Mayoral Candidates Go Neighborhood-Level at Southwest Baltimore Forum

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photo via Southwest Partnership
photo via Southwest Partnership

Baltimore’s mayoral candidates addressed the issues Southwest Baltimore wanted to hear more about Tuesday night at a forum at Carter Memorial Church.

In questions developed by a group of community organizations known as the Southwest Partnership, the candidates were asked about a range of issues from whether they would support improving Carroll Park to extending the Charm City Circulator to supporting the H.L. Mencken House. The session offered a window into what candidates thought about the neighborhood-level issues, and produced some policy ideas we hadn’t heard from several candidates before: 

Calvin Young – Saying the “city is in a state of emergency,” the 27-year-old sounded a note for a new face in the city’s highest office. He also advocated for ideas such as turning abandoned homes into business incubators and increasingly interconnected modes of transit. He was impassioned when talking about the city’s financial state, saying politicians who have “put us in this bad situation should not be the next mayor of Baltimore.”

Carl Stokes – The city councilman has summed up his primary message using the phrase, “Outer Harbor.” He said the city needs to provide more in the neighborhoods outside of downtown that are neglected. Stokes also spoke of helping small businesses by reducing minor privilege fees and reducing property taxes. He said some money for new programs for youth would come from public safety. “I’m taking the money back from the police department, and I’m giving it to young people,” he said.

Catherine Pugh – On the week she introduced her public safety plan, the state Senator started off by calling attention to the fact that she already represents the area where the forum was being held. On a question about a methadone center located in the area, Pugh spoke about the need for Baltimore to offer more substance abuse treatment. She said the city has 70,000 substance abusers. “That’s a small city within our city,” she said. On transportation options, Pugh also said that Baltimore should look into the possibility of building a rail above the city along with expanding current offerings.

Cindy Walsh – From saying she did not want large corporate campuses in the city to suggesting that a public entity run the Charm City Circulator, Walsh communicated a general skepticism of large corporations. Baltimore should “build a local, domestic economy away from the boom and bust” of Wall Street, she said. Walsh also joined other candidates in calling for audits of city government. She said she wants to make government work for the people.

DeRay McKesson – The activist-turned-candidate said he will look to continue “telling the truth in public.” When discussing drug addiction, he drew on his personal experience of being raised by parents who were both addicted to drugs and said it was a public health issue that required early intervention, education, and clustering of treatment resources. McKesson is well-known for his criticism of the police, but he voiced ideas on a variety of other issues on the week when he released the remainder of his policy proposals. He included tech startups in talk of small businesses, using efforts like the City Arts development that provides housing for artists as a model and creating a map that leads to historic landmarks.

Elizabeth Embry – Saying 2016 represented a “change election,” Embry sought to set the stage for a new face at the head of city government in a race with a former mayor, state senator and two city councillors. Embry also talked about her own experience in government, referencing the work of Baltimore City State’s Attorney Greg Bernstein’s efforts to reduce crime, and time spent on Maryland’s heroin task force in her role with the state Attorney General’s office. On a question about the Main Street program, she also spoke of the need to increase access to capital for small businesses.

Gersham Cupid – The current Baltimore police lieutenant sought to present himself as an outsider in City Hall. During a discussion about development, he said he is a “small-time guy.” “I don’t know those guys at the BDC,” he said, referring to the Baltimore Development Corporation. “I don’t owe them anything.”

Nick Mosby – Mosby spoke of his biography growing up in Baltimore during his opening, and turned to his 15-point-plan when talking of policy. The policy proposals he laid out reflected a need for holistic policymaking, the City Councilman said. For instance, on transportation, he said that the city has not had a master plan in more than 13 years. Drug addiction, he said, needed to be approached from a public health perspective.

Patrick Gutierrez  – With his shirtsleeves rolled up, Gutierrez sought to speak passionately about the need to run City Hall better. “We don’t have a resources problem, we have a resources management problem,” he said, adding that candidates who called for audits did not implement them while in office. On transportation, he said the city should be making decisions, rather than state government. “People in Annapolis who have never ridden a city bus do not need to be deciding where our bus routes go,” he said.

Sheila Dixon – The former mayor started off the evening by saying she taught in the neighborhood at nearby Steuart Elementary. Having released an economic development plan earlier this week, Dixon frequently referred to planks such as the need to support women and minority-owned businesses. Her remarks drew on her time running city government, When a question asked candidates about whether they supported an aquatic center in the areas, she spoke of a successful aquatic center in Northwest Baltimore. Later, Stokes criticized the Charm City Circulator for only traveling through downtown and up Charles St., and Dixon replied that she created it to support neighborhoods. During that same transportation answer, Dixon also called for more cycling options, saying she is a biker.



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