Statement to Recovery Anne Arundel Candidate Forum - October 1

I want to express my regret at being unable to attend Recovery Anne Arundel’s forum tonight.

As a candidate for county executive it is my obligation to understand the challenges facing the thousands of good people, be they neighbors or family, who are suffering from addiction. It is also my obligation to understand the challenges facing the organizations that are working to put these people on the path to recovery.

Like many of you, my family has suffered from the loss of a promising young life to heroin overdose. This has to stop.

There is a temptation by politicians and candidates for office to pretend that they have all the answers. I learned through my many years of work as a community organizer and as a businessperson that listening is where progress begins.

I want to share with you some of what I’ve heard, and what I believe.

Addiction is a disease.

The medical community is seeking to eradicate this disease.

Effective treatment includes medication, counseling, and love.

Buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone are widely acknowledged to be effective treatments, but are difficult to obtain for addicts who are not enrolled in treatment programs. Efforts to expand access to these drugs are underway across the country, and if we are to save lives in our county, we must be at the forefront of this movement.

The NIH estimates that only ten percent of Americans who suffer from a substance use disorder receive treatment. I suspect that the treatment gap in our county is no better. We must close the gap, but we must also ensure that people can access medication from doctors, even when they are not enrolled in a program. Without that medication too many turn to fentanyl-laced heroin and die.

Doctors avoid treating addiction for many reasons, but one is intimidation from politicians and attorneys seeking to assign blame. Doctors are cutting back on opioid prescriptions not because politicians demand it, but because they are sworn to a Hippocratic Oath.

If I am elected I will direct our Department of Health to work with addiction treatment providers on a plan to engage more of the medical community in expanding access to medication and treatment.

I have visited three addiction treatment centers in our county and intend to get to the rest. All have expressed a desire to expand their services, and all have said that their primary obstacle is location. Two of the three that I visited are on the state’s Crownsville Hospital Center property.

Tonight I am meeting with residents of the Crownsville area to discuss acquiring the hospital center property from the state. We would do this to protect the organizations operating there and to create a park. I am working with the Generals Highway Council of Civic Organizations on a plan that would be financed in part by transforming wastewater spray fields there to community solar farms. This may be the only community in our county that is actively supporting addiction treatment in their own backyard, and we should embrace them.

I have also explored with some of you the idea of transforming the dormitory-style wing of the low security Ordnance Detention Center from a federal holding facility for immigrants awaiting their hearings to an addiction treatment facility in partnership with local treatment providers. While nobody likes the optics of going to a detention center for addiction treatment, it has been argued to me that separate branding and site improvements could make this a viable project.

I am proud of the work that our county agencies have done to date. Not My Child, Safe Stations, and our Crisis Response and Intervention Teams show that this community is mobilized to combat this epidemic. I would take it a step further.

An important part of my plan for county government in general is to join with jurisdictions across the country who practice open government and data-driven policy development.

We know, for instance, that 1000 people have come to our Safe Stations, but the county has been unwilling to share statistics about where those people have been sent for treatment, whether they have been accepted into treatment programs, and how they have fared.

I believe that statistics such as these must be collected and shared publicly. Opening the window of government programs to the public and to stakeholders involved in this work is essential to progress. It encourages accountability, and it broadens the networks involved in problem-solving.

I do not have information on the state’s process to apply for the $66 million in SAMHSA funding, or how much we can expect to come to our county. I can promise, however, that Anne Arundel County under my leadership will aggressively pursue every federal, state, and private dollar that exists to combat this epidemic. We will do this in collaboration with those of you who are eligible to receive these funds.

My pledge to all of you is that if I am elected, we will set politics aside, bring together the best minds in the field, pursue every financial resource available, and pursue a robust program of prevention and treatment of substance use disorders.

We are in this together, all of us.

Posted on 01 Oct 2018, 01:16 - Category: Campaign News



Magothy Health Center Facts

 

Posted on 31 Aug 2018, 14:00 - Category: Campaign News



Anne Arundel County Police Endorse Steuart Pittman

 

Posted on 13 Aug 2018, 12:10 - Category: Campaign News



Making Annapolis the Last Mass Shooting

As published in The Capital on August 6, 2018

The survivors of the shooting at The Capital have made a request. They want candidates for office in this fall’s election to answer this question: “How do we make Annapolis the last mass shooting in America?”

I am running for county executive. My answer starts here in our county. The eyes of the nation are on us, and if we succeed others will follow.

We are a microcosm of this country, split down the middle politically, and deeply divided on how we should regulate access to guns. When I take office in December I must listen to all of the 570,000-plus residents here. I don’t want us further divided.

I loved the pellet gun that my father gave me when I was 13. Shooting clay pigeons with my grandfather was the best. I don’t want anybody to take away my handgun, because I need it when an animal on the farm is suffering and dying, and the veterinarian is two hours away.

I suspect that more of my friends in south county have guns than don’t. Some hunt, and some are armed to protect their families. A few of my friends are convinced that our country is falling apart, and that military-style assault weapons are their best chance of survival.

