BALTIMORE, MD – Tonight, Mary Miller officially kicked off her campaign for Baltimore mayor with an address to hundreds of supporters at the Baltimore Museum of Industry. A full copy of her remarks follow.
Good evening and welcome everyone!
Thank you all for joining me here tonight.
And Art, thank you for that generous introduction. You have been such a great colleague and friend to me.
Let me start by saying how grateful I am for all that Baltimore has given me and my family.
And that I’m determined to see everyone in Baltimore succeed.
That’s why I’m proud to announce that I’m running for Mayor of this great city.
I’m not a career politician, but I have always loved cities. I’ve spent my life figuring out what makes a city work. That’s why I know Baltimore needs new leadership.
Baltimore needs a leader who can get things done – big and small.
When I came to Baltimore over 30 years ago Donald Schaefer was our Mayor. There are many memorable stories about Mayor Schaefer, but I want to share one about a stop sign.
One day Mayor Schaefer noticed a stop sign that had been knocked down and immediately made a call. The next day he drove out of his way to make sure the sign was up again. Sure enough it was fixed.
That small story shouldn’t be remarkable. It’s what we should expect from our city and Mayor: a relentless focus on making things work.
Today that’s just not the case. Recently I met a community leader in Midway who spent two years trying to get a stop sign for a local school.
Baltimore is failing its residents on so many levels: Four police commissioners in four years, as homicides skyrocketed; City operations shut down for weeks because we didn’t protect our IT systems from hackers; A water system that couldn’t bill the Ritz Carlton for years, while our most vulnerable citizens struggle to pay their water bills.
I could go on and on with more examples and so can you.
Not surprisingly we have lost faith and trust in our elected leaders.
I’m running for Mayor to change that…to bring new leadership to City Hall. A leader that will work for everyone. Tonight and throughout this campaign I will talk about my plan for “Inclusive Growth.” Essentially: one team, one city.
But first, let me tell you a little about myself. Baltimore is where my husband Jim and I raised our two sons and put down our roots 33 years ago.
I was raised in upstate New York, the second of six children in a close family. I was fortunate to graduate from a good public high school that prepared me well for college.
In high school I was always working—at supermarkets, a donut shop, restaurants, and coaching at the local YMCA.
It was in college and graduate school that my interest in cities really developed and led to a job at the Urban Institute in Washington.
There I rolled up my sleeves to work on aging city infrastructure needs: making public transit more affordable; rebuilding bridges; preventing water main breaks; and, making sewer systems work efficiently.
Not many people have walked through the Boston sewer system. But I have and I loved every step….
One day I answered a newspaper ad for a job at T. Rowe Price working in their new municipal bond group, investing in cities like Baltimore.
I spent 26 years working my way up at T. Rowe Price to become the first woman on its management committee and led a major investment division.
My greatest honor came in 2009 when President Barack Obama nominated me for a top job at the U.S. Treasury. While there I became the first woman in history to serve as the Under Secretary for Domestic Finance.
It was a critical time of recovery for our country after the Great Recession. I’m the kind of person who loves to solve problems and I went at it hard.
I worked on programs to help homeowners save their homes and small businesses get loans. I developed a retirement savings program for low income workers called MYRA.
I worked directly with cities like Detroit that face many of Baltimore’s challenges like vacant houses and abandoned neighborhoods.
My entire career has been a lesson in management – how to take on tough challenges, build strong teams and solve real problems.
I will bring all of those values and experience to bear in Baltimore as your Mayor.
My time on President Obama’s team gave me a whole new perspective on the challenges we face to provide equal opportunity in this country.
I came back to Baltimore determined to find a way to make a difference in my hometown where the lack of opportunity is so visible.
It’s not for lack of trying. Over decades I’ve come to know many people who are working hard to make a difference here every day: the caring people at Catholic Charities; the ground-breaking team at the Center for Urban Families; our dedicated librarians at the Enoch Pratt; the inspiring instructors at the Y of Central Maryland; and the people at Open Works that are helping entrepreneurs get going.
I’m honored to see so many of my friends from these places here this evening.
Thank you for all that you are doing for Baltimore.
But let’s imagine what more we could achieve with strong leadership in City Hall.
So what will that take?
First, we have to feel safe. The tragic loss of life and levels of crime in Baltimore today are quite simply horrific. No matter whom I talk to – from residents to community activists to business leaders - it’s the number one issue facing Baltimore.
For me this really hits home each week when I attend services at St. Ignatius Loyola Church. There’s a moment of remembrance when the names and ages of people who have needlessly died violent deaths during the prior week is read out loud.
Last week that list included a 7-month-old child.
It’s heartbreaking. I dread that moment each week and pray for the day when there will be no names to report.
I believe the Mayor is accountable for public safety, full stop. It’s the Mayor’s job to get everyone on the same page to execute our public safety plans. That’s what a strong manager does.
We have suffered from high turnover in Police Commissioners. I know from my business background that high turnover doesn’t lead to success. We need to keep our Police Commissioner in place to execute the plan and give him the resources he needs.
Our police force is hundreds of officers short of the numbers we need to combat crime – we should double down on recruiting and training new officers – especially finding the best and brightest from our own city.
As Mayor I will welcome help from the state and federal government and use every tool at our disposal to attack crime with the greatest urgency.
The federal Consent Decree under which Baltimore is operating provides the framework for cultural change. Let’s make those changes and rebuild trust in our police department.
