Inclusive solutions for Baltimore

Pugh: Baltimore needs inclusive solutions and real leadership.

Creating a new normal for Baltimore will require all hands on deck. We cannot move our city forward without understanding that it will take all of us working together. We must see each as our brother's keeper and more importantly see that in many ways we are the same. Our future progress is inextricably tied to each other. We need to recognize that the success of one part of our city is not enough and that every neighborhood and community is important if we are to thrive as a city.

Baltimore must develop an inclusive solution that does not leave anyone out. Our strategy must encompass the needs of our babies being born today, the youth in our schools and universities, working parents, young adults, and seniors living in our communities, business owners, the homeless and hurting, and our returning ex-offenders. Having a 24-hour expungement center is as important for Baltimore as preparing our young people to compete in the 21st century economy that includes engineering and biotechnology. These problems won't be solved easily or swiftly, but solutions are achievable, and done fairly and equitably, they will yield better outcomes for Baltimore.

Reducing crime and making people feel safe about living, working and playing in our city should be at the top of our priorities, along with educating our babies from birth to early childhood forward and providing economic strategies that lift the least of us and will impact all of us.

Creating neighborhood retail strategies that look inside our own neighborhoods like Canton, Federal Hill, Hampden and Mondawmin and offering the local skilled retailers there incentives to grow and expand in other neighborhoods in clusters will yield greater returns than waiting on national big box chains. Not only does this approach expand the growth of home-grown businesses but it increases wealth among our own residents.

Economic Development has to stretch beyond our city, to the state, federal and foreign opportunities that await our reach. With such an asset as the Port of Baltimore, we are well positioned to expand manufacturing and trade, we just need the leadership that can connect the dots.

Restoring trust between the police and community is necessary in creating a successful community policing strategy. Making police familiar with the residents and patrolling the neighborhoods — not to over-police but to protect and serve — is the mandate of our current commissioner. Going back to successful neighborhood watch and community safety plans should be incorporated in our strategy. Lighting our neighborhoods will help to make our communities more safe and walkable.

Our colleges and institutions in Baltimore are a wealth of knowledge and among the greatest assets in our city. Equally important are the members of our business community — both for profit and non-profit — who support and want to share in the resurrection of our city. Many have invested years of time, money and talent and realize that the vision for their success is tied to a vision for Baltimore's success.

They have shared the concept of all of us working together. For example, Johns Hopkins has hired more than 300 ex-offenders in a very short period of time, providing opportunity for them to now live more productive lives. Hopkins also has invested heavily in East Baltimore, creating a new elementary school and home ownership opportunities. The University of Maryland, LifeBridge Health and Johns Hopkins are engaged in vigorous programs to increase and expand minority businesses in the city. Morgan State University has created the Miracle Mile, supporting the community surrounding its campus. Coppin, the University of Maryland, the Maryland Institute College of Art and the University of Baltimore are engaging in efforts to enhance their immediate neighborhoods while partnering with community groups, organizations and public schools.

We need their voices and their investments. What they are looking for is leadership that will link them all together so that we can have greater dialogue that enhances their efforts and leads to program development and expansion that will move Baltimore and its stakeholders forward.

Sen. Catherine Pugh, a Democrat, represents Baltimore's 40th District and serves as Senate majority leader; she is also running for mayor in Baltimore. Her email is catherine.pugh@senate.state.md.us.

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