In response to your letter in the Sun, I’d like to remind you that many Republicans inside and outside of Baltimore City, including me, have offered this City a great deal of time, money, and energy — along with solutions for raising tax revenue. Yet, because we carry the stigma of the Red R — our ideas and willingness to help create a better city are usually rebuffed at every turn.
Here are three ideas you may want to reconsider. Just for a moment, pretend I’m a a Democrat — maybe it will make things more palatable for you:
1. Increase the tax on vacant structures, in order to offset the increased demand on city services. Fires, code enforcement, and court time (including the salaries of our hard-working Housing attorneys) all cost money. Money that taxpayers shouldn’t be paying — the owners of these blighted structures should be paying. Raise it enough, perhaps following the DC model, and the property taxes of residents could be decreased in a way that would make Baltimore City competitive with other jurisdictions.
2. Speaking of fires…How about we fully-fund our fire department so prospective residents won’t have to worry about their new homes burning to the ground shortly after purchase?
3. Start investing in residents and communities, not just the harbor. I’m trying to revive Councilman Cole’s “Outer Harbor Initiative” with affordable housing for middle-income folks. Care to join in? It would reduce the number of vacants, and draw in middle-income taxpayers — two things you sorely need right now.
Thanks, and as always, I’m available any time to chat.
PS: Here are some other random ideas I’ve had over the years. Feel free to borrow any, I try to be a giver.
Baltimore City residents, business owners, and property owners — contact Mayor Rawlings-Blake and let her know how you feel about cuts to our fire department! 410-396-3835 or firstname.lastname@example.org — do it TODAY!
Also, contact your City Council representative, and make sure they’re voting in favor of City Council President Jack Young’s amended budget — CCP Young was able to make cuts that benefit taxpaying residents and kids — these amendments must be passed, in order to save rec centers, after-school programs, and our fire department!
If you don’t know who your representative is, go here and enter your address.
The City Council will vote on the approved amendments on Thursday, June 21 at 4:30 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Holliday Street. Please attend, and let’s show them we mean business!
The three fire companies chosen for closure by our irresponsible city government are as follows:
- Truck 10
- Squad 11
- Truck 15
If you live in the following neighborhoods, you need to be aware of the fact that these closures will affect you — and others across the city, if additional help is needed.
Allendale, Beechfield, Booth Boyd, Carroll-South Hilton, Dickeyville, Edmonson Village, Fairmount, Franklintown, Gwynns Falls, Hunting Ridge, Irvington, Mill Hill, Morrell Park, Mount Holly, Oaklee, Rognel Heights, Rosemont, Saint Agnes, St. Josephs, Shipley Hill, Ten Hills, Tremont, Uplands, Violetteville, Wakefield, Walbrook, West Hills, Westgate, Winchester, Yale Heights
Baltimore Highlands, Butchers Hill, Broening Manor, Ellwood Park, Graceland Park, Jonestown, Canton, Fells Point, Greektown, Little Italy, Brewers Hill, Butchers Hill, Hopkins Bayview Campus, Federal Hill, Dundalk and Holabird, Patterson Park, Kresson, McElderry Park, Meford, Odonnell Heights, Saint Helena, Upper Fells Point, Washington Hill, Orangeville
Berea-Clifton, Greenmount East, Greenmount West, Hopkins Middle East, Madison, Monument Street, Biddle Street, Druid Heights, Reservior Hill, South Clifton Park, Orangeville, Oldtown, Oliver, Broadway East, Darley Park, Johnston Square, Dunbar Broadway, Barclay
Given the success of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous — I thought it would be interesting to see what would happen if those same twelve steps were modified slightly, to fit the needs of cities. Keep in mind, this is not meant to poke fun at AA or NA, or those who are recovering from an addiction. Instead, this is a way to address a serious issue facing Baltimore and many other cities across the country. I have obviously taken editorial liberties with some of the steps, but hopefully you’ll get the idea, come up with some ideas, and run with them.
