mental health and substance abuse issues.

Child Interrogation Protection Act

When I was on the bench, one of my responsibilities was to advise children who had been brought to court of their legal rights. My experience is that the vast majority of those children did not understand their rights despite having them explained to them several times. I support the Child Interrogation Protection Act that goes into effect in October 2022. Its purpose is “establishing certain requirements for taking a child into custody, interrogating a child, or charging a child with a criminal violation, including notice requirements, requirements for consultation with an attorney, and requirements for the maintenance of certain records; authorizing the Court of Appeals to adopt certain rules relating to the advisement of a child of certain rights; establishing a certain rebuttable presumption that a statement made by a child during an interrogation is inadmissible under certain circumstances; requiring the Office of the Public Defender to develop and implement certain policies and to publish on its website or make available to law enforcement certain information; and generally relating to juvenile law and the interrogation of children by law enforcement.” Often times in the prosecution of delinquency cases, the prosecutor would use what a child had told the police against them after being “advised of their rights”. Many of the children that I saw had educational deficits that made it difficult, if not impossible, for them to fully understand what was happening to them when they were arrested much less understanding the meaning of the rights about which they were being advised.

Climate Issues

In 2020, before leaving City Council, I asked Larry White to help the city with its challenges regarding sea level rise and ground subsidence. Larry is a resident and friend who has significant knowledge regarding sea level rise and the challenges that Cambridge faces. With the approval of City Manager Patrick Comiskey, Larry began a process that has lasted these past two years in creating the Cambridge Shoreline Resilience Project. You can find what the project is doing and is planning at https://www.makecambridgeresilient.org/. The project is made up of professionals from many disciplines including state and city staff and representatives from Horns Point. I have been helping the team for the past two years with public information efforts to help the community understand all that needs to be done here regarding sea level rise and storm water, sewer, and water line infrastructure management. The project has been successful in obtaining grants from FEMA through MEMA and is seeking additional funding with the approval of City Council that could help address multiple challenges that Cambridge has with its infrastructure.

Maces Lane Community Center

During my time on City Council, the Commissioners supported and voted unanimously in favor of city funding for this effort at $65,000 a year. During those years the Maces Lane Alumni Association did not ask city council to be involved in any of their negotiations with the county or plans for funding other than having us supply letters of support, which I recall that we did. There was a request that city staff help the Maces Lane group with certain matters, which the City Manager directed. Near the end 2020, city council was presented with a proposed Memorandum of Agreement (MOU) that had the city involved in a number of things involving the proposed community center and other groups working on the project.

As the proposed MOU was way outside our past involvement, was poorly written and confusing, and was a “non binding” agreement, I felt that it was not worth the paper it was written on but that the city needed to make its commitment to the project clear once the center was completed. As it appeared to me that the focus of everyone was on finding the money to build and rehabilitate the building with no focus on where the money would come from to run the building and pay the utilities once it was built, I focused discussions with the Maces Lane Community Center group on different issues that, with the considerable help of Kevin Beverly, resulted in an MOU that was unanimously approved by city council and the Maces Lane group. The important part of the agreement was the long term funding by the city to ensure that there was money available to pay for light, heat, water, and air conditioning so that it would be a valuable resource and asset to the community.

Government Transparency

It is important that citizens who are interested in our history have access to the city documents that represent how our city has been run. The city has most of its records online and available to elected officials and staff. I want them to be made available to any citizen who wants to make a request to be able to research but not change any of those documents. As a member of city council, I had access to those documents that helped me understand questions that we were trying to address during my term on city council. When I left city council, I asked for permission to continue to use this resource. The City Manager agreed, but the former Mayor decided that it would not be allowed.

One example of how access helped to understand proposed legislation involved an ordinance that was passed years ago and then changed to give the city less authority in the area of code enforcement over properties, particularly rental properties. Another important issue that I was able to research was how or if a prior city council had approved elected officials receiving health insurance benefits. We found that it had not, and as a result city council was able to change the law to make it clear that starting with the current council elected officials would not be entitled to health insurance benefits. This was something that our insurance agent had been advocating for years with prior city councils without success. It was a benefit that was simply started by staff without any public hearing, ordinance, or knowledge of the taxpayers of the city. My recollection is that it had been going on for almost 30 years.

Transparency of city government is an important way to build trust.

Response to Crime in Cambridge

Citizens of Cambridge have every right to be concerned about the criminal and delinquent behavior that occurs here. It appears to me that the Cambridge Police Department (CPD) with its limited number of officers is doing what it can under difficult circumstances. At the same time the community deserves more. Finding and hiring more officers is certainly a priority, but it is not something that is expected to be a quick fix for our challenges.

