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Blanchard: Running a new kind of campaign in South Baltimore’s 11th District

Candidate Zac Blanchard tells Nestor why he’s running for City Council 11th District in South Baltimore and ways to improve the neighborhood he calls home.


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Nestor Aparicio, Zac Blanchard

Nestor Aparicio  00:01

Welcome home we are wn SD am 1570 Towson Baltimore and Baltimore positive we’re taking the Maryland crabcakes we’re back out on the road gonna be doing a lot of bridge related things I’ve seen a whole bunch of charities and sort of Port help going on over on the peninsula everybody knows me knows I’m from that area will be a Costas on the knife in the morning right up till two o’clock I don’t know exactly what time we’re gonna start find me on social media. I’m trying to figure out guests in the morning that can come on and be a part of this before two o’clock two o’clock we’re watching then Orioles are taking on the Red Sox two o’clock we were doing the Maryland crab cakes were presented by the Maryland lottery. I’ll have some 10 times the cash that’s the ninth on the 12 will begin a Live series live new more nasty. I’ll be live two to five next Friday the 12th the 26th every Friday this season will be fade these live from two of the five who’s going to come down we’re going to do an hour baseball then we’re gonna do a couple hours Baltimore positive live I hope I don’t drink too much because I’ll have to pee in the bathrooms a long way live radio when you get to be my age after doing it for 25 years. We have an election coming up and I know this because I walked around the club level on opening day and so Miss controller I saw Miss first lady I have to molar makes me address everybody like with the barrister name and the old British line tone of reality to being elected the electeds the polls, and then they’re supposed to want to be elected. This guy wants to be elected. I lived in the 11th for a long time. This was the view from my home on the 23rd floor. I hope the fellow that bought my place is enjoying some really quality Orioles baseball that I didn’t have the 19 years that I lived there for the most part. Zach Blanchard is running for a castle in the city. Erik Costello is incumbent. Eric’s been on the show a million times invited them down in the families. I’ll invite him back. Eric, if you’re listening, how you been meet your cross street. I got to drive down there now. But I still love my neighborhood. We never wanted to leave people ask me you have to see it because you don’t want to know I left the city because we didn’t have windows. We didn’t have an outdoor porch and my wife is chasing tomatoes this time of year and cucumbers and things that I’ll be eating a garden that we didn’t have downtown. But I love my time in the city, Zach and I know you’re trying to lift the city have you do a little research on me. I put Baltimore positive together. Ooh, seven, eight years ago, once I saw Trump get elected and city on fire from the 23rd floor, I thought maybe I should lift the shovel. So part of the shovel is having folks like you on and not just talking to people like David Rubenstein, Rubinstein about baseball, but about city issues. So I’m up on your website, brother. I know, direct everybody to Blanchard for Baltimore. I have some friends that vote in in our district cuz I left some friends behind. How are you? Well, welcome to Baltimore positive. Yeah,


Zac Blanchard  02:47

thanks so much. Thanks so much for having me on this. As we talked about before the show, you know, me and my team were really eager to get on so really thank you for for letting me come on. It’s been awesome. We’ve been and I live I’m a half a block from cross street market. So feel free to you know, let me know when you’re around as well. And so

Nestor Aparicio  03:07

about give some love there. Get the muscles are delicious. I mean, I do not. I can send you anywhere in the neighborhood to eat. I did a lot of gastronomically. Get my love to Dave over mother’s too, you know? Yep.

Zac Blanchard  03:18

But yeah, so it’s been great. I got out of an active duty Marine. Got out this past summer. I’ve been in the neighborhood for a little over four years now. But where are you from? Originally? South Louisiana. So I came to Maryland originally to go to the Naval Academy as a midshipman. My wife is originally from montgomery county when I was off doing marine stuff everywhere. She was in Baltimore. So we were long distance for about four years. I was like to the Marine Corps, hey, can you you know, put me where my wife is. I’ll be the head basketball counter at Fort Meade if I need to. And they they you know, let me teach American government at the Naval Academy for my last three years which was awesome. So awesome tour there. Poli Sci Gaya. Yeah, yeah, so yeah, Poli, SCI poli sci an undergrad. Well, somebody’s got to run the place. And you know, I’m always hard when I see young guys like you, especially people. Yeah, I’m a real Baltimore guy, right? Like Dundalk. Whitemarsh downtown for 20 years. I’m in Towson. Now I’ve never lived anywhere are threatened lots, the other places, but never lived anywhere else other than Baltimore City and Baltimore County. And I’ve seen all the changes here. I think the real question for somebody my age is somebody young like using what are you doing here? Why are you here? Like, why do you care about Baltimore? And I ask is that with the same things for upstate New York? Like I see these people because I’m a real Baltimore guy and I considered running for mayor and I had people telling me I was too white to Hispanic to this to that too loud. Not kissing enough asked not getting enough money. When I found out about how much ash you had to kiss you

Nestor Aparicio  05:00


had big money to run. I’m like, I already do that to get sponsors. I’ve been doing that for 30 years, except I deliver results, not nothingness. The, the amount of respect I have for anyone that runs for office, knowing I went through that process without doing it because I didn’t think I could win. Where you are and why what what made you love it Baltimore, man?

