Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous says the state has promise in industries such as solar energy, cyber security and hi-tech, but can thrive even more.
The former president of the NAACP with an extensive background in community activism has already received an endorsement from the national progressive organization Democracy for America, and anticipates a few more in the near future.
But he admits the run for governor is the biggest challenge he’s ever pursued. He touted Johns Hopkins University and its hospital in Baltimore as one of the top research campuses in the world, but acknowledged that the state isn’t without its problems.
Maryland has the nation’s third-highest foreclosure rate — one in every 997 units — trailing only New Jersey and Delaware, according to www.realtytrac.com. And two years ago, the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law released a report on how the state spent $1.3 billion on corrections in 2013 — about 10 times more than education — despite imprisoning 390 per 100,000, below the national average of nearly 500.
Jealous, 44, will face at least four challengers in the Democratic primary on June 26, 2018, including Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and several others are mulling a bid.
Nevertheless, Jealous is enthusiastic about his chances and the state’s prospects. During an interview Saturday, July 8 in Silver Spring, Jealous discussed a myriad of topics such as health care, education and mass incarceration. Here are some of his thoughts, in his own words:
Our campaign is based on the fundamental principle that every Marylander’s life has equal worth. The reality with health care is you either have it, or you don’t. Those of us that to have it often fail to understand the true price you pay for those who don’t. It’s also the leading cause of bankruptcy in our state. No matter what happens in Washington in our federal government, with every branch controlled by right-wing extremists, when I’m governor we will ensure that we move Maryland forward … with the issue of health care moving to single-payer. It’s necessary. It’s doable. What we’ve learn from other states that health care doesn’t cost much more than the current system. In California, it would cost 10 percent more than the current system. Removing profit from our basic health care services is a core part of this. When you put everybody in the health care system, not only do you get better bargaining power with pharmaceutical [companies] and lower overhead costs, but it also gets a younger population in there and makes the whole system more efficient. The cost of health care in the country is insane. How would you career have been different, or different in the future if your health care wasn’t tied to your job? A lot of folks stay in dead-end jobs [and] don’t take risks in their career because they’re afraid of [losing] their health insurance. How do you build a more prosperous, robust future for our children? Part of that is ensuring that every Marylander can be productive as possible. In America, productivity is disproportionately driving by our entrepreneurs. We will unleash more entrepreneurial power in Maryland if we treat health care as a human right and not an employment benefit.
As governor, it would be my responsibility to make sure that every school in Maryland is a good school and every teacher in every classroom is a highly qualified teacher … and our teachers are compensated competitively so we retain the best ones in our state. Around D.C., you have a of teachers [who live] in Prince George’s County who go teach in D.C. because they can make more money. It hurts our kids. It doesn’t help our community. When a teacher teaches in the community where they live, it’s better for everybody. I want to make sure everybody is clear that we’re preparing our children for the future. Therefore, we will fund and run our education system from pre-K all the way through public universities. Ultimately that means there will be a series of important and tough decisions. The [statewide] casino money should be used in the way voters were promised it would be used. As a parent with two children in the public schools, I’m offended. The casino money was not intended to replace historic funding for education. It was meant to enhance it. I will make sure the $1 billion in casino tax revenue enhances our historical levels of education funding. That allows us to have universal pre-K, to allow use to recruit and retain the best teachers and to ensure that every child starting at age 6 learns how to code. It will be important to them as reading, writing and arithmetic. Digital technology is being infused in every machine. We need to teach our kids coding because we have already established as of two generations ago that it’s one of the best ways to move families of color into the middle class and the upper middle class.
The activity reminds me there is great bipartisan consensus amongst Democratic and Republican activists and independents to move from failed, tough on crime policies to proving, smart on crime strategies. We are going to reserve prison for the most dangerous people in our society and we’re going to make sure that addicts have access to rehab on demand. A mother who becomes addicted goes to rehabilitation and stays with her family, rather than go to prison which would send her children into foster care. The combination of effective use of criminal justice resources on the one hand, mental health resources and rehabilitation on the other allows you to lower your overall public safety spent and shift resources back to other priorities like public and higher education. Our community needs strong, effective relationships with law enforcement to keep us safe. Quite frankly, we pay a steep price when law enforcement is ineffective, or absent. Ironically and tragically, we also pay a steep price too many times when we call police to help us. We find ourselves in this bind where we fear both the robbers and the cops. We have to increase trust in our communities and that means police officers need to get out of their cars one day a week and pull out their business cards and give local residents their cell phone numbers. We need to go further by using personality tests more effectively in recruiting so that we weed out officers whose personality types suggest their much more likely to use violence unnecessarily. We need to train our officers every six months in both use of force and de-escalation. Finally, we need to eliminate distractions like the failed approach known as Broken Windows policing and other failed war on drug strategies.