A proposal for Baltimore to provide tax increment financing to Under Armour is shaping into a major election issue with mayoral candidates asked again Sunday how they would negotiate city support for the massive Port Covington development.
A key advocacy group on Sunday pressed Democratic candidates for Baltimore mayor to pledge to create at least 15,000 jobs and double funding for after-school programs if elected.
Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, asked the leading Democrats to make the guarantee before about 700 people at Coppin State University.
The candidates agreed to create the jobs over four years and to spend annually an additional $8 million on afterschool programs by their final year in office.
"We look forward to holding them accountable," said Rob English, the lead organizer of BUILD.
Businessman David Warnock said he would put people to work demolishing vacant houses in Baltimore. He also wants new laws to scrub a defendant's arrest record if he or she is not convicted of a crime.
"We will write the great turnaround story," he said.
State Sen. Catherine E. Pugh said she wants to reinstate a program in which the city sold vacant homes for a dollar. She said she would focus on creating job opportunities for released prisoners.
"Everyone who wants a job should have a job," she said.
City Councilman Carl Stokes said he would create thousands of jobs in his first year as mayor. He said the jobs exist, but the city must expand training programs to modernize its workforce. He spoke of expanding child care for workers and rebuilding the school system.
"This city has turned its back on children, particularly black children, and the one institution that can turn their lives around is a complete failure: the Baltimore City public schools," he said.
Former Mayor Sheila Dixon said she would triple training programs for those seeking work. She also said the next mayor must reduce crime to ensure skilled workers stay in the city.
"We have to get crime down. Baltimore has to be safe so we can retain people," she said.
Dixon said her house was recently burglarized.
Lawyer Elizabeth Embry also said she would train former prisoners and expand afterschool programs to keep teenagers out of trouble.
"Between 3 and 6 in the afternoon is when kids are being arrested and victimized," she said.
City Councilman Nick Mosby said he wants to sue lead paint manufacturers. Money from court could be used to put people to work removing the dangerous paint from old homes, he said.
The candidates all spoke of increasing foot patrols among officers to build relationships between police and neighborhoods.
They also said they would carefully review a proposal to provide tax increment financing for the massive Port Covington development proposed by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. The candidates said they would seek commitments that Under Armour would reinvest in neighborhoods and hire locally.
They said they would support the proposal only if school funding levels are maintained.
Also attending the BUILD forum were Reps. Donna Edwards and Chris Van Hollen, competing in the Democratic primary to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski. Both Senate candidates spoke of bringing jobs to the city.
About six weeks remain before the primary election.