Bill Henry

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Bill Henry
Bill Henry.jpg
Former candidate for
Maryland State Senate, District 43
PartyDemocratic
Education
High schoolLoyola Blakefield
Bachelor'sLoyola University
Master'sLoyola College
Websites
Campaign website
CandidateVerification
Bill Henry was a 2014 Democratic candidate for District 43 of the Maryland State Senate.[1]

Henry is the 4th District representative on the Baltimore City Council.[2]

Issues

Campaign themes

2014

Henry's website highlighted the following campaign themes:

Getting More People Involved

Government should be open, transparent...and inviting.

Perhaps most importantly, we need to break down the barriers that keep more people from being part of making Baltimore better. Even those of us who are engaged and trying to help have to acknowledge that the problem isn’t apathy as much as the fact that we’ve made it harder than it should be for people to get involved.

Responsible Banking Practices
We need to promote responsible banking practices.

We need to promote responsible banking practices, linking the relationships between banks and our neighborhoods with the relationship between banks and our government. Those financial institutions that work well with the communities they serve should have greater access to City and State business, while those who don’t should not be rewarded by profiting off of our tax dollars.

Liquor Regulation
We need to make our local liquor regulation more community-friendly.

We need to make our liquor regulation more community-friendly, ensuring that businesses with liquor licenses are assets for their neighborhoods, not problems. Liquor licenses are a privilege, not a right – they come with the responsibility to first, do no harm, and second, be a good neighbor to the community.

Automobile Insurance Premiums
We need to make reducing automobile insurance premiums a priority again.

We need to reduce the high cost of automobile insurance in Baltimore City, compared to the surrounding counties. Eliminating territorial rating would require insurers to rely on more reasonable criteria – a driver’s record, how often they drive, what kind of car they own – not just the zip code in which they happen to live.

Community Development
We live in a City with only two-thirds of the population we had half-a-century ago, but with much of the same infrastructure.

We need to shift some of the property tax burden to the slumlords and speculators who own many of our vacant and blighted houses. Investors and banks that don’t take care of their houses shouldn't get away with paying less in taxes because their value is low – they should be pressured to fix up their houses by a multi-tier property tax that charges a much higher rate on vacant buildings.

We live in a City with only two-thirds of the population we had half-a-century ago, but with much of the same infrastructure. There are square blocks of houses all over the City that are mostly vacant and abandoned; the recent foreclosure crisis has now also increased the inventory of vacants scattered throughout the City in otherwise strong neighborhoods, leaving us with about 16,000 houses all over the City that are currently vacant and abandoned.

While some of these will eventually be rehabbed through the City’s “Vacants to Value” effort, no matter how much the economy turns around, Baltimore Housing’s own estimates are that about 10,000 of them will probably never attract the needed combination of financing, subsidy, and vision. Silo-based thinking has kept us focused on many of these vacants as “houses that need to be fixed”, sending us down the futile path of subsidy in places where it would be wasted, when we should be thinking of them as – literally – “lots of opportunity.”

Coordinated policy making tells us to demolish these blights. Where consistent with a community-based master plan, remaining residents on mostly-blighted blocks could even be relocated nearby, so that whole blocks can be cleared. While some of these cleared lots would become strategic development opportunities for housing, retail, office space, or a combination, most of them could be small and medium-sized green spaces: community gardens, small play areas, or just well-maintained grass lots. Thousands of small and medium-sized green spaces would have not only the environmental benefits of increasing the City’s storm water management capacity and tree canopy, but would also provide the economic benefit of increasing the value of the remaining nearby houses - which would now be park front property! - and by doing so, build our tax base.

Where to get the demolition funding from becomes the key question. One source, long sought after but increasingly difficult to realize given the climate in Washington, would be substantial short-term increases in CDBG funding specifically for the purpose of demolishing vacants. Another source would be developers buying storm water management credits from the City in lieu of building expensive and space-intensive management practices on-site. If this process could be designed to ensure that it would not be abused in a way that was environmentally unsound, it would be a tremendous win-win for all involved.