Step One: We admit there is a problem — publicly, and with humility.
Anyone who has ever overcome an addiction will tell you this is the hardest step. Our government seems to be in the denial stage — refusing to admit there are serious issues at the heart of our city’s decline. Decades upon decades of poor management, poor policy and planning choices, and a shrinking tax base have to be acknowledged in order to move forward.
Step Two: We believe a force greater than us is needed to solve this problem and restore us.
The citizens of this city are its greatest resource. And whether they realize it or not — they are more powerful and mighty than any government. Let’s face it — there’s strength in numbers, and there are more of us than there are of them. What would happen if the taxpayers in Baltimore truly came together in a meaningful and productive way to make our voices heard? Young, old, black, white, Latino, Asian — everyone has the ability to make change, and together, we can be unstoppable.
Step Three: We will trust our collective power, and believe that we can overcome the obstacles we encounter along the way.
It’s one thing to say it, another thing entirely to believe it. However, restoring anything — a city, a life, a career, a family — that effort also requires a certain amount of blind faith and the ability to trust your neighbor.
Step Four: We will make a searching and fearless inventory of what we truly need from our elected officials, and from each other.
We’ve all taken the surveys, used the mayor’s fun little “fix the budget” tool, sat in community meetings. We know what we want from the city — now let’s think about what we need. Two different things, “want” and “need” — time to let go of the “They’re going to open a Trader Joe’s here” and “We’re going to be the next Federal Hill” pie in the sky nonsense, and get real. What do we really need, and who among us can make that happen?
Step Five: Admit what we’ve done wrong and discuss how we’ve come to the place we’re currently in.
This, in my mind, goes hand in hand with Step One. It’s one of the most critical steps — it’s all well and good to admit there’s a problem, but in order to fix it…and most importantly, assure that it won’t happen again…is to address the how and why we’re in this current mess. Crime, blight, high taxes — these things didn’t happen overnight, and they can’t change overnight. But how were things allowed to degrade so far? What decisions and policies can be made to assure it won’t happen again?
Step Six: Removing defects of character.
This is a hard one. But in order to remove the blight, the crime, the homelessness — all of the things that make this city so unlivable at times — we need to remove the pieces of ourselves that prevent sustainable change from happening. Cronyism in government, the false belief the city can be fixed in one mayoral term, the short-sighted non-innovative thinking. These things must change. As taxpayers and voters, we have the ability to make this happen.
Step Seven: Asking for help to remove our shortcomings.
As voters, this should be a no-brainer. A big part of our collective shortcoming has to do with the fact that we have a government that has become complacent. We need to go back to the previous steps and find our collective voice, and remove the elected officials who refuse to allow this city to grow to its full potential.
Step Eight: Be willing to make amends to the people who have been harmed by our actions.
Our government has treated taxpayers in this city badly. Our government asks us to live with high crime, blocks and blocks of blight, food deserts, a broken school system. Our elected officials need to make amends to us, by putting us first. Growing the city by 10,000 new residents is impossible until current residents have a city worth living in.
Step Nine: Make direct amends to those who have been negatively impacted.
The Mayor released the preliminary budget for 2013, a budget that negatively impacts our fire department, and therefore will have a negative impact on residents. Without strong public safety, we cannot grow and change as a city. Neighborhoods have lost necessary services and businesses — grocery stores, as one example. Without healthy food choices, residents cannot thrive. Neighborhoods are being negatively impacted by clustering addiction services in residential areas — again, contributing to the crime and blight, sending the message to people in those communities “We don’t care about you.” Neighborhoods are losing rec centers and community hubs. Telling our most vulnerable citizens they don’t matter — it’s simply reprehensible. Children and the elderly in this city do matter, and should be at the top of our government’s priority list. Healthy safe families = healthy safe city.
Step Ten: Continue to take personal inventory when necessary.
Obviously this is an ongoing process, and nothing worth having ever comes easily. We all have to do more with less, and that includes governments. We all have to embrace the good — the people who have stuck by us through thick and thin, and cherish them. Governments have to embrace us as taxpayers, and as the people who are most important in the fight to fix the things that are so badly broken. And that requires diligence and thought.
