8-3-11: Baltimore Elections 2011 — The Cost of Living
Every Wednesday and Friday on Maryland Morning, we’re examining a topic at issue in Baltimore campaign for mayor. Property taxes have been getting a lot of attention – they account for nearly half of the revenue the city takes in. We’ll talk more about them in a few weeks.
Today, we’re going to look at the other side of the ledger, and examine the different candidates’ priorities for spending – where it should be increased, and where it should be cut.
We asked each of the eight candidates running, including the mayor: in what areas would you propose reducing spending—and where would you propose increasing it? We received responses from Otis Rolley and from Jody Landers.
Jody Landers responded via voicemail — you can listen here — or there’s a transcription below.
I believe that many agencies are top heavy as far as administrative expenses, and I am not just referring to staffing levels. I would initiate a thorough review of the facilities and space needs of each agency for the purpose of consolidating and reducing space and utility costs. In addition, I would pursue an aggressive plan to sell off any excess space and buildings, which would create cost savings and add to the tax base by putting properties back on the tax rolls. I would also look at cost savings to be had in contracting for all motor vehicle fleet purchasing, management and maintenance services. The City is still very dependent on paper records, paper transactions and regular mail, so I would accelerate the process of shifting to electronic storage and retrieval of records for purposes of reducing costs and improving customer service. My own recent experience when my car was stolen and I began receiving traffic and parking citations, while my car was on the stolen vehicle list, is a case study in how we could save money and improve services.
As far as staffing is concerned, I would begin by reducing the size of the Mayor’s office by 20%, and I would encourage the other two elected branches of City government to do the same, those being the City Council and the Comptroller’s office.
I would increase funding for programs and services targeted to children and youth. I also would increase spending on street and alley cleaning and for rat eradication, and institute a clean neighborhood volunteer corps in coordination with local schools and community organizations. And, lastly, I would institute a reward program, designed to encourage employees to submit ideas for saving money and improving services.
Otis Rolley wrote to us:
Under this Mayor, Baltimore taxpayers are being asked to pay more for fewer services. I believe we can reduce spending without sacrificing essential services by increase efficiency, setting real goals and holding government employees responsible for results. Doing so will allow us to make investments in our children, neighborhoods and job growth.
As Mayor, I would launch an overhaul of city government to make it more accountable, more efficient, and more accessible to its citizens. My plan would institute greater oversight over every department within City Hall, including increased auditing and performance-based reviews. Increasing oversight will immediately reveal which programs are working and which are wasting taxpayers’ money. As Mayor, I will:
- Institute performance based budgeting to ensure that promises made and paid for are kept;
- Coordinate purchasing across government by bundling smaller contracts for common necessities;
- Increase competitively bid contracts of $25,000 or more; and
- Provide financial incentives to workers for proposing cost-savings.
These changes, along with others, will streamline how the government does business and root out wasteful spending, allowing of us to reinvest in our children and neighborhoods. I believe the biggest blow the Mayor’s budget made was to our children and their communities. Instead of investing in Baltimore’s neighborhoods, she chose to cut programs and services middle-class families rely on, including pools, rec centers, and after school programs. Her shortsighted cuts will inevitably result in higher crime, poorer graduation rates, and a continued population decline – none of which Baltimore can afford. If elected Mayor, I would restore funding to these important programs and services to ensure Baltimore’s children have positive, constructive activities.
After receiving the responses, we spoke about these positions — and those of other candidates–with Gary Haber, who covers banking and finance for the Baltimore Business Journal. We also talked with Marta Mossburg, senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, and with Doug Brown, who worked in the Finance Department of Baltimore for 27 years — he retired four years ago.