As a practicing civil rights attorney and progressive state lawmaker, Del. Brooke Lierman wants to use that experience to boost the Maryland comptroller office to fight income equality and assist minority and women-owned businesses.
The 42-year-old lawmaker representing Baltimore City since 2015 has sponsored major pieces of legislation such as making Maryland the first state in the country to ban foam packaging of food and cups and the state Department of Transportation to incorporate more than $100 million in maintenance on mass transit. She also co-sponsored the first piece of legislation on the major Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education plan.
If elected, Lierman seeks to be the first woman ever elected to the position that’s been held since 2007 by Comptroller Peter Franchot, who plans to run for governor. Gov. Larry Hogan’s second, four-year term expires in January 2023.
“In state government, our power is how we appropriate money . . . that this huge comptroller’s office has the ability to make government work better to use our money that uplifts communities, uplifts small businesses and supports Black-owned businesses . . . throughout Maryland that have really been left behind,” Lierman said Tuesday, Oct. 12.
“The comptroller’s office is really situated uniquely focused on those income-based issues and economic challenges . . . that families are dealing with today, especially since COVID.”
Although one of the comptroller’s main duties rests as tax collector, the person sits on the powerful state Board of Public Works alongside the governor and state treasurer that approves millions of dollars on government contracts to spend on school, road construction and other projects.
The comptroller’s race in the June 28 primary currently features one other Democratic, Bowie Mayor Tim Adams, owner of the multimillion-dollar company Systems Application & Technologies, Inc. (SA-TECH) of Upper Marlboro.
Harford County Barry Glassman represents the only Republican in the race and the only person who officially filed paperwork in May with the state Board of Elections. If elected, he would be the first GOP member elected comptroller in 100 years.
Lierman, who received more than 100 endorsements that include Maryland Reps. Jamie Raskin and Steny Hoyer, House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) and most recently Sierra Club Maryland, cannot fundraise during the General Assembly session scheduled to start next year on Jan. 12 and end April 11.
During the remaining time, she hosts virtual and in-person meet and greets with part of her platform on improving the state’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program and hiring an equity officer in the comptroller’s office. Here are some of Lierman’s thoughts in her own words.
“I think making sure that we’re doing the small business and minority-owned mobilization fund really creates access to capital. We know that Black-owned businesses are turned down for loans at twice the rate of white-owned businesses. It can be difficult for MBEs to sometimes secure the loan and the capital they need to perform contracts. Also, just making sure our contract processes are much more transparent. Whether that’s if you’re a credit card holder at one of the state departments like [the] Department of Natural Resources, there’s a list of approved vendors that is not on the website.”
“It’s very difficult to figure out how to get on that list of approved vendors, so it’s the same people over and over. We need to bring in new people and we need to make sure there are MBE requirements around those approved vendor lists. That’s a really important entrée into having small businesses and small MBEs start and they can grow as they do business with the state. The sky’s the limit.”
“The comptroller’s office can be pushing policies on housing affordability, preparing for climate change by building climate resilience into our contracts. Modernizing the office to really use the comptroller’s office as the hub of all financial data in the state and using that data in a way that will help promote equity in the state.”
“Making sure that we are tackling the racial wealth divide . . . so that we can ensure our policies and practices take the racial wealth gap into account and are intentionally focused on reducing that gap. Make sure that the banks that we do business with are loaning to Black-owned businesses and other minority business enterprises at the rate of our demographics in the state.”
“That is a really important office to make sure we are considering all of the comptroller’s portfolio from procurement to tax collection to tax guidance and preparation services. To look at how we are implementing the various practices of the comptroller’s office through an equity lens. Making sure what we’re doing is equitable regardless of race, gender, ability, or background. [It’s] really to advise the comptroller on issues relating to all of the different bodies the comptroller sits on [such as] the state retirement and pension board and the Board of Public Works thinking through procurement and how different agencies’ policies are . . . unintentionally or intentionally leaving Black business owners behind. Just assuring that in all of these different areas, that we are taking an equitable approach and thinking through how people access government services using different lenses.”