Participants at Monday's "Taxpayer Night" told
members not to cut their programs, not to lay them off and, in a few cases, not to tax them. But audits were the theme of the night's complaints: following on Councilmember Carl Stokes' (D-12th District) April request for an audit of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation, several speakers expanded the request, asking for audits of the Finance Department, Transportation, and even quasi-public bodies like the Baltimore Development Corporation, the city's development arm. Taxpayer's Night is something of a misnomer. Year after year it is dominated by representatives of programs slated for cuts, and by city employees, while taxpayers who do not depend on government funding are scarce. About 300 people showed up for the 6 p.m. meeting at the War Memorial Plaza, some 50 or 60 signing up to speak. Only two or three of them talked about high taxes. Even with a two-minute limit on speeches, the meeting took nearly three hours. Glen Middleton, president of the
Local 44, brought several green-shirted city employees to the mic to speak. "We elected you," Thomas Pointer said. "We want you to remember us the same way we remembered you when you ran for election." A worker for the Solid Waste division said she and her fellow employees "could save money for the city, just give us a chance." Barbara Blake, a city Health Department employee and 60-year city resident, told Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young (D) she was disappointed in him, citing a recent photo in
of Young sitting in an open-wheeled race car to promote a planned race in the city. "I'm a single woman with two cats," Blake said. "And my cats are only eating dry food." Middleton asked for an audit of "the whole city," saying management ranks had grown 20 percent while line workers have been cut. "We have six to nine levels of bosses above every sanitation worker," he said. "Stop balancing the budget on the backs of the working poor in the city of Baltimore." Several speakers asked the council to restore funding for "ancillary services" at the city's schools, including school medical clinics and crossing guards. Advocates of the city parks system were well-represented. Toward the end of the evening Victor Corbin, a neighborhood activist from Fells Prospect, said he had already cut back his own lifestyle and asked why the "city is not doing more to save money." He suggested solar-powered parking meters and forcing businesses to pay for their trash pickup. "I'm tired of having my taxes raised time and time again," Corbin said. Ben Greenwald, president of the Baltimore Parking Association, said his organization, which is comprised of parking lot owners, opposes the proposed increase in the parking tax to 20 percent. The city increased its parking tax from 12 percent to 16 percent last year, he said. Throughout the evening, partisans of the University of Maryland's Extension 4-H youth development program asked that it not be cut. The city program mentors more than 700 youths in science, business development and other skills. "The teachers actually act like they care about what they're teaching you," said Justin Brown, a 15-year-old student in one of the programs. "I know you have to cut somewhere, but don't cut it all," another student pleaded. "You can cut some."