The Issues

Every Wednesday and Friday, Maryland Morning is tackling another issue in the Baltimore 2011 elections. A week before each segment, we ask all the mayoral candidates one question about that issue. Those questions, and candidates’ responses, are below.

You can also see issues listed by candidate. And if you want to see candidates’ full responses to all the questions, click on their names below.

Youth Jobs: Baltimore City says its YouthWorks program gave 5,300 kids jobs this summer. How many summer jobs do you think Baltimore City should provide–and if it’s more than 5,300, how would you fund them?

Frank Conaway: “I would put pressure on the private sector to provide jobs and money, as well as ask contractors of all kinds to do business with the city.”

Jody Landers: “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.”

Catherine Pugh:  “In a Pugh administration we will have a Marshall Plan-like effort to put young people to work and help them become fully participating adults in the life of our city.”

The Budget: In what areas would you propose reducing spending—and where would you propose increasing it?

Jody Landers: Reduce the size of city government, while raising money for youth programs and city cleaning initiatives.

Otis Rolley: “As Mayor, I would launch an overhaul of city government to make it more accountable, more efficient, and more accessible to its citizens. “

Vacant Houses: If elected mayor, how would you combat the problem of vacants in Baltimore?

Jody Landers: Create incentives to get people to renovate vacant properties. Drop tax rates to encourage housing market development, while increasing property taxes on houses that have been vacant for over a year.

Catherine Pugh: “My administration will offer, in addition to the first time homebuyers program, the same incentives to new homeowners that we use to entice our police officers, firefighters and teachers to live in the city.”

Otis Rolley: “I would move quickly to transform city-owned properties into new development — not just homes, but also open space and parks because open space is important to a neighborhood’s strength.”

Schools: What major changes, if any, would you like to see implemented in Baltimore’s school system?

Jody Landers: Work on boosting morale for teachers. Make their voices heard.  “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.”

Crime: How will you address the problem of crime in our city?

Frank Conaway: Fire Commissioner Bealefeld, new training and higher pay for police, and recruiting within the city rather than in the counties. “I would also take politics out the of the police department.”

Jody Landers: Restore trust and public confidence in the police department, and focus on prevention as well as enforcement by expanding drug treatment and reducing the effort spent on “victimless” crimes. “There is no one simple answer to dealing with crime, it has to be addressed in a holistic manner.”

Catherine Pugh: Raise trust and confidence in the police department by auditing crime statistics, creating an “Inspector General” office, re-establish tuition assistance for the force, and create an “Office of Public Safety” to connect “stakeholders.” Pugh also presents several youth programs, such as a half-work half-school day program and an intense community-based services for 300 youth most at-risk of gun violence. “The most important component of Senator Pugh’s public safety strategy is creating opportunities for young people that deter them from getting involved in crime in the first place.”

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake: A focus on repeat offenders, tough laws on illegal guns, neighborhood outreach, new technology, and “hundreds of new police officers.” “It won’t be easy but as your Mayor I am doing everything in my power to make every neighborhood in Baltimore safer.”

Residency for City Workers: Do you think Baltimore city employees should be required–or receive an incentive– to live within city limits?

Jody Landers: High-level employees serving by appointment of the Mayor must be city residents, though not all city employees should be obligated to live here. One approach is to make the city a more appealing place to live.

Otis Rolley: “…all new employees, and promoted employees will have to be City residents.”

Business Climate: How will you interact with the business community?

Frank Conaway: “I will spend a lot of time, energy and money to encourage small business opportunities.  Small business is what carries this country and provides most of the countries jobs.  I would recognize and help monetarily, and would advise people to pursue business.”

Jody Landers: Create partnerships between businesses and public schools for mentoring and work-study opportunities, and promote the Greater Baltimore Committee’s “Bridging the Gap” program to support “strategic partnerships between minority-owned, women-owned, and all other businesses. Work with city business leaders to create a “Land Bank” to remove or redevelop vacant properties and create home-buying incentives. “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.”

Lead Paint Settlements: What concrete steps would you take as mayor to encourage the Housing Authority of Baltimore City to pay the nearly $12 million it owes in lead-poisoning judgments?

Jody Landers: Would pursue talks with plaintiff families for a smaller settlement, and direct the Finance Department to find a way to pay. Would also investigate “why the City did not maintain insurance coverage to protect itself in cases of this type.”

Otis Rolley: “I would make the Housing Authority pay the judgments.” Would try to arrange a settlement agreement with the plaintiffs’ counsel in a way that doesn’t affect the quality of current public housing.

Property Taxes: What are your views on property taxes in Baltimore?

Otis Rolley: Wants to reverse Baltimore’s population loss by cutting property taxes for every homeowner (50% for most) without raising other taxes. Would address blight by “targeting” absentee landlords. “The Mayor is fond of saying we “can’t” cut property taxes, but that is only true if we continue to do things the same way we have been–with little oversight and no accountability.”

Transportation: If elected, what will be your approach to the Red Line project’s execution?

Jody Landers: Supports construction of Red Line, is committed to “Community Compact” that sets goals for hiring city residents for low-skill jobs building the Red Line. “I would work with community leaders and transportation officials to do whatever is feasible to mitigate neighborhood concerns.”

Otis Rolley: Advocates modernizing, not overhauling, Baltimore’s public transportation system. Supports Community Compact: “If this project is not constructed in a way that is responsive and respectful of the communities serviced by the Red Line, the project will not proceed.”

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