Ben Jealous: Build Maryland’s Economy From The Bottom Up

As a new report finds 1/3 of Maryland residents face financial hardships, the underdog Democratic candidate for governor says he’ll fight corporations to help working people

Ben Jealous: Build Maryland's Economy From The Bottom Up

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Story Transcript

JAISAL NOOR: He’s got the money on his side. Maryland’s Republican Governor Larry Hogan has a massive fundraising advantage, allowing him to flood the airwaves with ads like this.

TV SPOT: Tax, toll, and fee relief. Highest ever funding for schools. Healthiest Bay in a generation.

JAISAL NOOR: His Democratic opponent says he needs the people power to win. Polls have him down by double digits. To win, Ben Jealous says he needs a massive increase in voter turnout in places like Baltimore City, where barely one in three voted in 2014. Low voter turnout statewide helped propel Hogan into the governor’s mansion in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2 to 1.

LARRY HOGAN: It seems like most people are happy with some of the progress we’ve made over the last four years, and they want to see us continue.

JAISAL NOOR: Hogan does have high approval ratings in Maryland, and his supporters say he’s taken the state in the right direction.

HOGAN SUPPORTER 1: What’s important for us is how Governor Hogan is supporting minority, diversity businesses. Specifically diversity women businesses.

HOGAN SUPPORTER 2: I think in this jurisdiction it’s economic opportunity, fairness, and of course the violence situation. I think it’s been- I think he’s done a lot more productive stuff here in our jurisdiction in Baltimore.

JAISAL NOOR: But according to a new report by the United Way, more than a third of Maryland residents are struggling to afford basic needs; a number that remains largely unchanged over the past eight years. Baltimore has close to double the state average unemployment and poverty rates. That’s why Jealous recently visited the historic Lexington Market to talk about his economic platform: Taking on corporate interests by passing state-based Medicare for All, boosting aid for small businesses, and increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, which would boost wages for one out of four workers in Maryland.

Hogan says he’s created 100,000 jobs in Maryland during his tenure. We asked Jealous for a response.

BEN JEALOUS: The question is how many more jobs could we have created? We have dead last job growth in the region. It’s not just, you know, how many jobs have we created? It’s how many more could we have created if we were really leading this economy in bold new ways. I’m out here today to talk to local businesspeople who are job creators, and have to bootstrap their businesses. And if we were willing to take risks on them like we do on big corporations, they’d be growing that much more quickly. We’d be creating more jobs in places like West Baltimore.

JAISAL NOOR: We questioned Jealous about what he would do to fight chronic unemployment. The black unemployment rate in Baltimore is more than double the national average.

BEN JEALOUS: My family’s been rooted in West Baltimore since 1941. [Inaudible] family even earlier than that. But my grandparents moved up here in ’41. And when their old neighborhood was on fire during the uprisings, I sat down with friends who were leaders in the city, business people in the city. We mapped out the city. You can find all sorts of shortages and gaps. The one thing you could not find a shortage of were small businesspeople and entrepreneurs. In fact, if each one of those small business people in the city, each one of those entrepreneurs was just able to create one more job, it would put a massive dent in the unemployment rate in the city.

JAISAL NOOR: According To a Harvard study. Baltimore has the worst social mobility for young black men in the country, which Jealous notes has its roots in racist government policies.

BEN JEALOUS: Baltimore was the laboratory for redlining. You go back, this is really where residential segregation at its most extreme began.

JAISAL NOOR: Jealous criticized Hogan for canceling the Red Line, which he called a boondoggle. A federal civil rights complaint against the move was dismissed by the Trump administration.

BEN JEALOUS: This governor, when he redlines the Red Line subway route that would have opened up opportunity in the county and the city- even in Anne Arundel County, the chamber down there is upset that the governor killed the Red Line. It set us back. What we really have to understand is that all those systems have to work well together. I think people get how transportation gets people to jobs, brings customers to businesses. But also you’ve got to make sure that your education system is training young people for jobs that exist. So it’s the fattest pipeline of talent, our public schools, into every industry in our city and our state.

JAISAL NOOR: Residents also expressed their concern about a police department seemingly out of control. I asked Jealous if he supports reforming the Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, and putting the Baltimore Police Department, currently under state control, under local control; a longtime demand of local criminal justice reform advocates.

BEN JEALOUS: Job one has to be to create a police department that keeps us safer; where people are coming into the department from the neighborhoods. We’re actually creating an apprenticeship program so that officers are being trained up into the department from those neighborhoods so they serve them with the same heart that my grandfather, who raised his family across West Baltimore, served West Baltimore as a probation officer.

We’ve got to hold police officers to the same standard we hold everybody else too. If you’re a police officer and you kill somebody wrongfully, that should be treated like murder. There should be no special treatment. You shouldn’t have days to prepare your defense before your fellow officers get to investigate you. We will fix that. It’s wrong. It was good, I’m glad to see that the officer who assaulted somebody now is being considered for charges for assault. That’s the way that it should be working.

As far as local control, I’m certainly open to that but. But first order of business for me, make sure we have enough homicide detectives. Make sure that we’re funding Safe Streets. And make sure that we’re routing out the corruption we’ve seen so many examples of. Since the Civil War, the police department, dual responsibility, the state and the city. And given how broken things are, I think the state has to first make sure that it’s fixed, and then hand over a fixed department to the city. But you can’t just throw one more problem on the city and wash your hands of it.

JAISAL NOOR: Thanks so much.

Real News will continue to cover the campaign for governor in Maryland. This is Jaisal Noor, in Baltimore.