Baltimore City Public Schools
Additional funding for school facilities and changes to school governance

How to Deal with the Backlog in School Maintenance and Renovations

We need to make our schools better by implementing the 10-Year Facilities Plan and renovating or rebuilding all of the schools our children attend. The first $1.1 billion commitment was a good start, but we will need roughly another billion-and-a-half dollar commitment to ensure than no child’s education is diminished by a crumbling classroom.

School Governance

As a councilman, I’ve been a supporter of my district schools individually, as well as initiatives to improve the system as a whole. Some of my support has less tangible, like being a guest reader in a classroom, or attending a cookout to welcome a new principal, or donning a Santa Claus suit for a school’s holiday open-house. Some of my support has been more substantive, such as facilitating a donation of rebuilt PCs from Boot Up Baltimore – a student-run organization at Johns Hopkins – for each of the schools in my district, so that each teacher’s lounge would have a computer the teachers could use.

That being said, the fact that there is no direct connection between the City Council and the governance structure of the school system is often a difficult one for me to explain to my constituents, so as a councilman, I’ve suggested a tweak to the current process of bringing on new school board members.

There are some who are suggesting that the way to best connect the governance structure with the citizens is through an elected or a partially-elected school board. When I look across the country at other elected school boards though, I usually see them in places where the school district itself is taxing residents. Since our school board does not make the actual decision to tax us by any given amount, I feel that they are more appropriately selected like other commission members or agency heads – nominated by elected executives and confirmed by a local legislature.

My suggestion therefore is to change state law to require that school board commissioners be confirmed by the City Council after a public hearing, just like members of the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board, or agency heads. In this proposal, the remainder of the current nominating process would otherwise be unchanged. Over the next few months, I look forward to participating in Delegate Mary Washington’s working group on school governance, as we try to identify which of the suggested changes would be the best for our kids in the long run.

Living In A Cleaner, Greener City
I support the City's Sustainability Plan, reducing disposable plastic bags, increasing the tree canopy, and creating a Sustainability Fund.

Both as a councilperson and as a resident, the environmental issues that are most important to me are the ones where I can most make a difference.

On a personal level, our family has embraced single-stream recycling, composting, community gardening, reusable shopping bags (generally decreasing our dependence on disposables at most levels of daily living), and we look forward to exchanging one or both of our vehicles for a hybrid.

Professionally, I have been supportive of the City's Sustainability Plan, reducing the proliferation of disposable plastic bags and polystyrene usage, increasing the City’s tree canopy, and the creation of a separate Sustainability Fund, allowing us to direct specific revenues towards the City’s sustainable initiatives.

My environmental agenda for the next term has three new major components:

We all need to be working harder at reinforcing (and for some, forging) the link in between the litter in our neighborhoods and the quality of our water. From stenciling storm water grates to soliciting pro bono PR campaigns, to making the urban water system a topic of discussion in the public school curriculum, we need to do everything we can to educate all of our neighbors to the fact that litter on the sidewalk goes to the gutter, and then to the storm water grate, and then to the Harbor.

We need to find the funding to demolish those blighted homes that will probably never be redeveloped. There are square blocks of houses all over the City that are now mostly vacant and abandoned - most of them should be small and medium-sized greenspaces. Along with the environmental benefits in terms of storm water management and increasing the tree canopy, such a policy would also give more of our residents easier and closer access to real greenspaces. (Check out my "Dealing with Vacant Houses" page for more details.)

The City should be promoting increased usage of rooftop photovoltaic systems (PV), better known as solar panels. We have acres of flat, mostly unused, mostly un-looked-at rooftops in this City that are already soaking up sunlight all day long - why not get more of our power that way? The City's Department of General Services is already a major innovator in taking advantage of PV opportunities with City buildings where it can; I'd like to see us doing what we can to encourage similar innovation in the commercial and residential sectors.

Public Safety: Long Term and Short Term
While improving our schools and reducing unemployment are important, the biggest problem is permutation of crime - “quality of life” crime.

