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Landers focuses on property taxes

At a panel discussion on the city's property tax rate, Joseph T. "Jody" Landers took to the lectern in the manner of a professor.

He began by admonishing the only other Democratic mayoral challenger to show at the event — state Sen. Catherine Pugh — for what he apparently viewed as a glaring inaccuracy in the nomenclature she used to describe the city's infamous inventory of vacant homes.

Instead of saying that there were 47,000 "boarded-up homes" in Baltimore, Landers said, she should have called them "vacant housing units."

He broke down the numbers: Yes, there are blocks and blocks of boarded-up houses. But not all are boarded up; some are simply uninhabited because they are in foreclosure. About a third of them are owned by the city; the rest are privately owned.

"We make it attractive for people to sit for decades and not do anything with these properties," said Landers, a former City Council member who stepped down as executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors to focus on his mayoral run.

A lifelong city resident, Landers, 58, has vowed to cut the city's property tax rate by 25 percent to 35 percent over four to six years.

An adjusted property tax rate, Landers says, could have a great effect on cutting the number of vacant homes. He points to a system in Washington that punishes owners of so-called "blighted property" with a 10 percent annual rate.

He also advocates the creation of a land bank to give the city control of abandoned properties for redevelopment.

Landers who served two council terms in the 1980s and early '90s before he ran unsuccessfully for city comptroller, says he has a vision for the city.

"I believe that this city is on a downward path and the current administration is not doing what we need to do to reverse direction, reverse the population decline, bring jobs, maintain alternative programs for young people, keep neighborhoods safe," he said. "We've lost our balance. We've lost a sense of direction in this city."

In a television commercial touting his candidacy he poses in front of green space with his 9-year-old granddaughter Scarlett, a fourth-grader at a charter school in the city. He calls her "one of the reasons I'm running for mayor."

"The children of Baltimore are our future, we can't afford to shortchange them," Landers said. "They deserve to have access to safe effective schools and wholesome recreation activities. … Together we can make a difference."


Joseph T. "Jody" Landers III

Age: 58

Family: Married, three children.

Education: GED, Baltimore Experimental School; B.S., Morgan State University

Occupation: Executive vice president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors, 1997- 2011

Public Offices Held: City Council, 1983-1991

Why are you running for mayor? I am passionate about improving Baltimore and reversing the decline of our population and of city services.

What is the greatest challenge facing Baltimore? The greatest challenge facing the city is maintaining a sufficient level of services in order to retain the residents and businesses currently located in the city, while making a serious effort to lower the city tax burden.

How do you intend to address it? I intend to focus on growing the city's tax base. Reducing the number of vacant properties in the city is an integral part of my plan to revamp the entire property tax structure in the city and grow the tax base.

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