Zac Blanchard  05:22

Yep. Okay, so I’ll couple questions there. I’ll try to answer them in order. So first off, why we ended up here. So for the last, I mean, pretty much my whole time in the Marine Corps, I have been super passionate like reading books, reading blogs, listen to podcasts about this whole idea of like, sense of community social connectedness, like knowing the people in your neighborhood, being able to rely on your neighbors, they rely on you. Maybe one day, your kids want to raise their kids in the neighborhood, they were raised in, like, I’m all about it. I don’t have my bicycle helmet with me right now. But my wife and a friend made me a bumper sticker that I have on the side of my home it couple years ago says fed till I’m dead. And so totally, you know, this sort of townhome, you know, row home dense row home neighborhood where you’re walkable to a lot of stuff, you’re close to a lot of neighbors. That whole type of thing was like, just the historic aspect of so many of our neighborhoods was was awesome. Well,

Nestor Aparicio  06:23

they don’t have that in South Louisiana. I mean, they don’t have that a lot. No, I mean, I traveled the world, bro. And you know, like, what we have in Baltimore, is very European, it looks much more like Amsterdam, or, or Ireland or

Zac Blanchard  06:39

100%. And I will say kind of briefly to that, that, you know, I so I’ve got a toddler. And a lot, a couple of my friends have left right now, you know, a couple of my neighbors have left actually for Riverside, and locus point, which is it’s good that those are starting to become like family areas, but we want that across the city. But you know, obviously folks leave for the counties leave for whatever. And something you hear is like, oh, we need grass, we need this or that. I’m kind of a believer in like, like, kids don’t need grass as much as they need other kids. And so that’s a, you know, that’s just how we kind of ended up here. We’re not leaving here. So that’s that. So to the, to the question of like, you know, how that translates into getting involved in politics. So I had a couple of folks, you know, reach out to me in early 23, weirdly enough, like on the same day, unrelated, but about like, Hey, you should think about running. It’s not something that I didn’t grow up in area where that was a thing. I didn’t grow up in a family that sort of had that sort of background or connection to elected officials or whatever. And, and in the military, we don’t really talk about politics ever. And so it wasn’t something I was really focused on. You know, I had a couple people talk about it. And also, just to be blunt, I’ve had a lot of interactions with, you know, my now opponent, Eric, and we’re just really varying between feeling frustrated with his decisions to feeling like some of his actions were just, you know, really inappropriate for an elected official. And so it was looking for someone to back. No one No one was running, which was the case in 2020.


Nestor Aparicio  08:18

You’re a frustrated resident?

Zac Blanchard  08:20


Nestor Aparicio  08:21

That’s a good okay, fair, fair enough. Hey, I was too. Just a guy who had been on the radio for 25 years at the time. It was frustrated with Freddie Gray and the city and, yeah, and the notion that I lived at Harbor court before the plague, and Trump’s elected and I would say people don’t come down and do this. We don’t go into the city. What do you what do you mean, what, what television station? Are you watching what and and it really does lead to the atrophy of all of it. Now, you know, I’ve been very outspoken about the baseball owner and how awful that was mutating 3 million people out of downtown and treating everyone like garbage for 30 years. I’ve told Mr. Rubenstein, I hope that changes because the ballpark changes the neighborhood. It changes cross street, it changes who wants to live there. It changes at nights a year with the heartbeat of traffic and the heartbeat of industry. Some pretzels on the street, I mean, just people just Yeah, as opposed to Tumbleweed. Right. And yeah, not a lot of districts have a stadium with a major league team that hosts 80 games at Billy Joel concerts a year if you do it right. You know, I

Zac Blanchard  09:29


mean, I was at I was at Village Hills first concert. When the I think it was the first concert at Camden Yards, my my father in law and I went I was actually still stationed down in in North Carolina but came up so

