1. Please describe your educational and professional background and how it has prepared you to serve as mayor.
I hold an undergraduate degree in business administration and my MBA, both from Morgan State University.
I have served as a banker, dean of a business school, founder/editor of my own newspaper, a special editor at The Baltimore Sun and the CEO of the Maryland Center for Art and Technology. I have been a member of the City Council, Maryland House of Delegates and currently serve as a State Senator. I serve on 22 boards and commissions and created the Fish Out of Water Project with $100,000 from the Abell Foundation that ultimately raised a million dollars to wire Baltimore's classrooms to the internet and purchased instruments for students. I created the Baltimore Marathon to raise money to support illiteracy programs in the city. The Marathon is in its 10th year and has a more than $28 million dollar impact on our city. I am also the founder of The Baltimore Design School. During my first term in office as a Senator I passed more than 70 pieces of legislation, more than any Senator in Maryland's history.
I believe that all of my professional, public and personal experiences to this point have contributed to the person I am today -- tested, experienced, and ready to take the helm of a troubled city that has the potential to become great again.
2. Why do you want to be mayor? What would your top priorities be if you are elected?
I feel called to be Mayor. I have a deep passion for the residents of Baltimore and want to create a city that residents have faith in again and believe that their Mayor is working on their behalf and in their best interests. I want people to be proud of the history, the current direction and the potential of Baltimore. So proud they invest their time, talents, and innovation in turning problems into opportunities and opportunities into solutions -- I will be a Mayor that welcomes input from the citizens because we all have the same goal -- creating a first-class city that is the destination of new residents, tourists, businesses and a diverse and talented population.
Among my top priorities:
1. Grow our city's tax base by investing in our current residents by turning renters into homeowners, creating an environment where businesses not only return to Baltimore but thrive here and the new tax base revenue allows us to cut property taxes by 50 percent in my first term as Mayor.
2. Save our children from destruction by providing them with year round employment opportunities, mentorships, community centers and provide their entire families with resources and wrap-around services to be successful.
3. Create a more community focused police department where the neighborhoods work hand in hand with the department to prevent crime, understand each other's culture, and encourage more officers to live in the communities where they work. I will create a program that partners young people with police leaders starting in high school to steer them towards careers in law enforcement. I will also create a Citizens & Police Academy program to build stronger relationships between the officers and the citizens and thereby help residents build much needed trust in the police department. All of this community focused policing will help residents feel safer in their homes and their neighborhoods.
4. Focus on creating employment opportunities by requiring city contracts to employee city residents first with sustainable jobs and create a business environment in Baltimore that allows small and large businesses in our city to grow and thrive and thereby create more jobs for citizens.
3. Do you support Baltimore's current crime-fighting strategy? What changes, if any, would you pursue to improve public safety in the city?
The current strategy, created by Mayor Sheila Dixon, of targeting the most violent offenders and focusing on getting guns out of our communities is a strategy that is being employed around the country. I expect the department to continue those priorities but when elected Mayor; I will begin to overhaul the police department with an eye towards efficiency and raising the morale and integrity of the department. Having spoken with a lot of police officers, I know they want people to respect and support them for the work they do. But we cannot get around the fact that there is a wide gulf of trust that currently exists. I want to give housing and educational professional development opportunities to our officers. I want us to keep our word when it comes to their pensions and a Pugh administration will always have the FOP at the table as we invest in our officers and their futures. I will create a Citizens & Police Academy to encourage face to face interactions with neighborhoods and I will require officers to get out of their cars and walk the beat. I want more officers to be Baltimore homegrown so I will create an academy program in the high schools that matches young people with law enforcement and leads them towards law enforcement careers.
The centerpiece of my public safety strategy rests on creating a city where young people thrive and therefore choose to graduate from high school, avoid drugs, gangs, becoming parents before they are ready, and have respect for themselves, their families, and the police department. In the Northeastern district, Sonnie Jones has developed a "Choices and Consequences" model that helps the police better understand the citizens and different cultures as well as teaching residents about the mission and goals of the police department.
I will also target the 300 young people who are most likely to be involved in a shooting, either as the shooter or the victim. We will work with the school system, social services and other appropriate agencies to provide intensive wrap around community based services to our youth to ensure they do not become a victim or an offender.
There are many, many more components to this plan -- visit www.catherinepugh.com for more details.