One of the ways that I believe we can find more police is to look into communities where officers might be retiring and invite them to see the beauty of the Eastern Shore, understanding that we have lots of competition here by our neighboring towns and counties for these same officers. Taking some of the houses that are owned by the county for unpaid county and city taxes and rehabilitating the best ones with ARPA funds for use by and potential transfer to officers who stay with us for a long time could be an incentive. Providing extra compensation including educational expenses for a spouse or children could be another incentive. From the point of view of future retirement of officers, we need to consult with some professional investment advisors to determine the viability and potential cost to the city of buying annuities for those officers that remain with the city for long periods of time. These would be an entitlement for them to receive depending on what circumstances would be considered beneficial to both the city and the officer.

When we lose an officer to another community, the cost is significant. There is the cost that falls on the remaining officers to do the work of the officer that has left. There is the cost of training new recruits who may or may not stay with the city for an extended period of time. There is the cost of recruiting new officers that could be substantial.

The best way to address the long term consequences of crime is to address the needs of the children in our community through better education opportunities, after school programs, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and jobs programs for older youth so that we are able to prevent bad behavior or intervene early in the lives of children and families that are going in the wrong direction.

My proposed partial solution for this challenge would be to hire local women and men who know our community that would become parent, youth, and community engagement staff for the city or police department. They would not have arrest powers or carry weapons but they would work in our neighborhoods to help citizens with their challenges either by providing a needed resource or knowing where to refer someone and then be able to follow up with the state agencies or nonprofits to ensure that their issues are being addressed. These individuals would be able to build the trust of the community and in the long run help the police by resolving neighborhood issues and disagreements and in doing so help reduce criminal and delinquent conduct in the community. The persons hired could be trained by state agencies so that they would know where to go or where to send someone who needed help.

Solutions for Truancy

Truancy is one of the most difficult case types for juvenile court judges to address. One reason is that the behavior is usually the outward manifestation of some other problem in the child’s life. Just think of a social problem, and it can be the cause of the child’s behavior. Cambridge and Dorchester County have way too many children who are truant and are eligible for court intervention. Another reason is that the ultimate solution that a court has is incarceration. Children missing school do not and should not be incarcerated. There is always a solution short of that, and it is up to the adults to figure out what it is.

I was faced with this same problem in my former community and tried for over nine years to have the school system work with our court. When I finally found the Superintendent that was willing to work with us, we went from 10 cases a year to 300 the first year and 400 the second year. We were told that we could have had 700-800 cases but that the school system and our court intake could not process them all.

With that caseload and a community that wanted to and was able to provide services, we addressed this problem and were able to get more children back in school. Another result was a significant reduction in our delinquency caseload.

These children are not the school’s children, or the court’s children, or the children of DJS. They are the children of the community that need resources that are too scarce here and too difficult to access for a variety of reasons. A first step needs to be the coming together of the different local and state agencies to begin working more effectively together to address these challenges and at the same time advocate, collectively, with state, county, and city government for the resources that are not available here. In time the change that you will see, will be positive and amazing.

Disabled Vets Tax Breaks

After I left city council, a former neighbor, who is a disabled Vet, asked about the possibility of the County and City providing a real estate tax exemption for those Veterans that are 100% disabled because of their military service. It appears that state law applies to counties https://veterans.maryland.gov/maryland-tax-benefits/ but I am unsure if it also applies to city real estate taxes. We need to be asking the City Manager to have our City Attorney look into that possibility and how our city ordinances should be modified and also try to determine its potential cost to the city. It would seem that given the sacrifices of those Veterans who have served our country that this possibility should at least be investigated for further consideration by city council.

Bayly Road Auto Junk Yard

During my time on city council, I raised my concerns about the abandoned vehicles that are located in the woods on the right side of Bayly Road just short of Rt. 16. City Staff tried to do something about the abandoned vehicles without success. Given our current circumstances and the availability of ARPA funds, I think that the city needs to revisit this issue and determine what steps are available legally to enforce what appears to be Maryland law that addresses the challenges. I will bring this issue to the attention of the City Manager for presentation to city council for possible further action.

Advocacy for Children with Learning Disabilities

I believe that we have too many children with learning disabilities that are not receiving the services through the school system that they need. Advocating for them is not easy, and most parents do not have the knowledge or the time to advocate with the school system alone. I have found professionals that are willing to train a group of community volunteers about the Federal Law IDEA and the rights of children to services. My idea is to create a volunteer pool of available volunteers that would work with parents, their children, and the school system to help identify the needs and the resources for these children and families and then follow up on their implementation in order to help the children have a successful public school experience. Where the advocate and the parents or family members feel that the school system is not being responsive, the advocate can then help the parents understand what alternatives they might have. To make this happen, I need people who have this kind or experience or want to be trained so that we can develop a program to address this issue, which is significant here in Cambridge and Dorchester County.