State Sen. Catherine Pugh, a candidate for mayor, announced this morning that she was forming a commission to study how to cut the city's property tax rate in half over four years, but did not detail specific steps to reduce the rate.

"I'm saying to the people of Baltimore that this property tax reduction is going to take place in my first four years in office, and if it doesn't, don't re-elect me," said Pugh, who spoke in front of a block of abandoned homes on Barclay Street in East Baltimore.

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"This is an opportune time for Baltimore to reconfigure itself," said Pugh, adding that residents had told her the high property tax rates were causing them to move out of the city.

Media entrepreneur Dorothy Brunson and Scott Donahoo, the former owner of a chain of car dealerships, will head the commission, Pugh said.

Pugh said she would release some parts of a plan to lower property taxes in the coming week, but that the total plan would likely not be completed before the September primary.

Pugh is the latest challenger to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to declare lowering the city's property tax rate -- twice that of surrounding jurisdictions -- a priority. Former city planning director Otis Rolley III, Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors Joseph T. "Jody" Landers and City Councilman Carl Stokes have all stressed that lowering the rate will attract new residents to the city.

Rawlings-Blake has formed a task force to draw up a 10-year financial plan for the city. She has said she hopes to reduce property taxes over time, but characterizes her challengers' promises of immediate property tax reduction as unrealistic.

Donahoo, who had considered a mayoral bid last year, said that he had decided to support Pugh after learning about her goals and plans for the city. Brunson is the former owner of a media company and a longtime Pugh supporter.

After the press conference, one of the block's few remaining residents denounced the Housing Authority of Baltimore City for trying to spur her to move. Willinette Williams said she had rented her home from the HABC for 39 years and raised 11 kids there.

"This is my home. I've been here all my years," said Williams, tears trickling down her cheeks. "It's not fair."

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