Mayor Brandon Scott addresses the City Council from Middle Branch Fitness and Wellness Center. Photo by Emily Hofstaedter.

Normally the mayor delivers his annual state of the city from City Hall but this year Mayor Brandon Scott addressed the masses from the $23 million-dollar Middle Branch Wellness and Recreation Center in Cherry Hill. It was the physical embodiment of the mayor’s message for the night.

Baltimore is Back! announced Mayor Scott, painting a glowing picture of Charm City, touting investments and growth–such as plans for four new rec centers and he announced a new library for Park Heights, the first built in Baltimore in 15 years. He cited unemployment rates that have decreased from 12.4% during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic at the beginning of 2020 that now hover around 4.0%. Vacant properties are at a ten-year low and the Baltimore Police Department is getting guns off the street, he says.

The 39 year-old Democratic mayor from Park Heights is up for re-election next year, although he hasn’t officially filed. Since he took office in 2020, he has to contend with the pandemic and short staffing as the city tries to recover services in its wake.

Scott will spend the next year focusing on pouring resources back into the city as a way to tackle its most urgent problems: like gun violence among young people. “Baltimore’s young people will win,” he declared to deafening applause. “We just have to invest in them, nurture them, love them, and yes—we must hold them accountable.”While the latest homicide data from BPD shows that overall homicides are declining, an analysis by The Baltimore Banner shows that one in three people shot this year were under the age of 18. Just 48 hours before the mayor spoke, a 12 year-old Jaylen Richards was shot and killed by another minor in Westport.

Scott took time during his address to elaborate on his controversial summer teen curfew plan to increase youth safety.

“As we head toward the summer months, my team will roll out a comprehensive summer youth engagement strategy that will include extended hours at recreation centers, midnight basketball, summer pool parties and summer camps,” said Scott. “We’re bringing back our B’More Lit teen series, putting 7,000 young people to work through Youthworks; and yes, we will be enforcing curfew.”

Mayor Scott continued to insist that the curfew is about connecting young people with services, not the police.

Outside the Middle Branch center, 18 year-old Donte Hance, now a student at Morgan State University, played basketball while elected officials streamed in before the event. He feels the effect of some of the mayor’s new investments; he feels safer outside the new center because it’s clean.

Gun violence is always on his mind and as a young person, he wants support from “older people who have gone through it already.” Hance hopes that younger people can learn from those experiences so “they can see the effects and don’t want to go through those things.”

Read more at WYPR.

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