Nestor Aparicio  09:41

new to Baltimore so I don’t even know where to begin with you mean that you know that that would be a reason to vote for you or not vote for you. I don’t know what the whole notion is you see our community much differently than Eric Costello would who got here when he got here or some little old lady down on whatever Scott street who’s lived there since 1958. And as seen everything change, right, seeing the bridge go up and fall. And the notion that the city’s getting better in my mind, and I saw Brandon on opening day. And I told him, You know, I watched what he and Wes went through last week with the bridge going down. I mean, being in late, it’s tough work. I mean, and it’s work I respect I’m not the guy making fun of Polit politicians. I do. The process bothers me greatly, in a general sense. But the notion that someone has to be there, trying to lift the community and your frustration, so give me your frustration with Eric. Yeah, give me things that you think are wrong and right, because you do come in with a different kind of eye for it. Because yeah, you don’t see it the way I see it having invested $450,000 in a condo in 2003, when you were probably in middle school, I don’t even know what rapper

Zac Blanchard  10:54

that but yeah, middle school. Yeah, so a couple of things. When you talk about the process specifically, one thing that I think is really important about my campaign is I’m probably financed, which is not an option that you would have had when you were considering running for mayor and 2020 2024 is the first cycle we’ve actually had it. And it’s awesome, because it means that I will never accept the contribution above $150 from anyone. And in exchange, the city matches small contributions from city residents. And our campaign was actually the first campaign in the history of the city to max out public financing. So by getting you know, 400 Something city residents to contribute, were able to max out get the full contributions plus city match at $150,000. Which for our district, I love

Nestor Aparicio  11:41

this show, because you’re educating me about that process is new. Yeah.


Zac Blanchard  11:45

And it’s, and I think it’s to your, to your point about like, you know, your phrase of, you know, kissing ass to get the big donors like, nests. When I, when I first announced I took two days off of work, and I had that weekend, and I just called, like, everyone that I know, from my neighborhood from church from, like, a couple random online forums that I am on in the city, and like, like, Hey, I’m running for city council, you know, you know, me, like I need $50, just, and that $50 actually moves the needle, and how incredibly different that is, then, if I didn’t have this option, and I would have had to go to the the type of folks who can cut a $5,000 check and try to tell them what I think they want to hear, you know, like, how, how much more like fun and like, just like spiritually fulfilling it is to be able to talk to people, you know, and believe in you and get small donors and have that small donation have that move the needle. That’s been awesome. And I think that a lot of candidates didn’t know, or really believe in this process. This first go round, there’s only couples who are using it. But in 2028, when everyone knows about it, people are gonna be using it, dude, this is gonna have like a really meaningful impact on Baltimore city politics, and I’m pumped about it. I’ll

Nestor Aparicio  12:59

say this, just as an American, my wife and I, a year and a half ago, went to Canada, we went up to Quebec, and we went to Ottawa, and we went to Montreal, and to see Pearl Jam, and it was Labor Day weekend. So it was like September 1 Second. In that area. I don’t know much about Canadian elections, except that my wife and I are weird. We don’t drive on the highway so much. I like to go through towns, I like to see countries. I don’t mind read likes, I don’t mind Tim Hortons gives me a place to pee. Because I’m not of that age, I have to stop. And so we drove through every town we drove through little smaller towns, even towns that I can train where were these, these French towns that I’d always seen hockey players come from in the queue HCl, or whatever the hell it was called. And I would pull in. And there were pictures of good looking people like you and good looking people like me on signs on the streets. And that’s how they elect their, they take the elected officials and they put your picture up, and you don’t buy anything, you don’t buy media and, you know, spend money and like, it’s a different kind of system. And I thought to myself, well, that’s interesting. That’s how they do it here. And I thought, I thought about being elected and like, I thought about how it would have to go for me to get elected, or for Sheila Dixon, or anybody running for mayor or, you know, and I’ll have all of them on in the coming weeks. It’s just such a, I don’t know what’s different. Yeah, it’s a filthy system here, you know, oh, I don’t need to tell you Trump’s on the ballot. So you know,

Zac Blanchard  14:29

I mean, that’s all no 100%. I will, I will briefly say that, you know, a lot of that gets into an area that I’m kind of familiar because I taught on the at the Academy for three years, but constitutional government and how the Supreme Court has interpreted freedom of speech over the last 50 years. And so I think that basically when it comes to like what’s possible in our system, I think that public financing as well as independent redistricting, right where we don’t have the mayor drawing maps, or we don’t have the counts President whoever right we don’t have elected officials drawing district maps?

