Joseph T. “Jody” Landers, III, is executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of REALTORS
Youth Jobs: “Each YouthWorks summer job slot costs $1,200. When it comes to raising money for worthwhile projects, I believe you have to lead by example. As Mayor, I would commit to donating $12,000 per year to YouthWorks to cover 10 job slots. I would set a goal of increasing the number of slots available by at least 15% per year during each year of my term in office. In addition to corporate, foundation and church group sponsors, I will actively solicit participation from neighborhood associations for positions that could then be assigned to accomplish projects within the participating neighborhoods.
I am committed to actively participating in raising money for this worthwhile program, and setting a goal to increase the number of jobs each year.”
The Budget:“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.”
“In order to see continued progress in City schools, it is absolutely essential for the Mayor and School Superintendent to forge a strong partnership and close working relationship. Recent revelations about possible cheating on the Maryland School Achievement Tests and a drop in test scores have undermined confidence in the system. Restoring parental and public trust in the system has to be on one of our top priorities.
In order for children to learn they need a safe environment and they have to be in school. I would work with the Superintendent to assure that schools are safe for both students and teachers, and to assure that conduct rules and suspension policies are being consistently and uniformly enforced throughout the system. The inconsistent application of the rules of conduct only tends to breed errant behaviors. We must do a better job of effectively dealing with chronic attendance problems.
In talking with teachers in the course of campaigning, it has become apparent that teacher morale is extremely low. Many teachers feel they are not being given a voice in the overall direction of the system and in determining the best way to address the needs of the children in their classrooms. I would work with the Superintendent to boost the morale of teachers and to assure that they have an avenue through which their concerns can be heard and addressed.
City Charter Schools offer parents a range of options and choices that did not exist several years ago. Charter schools have definitely had a favorable impact on attracting and keeping families with children in the City. Unfortunately limited enrollment capacities in the charter schools make it impossible to serve all of the children and families seeking admission. I would strongly support efforts to expand the number of charter schools, along with serious efforts to reduce class size and improve instructional outcomes in zoned schools.”
“First, we have to restore public trust and confidence in the police department in order to achieve better results in combating crime. In the aftermath of the failed zero tolerance policies adopted by a previous administration, recent towing scandals in the department and the arrest of an officer accused of drug dealing have further eroded public trust and negatively affected morale among police ranks. Making neighborhoods safe and reducing crime requires that citizens and police have a productive partnership built on trust and confidence.
There is no one simple answer to dealing with crime, it has to be addressed in a holistic manner. Increasing the number of police officers on the street is certainly a part of the solution, along with targeting the arrest and prosecution of the most violent offenders. However, just increasing enforcement efforts is not enough, we also have to maintain preventative programs like recreation activities, youth athletic leagues and after school programs in order to deter young people from falling into criminal and self destructive behaviors. Improving overall school performance and increasing attendance and graduation rates are also part of the answer to having a safer city.
A major share of the crime in Baltimore City is directly related to illicit drug use. I would work to make it easier for addicts to legally access opioid substitute treatments like buprenorphine, in order to break free from the destructive criminal behaviors associated with addiction. We need to overcome the bias against opioid substitute treatments and recognize that just like pain tolerance, people have different levels of addiction – some may require medication for a brief period and others for a prolonged period or permanently in order to get their lives back together.
Finally, the criminal justice system needs to limit the amount time and resources spent in pursuing victimless crimes – for example: I would seek to raise the threshold for praying a jury trial for the possession of small quantities of marijuana, because juries are reluctant to convict offenders on such minor charges and yet these cases consume a great deal of time and effort on the part of prosecutors, police and the court system.”
Residency for City Workers:
“As Mayor, I will require all cabinet level officials and other high level employees serving by appointment of the Mayor to be City residents as a condition of employment. However, I think it is a mistake to mandate that all City employees meet a residency requirement. I believe that people ought to be free to live where they choose to live. I do not favor having employers dictate where employees have to live. I am very much in favor of employers, including the City, providing incentives to attract employees to live in the City.
