State Assembly Delegate, District 20 – Will Smith

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Will Smith.

1) Tell us about yourself:

I was born and raised in Silver Spring. While neither of my parents obtained a college degree, they taught me the importance of a good education. I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree, graduating from The College of William & Mary. I continued on, gaining my masters from Johns Hopkins University, and my law degree from William & Mary.

Born at the tail end of the Jim Crow era, my parents were young adults during the height of the civil rights movement. Their struggle and sacrifice opened the doors of opportunity for me and it is their example that taught me the importance of giving back to others. That’s why I’ve been committed to public service in my private and professional life.

2) What do you hope to accomplish in office?

Takoma Park and Silver Spring have improved dramatically over the course of my life, however there is still much to do. Challenges in education, transportation, environmental protection and equal access still remain ever-present and will demand creative progressive solutions from the next generation.  A few of my top priorities include:

Educational Priorities

1.Provide access to universal pre-K for all families

2. Closing the achievement gap by support innovative community based programs that work

3.Support ethnic diversity in our schools by providing resources for early learning, ESOL, and special needs programs

Strengthen our Local Economy

1.Expand opportunities for the small business and minority business reserve programs

2.Index the minimum wage for inflation and increase tipped workers’ wages from 50% to 70% of the minimum wage

3.Provide employees with six weeks job-protected leave at the birth or adoption of a child

4.Make paid sick leave mandatory for Maryland employers

Reform our justice system

1.Modernize our marijuana laws and move towards a system that taxes, regulates, and legalizes marijuana

2.Pass Maryland’s Second Chance Act, sealing and shielding non-violent, misdemeanor criminal records, so people have greater opportunity to rejoin society.

3) What would you say your biggest accomplishment has been so far? What does that say about your priorities as delegate?

While neither of my parents went to college, they taught me the importance of a good education. I was the first person in my family to earn a college degree.  Apart from becoming a first generation college graduate, I count my commission as an officer in the United States Navy and being appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as a Director at the Homeland Security Advisory Council as my most significant professional achievements. My number one priority is closing the achievement through the implementation of universal pre-k. Addressing pervasive challenges in the achievement gap and ensuring all of our  children  “are afforded an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life” will require investments in early education programs geared at getting students on the right track early.
[Visit www.SmithForMaryland to view my full platform]

4) Many of you have fought for political causes outside of the assembly. What could you accomplish as a delegate that you couldn’t accomplish as an advocate?

I have worked in this community for my entire life.  I have served as an Americorp volunteer at IMPACT Silver Spring, and currently sit on various nonprofit boards including the Gandhi Brigade and GapBuster Learning Center.  I have also served on several county commissions, and as a pro bono attorney for several members of our community.  All of these endeavors have allowed me to advocate on behalf of the issues I’m passionate about and have given me the opportunity to give back to the community that has given so much to me.  However, there comes a time in which activists must rely on those in elected office to effectuate the changes our community desires – I’m running to advance our community driven vision in Annapolis.

5) What distinguishes you from the other candidates?

Born and raised in Silver Spring, I pride myself on having been intimately involved and dedicated to our community for my entire life. As an activist, I’m familiar with our community organizations and leaders.  As an attorney, I’ve long practiced the necessary advocacy skills to advance our agenda in Annapolis.  As a former White House Appointee, I have experience operating within the highest levels of government.  I’m running to join the District 20 team because I believe the House of Delegates needs more problem solvers, leaders who know how to tackle the problems facing every family. With a lifelong stake in the success of our community, I understand how state government can work in our best interest. I care deeply about this community and its future, and believe my policy priorities will keep us on a smart and progressive path forward.

6) What is the top issue (or one of the top issues) facing the District and how do you propose to deal with it?

Closing the Achievement Gap – While there is no silver bullet for closing the achievement gap, I plan on advocating for the implementation of universal pre-k.  Our children, and our society at-large, benefit tremendously when students have access to high quality pre-k.   Kindergarteners who participated in pre-k programs perform far better academically and exemplify fewer behavioral problems than their counterparts who did not attend.   Universal pre-k in Maryland will help close the achievement gap, and has long term effects that last far beyond childhood.   Students who attend pre-k have been shown to complete high school at higher rates, score higher on college entrance exams, and are less likely to be incarcerated. As your delegate I will advocate for the requisite funding to support universal pre-k in Maryland.

7) What are the top issues facing the Assembly and how do you propose to deal with it?

Substantively – The achievement gap:  While Maryland has the best public schools in the nation we also have the second largest achievement gap. Excellence in education means excellence  for all. Addressing pervasive challenges in the achievement gap and ensuring all of our  children  “are afforded an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life” will require investments in early education programs geared at getting students on the right track early.

Functionally – Transparency: Though the passage of the Maryland Open Government Action in 2010 was a huge step in the right direction, there still remains a lot to do with respect to openness and transparency in our governmental practices. I plan to advocate for the implementation of a system that allows constituents to sign up online to testify at public hearings and will work to require standing committees to publish their bill hearing order in advance.  I’ll also work for a system that publishes subcommittee, and amendment votes.

8) Please list endorsements:

1. Senator Jamie Raskin
2. Delegate Sheila Hixson
3. Takoma Park Mayor Bruce Williams
4. The Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA)
5. The League of Conservation Voters
6. The Sierra Club
7. The Green Democrats
7. Equality Maryland
8. Progressive Maryland
9. The African American Democratic Club
10. The Gazette
11.  The Montgomery County Public School Retirees
12. The Montgomery County Career Firefighters
13. The Maryland State Education Association (MSEA)
14. Dozens of other community activeists and elected officials (please visit www.SmithForMaryland.com for a full list)

9) Please supply links, and contact info:

Will Smith For Delegate Website:  www.SmithForMaryland.com Email: Will@WillSmithForD20.comTwitter: @Willcsmithjr
Facebook: /WillSmithForDelegate
Phone: 240-505-8558 (call anytime)
Mailing Address:  Will Smith for Delegate
P.O. Box 8801 Silver Spring, MD 20907

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