The coronavirus has laid bare Baltimore’s deep vulnerabilities, grievous inequities, and governance failings. No recovery plan should take this city back to business as usual.
When we turn the lights back on, this city will be further weakened by job losses and shuttered businesses. Residents’ top issue—crime—will be back on the front burner, and our response must be immediate and forceful.
First, we need a strong safety net—using all of Baltimore’s resources—while we focus on the ultimate job of fostering a citywide economic revival. Let’s use this crisis to stop talking and start acting on our city’s urgent needs.
From the start, my mayoral campaign has been aimed at reversing Baltimore’s economic trajectory, transforming it into a growth-oriented city with real opportunities for all residents.
Since March, I have called for aggressive use of the city’s “rainy day” Budget Stabilization Reserve fund to help Baltimore’s small businesses and nonprofits weather this storm. Here are four other steps the city should take right now:
- To restore confidence, open more virus testing sites (particularly for the most vulnerable) and hire and train an army of contact tracers.
- Fully access the federal CARES Act, the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity program, and all federal aid for near-term city budget support. Resist the temptation to furlough city workers into the already saturated ranks of the unemployed.
- Declare a public transit fare holiday for the rest of 2020 as our city gets back on its feet, with CARES Act funding.
- Create a diverse Economic Recovery Team of city, nonprofit, community, and private sector leaders to fast track an equitable recovery plan.
Baltimore then should quickly move from recovery to progress. Beyond Job One—reducing crime—we must grow the city’s tax base, with citywide job and income growth. This is key to addressing Baltimore’s uncompetitive tax structure—and putting the city on the path to reducing its high property tax rate.
Let’s begin a four-year program to sell 10,000 vacant city homes to small developers, community land trusts, and community development groups, accelerating use of the Affordable Housing Trust Fund and working with the financial sector to fund the renovations.
Let’s use the proceeds from these sales to fund a Baltimore Works program for the hard-to-employ and address the city’s longstanding environmental, public works, and infrastructure needs.
Let’s also use this moment to end the digital divide in Baltimore. The city has made enormous strides in providing hardware to homebound students. A strong Digital Equity Coalition in Baltimore supports closing the Internet gap. All residents deserve access to the digital economy.
Lastly, let’s fully address Baltimore’s structural racism—because we can’t progress if the city does not represent everyone.
Baltimore can be a laboratory for change, a leader in workforce development, affordable housing, and economic equity. To achieve that will take a bridge builder who can work with every stakeholder and at every level of government.
Among Baltimore mayoral candidates, my track record uniquely qualifies me to fulfill this vision. This is particularly true because of my years in the Obama administration as Treasury’s Under Secretary for Domestic Finance, a role where I was at the center of federal economic recovery efforts after the 2008-2009 fiscal crisis. I know what managing an economic recovery takes.
From my decades of work in Baltimore’s private sector and with the city’s nonprofits, I have strong ties to Baltimore’s business, social service, and philanthropic sectors, essential partners in this vision. For years, I ran the municipal bond mutual fund that is the leading investor in the city’s capital projects, providing unmatched insights into Baltimore’s finances.
Now more than ever, Baltimore requires a leader of uncompromised integrity, demonstrated competence, and the experience to know how to accomplish big things. The city does not need another politician but a passionate champion for new approaches to growing jobs and income, attracting strong and diverse talent to city government, regaining public trust, and transforming Baltimore’s narrative.
We’re racing against time. We can’t just be the city of good intentions; we must be a city that takes control and gets things done. Now is the time to vote for the only mayoral candidate who understands how to create profound change—and who will deliver on that promise.