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Baltimore mayoral candidate Carl Stokes calls for 50 percent property tax cut

Carl Stokes, a member of the Baltimore City Council, announces that he is running for Mayor of the city.
Carl Stokes, a member of the Baltimore City Council, announces that he is running for Mayor of the city. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore mayoral candidate Carl Stokes wants to dramatically cut Baltimore's property taxes, revive the city's old practice of selling vacant homes for $1 and withhold tax-increment-financing subsidies from developers unless they agree to donate to newly created "community benefits" funds.

Stokes released a 14-page economic development plan Monday, shortly after officially filing to run for mayor.

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"My plan will bring jobs and good paying jobs," he wrote. "It will provide the opportunity for all of Baltimore's citizens to participate in the new global economy. It will re-capture lost tax dollars and put forth incentives to re-build communities."

Stokes' plan calls for creating a city-wide high-speed internet service, increasing funding of the city's existing "Main Streets Program," reducing burdensome regulations and promoting apprenticeships.

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"The current Baltimore City property tax rate -- more than double any other jurisdiction in Maryland -- is a killer to growth and investment," he wrote. "A high priority of the Stokes Administration will be a 40 percent to 50 percent reduction in the tax rate over a 5-8 year period."

Stokes said the rate reductions will be "earned" as the city's revenue increases from a growing tax base.

He also wrote he wants to expand the Charm City Circulator to become an "essential, free and reliable connector between low income residents and jobs."

Stokes is among 22 contenders to replace Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who is not seeking re-election.

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Among 12 Democrats in the field, Stokes is the first candidate in the race to release a plan focusing solely on economic development. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon and lawyer Elizabeth Embry have released plans focusing on fighting crime. Councilman Nick J. Mosby has released a wide-ranging 15-point plan to improve Baltimore.

Daraius Irani, chief economist of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University, said he's unsure if all of Stokes' proposals would ever reach fruition.

"At first read, it seems long on promises (as all of the mayoral candidates' positions will) and short on results," he said. "Some of the ideas promoted sound great on paper and look good."

He said if the city improves schools, reduces crime and betters government services, economic development will follow.

"People and businesses will not live or operate in an area that has poor schools, high crime, poor government services and crumbling roads and failing sewer lines," Irani said.

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