4. Do you support the recent reforms in the Baltimore City school system? Do you believe any changes are needed in the schools' governance structure (such as direct mayoral control or an elected school board)?
I do support the vision of Dr. Andres Alonso for our system and our children. I look forward to working with him to create a system we all can be proud of. I believe in a philosophy that doesn't rely on teaching to tests for our children but teaching life skills along with academics that prepares young people to succeed in life and the world of work. I do not support mayoral control at this time but will be a Mayor fully engaged with Dr. Alonso and the Board of School Commissioners. I have a voting record in Annapolis of supporting some form of elected school board and my preference is a partially elected board. I want to ensure we have the flexibility to ensure that business leaders, fiscal experts, parents, and students have the opportunity to be on the board and participate in the continued reformation of the school system
5. How would you address the city's backlog in school maintenance and renovations, estimated to be as much as $2 billion?
Once again this is a leadership and priority issue. With 40 percent of the schools currently under maintenance, but upwards of 70 percent needing immediate attention, the process has obviously failed. I would call on the private sector to join us in our attempts to address the backlog simultaneously while we are putting measures in place to prioritize the school system budget to include a full complement of maintenance staff that has the skills to get these repairs made in quick order. In order for Baltimore to contribute more to our public schools, we need to grow our tax base and population to increase the amount of dollars we can contribute to both the operating and capital budgets. That would go a long way in helping us generate the revenue to make giving more to our schools a reality.
6. Property taxes have become a major issue in this year's election. Do you believe the city's tax rate needs to be cut? If so, by how much, and what steps would you take to keep the city's budget in balance while lowering the rate?
Everything must begin with growing our tax base. My goal is to cut Baltimore's property tax by half in my first four years in office. It will be tough, but I will be focused. We need to turn renters in Baltimore into homeowners and we must capture potential homeowners such as graduating students from Baltimore's colleges and universities. We can use the 47,000 boarded up houses in our city as incentives for potential home buyers and developers, working with community development corporations to begin to rehabilitate this horrible blight on our city. We will offer tax breaks to homebuyers so that they can renovate their properties and live in Baltimore. We also have to have all invested parties at the table so we can design our neighborhoods with an eye towards incorporating these abandoned houses. I will create a Property Tax Reduction Commission that will search the country for best practices in cutting property taxes that may work in Baltimore and I will bring community and neighborhood leaders, activists, and business leaders into the discussions to be part of the solution. What we know for sure is that we must cut property taxes in order for us to grow our city, grow our tax base, energize the small business community, create jobs, and compete to bring our neighborhoods alive with contributing and invested residents.
With an eye towards growing our population, growing our tax revenue and keeping city government lean and efficient, we will more than meet and cover any shortfall based on property tax cuts.
7. The city has faced large budget shortfalls in recent years. If that trend continues, what top priorities would you protect from cuts? In what areas would you pursue spending reductions?
I will protect and prioritize services to young people, our seniors and vulnerable families. I will ensure that every child that wants a year-round internship and job opportunity is given one. I will insist that the Recreation and Parks agency operate at top efficiency to ensure that our centers are providing thorough services to our children and will call on the private sector and educational institutions join in assisting to mentor and guide young people as well as help these centers operate at top financial efficiency. I believe we can continue to find reductions in the operations of the police department and other bloated agencies without putting at risk the vital services they provide. I want to revamp our housing agencies as well as review the other big agencies at the Department of Public Works and Health to make sure that we are not wasting our resources.
8. Baltimore has lost tens of thousands of jobs in the last decade. What would you do to encourage economic development and provide employment opportunities for city residents?
We must begin to train our unemployed workforce for the emerging job sectors of Healthcare, High Tech, Hospitality and Tourism as well as the growing Green industry. Making sure that our citizens are work-ready will become a priority for the Mayor's Office of Employment Development. I also believe that small businesses will be a major future employer for Baltimore residents if we cut some of the red tape that currently exists in helping these businesses to get up and running and grow. I want to be our top cheerleader and promoter and travel the country competing to bring new large and small businesses to our city. I also think opportunities have been lost to create partnerships with our health care institutions to provide manufacturing jobs to meet their needs for supplies and equipment.
I will instruct BDC to focus on growing business development in our neighborhoods as well. Where we can help an industry to locate in a community and employee those residents. That mission will be part of BDC's portfolio.