One thing that all of my friends respect, however, is the rule of law. Hunters get licenses and are the first to crack down on poachers. A permit to carry a handgun is a badge of honor for many gun owners. Getting arrested is not.

Another thing that all of my friends agree on is that some people should not have access to guns. The man who shot and killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith, and Wendy Winters should not have had a gun.

My point is that we have common ground, even on guns.

I spent nine years after college building neighborhood organizations in politically and racially diverse communities. The experience taught me that human beings have a lot in common with each other, and that political affiliations can be set aside when a community is confronting a challenge.

We are a community in Anne Arundel County, and we have been asked to come together to solve a problem. We have people who are angry and afraid on both sides of our politics, but if we listen, we can move toward trust and eventually cooperation.

We have sixty commissions and boards in this county tasked with recommending solutions to county problems. None are confronting the issue of gun violence. That will change when I am elected.

Our Gun Violence Task Force will include gun owners, gun safety instructors, public safety officers, victims, mental health providers, and attorneys. It will monitor implementation of our state’s current gun safety laws, including our new red flag law, and recommend legislation to our county’s delegation to the Maryland General Assembly that would improve those laws. Most importantly, it will think outside of the box, make a plan, and have the full backing of the county executive and all departments of county government. It will not let us forget the task before us.

The greatest obstacle to success in this endeavor is politics. When politicians make statements like, “The only reason we are free today is because we are armed,” or that the second amendment is about, “the ever-present danger of tyrannical government,” our efforts to come together around common-sense restrictions on gun ownership become very difficult.  

These quotes came from County Executive Steve Schuh’s speech on the floor of the Maryland General Assembly in opposition to the Firearms Safety Act of 2013. That bill limited the sale of military-style assault weapons in Maryland. 

Our job as public servants is to solve problems. Solutions aren’t always in the form of new laws, and they don’t always cost money. But they always involve bringing people together.

I will do that.

- Steuart Pittman

Posted on 10 Aug 2018, 01:37 - Category: Campaign News



Schuh Turns His Back on Business

 

Op-ed by Steuart Pittman as published in The Capital July 30

My campaign for county executive has been labeled by my opponent’s team as anti-business. I’m not, of course. My record of working against burdensome business regulations and promoting market-based solutions to social problems goes back thirty years. I am unabashedly pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business.

Steve Schuh claims the pro-business label as well, but this week he lost it. On Tuesday evening at the candidate forum on affordable housing, he came out strongly against smart growth. On Wednesday, I read in this paper that he wants to cut public transportation. Smart growth and public transportation are the keys to a pro-people, pro-environment, and pro-business future.

Here is my take on what happened.

Smart growth combats sprawl. It preserves open space and reduces traffic by placing housing and commercial development near transportation hubs. Schools and infrastructure are always part of a smart growth plan.

I argued at the affordable housing forum that smart growth facilitates creation of housing that is affordable for our local workforce. It uses less land, and land is expensive.

Development in our county has been reckless. We had a 24% jump in new home closings last year. Many were built in locations that we thought were protected. The average sale price was $600,000 for single-family and $400,000 for townhomes. Only 18 of the 1,597 homes closed were condos. The sprawl that destroys the natural beauty of our county is also creating a workforce housing crisis.

Steve Schuh pivoted from a fall fundraising pitch for his “pro-growth agenda” to a spring letter to neighborhood associations pledging to “slow growth.” He made a rare appearance before the county council in February announcing new “smart growth initiatives.”

But Tuesday night he closed the door on smart growth, saying, “Whether it’s affordable or not affordable, just any kind of large-scale, apartment-type development is in my opinion not the way to go.”

This will come as a shock to our county’s Chamber of Commerce. The Workforce Housing Task Force Report that they published in 2006 just got shredded.

But Schuh went further this week. He wrote a letter to the Secretary of Transportation asking that two light rail stations be closed and that service to the most heavily used station in the county be ended during “non-essential hours.”

Cuts to public transportation in most jurisdictions result from low ridership and budgetary concerns. The light rail costs the county nothing, and the southernmost station averages 1,124 riders daily. Many of those riders transfer to busses that take them to their jobs elsewhere in the county, including Arundel Mills Mall.

So why would Steve Schuh cut the transportation that these workers and businesses rely on?

According to spokesperson Owen McEvoy, Schuh recently heard from Senate candidate John Grasso and some residents that the light rail brings a criminal element into their communities. McEvoy adds that, “There has not been a crime wave, but we have been hearing more loudly from the community.” In other words, it’s an election year and we think we can get some votes with this.

We do have a crime problem at and near the light rail stations. That’s why we now have police officers riding the trains and patrolling the areas. Our challenge is that we have fewer sworn officers on our police force than we had when Steve Schuh took office.

The new public safety positions that Steve Schuh congratulates himself on have not been filled. We have fewer than 700 sworn officers and we know that we need to be well over 800 to serve the growing population. Our officers need to be compensated fairly and get back to normal schedules, so we don’t continue losing more than we hire.

Our county needs more public transportation, not less. And it needs more housing that is affordable for our workforce. We can do both while improving public safety and protecting our environment.  

It just takes some political bravery.

Posted on 01 Aug 2018, 01:52 - Category: Campaign News



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