Obama Administration Wraps Up 18 Months of Helping Out Baltimore

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President Obama at the Islamic Society of Baltimore mosque and Al-Rahmah School in February, Courtesy White House, photo by Pete Souza

After unrest spread across Baltimore in the form of riots, protests and eventually general brooding after the death of Freddie Gray, President Obama’s administration took a special interest in the city. Eighteen months later, the outgoing president’s administration has published a report summarizing its work here and recommending ways for ways for the next wave of federal elected officials and bureaucrats to keep their eye on helping the city move forward.

The White House’s report outlines three areas that they worked with: jobs, public health and safety and “foundations for future prosperity.” Much of it had to do with funding and developing new programs that directly helped residents. The report also uses its diverse work with Baltimore as a blueprint for how other cities can collaborte with the federal government to address their most pressing issues.

Here’s a summary of the laundry list of ways the Obama administration directly involved itself in the city:

Jobs

  • Started the One Baltimore for Jobs initiative with a $5 million Department of Labor grant;
  • Expanded the city’s youth summer jobs program;
  • Offered $1 million in federal loans to small businesses, along with training in accounting, marketing and networking to nearly 300 current or hopeful small business owners;
  • Developed the “Made in Baltimore” campaign with the Baltimore Development Corporation.

Public Safety and Health

  • Gave more than $8 million in grants to City Schools and the City Health Department to help staff address violence in schools and impacts of neighborhood violence;
  • Found nearly $1 million in federal funding for Safe Streets violence prevention programs over two years;
  • Funded a support program for children traumatized by violent crime through the Baltimore Child Abuse Center;
  • Expanded the police department’s public offerings of data on use of force, officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints;
  • Integrated federal agents from the FBI, ATF, DEA, and U.S. Marshals into the police department to expand their crime analysis capabilities and assist them with violence reduction efforts.

“Foundations for Future Prosperity,” or basically setting long-term goals:

  • Investing in roads, North Avenue included, as well as bridges and the Port of Baltimore;
  • Establish new anchor institutions and commercial centers, including the Baltimore Food Hub, with help from more than $2.2 million in funding from two agencies for commercial kitchens with training programs;
  • Creating more green spaces and improving parks and waterways, including by establish a GROW Center in West Baltimore, planting trees and installing water quality sensors at the mouth of the Jones Falls;
  • Creating more economic opportunity for urban agriculture, particularly farmers;
  • Building “civic capacity” with more resources for nonprofit and volunteer services, as well as training for city workers to deal with trauma-afflicted residents.

In running this report, the Obama administration has essentially pointed out that it took a very special interest in the city after Freddie Gray’s death. Now, that work stands to be tested by an incoming Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress keen on cutting spending. In the report, the current White House advises the federal government to sustain investments in Baltimore, keep agencies directly involved here, push its staff to “proactively identify projects around Baltimore” and keep trying out new ideas.

President-elect Trump has spent a lot of time criticizing the state of U.S. cities, much to the distaste of some here. When he takes office in January, he will have a chance to show whether the government could be doing more to help out city resident. Based on the work from the past 18 months covered in this report, that’s going to be a very tough act to follow.

Ethan McLeod
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Ethan McLeod

Senior Editor at Baltimore Fishbowl
Ethan has been editing and reporting for Baltimore Fishbowl since fall of 2016. His previous stops include Fox 45, CQ Researcher and Connection Newspapers in Northern Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in Baltimore City Paper, Leafly, DCist and BmoreArt, among other outlets. He enjoys basketball, humid Mid-Atlantic summers and story tips.
Ethan McLeod
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