Candidate name: Rushern L. Baker III
Party affiliation: Democrat
Place of residence: Cheverly
Date of birth: Oct. 24, 1958
Place of birth: Valdosta, GA
Occupation: President, Community Teachers Institute
Education: B.A., Howard University; J.D., Howard University
Community associations, involvement: No answer
Professional associations: No answer
Family: Wife, Christa Beverly; Three children
Campaign office address and telephone: 7425 Forbes Blvd. Lanham, MD 20706
Link to candidate’s website, where one exists: www.rushernbaker.com
What are your top three priorities for the next four years, if elected?
1. Improve our education system
2. Reduce the county’s crime rate
3. Expand economic development
How would you rate the performance of the current executive: excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
Four years ago our county was poised for greatness. Today we are at a crossroads. Crime has put a strangle hold on our communities and our education system is still the worst of any county in the state. Johnson has failed to address the two biggest issues facing the prosperity of Prince George’s County. For that I give him a poor rating.
Is the rate of growth in Prince George’s County too fast, too slow or just right?
Economic development lags far behind where we should be. To make that up, Johnson has expanded out residential tax base too fast. The result is a community that will ultimately fail if residential development is not slowed down and replaced with business revitalization and expansion.
What programs would you add to the budget and how would you pay for them?
I will add a retire-rehire police officer program to increase the number of officers patrolling our streets. The state currently provides funding for this program so there would be no added cost associated with it.
We must have more police on the streets to protect our citizens and businesses.
I will also offer retention bonuses for teachers in their fourth and seventh years to keep them from moving to neighboring school systems. I will also expand vocational education programs. Funding for the programs would be done through reprioritizing the county budget towards focusing on education.
I would not raise taxes to pay for the programs.
What is the biggest challenge facing the county school system and how can the county executive help address it?
We are losing our best education leaders to better paying jurisdictions. To help with teacher retention and recruitment I will offer teachers a retention bonus in their fourth and seventh year to keep them from leaving. I will also offer every teacher and administrator an annual $5,000 tax credit if they purchase a home in the county.
Are there any programs, taxes or fees that should be cut? What would you do with the money from the savings?
The first thing on my agenda would be cutting the Gorgeous Prince
George’s program. When our school system is begging for resources and we don’t have enough police officers to protect our neighborhoods, planting trees along county roads and handing out prettiest porch awards is a waste of county resources. I would refocus that money into fully funding our school system and hiring more police officers
Do you support day labor centers in Prince George’s County?
What qualifications do you possess that make you a worthy candidate?
I served as a delegate in the Maryland General Assembly for eight years, four of which was as Chair of the Prince George’s County Delegation.
As chair of the delegation and a member of the House Appropriations committee I worked to bring over $500 million in additional education funding back to Prince George’s County Public Schools.
Throughout my years in public office I have a strong history of working with numerous constituent groups in solving many of the county’s problems and building a better future for our communities.
Currently, I am executive director of the Community Teachers Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to reforming education in urban and minority school systems.
What would you do to ensure the success of the county’s key economic development projects?
I would offer tax incentives for businesses to develop around Metro stations inside the Beltway. One of the biggest problems facing the county’s future economic development is the permitting process. The office of the county executive should not be playing politics when it comes to issuing permits that drive economic development. While communities must have a role in deciding what businesses locate in their communities, politicians should not.
What must be done to ensure the long-term success of Prince George’s Hospital Center?
Saving the Prince George’s Hospital Center must be done through partnering with the state. Partnering with the state will allow the hospital to be merged with a teaching facility, create a new revenue stream to help ensure those without heath insurance can receive high-quality care, and take the financial burden off of county tax payers.
What would you do to recruit and retain quality police officers?
Police have to be allowed to enforce the law. That means keeping the office of the county executive out of the police department. I will not play politics when it comes to running the police force. Our officers are looking for a proven leader they can follow. That means hiring a new police chief.
We also have to give officers a reason to stay here. I will offer retention bonuses to officers in their 5th and 12th year to stay on the force. I will also offer officers an annual $5,000 tax credit if they live in the county.
Officers that live within a 15 mile radius of the county will also be allowed to take their patrol cars home.
What are the biggest challenges to significantly reducing crime in Prince George’s County?
First Jack Johnson needs to admit there is a problem. Pretending we don’t have a crime problem will not make it go away. The next step is fixing our education system. When we fail as a community to provide a quality education, we fail to give our children options when they become adults.
How would you address the population shift from Washington, D.C., and the problems it poses for Prince George’s County?
People coming from D.C. is nothing new. We have to provide better schools and more police officers to deal with the problems associated with the population increase we are facing.
Do you support allowing slots in Prince George’s? If so, where?
I will never allow slots or any form of legalized gambling in Prince George’s County.
Do you support an east-west metro link and where should it go?
I support the construction of a Purple Line from New Carrollton to Silver Spring. I would also push for mass-transit across the Wilson Bridge and link it to National Harbor.
Should municipalities have more control over local zoning?
Municipalities should have greater inclusion in determining what their communities look and feel like when it comes to development.
What area of the county needs the most attention? How would you address its needs?
Communities inside the Beltway have been ignored by the current administration. Many of our worst schools are located in these forgotten communities. Crime is rapidly tearing them apart. We need to look at revitalizing these areas through new economic development and refocusing county education and police resources.
Do you think the county’s emergency preparedness system is excellent, good, fair or poor? Why?
Currently the county does not have an emergency preparedness plan, so developing one would be a priority.
Are any changes needed in the criteria for selecting senior county government staff? If so, what changes would you make?
Qualifications. There needs to be an extensive public vetting process to ensure applicants are qualified.