I will also lead on the Board of Estimates to ensure that companies that do business or receive contracts from the city hire Baltimore residents! Even if we have to encourage them to train residents to meet their employment needs.
9. Do you support construction of the light rail Red Line? If so, what would you do to mitigate concerns in some neighborhoods about the impact of the project? What other changes to the Baltimore mass transit system would you pursue to provide transportation options for those who lack access to a car?
I support the construction of the Red Line. I have been impressed by the efforts put forth by the Red Line to inform, update and educate the impacted communities. But will always demand that the communities are at the table and ultimately involved in the approval process of such a large project. I've discussed this issue with various neighborhoods along the route and whether the train is traveling above ground or below ground, many of the concerns are the same -- divided communities, noise, property values, etc. I think the project will ultimately succeed or fail by the sincere interaction and efforts made by the Red Line developers with the citizens.
I want to look at our transit system and ensure that we're committed to creating and providing for the people of our city a world class system that moves people across the city and connects them to work and play. We're long overdue for attention to updating the other components of the mass transit system and a Pugh administration will be aggressive on this issue.
10. Do you support the Greater Baltimore Committee's proposal for an expanded convention center/arena/hotel complex downtown? If not, what alternative, if any, do you support for replacing 1st Mariner Arena?
I do support the creation of a new arena and convention center but I question the funding methods that have been floated. The state provides most of these funds with a substantial contribution from the city but at this time of fiscal uncertainty, I am not sure if these expansions and development items should be a top priority. I am a strong proponent of private-public partnerships and believe that bringing together the innovation and investment of the corporate community will help us continue to have facilities that can compete for major convention and meeting opportunities. But I do not want these facilities to come at the expense of providing resources to our citizens at this time. Too many children and families need our investment as well as beginning the process of growing economic development in our neighborhoods.
There will come a time when we have to move forward with these expansions but the time is not now.
11. Do you support current plans for redevelopment of the West Side Superblock and the State Center office complex?
I support both but believe the projects have misplaced priorities. I want the Superblock to be successful but it needs more community and corporate buy-in to create a thriving residential and business area with an eclectic mix of chain stores and restaurants and locally created and managed shops. We need to hold the development companies in place now to a tighter time table and benchmarks and hold everyone involved accountable for moving us forward.
The State Center project is a mixed bag. I support creating jobs through the project but think that the community components of the project are off base. This project needs to create more opportunities for enhancement of senior living, create a supermarket for the neighborhood in the first phase, not the second, and redesign the communities in the area to be more family friendly and include less condos and high-rises. I also am very weary of undercutting office spaces in mid-town and downtown that are already empty and hurting with underpriced state-supported office space in the State Center.
When I become Mayor I will work with the legislative representatives to take a hard look at the proposal and make sure that Baltimore is getting the best deal possible.
12. Do you support the city's plans for a slot machine gambling parlor near the downtown stadium complex? Would you pursue any changes to the program, through either local or state legislation? Would you support an eventual expansion to table games there or elsewhere in the city?
I am a supporter of increased gaming in the State and in Baltimore but don't believe it should be a major foundation point in the city's budgeting process. Slots will come to Baltimore but we have to ensure that the licensee is committed to creating sustainable jobs for city residents and that the developers involved prioritize jobs for city residents as well. Slots revenues would be an enhancement to our budget and allow us to meet our needs but it should not be the lynchpin of our financial strategy -- that sets us up for disappointment and an unhealthy reliance of the slots parlors.
I do support an expansion of table games.
13. Recent corruption scandals in the police and fire departments and other city agencies have diminished public trust in government. What steps would you take to ensure that the public is receiving the honest services of all city employees and elected officials?
I want to create an atmosphere where city employees are driven to provide the best customer services to their true bosses at all times. Their employers are the citizens of Baltimore. I want to utilize the Inspector General office to root out waste, fraud and abuse in agencies and I will be unrelenting on employees who violate the public trust.
In the police department, I will create an additional Inspector General's office to work independently within the department to ensure that corruption and illegal activities are investigated and that those involved are separated from employment by the city and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
It is a privilege to work for the people of Baltimore and I want city employees to understand that they are not entitled to work for citizens; they are special because they work for citizens.
I will lead by example and ensure that direct employees of the city operate at a high level of efficiency and integrity and I will always have a transparent administration. People will always hear the truth from me about corruption and integrity and will grow to trust that I will deal with it directly and swiftly.
Catherine E. Pugh
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