This interview with James Kitchin, by Amanda Yeager, appeared in The Capital newspaper on June 26, 2017
A public policy researcher is the first Democrat to file in the race for the County Council's District 7 seat. James Kitchin, 32, recently filed as a 2018 candidate and plans to host a campaign kickoff on July 13.
The Crofton native, who studies education and immigration policy for the University of Maryland Baltimore County, said he decided to run because he's become "frustrated with how the whole system works."
On issues like development, education and the environment, "there are a lot of things we can do locally," Kitchin said.
Kitchin wants to dedicate the first $50 every voter pays in taxes to public financing of elections, with voters deciding who that money will go to. He also supports the Anti-Corruption Act, a national campaign to publicly finance elections, end gerrymandering, ban lobbyist donations to politicians and encourage open primaries, among other initiatives.His vision for reform starts with reducing the influence of money in politics.If those efforts could be proven effective at a county level, Kitchin predicted, "they will spread from there."
On development, Kitchin said he'd like to ensure that the developer impact fees intended to help pay for infrastructure keep up with the county's need.
With impact fees paying for infrastructure from projects that preceded new developments, "the county's running it kind of like a Ponzi scheme," he said. "Until we fix that, that it's going to keep getting worse and worse."He sees a parallel with the county's reliance on continued development to support its growing budget. "That system works in theory only if continued growth, population growth and development can happen unending into the future and that's just pretty unrealistic," he said. "Eventually, we're going to be completely built out. When that happens, the whole thing is going to topple down." The fix, in Kitchin's view, is making "development actually pay for itself" and keeping taxes stable."If we... let our budget grow naturally as the economy grows, then I think we could get to the point where we would be financially sustainable," he said.
Kitchin, a former government high school teacher and father of two, said he'd like to see teachers receive a dependable salary step increase each year. And he pointed to a need for smaller class sizes in schools.
"We do compete with other counties for teachers, businesses, residents," he said. "If we're not willing to consistently get those step increases and to lower class sizes, we'll continue to lose teachers to other districts and we'll continue to weaken."
He also pledged to support the continuation of the county's stormwater fee, which pays for watershed preservation projects, and to push for stronger enforcement of the county's forest conservation law.
A self-described "policy guy," Kitchin said he believes the county needs to turn a focus to the laws it already has on the books. "Before you start coming up with new things and new programs, you've got to make sure you start enforcing the things you already have," he said.
Kitchin is one of three candidates to have expressed interest in the seat so far. Build Crofton High School advocate Jonathan Boniface and county constituent services officer Michelle Corkdadel, both Republicans, also plan to run to replace Councilman Jerry Walker, who is term-limited. Walker, a Republican from Crofton, has announced he will run for a House of Delegates seat in District 33.
The primary election is June 26, 2018.
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