Along with whether someone is fit to lead and the city’s future trajectory, Baltimore’s mayoral election is important because of the city’s “strong mayor” system that keeps the chief executive in control of a lot of spending. Alongside the mayoral election, the City Council passed a couple of motions to take some of the money decision out of the mayor’s office. But in the end they didn’t complete the power play.
Tag: baltimore city council
Councilman Carl Stokes was first elected to Baltimore City Council in 1987, where he served until 1995, the same year he accepted an appointment to Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners. In 1999, he ran for mayor of Baltimore but lost the Democratic nomination to Martin O’Malley. Since then, Stokes has helped to found two public charter schools in the city (each offer year-round study and three meals a day) and returned to the City Council, where he has been a critic of Baltimore property tax rates and utility fees.
In the wake of the Freddie Gray protests and riots, Stokes made national headlines for venting his frustration at the use of the word “thugs” to describe black Baltimore youth to CNN’s Erin Burnett. I asked Stokes, who is again seeking the Democratic nomination for mayor, about the divide in public opinion over that statement; the relationship between public safety, education, and employment opportunities; and how a Stokes administration would tackle the city’s most deep-seated issues.
Baltimore Fishbowl: What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Councilman Carl Stokes: Take care of your family.
BFB: In a recent interview, you said that improving public safety requires not only investment and improvements in policing but also in education, recreation, jobs, and after-school activities, among other things. When an issue like public safety is determined by so many direct and indirect factors, how do you, as mayor, actually decide how to prioritize spending to achieve the greatest impact?
CS: The best practices and statistics before us inform us on how to proceed. When a community’s adult population is gainfully employed at wages that allow them to sustain themselves and their families economically, we know that crime is much less.
Just like at the presidential level, the race begins now for the 2016 in Southeast Baltimore. The 1st District City Council seat, which covers Fells Point, Canton, Highlandtown and Bayview, isn’t up for re-election until next November. But with current Councilmember James Kraft having already announced his decision not to run for the seat again, candidates are already jumping in.
When it first launched in 2010, the Charm City Circulator linked Penn Station, the Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry, and Harbor East through its free bus service. It was aimed at helping tourists explore the city, but plenty of regular folks–myself included–were happy to use the service as well. Which was totally fine — there was no limit or regulation to who could ride the free buses. Which some city councilmembers seem to see as a problem.
In 2010, an independent body — formed four years earlier by a ballot referendum — decided that Baltimore’s top elected officials would receive automatic pay raises tied to those of city union workers.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, and city council members are set to each receive a 2.5 percent raise, at a total cost of $31,000.
Though years ago we placed this process in the hands of an independent panel for the sole purpose of making the issue of city officials’ salaries less politically suspicious. But it’s always awkward for the mayor to get a raise — even a small one. It reminds us that she makes over $150,000 a year.
After thinking over their anti-panhandling bill, which or might or might not have effectively banned begging in all of downtown Baltimore, the city council is considering an amendment which would scale back the extent of the ban.
Under the amendment, the provision prohibiting panhandling within 10 feet of any store or restaurant would be rewritten to apply only to outdoor dining areas. The ban would still apply to areas around parking meters as well as pedestrian bridges and stairwells.
When Councilwoman Rochelle “Rikki” Spector introduced a bill to limit panhandling, the focus was on prohibiting solicitations on street shoulders and medians, a practice that is already illegal. But Spector hoped to crack down on it, as it produces “dangerous situations” (though exemptions were proposed for charities and other organizations that do the same thing).
But the version of the bill the city council will consider on Nov. 4 is much more restrictive. Not only does it prohibit panhandling in traffic, but also within 10 feet of a store or restaurant and within five feet of a parking meter.
In an attempt to attract new residents to Baltimore city, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has been looking to reduce property taxes. And with the 2014 budget, she’s done it. According to the Sun, the owner of a $200,000 home would see a $140 decrease in his property taxes. The only thing is, new stormwater and taxi fees more than compensate for the property tax relief, ensuring that for many city residents the cost of living in Baltimore will rise. The most Councilman Robert W. Curran can hope is that it will “be a wash for residents.“