Nestor Aparicio  15:00


Well, yeah, just look at the Maryland map every time I have Sarbanes on it’s like, laughable how, yeah, that the Democrats have gerrymandered the state here like it’s crazy. It’s not

Zac Blanchard  15:09

I mean, it’s just a matter of like it’s a bad incentive. Right. And I really disagree with the map that mayor Scott Drew. And it’s not because I think he’s inherently like untrustworthy at all. It’s just that like, that’s a bad incentive to give an elected official the power to draw maps. And so that’s that’s another those would be the two things I think like near term Baltimore City things that we need to change that I’m pretty bullish about.

Nestor Aparicio  15:34

I’m Zack Blanchard is our guest these first time guests here he is a guy running for city council in my former district, he lives tell me about the district, just so they know where because you could say fat Hill, but it encompasses more of that and toward the west. And I remember talking about Aragon, you talk about like gerrymandering weird there are no straight lines in most of these district maps. Yeah.

Zac Blanchard  15:57

So the current map, which changed a little from you know, from the previous map, which was a little less weird, but the current map is almost all of the peninsula except for South of Fort and west of light. So think South Baltimore, like South Baltimore neighborhood association by the bridge west of Riverside Park that area. So it’s almost all the peninsula it’s all of what we think of as downtown. It’s when you say the peninsula there they’ve now read gerrymandered, the name of Port Covington. And they’re calling it the Baltimore, Baltimore, my aspall. They’ll never be called Baltimore pencil by anybody except people from out of town. But that’s not yours, because it’s on the other side of it. It is yours. It gets sore Cherry Hill, you stop sort of kind of. Yeah, more or less. Swan Park is now in another district. But the Yeah, the port Covington development is outside but the so you have most of the pendulum, you have all of what we think of as downtown between MLK and and 83. And President right. You have a lot of Upton, you have a lot of Mount Vernon, you have about half Bolton Hill, Madison Park. That’s kind of like the big sweeping area. It used to pretty much go up to North Avenue. Now it stops a little bit short of that in most places.


Nestor Aparicio  17:20

What’s interesting is nobody ever lived downtown because those buildings were all businesses. And they were all banks and they were all offices in general up into the sky. I was one of the few people that live downtown because so few of the buildings Scarlett place. Now there’s 414 and a couple of places, park park had one but but there weren’t a lot of residences. Now all of these high rises, it’s exploding over the next 10 years. That’s all it can be because it’s never going to be a bank anymore.

Zac Blanchard  17:48

Right. And you’re spot on. And the the doubt like of downtown check this fact out. This is crazy downtown in the peninsula between 20 If that was a state between 2010 and 2020 would have grown faster that population wise than any state in the country. It grew at 22%, Utah, which was the fastest grew at 18% dc

Nestor Aparicio  18:10

we think of so as much as Baltimore’s losing population, the downtown area because of the density and the buildings becoming residences have picked

Zac Blanchard  18:20


up people well, well, I mean, really like downtown, as well as the peninsula as well as the southeastern wallet waterfront. So think basically all of Zico and the councilman of the first and all of the 11th district that I’m running in, you know, Eric’s de

Nestor Aparicio  18:33

rowhome population. Yeah, well,

Zac Blanchard  18:37

you know, rowhome waterfront, you know,

Nestor Aparicio  18:40

a lot of people would say the white butterflies what they would say white white L yeah. Not popular butterfly,


Zac Blanchard  18:46

but the white owl. So WaterFire part of the owl? Yeah, for sure.

Nestor Aparicio  18:48

Yes. Yeah, is that so for you to come in here and find out that there were black butterflies and white ELLs and like in the city, and blockbusting and all of the history of all of that, there are certain people that don’t even in our population, not certain a lot of people that vote that have no concept of the history of all of this, and I’m sure now that you know, the fox people have bought the Baltimore Sun, I’m sure they’re going to absolutely delve into the history of how all this work, but this has been a mess. And it’s been a mess by government. And that’s, and the Republicans would say, it’s all Democrat. I hear all of that nonsense, you know, through the years. But I did say to want to David Rubenstein, because I said you should look up the amount of people who voted for Donald Trump and Baltimore City. In the last election. It was like 1.7%, probably less than any place, anywhere else. Baltimore City, in particular, voted a certain way, against fascism against the red. Hat’s against all of that. So you wind up in a situation where it’s Democrats and Democrats, and it’s you and Eric, who may be on the same side of a lot of political issues, but not on the same side of local issues. And that’s where people We’ll have to break down and say we have Democrats fighting with Democrats in a democratic city. Can’t we all figure out what the policy should be? So tell me what you’re upset about in your own district. What you don’t like? Yeah,