While improving our schools, reducing unemployment, and lowering property taxes are all important challenges, the biggest problem for most of my constituents is some permutation of crime, particularly the “quality of life” crime that pervades even neighborhoods that aren’t challenged with serious or violent crime. Even lowering property taxes or improving the public schools for example, still won’t make an all-night fraternity party next door, or a smashed car window, or constant litter in the gutters and on the sidewalks any less annoying.

While I support the Police Department’s current strategy of targeting violent crime and offenders, I also recognize that it is purely one of law enforcement; the long-term solution to reducing violent crime involves major changes to the ways we approach education, recreation, housing, job training, and drug treatment. We should be suspicious of anyone who thinks we can simply police our way out of our current situation.

If we want to create a sustainable society with less violent crime, we will need to ensure that everyone has access to a decent education, quality affordable housing, and a job that can support them. This will be challenging and will require a great deal of political will – to re-invest not just in Baltimore’s physical infrastructure, but in the human capital that will be Baltimore’s future.

In the short-term though, along with targeting violent crime and offenders, we must increase community involvement in fighting crime, and we must give our children something productive to do rather than getting involved with a criminal element. Much of my work on the Council – which I propose to continue if given the opportunity – has been aimed at addressing these issues.

To encourage community involvement, the City Council passed my Confiscated Assets for Neighborhoods law. When city police arrest criminals with less than $2,000 in cash on them, after the court case is over, the money goes to the city's general fund. Under my law (adapted from a suggestion by Bill Goodin, a community advocate in my district) a portion of this money is supposed to be set aside for grants to neighborhood groups who are running their own public safety programs. The grant program would be run by the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, with the funds prorated according to police districts, based on the amount of money confiscated within each district.

By emphasizing that we’re all in it together, and supporting those communities that are putting their own time and energy into making their neighborhoods safer, we can make crime reduction something “we” are doing and not just something for which “they” are responsible. So far, this grant program has yet to be funded by the Mayor.

I've also spent several years now trying to find the right balance of enforcement and education to deal with neighborhood nuisances. I've pushed for legislation to put more of an onus on landlords to be responsible for disturbances created by their tenants. I've also brought neighbors together with college administrators, the police, code enforcement, and the State’s Attorney’s office to make sure that we are all on the same page regarding proper behavior in residential neighborhoods. I will continue to work on this until the problem is under control.

Most importantly though, as I wrote in a May 2009 opinion piece in the Baltimore Sun, we must budget as if youth development programs are public safety programs - because they are.

I go to a lot of events where children and youth are the main focus. I spend lots of time in rooms with people who talk about the importance of youth and how youth are our future - and who then go home to communities where they and their neighbors look out their windows, see those same youth standing on the corners, and are frightened.

At that point, few call their councilperson asking for more late-night recreation programs in their community. Almost nobody e-mails the mayor demanding that she put more money for after-school programs in her budget. Most simply call the police and tell them to hurry. This may explain why over a twenty-year period, the police budget has more than doubled while Recreation and Parks’ budget has actually shrunk.

Even when times are tough, we have to be willing to spend our resources on long-term solutions, or the problems will never go away. Recreation centers, libraries, summer jobs programs and other after-school programming are the tools city government has available to prevent not just crime but criminals. We need to recognize that youth development isn't another priority in competition with public safety; it IS public safety.[3]

Elections

2014

See also: Maryland State Senate elections, 2014

Elections for the office of Maryland State Senate took place in 2014. A primary election took place on June 24, 2014. The general election was held on November 4, 2014. The filing deadline for candidates wishing to run in this election was February 25, 2014. Incumbent Joan Carter Conway defeated Bill Henry in the Democratic primary. Conway faces Henry in the general election.[1][4]

Maryland State Senate, District 43 Democratic Primary, 2014
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngJoan Carter Conway Incumbent 64.5% 9,821
Bill Henry 35.5% 5,404
Total Votes 15,225

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