Candidate Survey: Michael Ostroff for Delegate, District 14
Michael A. Ostroff
Office Sought and District
Delegate, District 14
B.A. from Villanova University, J.D. for Univ. of Maryland Law School
Small firm attorney
Delegate Candidate in 2014
Social Media Accounts
Why are you running for office?
I am running for office because I believe that our legislature has been overrun by one party politics and an extreme progressive ideology that ignores the practical effects of its policies. The Democratic Party and its elected members, which control not only the statehouse but every state- and county-level seat in Montgomery County, routinely outbid each other for the attention and approval special interest. I want to be a voice for my neighbors, and return the attention to the actual constituents, the individuals and families who live, work and study in Montgomery County.
Who do you consider your political role model, and why?
I try not to emulate individuals. It my general impression that even those with the best intentions have their personal and professional vices or, at the very least, blind spots. That said, I have always been drawn to the self-sacrifice of the Founding Fathers, who set their personal affairs to the side and stood up for what would become the American idea.
What is your favorite book about politics and policy, and why?
I cannot identify a favorite. I generally read political/policy books to understand a position or theory, even if I do not agree with the thesis. I try to read a variety of sources and styles, from classical to modern theory, historical surveys to self-improvement. By reading a variety, I hope to improve my knowledge and understanding of the various issues we confront in our daily lives.
What will be your top priority in the General Assembly?
Below I discuss of few specific proposals and issues. Here, however, I will take a more general approach. If elected to represent District 14, I promise to 1) be an advocate for the individuals, families and small business in my district, county and state; 2) use my knowledge of law and policy, and my experience representing consumers and small business, to promote comprehensive reforms that look at the practical effects of legislation, not just check the boxes for special interests; and 3) be transparent and accessible to my constitutes and provide nonpartisan feedback of my positions and votes, as well as a review of the actions of the legislature more generally.
What is the biggest issue facing your district?
District 14 is a very large and diverse district, running from suburban Burtonsville to more rural Damascus. It has historically suffered from an inequitable distribution of attention and resources, both at the county- and state-level. We are often ignored for funding and development proposals, and seen as a transit corridor between DC and the other counties. This has led to both underdevelopment and an increase in both petty and serious crime. I intend to bring the spotlight back to our district, and engage the relevant stakeholders to bring resources back to our area.
What are the three biggest issues facing Maryland?
I love living in Maryland but we are not without our shortcomings. Three big issues that Maryland as a whole faces is: 1) the continuation and expansion of regional efforts to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay (and related efforts like the Conowingo Dam); 2) an increase in transparency and oversight of our public education budgets; and 3) expanding on Hogan’s efforts to reform Maryland’s economy by increasing business viability and lowering the tax burden on Maryland residents
What is your position on life issues? (abortion, assisted suicide)
I will oppose efforts to legalize physician-assisted suicide. While I hope to always remain compassionate to those who feel drawn to the choice of abortion or assisted suicide, I do not believe that compassion necessitates support. And though abortion is legal under federal and state law, I believe there is a continuing obligation of the legislature to review and modify the laws to comport with our understanding of the science of human development.
What is your position on taxes and spending?
I start with the premises that a person’s income is theirs; and not the governments. I also recognize that taxes have an appropriate function in any civil society. But taxes should be reasonably calculated to fund necessary public expenditures, such as schools, roads, and public safety. Maryland’s number 1 problem with taxing and spending are the mandated budget expenditures that grow every year without any review for whether they are needed or wanted. A top budget priority of mine will be to institute a review of all mandatory spending items, so that we can identify and eliminate unnecessary spending.
What is your position on gun rights?
I recognize that, not only does the Second Amendment guarantee this right, but that it is also an inherent right of people to be able to protect themselves. That said, like all of our constitutional rights, I believe there is room for reasonable restrictions on the access and use of firearms. Unfortunately, our society has become extremely polarized on this topic, and the discussion has been shut down by those screaming the loudest. I would look to engage the community, including both gun owners and anti-gun advocates, to identify common ground.
What is your position on education?
Education has become one of the preeminent obligations of the community to its children, and there is always room for improvement. The state and county have specific and often times overlapping roles in this field. To improve our education, I would support the following initiatives: 1) increase transparency in school funding and administration; 2) mandate new school construction metrics that penalize counties that open schools at 90% capacity or above, or allow overdevelopment with regard to school capacity; and 3) improve school choice, including the increased use of the consortium model, charter schools and home school options.
What is your position on the legalization of marijuana?
I supported the decriminalization of small possession marijuana, but am not convinced that there are benefits to legalizing its use. Having travelled to places like Colorado, I have witnessed how legalization can transform a community. The prevalence of marijuana dispensaries and open use have had a detrimental effect on communities, and children have become over-exposed. To the extent Maryland does legalize marijuana, I would want to see comprehensive regulation of the sale, advertisement and public education of its proper use and effects.
What is your position on the current three-tiered system for the sale and distribution of alcohol?
Maryland’s, and even more, Montgomery County’s, alcohol distribution/sales law need a total overhaul. The law has simply not kept pace with the development of the industry and, especially, with the advent and expansion of local breweries and home brewing. The law needs to be brought into the 21st century and to recognize that the industry does not neatly fit into the tiered-structure it once did.
Legislators can receive $101 per day for lodging and $47 per day for meals during the 90-day General Assembly session. If elected, do you plan to accept these benefits? Why or why not?
I would use the stipends sparingly and only when I thought appropriate. Living only about 45 minutes from Annapolis, I do not anticipate using the lodging; however, not having served in the legislature, I do not want to categorically reject it if, in fact, I am unable to reasonably commute between a late and early session. Furthermore, I do not anticipate using the meal stipend unless it is truly a “working” meal and would not be using it for lavish dining. I would also support modification to the stipend rules to allow those delegates and senators who are coming from the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland fuller access than those living within an hour of Annapolis.
There is a culture of depravity and sexual harassment prevalent in the Maryland General Assembly. As a legislator, how will you work to end this culture of depravity and to ensure that those who commit these acts are removed from the General Assembly?
I think one of the best ways to improve the culture of Annapolis is to elect new, younger voices, who demonstrate an intolerance to the ways of old Annapolis. And I vow that this culture in unacceptable to me and will not be tolerated in my office or by those with whom I have relationships. As an elected official, one is taking an oath of office and, being in the public trust, given access to certain benefits and resources. As such, I believe that transparency in the investigation and reporting on allegations can be improved, and I believe the General Assembly has a myriad of ways to penalize an official short of expulsion, such as a public reprimand, a removal of chairmanship, etc. That said, I am not convinced that it is in the General Assembly’s power to remove a duly-elected official unless that person has been convicted of a qualifying crime. The information can be made public and the constituents of the legislator should determine his or her fate.