Zac Blanchard  20:11

yeah, absolutely. So, for example, Upton, which is still almost most of Upton still in the district, is has 307 abandoned properties. So think boarded up door like these are vacant building notice sided prop properties, think boarded up doors and windows on the majority of the blocks. There is it cost the city $200 million a year to have this vacancy crisis. We’re highly taxed. But we’re also super broke. And we literally can’t afford this as a city. But also like, there’s nothing that tells a young person in a neighborhood that there’s no future where you live, like having a bunch of plywood on doors and windows. And so when we look at the we look at the neighborhoods in the butterfly, that are are hemorrhaging population, to the county, right, like, that’s the vacancies are an effect of that. But they’re also a cause of that. And so we need to get super serious about these properties. 14,000 abandoned properties, they almost half of them pay less than $250 a year in property taxes,

Nestor Aparicio  21:19


which is a blade on top of a blade,

Zac Blanchard  21:21

they’re a blight that makes us no money and cost us a bunch of money. So we need to tax them at a much higher rate than they’re currently taxed at to incentivize the owners of the rehab and reoccupied them, or to sound as someone who can. And that’s actually something that the state has to enable it. But it’s about to pass out of the Senate right now. It’s already made it through the house like this is, this is a huge deal. What might happen in the next week like this is I tell people when they say like, what’s the most important thing. This is the most important thing that can happen in Baltimore. And if anyone takes anything away from this podcast, policy wise, it’s like getting the vacancy tax in place is a huge deal. It’s gonna be transformative for the city. I’m also a big supporter of Councilman Ramos’s land bank. I’m also a big supporter of the mayor’s tips for vacant properties specifically, like we don’t have to have 14,000 abandoned properties in 2011, Cleveland had 14,000 abandoned properties. Now it’s got like 1400 That’s a huge difference. We we can do that.

Nestor Aparicio  22:18

Sack Lanches. Here if you live in the elevens style, which is basically down in City, South Baltimore, he’s running you know, just to wrap up and you know, at some point I’ll have you back on as a scholar professor, even if you’re not elected, but just on the election side in the election cycle blobby let me know when the election is you want to tell them that you? Yeah, we get down to Annapolis. And you know, we try to go through all the rules in the mail and and the bad al that’s a mess. I’ve got my mailing out here, I cannot vote for you on live in the city. But lots of folks can give them a little election tip here because I think it’s more important that people get involved and they vote for somebody

Zac Blanchard  22:54

100% The so one, the Democratic primary is the race that will decide every single election in Baltimore and has decided every single election in Baltimore for the last 60 years. So if you if you are not registered as a Democrat, and I’m not pushing anyone that way, I’m just saying that like, if you want your vote to count in Baltimore City, you have to register as a Democrat, and you have to vote in the Democratic primary, not the general election, the Democratic primary. That’s on May 14, may 14, early voting runs may 2 through the night. There’s a ton of polling locations all over the 11th district, you know, I’m sure all over the city. And then also you can also register to vote by mail. It’s an easy process if you’re already registered to vote, expect those to hit probably next Monday or so. And so mail in ballots are coming in. So and that’s that’s a big deal. And the process of registering to vote, like if you’re a Maryland resident, and you just you’re you just moved to the city recently, transfer, transferring your address to Baltimore for voting purposes, is like super quick. It’s like a two or three minute process. I need to make an Instagram video about it. But like, just please, please get involved, get informed and vote in the Democratic primary. So all right,

Nestor Aparicio  24:09

well, if you know I can help you in the future. I’m all for lift in the city. Good luck to you. I say this from the beginning. It’s nice to see people come in and get a shovel and especially people from the outside because there aren’t enough people on the inside that have had shovels enough and I learned my own shovel. 10 years ago, my wife got sick and had to fight for her life over at Hopkins and I saw people everyday would get up with shovels and trying to make the place better so well. I’m all for it. Thanks for your time. Appreciate your service as well for our country and good luck to you on May 14 down there and they love Zach Blanchard can be found very easy. Blanchard for Baltimore Blanchard like the old wrestler Tony Blanchard, de la you like that? B LA and ch AR D like Parts Unknown. That’s professional wrestling lingo, and we’re gonna get back to some baseball around your Luke Smith at the ballpark. They’re going to draft football players later This month, we’re gonna elect elected officials on May 14. So between now and then Zach is just the first of many who will be coming on and many of you will yell at me about equal time and this and that. Just email me, nessa Baltimore You want to come on the program and you’re running for office in next six weeks. I’m like the late great Peter Angelos. I have plenty of time for everyone. I am Nestor. We are wn st am 1570, Towson Baltimore. I’ll shave next time. I’m not running for office. You are back for more Baltimore positive stay with us.

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