We have good examples of programs like Safe Streets that have helped deescalate violence in neighborhoods like Cherry Hill before it leads to tragic outcomes.
Movements like Turnaround Tuesday that have created over 700 jobs for people with prison and addiction history are exactly what we need to break these devastating cycles.
So let’s scale the things that we can see are working.
Some people and candidates think crime is the only issue facing Baltimore. I don’t agree. We don’t just have a crime problem, we have an opportunity problem.
We can’t reduce high crime rates without addressing high poverty and the lack of opportunities for so many of our citizens.
And to do that we need to take a hard look at ourselves.
Back when I was in school, I believed that with hard work and an education I could get ahead.
While success came my way, I understand that’s not true for too many in Baltimore.
Structural racism and inequality have trapped too many families into generations of poverty without a ladder to escape.
People are living precarious lives – facing the daily struggle of a job that doesn’t pay a living wage, housing that is unstable and unhealthy, daunting transportation and child care challenges that can throw you off course every day.
Here’s a sobering statistic—Baltimore ranks near the bottom of large cities in offering a path for people born in poverty to move up.
While there’s no quick fix, I know we can do so much more to build the ladders for those who have been left behind.
Let’s start with education.
Our teachers are being asked to deal with far more than academics. Too many Baltimore schoolchildren face homelessness, hunger and trauma that make it impossible to learn.
That’s why I support the Kirwan Commission recommendations for expanded access to pre-school education. Better pay for teachers. And, more support for at risk children.
We know that a child with quality pre-K learning is far more likely to read at grade level and ultimately graduate from high school.
We need more connections with employers that will provide year-round internships for high school students.
And apprenticeships that provide a pipeline directly into a job.
Which leads me to what I think our goal should be: what I call inclusive growth. Let me tell you how this goal will make a real difference.
As your Mayor I would make good job growth a priority by naming a Deputy Mayor for Economic Development.
We need to bring more jobs to Baltimore residents – living wage jobs with benefits – that will narrow income inequality and grow our local economy.
We need more companies like Catalyte that are finding non-traditional ways to identify talent and hire people that reflect the diversity of our workforce.
Instead of throwing up barriers to growth, we should be rolling out the welcome mat.
I don’t believe we can sit back and think that market forces will solve these problems. Our elected officials – and specifically the Mayor – need to lead in bringing new investment to Baltimore.
A city with higher levels of income and secure jobs can also do more to make it easier for residents to own a home that will increase in value. And provide an asset for families to pass on to their children.
But for too long our financial system in Baltimore has denied loans to many potential homeowners and small businesses.
It’s why I’ve been working to develop non-profit lenders like Baltimore Business Lending to get credit flowing again, especially to women and people of color, to build a more fair financial system.
It’s why I’ve been working with the Neighborhood Impact Investment Fund to make loans to underserved parts of our city.
By making our goal inclusive growth I know we can change for the better.
There are many claims on Baltimore’s finances right now – to support education, crime reduction and public health needs among others.
To pay for the services we need in Baltimore we need to take a hard look at our tax base and how we raise revenue. And how we give up revenue.
As Mayor I would review our budget and tax structure from top to bottom to build a 21st century model for the city to operate.
We know we are uncompetitive with surrounding counties in terms of our property tax rate. By delivering stronger investment in our city I would pledge to grow our way into a lower property tax rate over five years.
And this is just the beginning of my list!
A good manager also knows what they don’t know. I know the importance of listening at the grass roots level. We can’t impose top down solutions without support in the community. That just doesn’t work.
As Mayor I would pledge to hold monthly town halls with all of the stakeholders in the fight for inclusive growth. One team. One city.
Baltimore has every opportunity to be a great city.
We have leading universities, loyal employers, terrific anchor institutions –– all within our boundaries.
And yet again and again we have failed to harness those resources – leading to a feeling of hopelessness about the city’s direction.
Our leaders serve our citizens poorly when they don’t deliver basic city services fairly.
Your zip code should not determine your life expectancy, your ability to get a loan or a good education, and even access to the internet.
We have a shameful history of redlining and place-based discrimination that needs to change.
The public’s trust is lost when they don’t believe that their city is working for them.
As Mayor, I will build a diverse team that reflects the city it serves and make you feel proud to live here.
I believe that public office is a privilege and I expect that all of you will hold me accountable.
That’s how I will operate as Mayor.
As I close, let me say this:
Right now, all of Baltimore is rooting for a win. With the right leader, it’s possible: A fresh face with the skills that can prove the naysayers wrong. A workhorse, not a showhorse, who understands the value of every team member. A hard worker who leaves it all on the field
I’m sure every Ravens fan out there knows I’m channeling the spirit of Lamar Jackson. What a thrill it is to watch him and his teammates deliver win after win. And, now a Super Bowl championship is within reach.
Some people even think Lamar Jackson should be our next Mayor.
Don’t worry Lamar, I’ve got this.
I will be the leader who restores faith that the city is on the right track and addressing critical needs.
I will champion our city and rewrite the negative story about Baltimore.
I will be honest with you about the challenges and relentless in seeking solutions.
Tonight, I’m reaching out across our city with one message:
I want Baltimore—all of us—to live up to our potential and be the city we know we can be.
I’m asking for your support – as voters, as volunteers, and ambassadors for this message.
Together, One team. One city.
We can all be champions for Baltimore!