Carl Stokes Kicks Off His Campaign Amidst Downtown Development
Standing along the perimeter of the Harbor Point development, Carl Stokes kicked off his mayoral campaign calling for investment in neighborhoods, redevelopment of abandoned housing, giving hope to our children and changing what Baltimoreans consider normal, and what others would consider abnormal. Stokes chose this location to make the point that what happens downtown, over $140 million in tax breaks for this development alone, should take place in the neighborhoods. He stressed the need to tie tax incentives to hiring local residents, job training, school investments, and community improvements.
(December 10, 2015) Welcome. Thank you for coming here today. I know that you have places to be and things to do. The truth is that I would rather be in my neighborhood or in any neighborhood. But I want to show you something. I want you to see with your own eyes what will change when I am Baltimore’s next mayor. I want you to see the priorities of the past and hear my priorities for our future.
Harbor Point, like so much of Baltimore’s waterfront, represents the priorities of the past. The city gives two or three developers tens of millions of dollars with no benefit to the community. They will pay no taxes and hire no new people. They do not invest in the schools or the libraries or the neighborhood or job training. This is 140 million dollars of city money spent to develop prime real estate. Did the developers need that money to make this happen? No. But they will make 18 percent on this deal, and we will get nothing. It’s theft. And, yet, it is accepted as normal… as is so much that should be seen as abnormal.
Neighborhoods with blocks of houses falling apart? 300 plus murders a year? 89 percent of fourth graders who can’t read on grade level? Property tax rates that are double any other jurisdiction? 42 percent increases in water bills?
The politicians in this city have allowed this to pass for normal. Well, it isn’t. Not any of it. My campaign is about rejecting the abnormal by changing the priorities.
The money this city gives away down here will stop. We will invest in neighborhoods – Northwood, Sandtown, Cherry Hill, Hamilton, Morrell Park, Park Heights. Small businesses. Developments that hire local people and build communities.
There are 40,000 abandoned properties in this city with 16,000 owned by the city. I will tear them down or sell them for a dollar if someone can renovate them. Build a home. Make a business. Create a park. Give small developers the property, if they will invest in it and train local people in building skills – plumbing, electric, roofing. Then you have people with a skill who can get a job and afford to live in the houses they build. Forty new homes would strengthen any neighborhood.
When people wake up every day and see the blight that has been allowed to remain for 10, 15 even 20 years… they see treeless streets, broken sidewalks, no place to buy groceries, no amenities, no jobs… then they see the pretty new buildings down here… they get angry. They have been forced to live in a city that accepts the abnormal as normal.
When I am mayor, there will be new standards for Tax Increment Financing. You want help? You show that you will benefit a community – parks, jobs, capital improvements. And the community will decide what they need before any TIF is granted. We will invest in neighborhoods and there will be accountability.
Five years ago, I was asked to come back to the City Council after running a business. At the time, the city was closing 15 rec centers and six pools, so I went to the Mayor and asked. “Why?” I was told there was not enough money. “You find the money.” So I went to the Department of Recreation & Parks and asked to see the books. There were no books. No general ledger. No financial sheets. No quarterly reports. Not even someone assigned to keep the books. So I went to a neighborhood pool, and said, “This isn’t closing.”
And then I went to the City Council, and said, “As a business guy, I am telling you we need audits.” How do we know what we have or what we need or what we spend and what we waste? City agencies have multi-million dollar budgets and no accountability. I wanted audits every two years. I was voted down. We now have 13 agencies audited every four years. That’s not good enough. We need to know where every penny is going.
I will be the accountability mayor. The neighborhood mayor. The education mayor. New priorities. We will actually know what resources we have and then we will invest them where they will improve our communities and the people who live there.
Our children live among abandoned properties. They see drug addicts on the streets. They hear gunshots. They know people who have been killed. They have seen people die. They have little hope.
We need to give them hope. We need to make sure they are learning to read. Not in five years, next year. We need to give them safe places and the resources to enhance their lives – music, drama, robotics, debate, art, sports. We have invested in all of these shiny buildings behind me but not in our neighborhoods, not in our schools, not in our children.
I will change the priorities and bring accountability. This city is not working. The way it has been run for the past 20 years has not been working. Its people are not working. Its schools are not working.
I am Carl Stokes. I thank you for coming here today. And I ask you to support me. I want to get Baltimore working. Let’s Get Baltimore Working!