THE CITY ELECTION HEATS UP:

‘Why I’m Running for City Council President’

by Dave Greene
     Two major issues bring me into the race for President of the Baltimore City Council: the drug crisis and overpriced car insurance.
     As a member of the City Wide Coalition I have been working on these issues for over a decade with a great deal of success in many areas--except in the City Council. We have the solutions; the City Council shows no spark of interest. Now is the time for change.
      Car insurance would be reduced by more than 20% in the very first year by the creation of a nonprofit, cooperative insurance company, owned by its policy holders. This amounts to a first year savings for Baltimore residents of about $75 million--about $300 per car owner. These figures have been established by feasibility studies financed by the City Wide Insurance Coalition and the City of Baltimore. No one in City Hall or the insurance business has challenged these figures.
      What would it take to create this insurance co-op? First, a short-term loan of a quarter of a million dollars from the City. Second, a guarantee of $9 million (which the city could provide with the stroke of a pen; no actual monies would have to be moved). The City Council needs a new President to bring these actions into law.
      The second major issue is an open-minded reassessment of our approach to illegal drugs. Traditionally there have been two approaches: one, which we are now engaged in, is known as the “War on Drugs,” a dismal failure in every respect; the other, “legalization.”
     Do we really want corporate America merchandising cocaine and heroin the same way they now flood us with cigarettes and tobacco?
     I certainly do not call for “legalization.” Following prohibition, “legalization” produced more alcoholics than at any other time in history. There are strong arguments against both of these traditional approaches.
      A Third Way Out of the Drug Crisis: The City Wide Coalition offers a creative third alternative, Take the Profits Out of Drugs. Money drives the drug trade. Remove the profits, and the drug crisis becomes manageable.
     In spite of our ten-year effort (including placing resolutions before the City Council on three occasions), the Council’s response has been a resounding: No Discussion.
      To Take the Profits Out of Drugs, the first step is to treat drug addiction as a medical problem, not a criminal problem. Set up a process whereby addicts can go to a clinic to purchase their drugs at prices so low that there would be no profit motive for illegal street trade.
      What results can we expect? Addicts will no longer have to rob, destroy, and prostitute to earn their next fix (90% of all Baltimore felonies are drug-related, including 75% of the homicides). What is it worth to decrease the breaking and entering, the smashed car windows, and the gunshots during robberies? Drive-by shootings and turf war killings would be eliminated; there would be no more turf to kill for. Furthermore, with no profits to be made, the incentive to addict new and younger users will be removed.
      In Baltimore about 1 in 10 is an addict; most families have an addicted member. With medical oversight, deaths from overdoses and impurities would be minimized. In a less aggressive drug- selling environment, rehabilitation would seem more attractive, and there would be money available for treatment. Once off drugs there would be less pressure to become re-addicted.
      As City Council President, I will insure that both the insurance co-op and the resolution to Take the Profits Out of Drugs will be high on the Council agenda. Baltimore’s actions will be examples for the nation.
      The candidate’s background: I attended public school followed by Culver Military Academy on academic scholarship, and did further studies at Haverford College, Alfred University, The Johns Hopkins University, and the University of Wisconsin (Ph.D. in electrical engineering). I taught chemistry, math, and physics for more than 35 years in the Baltimore area at Goucher College, Saint Timothy’s School, Essex Community College. I retired on January 1, 1998 from Towson University, where I taught physics for more than 26 years.
      I am a member of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and I take Quaker values very seriously. Since 1958, my home has been in integrated neighborhoods. I have improved three of them by repairing vacant buildings, occupying them, and becoming active in the community. I am now an active member of both the Winston-Govans and the Penn Lucy community organizations and a past active member of the Charles Village Civic Association. My wife, Anne, and I have four children and three grandchildren.
      Kaufman is Running Mate: My running mate, A. Robert Kaufman, candidate for Mayor of Baltimore, and I will work together, as we’ve done for almost 40 years. Together Bob and I have posted more than 90 years at the forefront of peace and justice issues. Bob’s civil rights record far exceeds those of all other Mayoral candidates.
      I look forward to this political campaign. Bob Kaufman and I will bring important issues to the table. We will so champion the insurance issue that anyone who hopes to win would have to make an ironclad commitment to its creation. There will be a real challenge to the failed “War on Drugs.” Other important concerns include democratizing our school system, computerizing the police department without curtailing personal freedoms, retooling the city’s income and property tax structure to make it more equitable, and initiating reforms that stimulate the formation and continuation of locally-owned community businesses.
     We are not beholden to any big monied interests which could inhibit the advance of these and other issues; we have no hidden agendas.
     Time for Some Fun: One more note--Baltimore can be made a more enjoyable city to live in. It’s time we had some fun. I’ve run old-time fiddlers’ conventions for 25 years, I’ve taught ballroom dancing, gratis, for seven years. From City Council I will stimulate community activities to help draw our city together such as concerts, sports competitions, parades, flea markets, and other inexpensive but appealing outdoor amusements. Let’s do some dancing in the streets--they’re our streets.
      Appeal for Volunteers: If you are interested in honesty, action, and dedication, join our campaign. We need your help to bring the issues to the people for widespread debate. Phone (410)435-0967 or write: 500 East 42nd Street, 21218. Please invite us to speak to your friends in your home or to your neighborhood organization as soon as possible.
     
     


Dave Greene wrote this article at the request of the Chronicle. The Chronicle welcomes open political debate and would welcome similar platform statements from candidates for Mayor or City Council President; call 243-4141.


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This story was published on Feb. 3, 1999.