This interview is part of a series of interviews with the Democratic and Republican candidates for Maryland governor in 2022. In these interviews, WTOP asked all the candidates the same or similar questions on education, public safety and crime, jobs and the economy, and transportation. The Maryland primary is July 19.
The candidate: Ralph Jaffe
Running mate: Mark Greben
Retired teacher Ralph Jaffe has run in seven previous elections for governor and senator in Maryland since 1992. In this campaign Jaffe has proposed a Tutor-Mentor-Team approach to revamp education and says he represents a movement aiming to stop corruption in government.
In the 2018 campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, Jaffe won 1.6% of the vote, and a Baltimore Sun/University of Baltimore poll released earlier this month showed him favored by about 1% of registered voters.
“Trust is the key,” Jaffe says. “Who do you trust? I have the record to show that I kept my word and I’m not in this for the power, the money or the fame. I just want to be a good public servant.”
The interview below has been edited for length and clarity
WTOP: After the pandemic, there are a lot of concerns about how students are doing, how teachers are doing. And of course, there’s the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. What would you do to make sure this blueprint actually goes through and works? What are your plans?
Jaffe: First of all, I am a teacher; I’m not a politician. I think that’s to my advantage in this campaign. And I want your audience to know that I have developed a revolutionary program, in teaching and education. It’s designed to keep students in school as they stay in school, where they will become productive citizens once they get out of school, whether it’s high school or college. Instead of what’s going on right now. When students drop out, especially in
Baltimore City and your big urban areas, the tendency is they drop out, they get among the wrong crowd of people, and they wind up doing bad things.
My program is called the Tutor-Mentor-Team approach for keeping students in school. This is the way I would implement it if I’m allowed to govern. The key word is “team.” We take a team of at least three adults who have accomplished things in life. Now, the team could consist of four, five, six, or seven, eight, whatever you want — but you have to have a minimum of three people on the team because I don’t want one adult doing all the mentoring. Then we identify a student that’s lost, is rebellious, given up, whatever the case might be. That student can be in first grade, second grade, all the way through grade 12. Once the connection is made between the team and the student, they will stay together until this student either graduates from high school with a degree and a job, which a team helped him or her to get, or if the student wants to go into college, the team will stay with the student until a student graduates from college with a degree and a job which the team helped him to get.
I’m making some news here, because I’m pleased to announce that we have a student that’s going to participate in the pioneering of this program. I met with the student and her mother … and we’re ready to rock and roll and get this program off the ground.
WTOP: Let me ask a couple of things here. Who are these team members going to be? Will they all be teachers at the school?
Jaffe: They are going to be volunteers who are successful. As we speak right now, there are 41 Tutor-Mentor Team volunteers. And I want to just mention two of them, to show you the quality of the people that we have who are going to do this free of charge. One is a professor, assistant professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the world renowned Johns Hopkins Wilmer Clinic Medical Center. The second tutor-mentor runs, in my opinion, the finest charity in the country. While it’s primarily for Jewish people, they also help non-Jewish people as well. They take in millions of dollars every year; at least 95% of what they take in, goes directly to the poor and needy. And this the beauty of this program is, it’s not going to cost the taxpayers one penny. And the teacher that is going to train other teachers and other citizens how to do this — his name is Ralph Jaffe, running for governor, isn’t going to charge one penny either. That’s how we’re going to do this.
WTOP: What about the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future that by law has to be implemented? How would you implement it?
Jaffe: Well, to be quite frank with you, I’m not sure what the blueprint is. Can you tell me what the blueprint is?
WTOP: Yes, it’s a multibillion-dollar 10-year plan that’s going to be administered by the legislature and the governor. And I’m wondering how you would implement it?
Jaffe: Well, first of all, I think it’s waste of taxpayers’ money. I’m fed up, I’m fed up with all the wasted money that we throw into educational programs that don’t work. And money is not the answer. The answer is, you have to develop a good working relationship between students and teachers, where there’s a bonding, there’s a love relationship between the students and the teachers. That’s what needs to be done.
