Ari Winokur is a young Republican in Baltimore City who decided to stand up and run for City Council. A citizen of the Fifth Councilmanic District, Winokur wants to “…bring greater sensibility and transparency to government…” according to his website. I contacted Winokur to ask him some questions about his stances on the issues and his campaign. What follows are his answers.
Matthew Newman: What made you decide to run for City Council?
Ari Winokur:Over the time I have lived in Baltimore, I have seen the city proceeding in a downward spiral. Unfortunately, in the past 10 years this city has lost 30,000 people. We need to reverse this downward trend. We need to turn this city around and make it appealing once more for people to come to visit and to stay. There are so many wonderful things this city has to offer. What is needed is a city that has a persona to match it’s potential. I believe I can help make that happen.
MRN: What part of your background makes you uniquely qualified to be a member of the City Council?
AW: I am an optimistic problem solver and see this city in need of just that attitude. Baltimore is a very unique city with it’s own unique style and a very special history. Though some people would look at Baltimore as a lost cause and past it’s prime, I see a brilliant future for this city. I have many ideas of how to bring this city back to its former glory, and I hope that the voters give me the opportunity bring these ideas to fruition.
MRN: What is the most important issue facing the City of Baltimore?
AW: Unfortunately, Baltimore is in a state of decline. It is hard to point to a specific issue that ranks as number one. In the 2010 gubernatorial election, there were 11 questions on the ballot for Baltimore City, all financial. Instead of constantly looking for ways to borrow money, this city needs to invest the money it has to grow revenues. Some things may have to be cut, but if money can be directed to programs that will increase people coming to Baltimore and staying, revenues increase and the city will have more money to do more.
MRN: If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would proposed before the City Council?
AW: The first piece of legislation I would propose would be a transparency bill. Transparency in government is absolutely essential. We need to set a limit over which any investment needs to be broken down online for easy viewing by anyone. Also, the legislation should require all expenses of all elected officials to be listed online as well, including their initial expense accounts. Any special events such as trips like that taken by the pension board should also be included for close review. Having all this information provided with easy access will help the residents of Baltimore City know what their government is doing and if it is in their best interest.
MRN: As a candidate in a heavily Democratic region, how do you feel Republicans can reach out to historically Democratic leaning voters in areas like Baltimore City?
AW: The voters in Baltimore do have a tendency to vote Democrat; however, the city is on a downward spiral. Perhaps it is time for a change. There is a basic question that needs to be asked here. Are we better off after years of Democratic control? I believe the answer is a resounding no. It is time for a change of leadership in this City.
MRN: What is your opinion on the redistricting processes in Baltimore City?
AW: Redistricting is an important part of maintaining our representative government. The most essential part of any redistricting process, is to keep neighborhoods and communities together. What I fear with any redistricting is the splitting of communities. Splitting the population evenly among the districts and keeping neighborhoods together is key. After that, I want to hear from people directly effected by the redistricting before I make any final decisions.
MRN: What is your opinion on Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s “Employ Baltimore Executive Order?”
AW: The Employ Baltimore Executive Order is well intentioned, but is not the right action. Forcing people to meet requirements does not work. This will only move less business into the city. We are in a competitive job market and businesses are failing or fleeing. Creating additional hurdles for business is the wrong idea for our city. What we need to do, is open things up. Give companies incentives to work in the city and with the city. These incentives will produce more work and more job opportunities in the city.
MRN: What are your thoughts on Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget?
AW: Seeing that the Mayor worked to close the deficit by cutting spending is a wonderful thing. Cutting budgets is a wonderful way to fix deficit issues; however, what you cut from is just as important. A lot of money was cut from programs for children such as rec centers and after-school programs. Also money taken from basic city services like 311 and graffiti removal. We need to have a cleaned up city to attract more people. I refer you to my proposed legislation. If the voters could see where the money was going, more work would be done to fix the budget.
MRN: If the 2012 GOP primary were held today, what candidate would you vote for?
AW: The current GOP slate of candidates is crowded with many great individuals. Each candidate brings their own unique views and skills to the race. I have not made a decision yet on whom I support.
MRN: In closing, what is one thing you want potential voters to know about your campaign?
AW: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results. If we, as a people and as a city, cannot open our minds to opportunity and diversity then we will remain limited and subject to a one party, reduced opportunity reality. My campaign is about promoting Baltimore City and making it a better, more attractive place. Please take the time to visit my Facebook page and website to keep updated on my campaign. Vote for me on November 8.
I thank Mr. Winokour for his time. He is a very active candidate trying to make inroads in a difficult city for Republicans. I admire his enthusiasm as he traverses the City in an off-year election. If you would like to learn more about his campaign, check out his official website here or, if you’re on Twitter, follow him.