Scott’s priorities: Lower city election voting age, trim spending board and more

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Photo via Councilman Brandon Scott/Facebook

The president of Baltimore’s City Council this morning announced a list of more than two dozen planned bills and priorities for the rest of 2019 and all of 2020, steps he said can help the city turn itself around by prioritizing young people, enforcing equity in policymaking, fighting crime collaboratively and holding officials more accountable.

Among his most eye-catching proposals are plans to lower the voting age for city elections to 16 and trim the number of spots on Baltimore’s powerful spending board from five to three.

Scott took over as council president in May after the political shuffling that followed Catherine Pugh’s resignation as mayor. Prior to that, he carved out a political niche of focusing on crime and policing as head of the Public Safety Committee from 2016 until this spring, and has also brought attention to citywide inequities and a dearth of resources for youth.

At an unveiling of his policy plan in the council chambers today, Scott, 35, said leaders must begin prioritizing youth interests to achieve any real progress. To that end, “we must lift their voices into the conversation” in elections, he said.

He plans to introduce a bill cutting the voting age for city office elections by two years, a policy pioneered by Takoma Park nearly six years ago: “Our local elected leaders will have to prioritize young people when we give them the right to vote them out of office.”

Another plan from Scott would cut two spots from the city’s Board of Estimates, which currently includes the mayor, council president, comptroller, public works director and city solicitor. Scott hopes to eliminate the last two of those spots–both appointed positions rather than elected offices–from the board. The body meets every Wednesday to approve dozens of spending decisions and municipal contracts, usually in mere minutes with a blanket approval of the “routine agenda.”

“Spending and contracts have been the topic of controversy and discussion for more than a decade,” the council president said today. “It is time to change the structure of the Board of Estimates. We have to do this to increase accountability by ensuring only elected officials are making decisions about how tax dollars are being spent.”

Also part of the plan is a bill Scott announced in April to create a city administrator position to handle routine duties presently entrusted with the mayor.

Among the other priorities in his 26-point policy plan, which can be read in full here:

  • Mandating reviews of the City Charter every 10 years
  • Continuing to press lawmakers in Annapolis to restore local control over BPD, and to allot more funding for Baltimore public schools
  • Resisting “tough-on-crime” measures like mandatory minimums, which Pugh’s administration pursued
  • Requiring more oversight and planning for the YouthWorks summer jobs program that employs thousands of teens
  • Ensuring mayoral administrations follow new equity assessment requirements, which Scott introduced and helped enact as a council member
  • Studying how fines and fees disproportionately affect certain racial and economic groups in the city

Scott, who along with the mayor is mulling a mayoral run for 2020, said his mission is “changing Baltimore, not just for now, not just for a political term, but for the generations to come.”

“Our government has remained committed to outdated structure and systems that do not work. Great people in a broken structure are doomed to fail,” the two-term lawmaker said. “It is time that we build a better structure for Baltimore.”

Scott’s office is holding nine town halls, including one online, to collect feedback on his priorities in August and early September. Dates and details:

Thursday, Aug. 8, 6:30-8 p.m.
Cherry Hill Elementary
801 Bridgeview Road, Baltimore, MD 21225

Tuesday, Aug. 13, 6:30-8 p.m.
Weinberg Y in Waverly
900 E. 33rd St., Baltimore, MD 21218

Thursday, Aug. 15, 6:30-8 p.m.
Baltimore City Community College
2901 Liberty Heights Ave., Baltimore, MD 21215

Tuesday, Aug. 20, 6:30-8 p.m.
Edgewood Lyndhurst Recreation Center
835 Allendale St, Baltimore, MD 21229

Thursday, Aug. 22, 6:30-8 p.m.
Lillie May Carroll Jackson Charter School
2200 Sinclair Lane, Baltimore, MD 21213

Tuesday, Aug. 2, 6:30-8 p.m.
Enoch Pratt Free Library, Southeast Anchor Branch
3601 Eastern Ave., Baltimore, MD 21224

Wednesday, Aug. 28, 6:30-8 p.m.
Online virtual forum
Details TBA

Thursday, Aug. 29, 6:30-8 p.m.
Mount Pleasant Church and Ministries
6000 Radecke Ave., Baltimore, MD 21206

Thursday, Sept. 5, 6:30-8 p.m.
Details TBD

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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 Virginia. His freelance writing has been featured in CityLab, Slate, Baltimore City Paper, DCist and elsewhere.
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