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Baltimore mayoral candidate Carl Stokes releases neighborhood plan

Baltimore mayoral candidate and City Councilman Carl Stokes said the city agencies charged with community development have become cloistered and lack accountability, problems he vowed to fix Wednesday as he released a plan focused on improving city neighborhoods.

Stokes' plan calls for a land bank that would take properties by eminent domain, the creation of a "true community lending institution" and offering vacant homes for $1 to qualified buyers to speed up sales.

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His administration would also support stronger rules requiring below-market rate homes as part of new development and study the increased sale of city bonds to improve infrastructure in neighborhoods.

He says he would appoint new leadership and use audits and improved monitoring of city statistics.

"This is a multi-faceted approach that includes the following interrelated elements—competent, cooperative city leadership; neighborhood-driven community building; housing; education; jobs; crime prevention; and transportation. And above all, it demands accountability, a trait missing in Baltimore leadership for some time," he says in the plan.

Stokes is vying for the Democratic nomination in a competitive mayoral race with more than half a dozen candidates. The primary is April 26. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is not running for re-election.

As mayor, Stokes said he would focus city energy on neighborhoods that are in transition — renovating or demolishing properties, conducting inspections, providing job training, home buyer counseling, and other services.

He proposes a new city streetcar that would run east-west on North Avenue between Milton Avenue and Hilton Street and says he would work on city codes to allow "tiny houses" that are more affordable and energy efficient.

Stokes would also eliminate the mayor's office of neighborhoods — a 15-year-old body he says was created "to expand political patronage" — and fold it into the department of housing and community development.

Some of the ideas — such as requiring developers who receive tax increment financing for their projects to support a community benefits agreement — have appeared in earlier plans.

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