We also have to have the re-institution of the family — that’s where the tutor-mentor program comes in. In many cases, students are lost because they come from broken-down families, there is a single mother and she’s not getting the help that she needs and so forth. So, as far as I’m concerned, the answer is the Tutor-Mentor team program, it’s what we really need to do, which is not going to cost the taxpayers any money. That’s my position.
WTOP: Police accountability boards are being implemented in all the jurisdictions. Each is doing it in their own way. What are your concerns about how policing and accountability will be carried out in the future? And what’s your game plan for public safety?
Jaffe: If you look at Baltimore City, for example, and it’s — no, it’s in every urban community: There is a shortage of police officers. It is impossible to protect the citizens of Baltimore City. The truth is one of the officers was quoted a couple of years ago saying we can’t even protect ourselves, how can we protect the citizens of Baltimore City? So the answer is twofold. The first thing is a Tutor-Mentor Program. That will be a tremendous help, because we’re gonna have kids staying in school instead of going out into the community lost, confused and winding up with bad people and doing bad things. So that’s the long-term solution. Now the solution for the quick fix, you might say, or to get the violence ended — is very complicated. I have talked to a number of African American important citizens.
And this is what I’ve learned: Unfortunately, there is a distrust between many African Americans and the police, and also the National Guard. So I came into this thinking that if we brought the National Guard in for maybe a month, and they would supplement the police force, let’s say like Baltimore City, you would see the greatest reduction in crime you’ve ever seen. But I’ve been told by people that I respect in the African American community that there is distrust. One thing a politician needs to do: He or she needs to learn how to listen. Politicians, they love to talk, talk, talk, but they don’t know how to listen. Jaffe knows how to listen. And I’m prepared to listen to their ideas. And one came up with an interesting idea — I’m going to try it. I made a deal with one of these important activists like this, “We’ll try it their way for three months. If there’s no significant improvement in the crime situation in Baltimore City, then we’ll have to bring out the National Guard.”
WTOP: OK, and what is their way? What did they suggest?
Jaffe: Well, they want to use resources from various government agencies, to, I guess you might say, take the place of the Guard, and to supplement what the police are doing. For example, like the sheriff’s department, for example. They have, I believe, 150 deputy sheriffs, in theory, that could help to patrol the streets of Baltimore City. Department of Justice would be another example of trying to do this as well. I’m skeptical about it, but I want to give it a chance.
Like I say, I’m open to ideas. What is unacceptable is what’s going on right now. People are dying every day, getting shot up every day. That’s acceptable. And just talking about it is not going to solve the problem. I believe that the police department of Baltimore City has at least 1,500 officers … And you can’t hire police officers right away and expect them to be on the job. It’s a training program you have to go through, certain qualifications that have to be met. So you need to work with both the long-term solution which is better education, and the short term-solution, which is to come up with some kind of a strategy to quell the violence that’s been going on for too long.
WTOP: I understand that you’re saying we’re short of police officers, and recruitment and retention in many jurisdictions is a problem. What’s your plan to get more police officers?
Jaffe: Here’s the plan; the plan’s like this: I want all of the media — the TV stations, the radio stations, the newspapers — to have a year-long telethon in which they raise money, and all that money will surely be used to hire more police officers.
And I think if we did that every year, and your station, for example, could do this, your competitors can do this on radio, television as well. Newspapers like the Baltimore Sun, Washington Post, the Examiner and so forth: A telethon that would raise millions of dollars. And that money would go strictly to hire police officers. And also in addition to that, I want a voluntary tax where people if they want, they can contribute, like maybe $20 a person — if they want to — strictly on a volunteer basis. That, I think, will help to hire more police officers.
But again, it’s a process. We just can’t throw police officers on the streets. They have to go to the police academy; they have to learn; they have to go through a training program — that takes time. But it can be done with a strategy. And also the key thing is trust. You know, there has to be trust. I’m very proud of the fact that I started the Jaffe movement to get rid of all the corruption in Maryland politics in 1992. I’m not a Johnny-Come-Lately. This is my eighth campaign. And I told you I’m not a politician; I’m a teacher. I use these campaigns to show my students where the corruption is. Then, if they want on a volunteer basis, they can they can vote for me or vote for somebody else. That’s how we do business. And I have kept my word. I don’t take campaign contributions, because they’re disguised bribes.