The challenge for the City is to create an environment whereby employees and potential residents choose to live and remain in the City. Creating this environment, will require that we reduce crime, improve schools, reduce the property tax rate and keep neighborhoods clean and safe. The City’s goal should be to hire the most capable, qualified and dedicated employees.
I am a past-president, board member and long-time supporter of the Live Baltimore Home Center, which is focused on marketing the City and providing incentives to attract homebuyers to the City. I would work with Live Baltimore and all of the major employers in the City to expand and promote effective incentive programs to convert existing renters to homebuyers and to attract new residents to the City. The City has a lot of great neighborhoods, very affordable housing and world class cultural and entertainment attractions. As Mayor, I will take a lead role in promoting the City and selling these amenities to prospective residents and businesses. In my judgement residency mandates send the wrong message, and I am concerned that it could lead surrounding subdivisions to adopt similar restrictions, which would work against City residents in getting jobs.”
Business Climate:I will meet regularly with business leaders in the City, in partnership with such groups as the Greater Baltimore Committee, The Baltimore Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Baltimore Black Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Baltimore Economic Alliance and the local neighborhood business associations in order to keep lines of communication open and to assure that the City is being supportive of local business initiatives. I will engage the business community in helping the City to evaluate and improve the permit process and all customer service related functions.
I will also work through these same groups to involve them in the creation of a Baltimore City Land Bank that will focus on demolishing and redeveloping vacant and abandoned buildings in the City for both commercial and residential use. I will also look to business leaders to work with my administration to implement and promote home-buying incentives for employees. My goal will be to involve every major employer in the City with efforts to promote City living and to provide incentives for buying a home in a City neighborhood.
I will work with the School Superintendent to foster mentoring relationships and work-study opportunities between businesses and our high schools. I will enlist the support of the business community in helping to develop a true regional approach to planning and funding transportation and economic development projects.
As Mayor, I will take a personal interest in promoting the Greater Baltimore Committee’s Bridging the Gap initiative, which is designed to advance the business culture of greater Baltimore by fostering an atmosphere in which majority and minority and women-owned businesses can form mutually beneficial strategic partnerships. Bridging the Gap strives to provide businesses with the tools and support necessary to develop such collaborations.
Lead Paint Settlements:The City is in a difficult position in cases of this type, because it has an obligation to defend itself against lawsuits in order to protect taxpayers interests against unjustified claims, and it likewise has a moral and legal obligation to do the right thing and compensate the persons harmed by lead-poisoning.
I would work with the Housing Authority to devise a way to pay the damages owed to the families. First, I would open up direct settlement talks with the families to see if a lesser figure could be agreed upon, and then I would have the Finance Dept. come up with the best way to pay the agreed upon sum.
I would also investigate why the City did not maintain insurance coverage to protect itself in cases of this type. I am also mindful that whatever the City does in the existing case, it must be prepared to do in future lead-poisoning cases.
The Red Line:
I fully support the construction of the Red Line, although I would be more enthusiastic if the Red Line route actually intersected with the current Green Line. Where there are concerns about the impact of the Red Line on neighborhoods, I would work with community leaders and transportation officials to do whatever is feasible to mitigate neighborhood concerns. The fact is, most economic studies have shown that access to public transit is a net plus for neighborhoods, as far as quality of life, neighborhood appeal and property values are concerned.
I am also committed to full implementation of the hiring and training recommendations articulated in the Community Compact agreement with respect to the construction of the Red Line. The Community Compact is a unique agreement that spells out a set of goals and strategies to realize a transit project that offers more than just a new transportation option. The Red Line presents a tremendous opportunity to create jobs for City residents. The Compact cites the following details with respect to job opportunities:
The majority (83%) of the jobs that will be created or supported by the construction of the Red Line are lower skilled jobs, requiring less than an Associate’s Degree; 17% will require a Bachelors, Masters, or Doctoral Degree. One means to achieve the goal of putting Baltimore to work is to actively create opportunities for City residents to be employed in the jobs created by the project’s construction. Based on JFI’s analysis of both the jobs created by the construction of the Red Line (labor demand) and the demographic and workforce-related characteristics of the community residents (labor supply), this goal appears both realistic and attainable.
Just to reiterate, I support the Red Line and will work to make certain that the project can move forward as expeditiously as possible.