Step Eleven: Through thoughtful dialogue, open conversations, and honest communication, our government can seek and receive our help and support in making this a better city for all residents.
Nobody likes to be dictated to, nor do people enjoy being schmoozed. Honest conversations require participation on both sides — and it’s time this happens between our elected officials and residents. Enough with the platitudes, buzzwords, and hollow campaign promises. None of us live in an ivory tower, and none of us are above listening to each other.
Step Twelve: Having reached a (hopefully) “aha moment”, we’ve decided to take these steps to a wider audience and make things happen.
Having worked for a few nonprofits here and in DC, something became quickly apparent to me. We tend to preach to the choir, ad nauseum. The people who actually need to hear our words, attend our seminars and workshops, be a part of a larger conversation — we don’t reach out to them. Instead, we reach out to people and groups we know will agree with us. Democrats with Democrats, white middle-aged people with white middle-aged people, architects with architects. And we come up with these “great ideas” that never go anywhere, because the very people whose fate we’re deciding (yes, that’s what we’re doing whether we want to admit or not) — well, they weren’t invited. Oh sure, there was an announcement on Facebook, but my guess is half the folks we need in order to make sustainable changes — they’re not on Facebook. They’re not on Twitter. They don’t have an iPhone, and don’t want one. They do, however, live next door, around the corner, up the block, and across town. If you’d like to meet them, I’d be more than happy to introduce you.
The Mayor has announced the 2013 preliminary budget for Baltimore City — one of the highlighted items is the closure of three yet-to-be-announced firehouses. You can, and should, download and read the budget for yourself here.
If the City has the money for large developer tax breaks, car races that cost city taxpayers millions of dollars, and a new convention center — the City needs to fully fund our fire department, keeping all fire stations open and operational, and end the rotating closures.
Please contact your City Council representative today, and make your opinion heard! We cannot afford more senseless deaths like this one. How many innocent children have to die before we’re willing to stand up to our government and say “Enough is ENOUGH”?
Some national statistics from the NFPA:
- A fire department responded to a fire every 24 seconds.
- One structure fire was reported every 65 seconds.
- One home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds
- One civilian fire injury was reported every 30 minutes.
- One civilian fire death occurred every 2 hours and 49 minutes.
Think how much worse it would be if fire stations were closed. I don’t want to read about your home or your family in the Baltimore Sun. Contact your City Council representative and let them know you don’t want to be a statistic — we don’t need a new convention center more than we need you as residents.
Taking the 2012 Citizen Survey isn’t only a way to shape the future of Baltimore, it’s a way for you to make sure that as a resident — your voice counts! Let our elected officials know how you feel about a wide variety of topics — and it’s anonymous.
Oh boo hoo! Maryland property managers think it’s too much to pay what amounts to $4 a month for lead paint insurance. Seems to me it’s cheaper than a multi-million dollar lawsuit.
Ohio’s Attorney General designated part of the mortgage lawsuit settlement towards demolishing vacants. Some say this money should go to homeowners — what do you think?
A California State Senator has introduced a bill that would prohibit landlords in that state from requiring tenants to pay rent via online methods only.
Mayor Rawlings-Blake announces “Get Fresh Lexington” — an initiative to improve healthy food choices at Lexington Market. Hopefully she also has a strategy for making Lexington Market a safe, pleasant place to shop. Nobody should have to shove through a sea of junkies, drug dealers, and panhandlers in order to visit the market. Also, this should be implemented at all of our public markets.
Interesting article about Milwaukee — Property owners as stewards of a community’s vision. Property owners can be a catalyst and driving force behind the preservation and renewal of neighborhoods.
Cleveland advocates propose an interesting idea to solving the vacant problem: offer vacant homes to refugees.
Prince George’s County is dealing with a decline in federal funding for foreclosure prevention and community development programs.