You see, one of the biggest problems we have, which is ruining our country, is we don’t have any ethical politicians. Politicians get into this field for the following: They want money, power and fame. Jaffe, on the other hand, says no — I’m going to do this because I want to make a meaningful contribution to the community. I will serve one term. And when that term is done, I don’t get involved in elections anymore. We need politicians who are going to say, “I’m not in this for the money or the power, the fame; I just want to be a good public servant, and serve my community.” Until we get that, we’re going to continue to struggle and suffer. That’s why I urge people to look at my website, which is FedUpWithCrookedPolitics.com. You’ll see my position on key issues. And what I want to do to make Maryland a much better place in which to live.
Jobs, economy, transportation
WTOP: We keep hearing from companies that unless there’s a good transportation system, be it functioning roadways or better transit, that can keep them from locating here. What are your plans for improving transportation and jobs and the economy?
WTOP: Well, the Tutor-Mentor program is the answer. I just mentioned to you that when the student connects with the tutor-mentor team, it’s going to wind up that student’s going to get a job, a meaningful job to lead to a meaningful career. That, in my book, is the answer in terms of getting jobs for people. We have to have a better educational system, where the programs are relevant to the needs of the students. One of the problems with education today is, these students are prisoners.
They don’t see what the real world is all about. The Tutor-Mentor program is going to give students a chance while they’re in school to see what life is really all about and how they can participate. And eventually with that educational, additional tutor-mentoring, become meaningful, productive citizens instead of what’s happening in too many cases in urban cities throughout the country. And I’m convinced that once we get this pilot program off the ground, and we implement it — which I will do when I become governor — you will see a tremendous improvement in our economy. And again, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers any money. I think people need to know that. The Kirwan report is a joke. We don’t need more money. We need better teaching and better education programs.
WTOP: On, transportation, they’re looking at this plan by Gov. Hogan to add the tolls on I-270 and I-495. I’ve and overhaul and replace the American Legion Bridge. He’s also looking at a replacement for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Where do you stand on those two issues?
Jaffe: OK, well, the answer is like this: I’m not gonna lie to your listeners. I’m going to listen to what the people want. I’m gonna hear what they have to say. I want their ideas. And once I listen to what they have to say, I will also go to the experts in government, who have a lot of knowledge — more than I do. And then we’ll come up with a consensus of what needs to be done. I want to listen to the people. I want to hear what they have to say how they want to improve the transportation system. That’s what I’m going to do.
WTOP: But do you have any personal feelings on for example, should we replace or add to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge?
Jaffe: Oh, yeah, it should be made safer that’s for sure. I have no problems with that. Again, I’m not gonna lie to you. I want to hear what the people have to say. I want to hear what their opinions are. And that’s what we’re going to do. I listen to the people. I don’t have all the answers. I’m not gonna lie. I need them to help me. But one thing I will do is, when I say we’re going to do A, we’re going to do A. Or I’m going to say, if we’re not going to do A, we’re not going to do A. But I want to listen; I want to bring the people into the decision-making process. That’s what I believe in.
WTOP: And I think you’ve already answered this question. What in your background qualifies you to be governor? And what separates you from the other candidates in the field?
Jaffe: The answer is trust. I have never lied to the people. Since I have started this movement back in 1992 — It’s 30 years old — I’ve kept my word. I don’t take campaign contributions. I had offers to take money. I don’t do that, because campaign contributions are bribes.
I will serve one term. I’m not in this for the money, the power or the fame. I want to make a meaningful contribution to our community. Trust is the answer. I’m a religious guy, so I might be able to snow you and your listeners, but I can’t snow my maker. So I have to tell the truth. And I have to honor that and pursue that.
Trust is the key. Who do you trust? I have the record to show that I kept my word and I’m not in this for the power, the money or the fame. I just want to be a good public servant. When my four years is up as governor, I will never again run for office. I’ll just go back into the private world and do what I can to make life better for people. That’s what I believe.